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Over the past couple of years, traditional embedded board vendors have been adding stand-alone rugged box-level systems to their military market offerings. These complete system boxes-which often support standard form factor boards inside them-provide a complete, tested and enclosed computing solution that eliminates complex integration chores for customers. The term "Stand-Alone Rugged Boxes," as coined by COTS Journal, applies to complete system boxes. Often the boards in the box are standards-based cards such as PC/104, PMC, 3U CompactPCI and VPX. But the enclosures by and large aren't in any industry standard footprint. There are a handful of companies-Octagon Systems, Parvus, Quantum 3D, Rave Computer, RTD Embedded Technologies-that were doing box-level products before the traditional board vendors joined it.
The concept of offering a more complete system solution is nothing new. In fact, the trend has been gaining momentum for almost a decade now-starting with solutions that were mainly "custom" offerings for specific customers. The term "custom" gets a lot of leeway here, because in the military embedded computing market, some degree of customization has always gone on-whether you're talking about boards or system boxes. More recently, however, the concept has really become a kind of staple in this market. In many ways it's moved to the center spot of the military embedded computing industry-the spot once held by SBCs. Now rugged box systems have become a second center of gravity alongside SBCs.
While rising significance of this product category shouldn't be underestimated, it's definitely evolving. As the product roundup on the following pages shows, there's a narrower set of vendors that have rolled out new box-level products in the past year-13 this year compared to 15 last year. Meanwhile, some I/O and Avionics specialists like Ballard Technology and Phillips Aerospace have entered the game too, bringing their expertise in 1553 to bear.
With the rugged box product category now well entrenched, a number of vendors are on their second and third generation of products. As this happens, products with more rigorous levels of ruggedization and environmental hardiness have emerged. An example is Crystal Group's SS11 Sealed Server. The server offers all aluminum construction with custom EMI gasketing to seal the server chassis. The SS11 Sealed Server offers immersion protection rated to IP68 (Figure 1). In tests, Crystal Group tested an extended shock and vibration configuration of their SS11 model for performance in harsh environments. Previous testing for the server had incorporated submersion in water for over 192 hours. Dynamic testing performed at the Nebraska Center for Excellence in Electronics included shock testing conducted in accordance with MIL-STD-810F. The test levels were 45G at 11 mS, 0.5 sine in each of the three axes. Vibration testing was also conducted in accordance with MIL-STD-810F. The test levels were 5.9g RMS, 5-500 Hz with a random-on-random profile, for a duration of 60 minutes per axis, in each of the three axes.
Melissa Trace of the Crystal Group discusses their Crystal SS11 Sealed Server with COTS Journal’s Jeff Child. Shown here immersed in water, the SS11 offers immersion protection rated to IP68.