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What Makes a Computer Rugged?RUGGED computers are durable computing devices that are specifically engineered to withstand hazardous environments and rough handling that would break and render a normal consumer-grade computer inoperable. Some of the key features that make a computer rugged include:
- Water, dust, shock and vibration resistance – RUGGED computers employ resilient components and specialty materials like rubber gaskets and hardened plastics to protect internal parts from ingress of water, dust and debris.
- Durability – Rugged devices are drop-tested and made to survive accidental falls, bumps and shocks during transport or use in the field.
- Wide operating temperatures – Ruggedized laptops, tablets and handhelds can operate in extreme temperature environments from -20 C to 50 C or beyond. Heating, cooling and insulation techniques are used.
- Sunlight viewable screens – Displays utilize enhanced brightness, anti-reflective coatings and polarized filters so they can be easily viewed outdoors.
- Spill-resistant keyboards – Sealed, membrane keyboards and touchpads resist damage from liquid spills, dirt and dust.
Types of Rugged ComputersThere are several types and forms of rugged computers available to fit different needs:
Rugged LaptopsThe most common type, rugged laptops provide full PC functionality in a durable clamshell form factor. They utilize rugged CPUs coupled with solid-state drives, sealed keyboards, and daylight viewable screens. Leading brands include Getac, Panasonic and Dell.
Rugged TabletsThese offer a tablet form factor built for tough environments. Fully-rugged tablets provide the most durability but are bulky, while semi-rugged designs prioritize portability. Top suppliers are Xplore Technologies and MobileDemand.
Rugged HandheldsHandheld rugged devices provide computing capabilities in a very compact, robust chassis designed for one-handed operation. Ideal for scan-intensive field work. Key players include Honeywell and Zebra.
Wearable Rugged ComputersWearable rugged computers are miniature computers worn on the body, typically on the wrist or hand, that offer hands-free mobile computing. Helpful for warehouse picking, parcel delivery and inventory management.
Industries that Use Rugged ComputersSome of the leading industries that rely on RUGGED computers due to their work environments include:
ConstructionRugged laptops, tablets and handhelds help manage blueprints, project schedules and inspections on messy, hazardous construction job sites.
Field ServiceService technicians use rugged devices for parts and inventory lookup, service orders and reporting from the field. Usage spans many industries like HVAC, utilities, appliance repair and more.
ManufacturingRugged computers streamline production line operations, inventory management and quality assurance in manufacturing plants where dust, vibrations and temperature fluctuations are common.
Military and DefenseRugged computers meet military specs for shock, vibration, temps, water ingress and are used for field intelligence, recon, battle planning and more. Panasonic Toughbook is a leading supplier.
Public SafetyLaw enforcement, firefighters and EMTs rely on rugged laptops in emergency response vehicles and for real-time access to critical data in tough conditions.
TransportationRugged devices help manage inventory and shipping/receiving for trucking fleets, railway systems, aviation companies and marine transportation operators. Rugged computers deliver computing power when and where it’s needed, even in the most demanding environments. They are vital tools for organizations that work beyond the cozy confines of an office.
Buying Considerations for Rugged ComputersWhen selecting RUGGED computers, some key factors to consider include:
- Durability requirements – How much ruggedization do you need? More durable systems are bulkier and costlier. Prioritize the hazards that matter most – dust, shock, water, extreme temperatures, etc.
- Operating conditions – Determine the climate, temperature range, vibration and hazard exposure the devices will face to guide selection.
- Ergonomics – Will users need to operate the device with one hand or while standing or wearing gloves? Size, weight and grip are factors.
- Performance needs – Assess computing power, data storage, memory, battery life and connectivity features required. Rugged systems offer modular customization.
- Accessories – Support gear like charging cradles, mounting hardware, carrying cases and screen protectors help maximize utility.
- Support and warranty – Look for extended warranty options if devices will face very intensive use. Rapid repair/replacement turnaround may be crucial.
The Future of Rugged ComputingEmerging developments in rugged computer technology include:
- Expanding use of consumer operating systems like Android and Windows for familiar software ecosystems
- Adoption of 5G cellular connectivity for ultra-fast speeds in the field
- Slimmer, lighter designs as solid state drives replace spinning hard disks
- Improved daylight viewable display technologies such as high nit screens
- Increased modularity and customization for specialized tasks
- Leveraging consumer design innovations like touchscreens and haptics in rugged builds
- Integration with IoT sensors, GPS and peripherals for advanced industrial rugged computers
Rugged computers are designed to withstand vibrations, extreme temperatures, drops, spills and other hazards. They employ hardened components, sealed cases, impact bumpers, and ingress protection against water and dust.
The major types are rugged laptops, tablets, handheld devices, and wearables. Each format has tradeoffs between performance, durability, and portability for different on-site jobs.
Leading industries include construction, manufacturing, transportation, public safety, utilities, field service, military, and mining – anywhere computing in harsh conditions is required.
Rugged computers have a higher upfront cost but competitive lifecycle ROI. The added durability saves on replacements and downtime over the device lifetime.
Most run Windows or Android for familiarity. Some suppliers offer custom hardened operating systems built for reliability.
Follow manufacturer cleaning guidelines. Use carrying cases, insulation, mounts, and filtration accessories. Keep firmware updated. Opt for rapid repair/replacement plans.