Rugged Industrial Devices Role in the Automotive Industry
Most people are accustomed to the idea of having access to computers almost everywhere they go, whether they’re walking, driving or just sitting in front of the television on a cold winter’s evening. While this might be convenient, and it certainly has become ubiquitous in our modern lives, many computers are simply not designed to work in this fashion. They contain delicate machinery, tiny wires and expensive components. If a standard computer is jiggled, dropped, tossed about or exposed to extreme dust, moisture or humidity, that computer could simply stop working altogether, as the abuse level would be too high for it to tolerate. That’s where rugged industrial devices would come into play. These systems are designed to stay working, even when the environmental conditions are poor.
In my career, I worked on computer systems that are designed to operate in cars and trucks. In fact, many of my systems are used in machinery operated by the military. These machines must be able to handle a significant amount of abuse. In a combat situation, an onboard computer might be subjected to vibration, humidity, dust, heat and much, much more. Lives are on the line, so the systems simply must not fail, no matter what happens. For this reason, the Army puts these machines through a significant amount of testing, and the equipment has to pass every single test. In engineering, we can use these tests as part of the design process, developing a series of stringent systems that can meet or exceed the demands of the tests. I always encouraged my team to look for ways to make the machines exceed the demands of the test. As a result, my machines always passed.
Rugged industrial devices must meet stringent electrical engineering requirements, of course, but they must also have good mechanical engineering backbones. The shell that houses the computer must be sturdy, and it must be able to protect the equipment inside. Often, this means the mechanical teams and the electrical teams must work side-by-side throughout the entire design, development and testing phases, just to make sure everything works properly. In this way, the design team can truly ensure that the device will work as it should.
Spencer Volmar holds a bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering technology from Weber State University. Spencer Volmar has over 10 years of automotive electronic industry experience. Learn more about the author, Spencer Volmar at