RAM Q&A of the week – Drop testing

18 04 2014

RAM Weekly Q & A

Themed to drop specs this week , this weekly Q&A summary answers all the questions sent in about drop specs. We normally cover anything topical or popular so eclectic but it’s worth sharing so don’t forget that if you have a question then just let us know via twitter on @ruggedandmobile or using #RAMQQ or using Facebook.

1. What do you consider fully rugged in a drop test?

We like to see 1.5M, anything lower, say 1.2M and a device is durable but not necessarily fully rugged in our eyes.  With so many 1.2M devices coming onto the market, it’ll be interesting to see if they are rugged enough.

2. What are the gradings on a drop spec?

They tend to be measured in full feet so 1.2M or 4 feet, 1.5M or 5 feet and so on. There’s the odd 1.0M if memory serves me right!

3. Do you drop test devices and do you share the information?

The answer in short is yes we do, especially the adopted brands we sell because we either get a free device for destroying or we can repair them and use them for our own demo stock.  We don’t test formally, why bother with that when someone has already done it, so we do it “Gadget show” style. Seriously though we drop them out of windows or drag them along the road etc to see just how far they will go. Come to us for help deploying your kit and we’ll gladly share what we know!!

4. Why is it necessary to drop onto concrete?

Well there are a few reasons we can see:

  • Firstly, concrete tends to be what users in the real world work on top of. Retail, warehouses, depots, roads etc so why test onto anything else?
  • Secondly concrete is very hard and unforgiving on rugged devices so it’s a serious test if dropped onto concrete.
  • Steel for example will flex and bend so is far more forgiving to anything dropped onto it.

5. What’s more important a drop spec or IP rating in your view?

Definitely, without doubt, the drop spec. Users can do a lot to protect against water and dust anyway but a drop will happen when you least expect it! This is backed up by official figures from the VDC where they state dropping a device is at least as twice as likely to fail a device than water and hugely more likely than dust damage.

Keep sending those questions in using #RAMQQ on twitter @ruggedandmobile or email.


How Rugged equipment is drop tested

16 04 2014
Drop specs might not be all you think they are!

Drop specs might not be all you think they are!

So we’ve been talking about drop testing, but just how is equipment tested and certified? Well the first important piece of information is that it isn’t!….well at least there’s no special test centre that does it and gives you a pass grade and certificate anyway.  Instead the testing and statements made on spec sheets are down to the manufacturers.

Drop test uncovered

The drop spec is basically a series of drops onto each face of the device.  You need to drop the device 26 times STD 810 Transit drop is the one we tend to see in the rugged computer world.  Interestingly the floor of the drop zone can be made up of two inches of plywood over concrete and whilst determined as the most common surface a device was likely to land on I think pure concrete is best for enterprise.  I have asked various manufacturers about what they test on and none of them have come back to me with a definitive answer to the question. Devices only have to be dropped from 4 feet but of course we see many dropped from higher. and the test consists of 26 drops on:

  1. Each of its six faces
  2. It’s 12 edges
  3. It’s eight corners

So the test totals 26 drops. Damage is determined after each drop and the drops can be divided up among 5 identical PDA’s, so the test isn’t particularly hard to pass and with 5 devices on hand to pass it with, drops to wood and often with a lack of transparency in the testing processes it’s confusing at best.

Tumble & Vibration

Tumble tests are designed to simulate a different kind of impact and these can be done from different heights by using different sized chambers.  The device is placed into the chamber and then spun slowly so that it drops and “tumbles” as it is spun over and over.  The tests can be for 1000 or 2000 tumbles and the device is checked after the full tumble set. Vibration sees a device subjected to various frequencies of vibration over a set time to see if anything can work lose.

A little video!

To give you a little more, the best video I’ve seen of a lot of rugged tests you can do is this one from Getac.  Note the wood covered concrete!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WfDqtLj7CHg

Our experience

You know, I sometimes wonder if everyone lies these days. Mileage tests on cars are lies, if it weren’t for whatcar magazine we’d never really know.  Why would spec sheets on rugged devices be any different? So we test and test and test here, on our own, in the field and with customers too so we have lots of real and practical experience to share. What we’ve found is a lot of kit that looks a bit cheap at first actually performs better than their spec sheets.  For example we’ve been testing a Chinese device recently that has been under 1M of water for weeks, dropped from 2M’s 50+ times according to MIL testing and it’s still alive and kicking, not even a screen crack. We also test branded equipment that in no way lives up to it’s spec sheet testing.  We see devices where battery covers ping off on every drop, IP42 that’s meaningless and all kinds of MIL tests that can’t live up to their claims.  Mould resistances on devices with micro-usb connectors is a particular favourite of mine right now!!

What i’d leave you with is that everything has caught up these days and it’s very hard to buy a poor piece of hardware on it’s own. So ask about a device, don’t rely on spec sheets, use resellers unbiased experience to work out what’s best for you.


Motorola MC67 adds a splash of Android

15 04 2014
The Motorola MC67 adds Jelly Beans!

The Motorola MC67 adds Jelly Beans!

Despite the short Google connection, Motorola have been a little bit slow on the Android uptake but with 3 devices running the OS so far and now the MC67, they’re playing catch up fast!

The MC67 is Motorola’s super rugged version of the MC55/65 series bringing a fairly compact, classic rugged PDA to the market and it brings a solid piece kit to the Android marketplace giving customers a choice in the OS they now run on the device.

You’ll get the exact same architecture as the WIndows EMbedded Handheld 6.5 version of the device excpet this version runs Android Jelly Bean, v4.1.

We’re currently not sure how the OS sits on the device and which versions of the MC67 it’ll run on.  So whether it will run all the scanner options, if all the keypad types are supported, the price and if the MC67 Android version has a focussed keypad option remains to be seen, but we’ll be sure to spill the beans as soon as we know more.


Motorola work out the Workabout pro!

15 04 2014
The new Psion/Motorola Workabout Pro 4

The new Psion/Motorola Workabout Pro 4

Unless you’ve been sleeping the past year you’ll know that Psion Teklogix as a brand ended at the beginning of this year as part of it’s full integration into Motorola Solutions and with that of course there’ll be some overlap of devices. The Workabout Pro range however must be a tricky one to sort out as it’s so popular and lived such a long and rich life and it seems that Moto have decided to keep and update this rugged handheld.

A year after the buyout and the first ex-Psion rugged device is announced in the new updated Workabout Pro 4.

What’s new

Well not much for that matter! To look at the WAP 4 against a WAP G3 you wouldn’t be able to tell and indeed this is a a very sympathetic update and here’s what we have found:

  • Onboard RAM and storage flash ROM have had an update from 256MB/1GB to 512MB/4GB.
  • As has the old 624MHz XScale CPU which is replaced by the new Sitara aM37x ARM cortex a8 1GHz affair.
  • The operating systems have been brought up to date with Windows Embedded Handheld 6.5 and CE6.0 now taking centre stage.
  • Along with this there are updated versions of Bluetooth, WiFi, 8MP camera, 3G and GPS to keep the WAp 4 fresh and new.
  • We asked if any of Motorola’s barcode scanner modules have found their way into the WAp 4 but we have so far not had an answer to that but the the spec sheets clearly show some changes there with 7+ options to now choose from.
  • There’s also some changes to the expansion options of the device with dedicated barcode scanner connector,
  • Lastly the battery options seem to have changed with the 3300mAh WA3006 being replaced by a smaller 2760mAh affair and the 4400mAh one staying.  Weird to me to cut the standard one down but that’s what’s currently on the accessory guide.
Multiple barcode scanning options for the WAP 4

Multiple barcode scanning options for the WAP 4

What we rate

  • Well the design of the WAP means that most of the legacy accessories will work with it which is a key benefit for long WAP users.  We’re waiting on specific backwards compatibility with older G2 models but it looks like most of the G3 kit will work.
  • They haven’t fiddled too much with a device that is a focussed one for users.

What’s 2000 and late!

  • The price has gone up!  Why? technology is cheaper and not an awful lot has changed here.
  • Add to that battery is no longer included in the price so watch out for that!
  • We lost that Grandfather of the PDA badge for good.  It reminds me of when HP rebadged all those Proliant servers when the bought Compaq! A sad day for a great piece of kit!!
Is the standard battery really smaller? The 3300Mah WA3006 might be missed?

Is the standard battery really smaller? The 3300Mah WA3006 might be missed?

So arguably this is a nice sympathetic update that users will embrace and it brings the Workabout Pro range into 2014, but it does bring some changes too with improved data capture features.  Some of the changes however are not so welcome like the battery and price but if Moto can embrace the spirit of Psion then there’s no doubt the WAP will continue to thrive.



Rugged PDA drop specs explained

14 04 2014
Drops, tumbles and vibration all add up to how rugged a rugged pod is!

Drops, tumbles and vibration all add up to how rugged a rugged handheld is!

Good morning from a warm sunny Liverpool! This morning we continuing with our “Ruggedness Month” and talking about one of the most important elements of PDA device ruggedness, the drop spec.

The drop spec in a nutshell

The drop spec is what we all call it but what does it mean to you?  Well it’s pretty simple really, and not to sound too sarcastic, it measures how “droppable” a device is!  Drop specs for a rugged pda are normally measured in length, either feet or metres, and literally state at what height they have passed a drop test from.

Drop testing method

Unlike IP testing The fact is there are no official certifications for drop testing so whilst it’s a good measure of ruggedness, manufactures are left to their own devices when it comes to testing. However most rugged kit now follows the testing set out in the MIL-STD 810 G and they also add in some extra tests form the MIL-STD testing portfolio to test other areas of ruggedness and it has proved to be a good way to get some kind of standardisation on rugged kit.  We’ll talk more about that in the next article.

What’s considered rugged?

We like to see 1.5M or 5 feet as the benchmark for being fully rugged and this has stood users in good stead over the years. IP54, 5foot drop spec devices tend to last course really well and we’ve never seen any devices at this level, that we’ve sold, not work out well for users over 3+ year periods.

The trends in drop spec

Like everything else manufacturer processes have been refined over the years so you’d think we’d be seeing higher drop specs on lighter devices.  This is apparent on the more innovative lesser known rugged brands and we’re now seeing some lovely IP65, 1.5M+ drop spec devices from the likes of Winmate and Gen2Wave that look more like smartphones than rugged mobile computers, but the trend for 2013/14 from the market leading brands like Motorola & Honeywell have so far been to develop higher IP67 rated, lighter 1.2M drop spec Rugged Smartphone style devices.  Personally I can’t see the point of IP67 in a device that has a lower drop spec and the reason for this is that most users will drop a device before they will water or dust damage it.

Leading Causes of Mobile Device Failure

Leading Causes of Mobile Device Failure (Source: VDC 2012 TCO Analysis)

I think that with the smartphone always a competitor to the rugged market this is why we’re seeing this trend, to give users a more direct option but from a rugged manufacturer, but like the semi-rugged devices before them, I’d be careful of these sorts of devices being used in the wrong scenarios.

What to look out for

Like I said above, manufactures are left to their own devices when it comes to testing so this has spawned a whole load of tweaking in the testing process.  Although not so common these days, you do need to look out for what the device has been dropped onto during it’s test. Concrete is used to gain a MIL-STD 810G test, but we’ve seen metals, lino floors and all kinds of material that could change the results of any test.

It’s also important to state that the device can be changed a number of times during the test so  a device that ends up with an excellent drop spec doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story.  This is why we have our own crazy testing here with our own rugged ratings so that we can see just how tough a rugged device is in our own abusive little hands!!

We’ll also talk more about PDA design and how it can affect ruggedness in a blog towards the end of this series.

So that’s the drop spec covered, next up we’ll take a closer look at the way devices are tested so see you then!



RAM Q&A of the week – Dust proof questions

11 04 2014

RAM Weekly Q & A

This week we answer questions on dust proof-ness if there is such a word!!  Our Q&A summary of the week covers the most topical and popular issues and questions we encounter. It’s eclectic but it’s worth sharing so don’t forget that if you have a question then just let us know via twitter on @ruggedandmobile or using #RAMQQ or using Facebook.

1. Why does the IP scale go from 0 when we only look at IP5 and 6?

I’m not actually 100% sure, despite doing some research on this one but the answer is probably that IP rating was originally created for large machinery and specifically where you could get arms and legs tangled up in it.  As dust became an issue in mobile devices, the IP rating was expanded to naturally  cater for it.

2. Are there any dust proof portable printers?

Yes, in fact there are a few IP54 rated printers. Check out our printer page and order by IP rating and you’ll see them at the top.

3. My rugged device says it’s IP65 but I can see dust behind the screen.  Its under warranty, will it be covered?

Well if dust has got in and there are no reasons that could have caused it by dropping and cracking the device then yes, it should be sorted under warranty!

4. I have an IP67 smartphone, it’s rubbish but it is waterproof.  Is it dust proof too?

Yes of course, the first number ’6′ in IP67 means the device is dust tight.  Did you read our blog on this earlier in the week!!!

5. Can you get IP rated devices without a drop spec and vice-versa and are these devices rugged?

There are a few IP rated smartphones on the market which don’t have drop specs and we would certainly not consider rugged.  We also sell some “semi-Rugged” devices that have drop specs but no IP rating.  However with fully rugged smartphones form the likes of Winmate and Gen2Wave coming in substantially cheaper than anything Samsung or HTC can throw out why would you not buy rugged?

That’s it for another week folks, keep sending those questions in, use #RAMQQ on twitter @ruggedandmobile or just email them in.


Top tips on dust proof rugged mobile computers

9 04 2014
It's OK, it's IP65!

It’s OK, it’s IP65!

So the last blog was all about IP ratings and how these can be used to assess if your rugged PDA is rugged or not and also looked at how dust can utterly destroy a mobile device if it’s not protected.

Today I wanted to impart some top tips on buying and keeping your devices dust proof, so here there are!

1. To begin with look for a device with the right IP rating for you IP5X or 6X. Both are rugged and will be fine for all but the most dusty/dirty environments, anything less is not!  IP54 tends to be found on smaller, lighter devices, whereas IP64/IP65+ devices tend to be either more waterproof or larger types of devices.

2. Rubber covers that cover micro USB or headphone sockets if missing or not fitted properly will mean your mobile device is exposed. Keep them fitted, get them repaired or replaced if they’re missing.

3. Don’t hot swap batteries in the field out in the open in maximum dusty/wet conditions.  The underneath of your battery needs to keep dry and the heat from the battery can even help to corrode a device if damp or dust gets in.

4. Use a case!! A case will stop dust from damaging the outer casings, LCD and buttons.  Dust or sand doesn’t have to get into a device to damage it!!

5.  Use a screen protector.  Even Gorilla glass gets scratched over time and styluses tapping the same area of the screen repeatedly will wear it down, so make sure that thin plastic screen protector is fitted at all times and is kept working new.

6. Make sure anything that creates a seal is securely fitted, dry and dust free when fitting.  Batteries, connectors, end caps, rubber boots and anywhere that can expose the seals of the device can seal dust in as well as keep it out!

7. Rugged devices have a habit of keeping going when dropped, but if there’s a crack in the case or a rubber seal has been disrupted then it can let dust and water in.  Make sure you give your devices a regular check as this sort of repair will not be covered under warranty and often can write off a device.

We’re still taking questions for our Q&A on Friday so if you have anything to ask just tweet us using #RAMQQ or get in touch via email.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,320 other followers

%d bloggers like this: