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Rugged Devices Designed to Withstand Physical Challenges (Part 1)

The following is from Steve Kunert, VP of Engineering at MobileDemand.

While cost, application sophistication and ease of use should figure into any rugged tablet PC purchase, the most important requirement is device durability. Designed to endure the rigors of field deployment, a quality rugged device should be unaffected by dust & dirt, shock & vibration, or heat & cold.

Tablet PC Engineering and Rugged DesignWhen designing a portfolio of rugged devices, companies like MobileDemand must ensure that all integrated PC elements work together to support one, ultimate goal: extreme durability. In today’s blog, we’ll begin examine the three key characteristics that make a rugged device truly “rugged.” Critical requirements include:

1.     Heavy-duty outer shell: Accidents and environmental stress are unavoidable, but they shouldn’t impact the productivity of your workforce. To ensure that a rugged mobile device can withstand drops, shocks and the nastiest of weather, the PC’s exterior construction must be tough, water-resistant and impenetrable to dirt and debris.

Premium rugged tablet PCs are created with a two- to three-layer “sandwich design” composed of a combination of either plastic and magnesium upper and/or lower shells with possibly an internal, magnesium frame. The device’s outer layers are sealed to resist water and debris while providing protective shock absorption. An internal frame can safeguard internal components by providing optimum structural rigidity. When combined into a solid outer shell and equipped with rubber bumpers and ideal screw tension, the case protects your rugged tablet during multiple drops, transport vibration and other unexpected forms of abuse.

2.     Keypad usability: A rugged tablet PC’s QWERTY or integrated numeric keypad function as the primary device interface—so it must remain safe. Devices like the xTablet T7000 and T8700 are equipped with high-performance keypads designed to handle the pounding, scraping or grinding that’s ever-present in a field environment. Sealed to prevent debris and liquid from entering the device, quality rugged keypads are constructed from moisture-resistant elastomer to preserve sealing and should be covered in a clear, plastic surface-coating or plastic conformed overlay to prevent the wear and breakdown of key icons.

3.     Durable screen: The challenge with mobile device construction is to optimize optical quality while safeguarding screen durability. This is achieved by protecting the display with a strengthened glass or plastic layer. Most importantly, this layer must be ideally placed. If it is spaced too far from the rugged tablet’s display screen, screen quality can suffer and the seal may be diminished. On the other hand, if the layer is placed too close to the display, it could shift or flex upon impact and crack the screen it’s designed to protect. Rugged tablet experts like MobileDemand achieve this perfect spacing by inserting a thin, non-conductive laminate between the plastic and the display. This laminate ensures responsive touch-screen use, which is a critical application requirement for many field users.


Fascinated by the ins-and-outs of rugged tablet PCs? Tune into our next blog to learn more about how rugged internal components, rugged accessories and long-life battery packs contribute to device durability, usability and lifespan. 

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