Dust & Waterproof Computers
Is your rugged laptop a waterproof computer? Most laptop & portable computer manufacturers make technically accurate but impractical claims about the water & dust resistance of their products.
Examples of rugged laptop manufacturers’ statements about their ‘waterproof computers’ include:
- Dell: PrimoSeal™ ingress protection, protection against accidental drops, water, dust
- Getac: sealed design protecting against dust and water
- Logic Instrument: Drip Proof: MIL-STD-810G – Method 506.5 – Procedure III
- Panasonic: “rain-, dust- and sand-resistance”, Ingress Protection (IP65)
These statements are all true except for one caveat; all doors must be closed and sealed for the protection to be effective. The reason is that all of these manufacturers and the others not mentioned use commercial receptacles inside the laptop protected by rubber doors and hatches. The receptacles are the same as you will find on a commercial laptop, not waterproof, not dustproof and not rugged. To be useful in the real World, waterproof computers need to be able to attach to things!
Outdoor work environment
So what good is that if your have to use your “Sealed” laptop outside in the rain or on the deck of a ship? In actuality you can’t because the rain and salt spray will get inside and corrode the internal circuit boards, batteries and connectors. Your $4000-$6000 specialty rugged computer will become a moisture infested and corroded paperweight.
On-Deck work environment
What about in a dust storm in the Sahara or Mojave deserts?
For more on desert dust storms from the Naval Research Laboratory see: www.nrlmry.navy.mil/sat_training/nexsat/dust_enhance/NexSat_Dust_Enhance.pdf
Waterproof and dust proof connectors
The reality is that it’s practically impossible to protect a rugged laptop from the elements without using water and dust proof connectors. To reliably operate in the elements, the commercial receptacles on the laptops need to be converted to water and dust proof connectors like MIL-D-38999 series, Glenair Mighty Mouse series or other types that provide the small size and environmental protection.
The military has an environmental testing procedure named MIL-STD-810 that has sections to test for water and dust resistance. For more information, you can start at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MIL-STD-810
Using adapters, mezzanine boxes or mounting blocks a laptop can be converted to circular water and dust proof connectors. The size, shape and capacity can vary depending on the application. For some uses, only power and one interface (e.g. Ethernet) need to be converted. When you’re not sure, it’s best to convert all that could be foreseeable required. See conversion examples below.
Conversion can be done by the end user or by a specialty system integrator like The ProCustom Group, that specializes in customizing Getac laptops (www.procustomgroup.com). Generally the actual manufacturers don’t like to do this work because there isn’t enough volume to justify a specialty production run.
Before you start, it’s fair to warn you that the range of sizes, types, finishes, terminations, etc is much greater than 1,000,000 configurations, combinations and variants, and that’s before considering mounting, caps, gaskets, etc., so don’t get discouraged!
Below are examples of types, pin configurations, finishes, etc. It’s as bad as ordering a pizza!
Mil Spec connectors for waterproof computers
The range of connectors to choose from is quite broad including MILSPEC, industrial and marine products. Most of the time, the MILSPEC series of connectors is preferred because they are readily available and have been thoroughly field tested and proven. There are excellent industrial and medical connectors available as well. Below is a sample list of manufacturers’ links to water and dust proof connectors along with another sample list of links to stocking distributors. The lists are not meant to be a complete listing of every manufacturer and distributor and they favor US companies, but it will give you the flavor of what’s available and who to get it from.
Water and Dust Proof Connector Manufacturers