Rugged tablets are built to withstand hazardous conditions. For a tablet to be considered as “fully-rugged”, its every component both internal and external, must be designed and built to operate effectively in extreme conditions. This, therefore, means that a rugged tablet is much more than a normal consumer tablet secured by a tough outer case.  To determine whether a tablet is truly rugged, the tablet has to undergo rigorous testing under different conditions including vibrations, temperature, drops, shocks, humidity, and liquids.

The rugged industry has adopted various standards that provide independent and objective guidance in determining the ruggedness of a device. Some of these standards include the Ingress Protection (IP) rating system and U.S. Department of Defense Environmental Engineering Considerations and Laboratory Tests, commonly known as MIL-STD 810.

Let’s discuss what each of these standards entails and some common tests applied on the rugged tablets to determine their ruggedness.

  1. Ingress Protection (IP) rating system

The Ingress Protection (IP) ratings are published by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The IP ratings measure the degree of protection provided by the mechanical casings or enclosures against intrusion, dust, and water. In a rugged device, the IP rating will indicate how well the rugged casing prevents solids and liquids from reaching the internal parts of the device.

The IP rating is displayed as a two-digit number whereby the first digit denotes the level of protection against dust, and the second digit indicates the level of protection against liquids. The first digit is ranked 0 to 6 while the second digit is ranked 0 to 9K depending on the degree of protection.  Each of these levels is explained below:

  1. First Digit: Protection against solid objects

Level 0: This level indicates that there is no protection against any solid objects or particles.

Level 1: Protected against objects that are larger than 50mm.

Level 2: Protected against objects that are larger than 12.5mm

Level 3: Protected from objects that are larger than 2.5mm

Level 4: Protected from objects that are larger than 1 mm

Level 5: Partial protection against dust and other small particles.

Level 6: The tablet is fully protected against dust and other small particulates that may cause the internal parts to malfunction. 

  1. Second Digit: Protection against liquids

Level 0: Not protected from any liquid or moisture ingression.

Level 1: Protected from vertically falling water droplets and condensation.

Level 2: Protected against vertically dripping water when the casing is tilted up to 15° off vertical.

Level 3: Protected against direct moisture spray at angles up to 60° off vertical.

Level 4: Protected against splashing water from any direction.

Level 5: Protected against low-pressure jets of water from any angle. Minimum ingression may occur with no harmful effects.

Level 6: Protection against powerful and high-pressure water jets from any direction.

Level 7: Protected against ingression during short periods of immersion in water.

Level 8: Protected against ingression during long periods of immersion in water.

Level 9K: Protection against high-pressure, high-temperature jet sprays, wash-downs, or steam-cleaning procedures

Basically, the larger the value of each digit the greater the level of protection. For a tablet to be considered to be fully rugged, it should have a minimum rating of IP54. In most cases, industrial environments tend to be more hostile. Therefore, having a rugged tablet with a rating of IP65 or higher is recommended in such environments.

  1. MIL-STD 810

These are standards developed and published by the U.S Department of Defense. The standards include a series of 29 tests, with strict parameters that are used to determine the ability of the device to withstand drops, extreme temperatures, rain, humidity, sand, dust, altitude, and other strenuous conditions. Devices that pass the MIL-STD 810 tests are considered to be fully rugged and can perform optimally in tough conditions.

Examples of tests conducted on the rugged Tablets

To determine the level of ruggedness in a tablet, several testing procedures are conducted. Some of these tests are discussed below.

  1. Liquid-resistance testing

During liquid resistance tests, the tablet is exposed to different amounts of liquids from different angles and directions. The pressure of the liquid and the duration of the test is varied to accurately determine how well the device can withstand liquid intrusion.

  1. Sand and dust testing

Sand resistance test is conducted to evaluate how well the tablet can perform in blowing sand conditions. Dust resistance test is performed to evaluate the ability of the device to resist the effects of dust such as clogging openings, penetrating through openings and, forming deposits in the internal parts. In this test, sand and flour may be projected towards the device at different wind speeds and temperature and noting how well the device performs.

  1. Extreme temperature testing

The test is used to determine the effects of extreme temperatures on the performance of the device in its different states such as when in use, when turned off, and when it is being turned on. In this test, the device is exposed to extremely hot and cold environments. Also, the device is subjected to sudden temperature changes to evaluate how the device transitions between different temperatures.

  1. Humidity Testing

The test is used to evaluate how well the device can withstand a warm and humid environment, condensation, and moisture. During this test, the devices are exposed to tropical climatic conditions with a high amount of humidity for several days. Most features that make the device to be water-resistant also make the device to withstand the harmful effects of humidity.

  1. Vibration Testing

Vibrations are common in some industrial setup. To determine how the tablet will perform under such conditions, laboratory shakers are used to mimic the type of vibrations that are likely to occur when the tablet is being used in a vehicle. The laboratory shakers are adjusted during the tests to include high and low vibration frequencies to simulate different environmental conditions.

  1. Drop and shock testing

This test is used to evaluate the strength of the structure and the material of the device. One of the most common tests is the transit drop test. In this test, the device is required to withstand 26 drops from a height of 122 cm. The device is dropped on various angles onto a hard surface such as concrete.

To determine whether a tablet meets the desired level of ruggedness, it must undergo various tests under different conditions. If you are looking for a rugged tablet for your industrial use, it is important to ensure the tablet has met the relevant industry standards.