Taking the Temperature of Ruggedization

Electronic devices have a wider temperature range of operation than the human body, however, electronics cannot operate well   when exposed to extremes of high or low temperatures. Since mobile workers often need their devices to work in high and low temperatures for prolonged periods, there is a demand for manufactures to make devices that can cope with high and low temperatures. The big question is, what does a claim of temperature resilience mean?

A recent whitepaper examines three temperature tests that are part of the MIL-STD-810G specifications (Mil-Spec) – a set of specifications developed by the U.S Department of Defense that aim to simulate how a piece of equipment will operate under a variety of stressors and environmental conditions.

  • High Temperature Test: MIL-STD-810G Method 501.5 Procedure II – When we consider something that would have to pass a Mil-Spec test concerning an ability to operate in high temperature environments, our thoughts might understandably turn to desert landscapes such as Syria or Iraq. However, devices left in a car on a sunny day can quickly reach high temperatures. A Safety.com study found that with an outside temperature of 95°F after just 20 minutes with no air-conditioning the temperature inside a car exceeded 122°F, and after 40 minutes, the temperature had soared to 150°F. Most processors run well at room temperature, but when exposed to extreme or unusually high temperatures can experience failure. The high temperature test simulates the ability of a unit to survive and operate at extreme temperatures by exposing it to 140°F for 30 minutes. If a manufacturer is claiming a high temperature resistance you should ask two things: how high and for how long?
  • Low Temperature Test: MIL-STD-810G Method 502.5 Procedure II – It is unusual, but not totally out of the ordinary, for people to need equipment that will work in sub-zero settings. In areas such as Canada during the winter temperatures of -20°F are common, if you’re working in the oil & gas industry in Alberta you will want assurances that your technology will keep working! The low temperature test simulates the ability to start and operate at extreme winter conditions, without damaging the hard drive or experiencing data migration in an SSD. In many cases, a laptop will not start when the hard drive is frozen—in fact, trying to start a frozen hard drive may damage the device. If you ever work in a cold environment, you should ask if the low temp test on a ruggedized laptop was performed and how data integrity was tested. Mil-Spec standard devices are exposed to temperatures of -20°F for 30 minutes.
  • Temperature Shock Test: MIL-STD-810G Method 503.5 Procedure I  Typical commercial-grade devices can experience severe usability issues at temperature extremes. Consider a delivery driver in Arizona in the summer moving from outside temperatures of 110°F to a refrigerated trailer and then back outside again several times over the course of a day. Such extreme swings in temperature can create a “thermal shock” which can cause fogging/ condensation inside device which can impact the screen readability and the internal electronics. The third and final temperature test included as part of Mil-Spec standard sees a device going through three cycles of testing where it is placed in an environment of 200°F then -60°F to test reliability when moving between extreme temperatures. If you need a machine that can work in different extremes you need to ask whether thermal shock was tested.

To learn more about these tests and other important rugged standards, read the full whitepaper.