In this blog, we'll dive into the United States Military Standard. We'll go over things like:
- What is the Military Standard and who enforces it?
- MIL-STD-810G and its various test methods
- Rugged Computers certified to MIL-STD-810G
- Approved Compliance Testing Laboratories
To help you grasp the importance of the various Military Standards and Test Methods of the MIL-STD-810G, I'll briefly describe a common scenario where Rugged Computers are put to the ultimate test.
Aviation & Aerospace Scenario
High above the clouds, a military aircraft flies through the sky and collects intel. Man and machine work together to crunch the influx of data rushing through the rugged servers.
Suddenly, turbulence. Lots of it.
The aircraft drops in altitude, internal temperature fluctuates quickly, high bursts of shock and vibration are felt throughout the airplane. The scene plays out for a few minutes.
Then, as quickly is it occurs, it's over.
The pilot stabilizes the aircraft, flies to the desired altitude, and things are back to normal.
Wouldn't the turbulence affect the rugged computers?
In the above scenario, a computer can go from top-performance to critical system failure in a matter of seconds.
Intense shock can break a vital component, persistent vibrations can knock PCIe cards loose, and temperature fluctuations can overheat the entire system causing it to crash.
Thankfully, properly designed rugged computers, certified to Military Standards, are prepared for this. In other words: designed, manufactured, and tested to battle harsh conditions with ease.
What is the Military Standard?
In the United States, the Military Standard (also written as MIL-STD) is enforced by the Department of Defense and maintained by the U.S. Air Force, Army, and Navy. It exists to ensure products meet specific requirements for various defense-related purposes.
Note: The MIL-STD is not only used in the Military sector but also across non-defense organizations due to the thorough test methods that validate a product's readiness for extreme conditions.
Popular Military Standards for Rugged Computers
There are over 40 Military Standards and a profusion of Test Methods encompassing a myriad of use cases. Some of the most popular MIL-STDs that Rugged Computers test for are:
In this blog, we'll cover the widely used and most popular Military Standard: the MIL-STD-810G.
What does the "G" stand for in MIL-STD-810G?
The letter that follows the Military Standard depicts the current revision. There is no particular time-frame that must pass for a revision to occur but it does go in alphabetical order.
The current revision, issued October 31, 2008, is MIL-STD-810G.
Why is this specific Military Standard so popular?
To put it bluntly, the MIL-STD-810 addresses a broad range of environmental conditions. It consists of Test Methods, each testing to various parameters.
This is why companies across all industries turn to the MIL-STD-810G to validate their products as ruggedized.
Buyer beware of common schemes!
A lot of rugged computer manufacturers make the claim that their high-performance computers are certified to MIL-STD-810G.
Some vendors perform in-house testing and claim 'compliance'. This is simply not true, even if the tests are more stringent.
It is up to the purchaser to ask the right questions to determine the validity of these claims.
What questions should I ask?
If you are in the market to purchase ruggedized servers that are certified to MIL-STD-810G, do yourself a favor and ask for the Test Methods it was certified to.
Don't stop there! Dig deeper and ask for the test results.
You need to to know what the parameters were that the rugged server was tested to and how did it do.
Question Tip Sheet:
- What Military Standard did it pass?
- What Test Method(s) was it tested to?
- What were the parameters of the Test Method(s)?
- What were the results?
Why isn't every Rugged Computer certified?
The tests are quite costly.
Each test is per exact product specifications. Any minor deviation is outside of scope.
But, rugged computers can be modified a million different ways, so it's unrealistic to expect a rugged computer manufacturer to test each variation.
Often times, the tests are performed on the most demanding configuration for assurance.
What if my specs differ from the certified rugged computer?
If your program requires the certification to be done exactly per spec, mention it to the vendor. They should oblige to certify your exact configuration depending of course on your requirements and time-frame.
What does the MIL-STD-810G consist of?
I've mentioned before that the MIL-STD-810G covers a broad range of environmental circumstances that determine the overall ruggedness or durability of a computer system.
The standard, 804 total pages, is broken up into three parts:
- Part One: Environmental Engineering Program Guidelines
- Part Two: Laboratory Test Methods
- Part Three: World Climatic Regions - Guidance
Most vendors focus on the Test Methods and let a third-party test lab worry about the program guidelines. Simply because the Test Methods dictate the rugged computer system's environmental worthiness and durability and the cost to the vendor.
The Test Methods of MIL-STD-810G
- Test Method 500 - Low Pressure (Altitude)
- Test Method 501 - High Temperature
- Test Method 502 - Low Temperature
- Test Method 503 - Temperature Shock
- Test Method 504 - Contamination by Fluids
- Test Method 505 - Solar Radiation (Sunshine)
- Test Method 506 - Rain
- Test Method 507 - Humidity
- Test Method 508 - Fungus
- Test Method 509 - Salt Fog
- Test Method 510 - Sand and Dust
- Test Method 511 - Explosive Atmosphere
- Test Method 512 - Immersion
- Test Method 513 - Acceleration
- Test Method 514 - Vibration
- Test Method 515 - Acoustic Noise
- Test Method 516 - Shock
- Test Method 517 - Pyroshock
- Test Method 518 - Acidic Atmosphere
- Test Method 519 - Gunfire Shock
- Test Method 520 - Temperature, Humidity, Vibration, and Altitude
- Test Method 521 - Icing/Freezing Rain
- Test Method 522 - Ballistic Shock
- Test Method 523 - Vibro-Acoustic/Temperature
- Test Method 524 - Freeze / Thaw
- Test Method 525 - Time Waveform Replication
- Test Method 526 - Rail Impact.
- Test Method 527 - Multi-Exciter
- Test Method 528 - Mechanical Vibrations of Shipboard Equipment (Type I – Environmental and Type II – Internally Excited)
I'll briefly summarize each Test Method so you can decide which is the best for your product or program.
Test Method 500.5 - Low Pressure (Altitude)
The purpose of this method is to determine if a product can operate in a low pressure setting or withstand swift pressure changes. It does not cover products that are to be installed or operated in space.
Test Method 501.5 - High Temperature
This test is used to determine the effects on the material as well as performance of the rugged computer under high temperature conditions. Not for long-term exposure to high temps or if you're trying to determine the effects of degradation on a rugged server.
Test Method 502.5 - Low Temperature
Much like the previous test method, it ensures proper material reliability during low temps but it also focuses on performance during storage, operation, and manipulation. Don't use this test method if you plan on having the product in an unpressurized environment.
Test Method 503.5 - Temperature Shock
This would be a great test for our Aviation & Aerospace Scenario we discussed at the beginning of this blog. It is used to determine sudden changes in temperature and its effect on the physical rugged server as well as performance.
Test Method 504.1 - Contamination by Fluids
If you are expecting exposure to liquids during the life cycle of the program or application, whether that's temporarily, intermittently, or for long periods of time, this test method will ensure proper performance as well as the physical effects on the computer as a whole.
Test Method 505.5 - Solar Radiation (Sunshine)
Use this test method if you are expecting your rugged computer to be exposed to solar radiation, such as direct exposure to sunlight.
Test Method 506.5 - Rain
This test, even though it states "rain", is not only for environments that experience a lot of rainfall but it deals with other factors such as water spray or dripping water during storage, transport, or operation. The rugged chassis plays a major role here as it helps prevent any water intrusion to the internal system components.
Test Method 507.5 - Humidity
This test methods combines heat and water and measures the effects on the rugged server when exposed to warm, humid atmospheres.
Test Method 508.6 - Fungus
Believe it or not, this actually happens. A computer system can have fungal growth, and it may impact the metal and/or performance. This Test Method tests how the system would work under those rare circumstances if fungal growths were a problem.
Test Method 509.5 - Salt Fog
If there's a protective coating on a rugged computer, it needs to get tested as well for its effectiveness. Not only that, this Test Method ensures that even if salt deposits make it onto the physical or electrical components of the rugged computer, it will work just fine.
Test Method 510.5 - Sand and Dust
Covering two actual tests in one, this is quite a popular Test Methods for programs or applications that will put rugged computers in environments where dust or sand particles are a concern. It tests the openings and crevices of the rugged computer and measures the effectiveness of filters. The test does span into performance parameters as well, meaning how is the rugged server doing if under these conditions and if particles do penetrate the exterior enclosure.
Test Method 511.5 - Explosive Atmosphere
This test does not measure the ruggedness of the computer around explosive material rather it measures if the computer can operate in a fuel-air atmosphere without causing an explosion or if an explosive or burning reaction occurs, will it be contained within the rugged server. A popular test method for the Oil & Gas industry.
Test Method 512.5 - Immersion
Yes. Exactly what it sounds like. This is a test method that measures how well a rugged computer can perform while immersed or partially immersed in water. It measures performance before, during, and after the procedure to arrive at a conclusion.
Test Method 513.6 - Acceleration
Perfect for aircraft-dependent programs or applications. This test method ensures that a rugged computer can function properly when exposed to the high accelerations an aircraft may pose.
Test Method 514.6 - Vibration
A very popular method! When vendors state 'shock & vibe certified', this is one of the methods that they are referring to. It ensures the rugged components function appropriately through vibration levels.
Test Method 515.6 - Acoustic Noise
Think noise test. If there are acoustics that could potentially affect the performance of the computer, this test makes sure to identify said problem.
Test Method 516.6 - Shock
If you want to remember one Test Method, this would be it. The infamous Shock testing method, most searched for test method: MIL-STD-810G 516.6. It measures how effective a rugged computer is in withstanding shock during transportation, handling, and service. Passing this Test Method is the equivalent of being able to call your computer rugged by military standards.
Test Method 517.1 - Pyroshock
Tests how well a rugged server performs when a nearby explosive shock goes off. It looks at how structurally sound the rugged chassis is during and after the explosion and how well the overall system maintains stability.
Test Method 518.1 - Acidic Atmosphere
This test determines how a rugged computer and its coating withstand corrosive atmospheres and at times even during operation.
Test Method 519.6 - Gunfire Shock
Another popular test method that measures how well a rugged server can withstand the short bursts of gunfire shock and if it will have a negative impact on the performance of the system.
Test Method 520.3 - Temperature, Humidity, Vibration, and Altitude
Similar to other test methods already covered, but yet quite different. It measures how well a rugged computer system squares up to all of the environmental factors combined. This does not only apply to aircraft but can also be used on ground vehicles, obviously at that point the Altitude portion of the test is omitted.
Test Method 521.3 - Icing/Freezing Rain
A test that validates a rugged computer under freezing conditions that may cause a system to freeze or ice over. This method also covers the way in which operators can administer to defrost the system without harm.
Test Method 522.1 - Ballistic Shock
This is another variation of a shock test where a rugged computer is tested against infrequent shock effects caused by elevated levels of momentum. Think of a moving object where the computer sits and a sudden stop occurs. Think like a crash test from high speed to zero or vice versa. Simply put, abrupt momentum shift.
Test Method 523.3 - Vibro-Acoustic/Temperature
Another mixed test method where multiple environmental factors are tested at once. This method, however, focuses on externally carried aircraft stores during flight.
Test Method 524 - Freeze / Thaw
All about the changes of going from a solid to a liquid or vice versa state. If a computer froze over and it is currently thawing, what are the effects on the overall system structure and performance.
Test Method 525 - Time Waveform Replication
Ever heard the expression "to withstand the test of time"? This is the method for that. If a rugged computer is known to be exposed to certain harsh conditions, this test method ensures how long it can withstand its own environment before changes start to occur.
Test Method 526 - Rail Impact
During transport, a lot of things can happen. This test ensures that the rugged server will survive likely scenarios of car impact during transport.
Test Method 527 - Multi-Exciter
All about replication of an entire environment. Whether derived from actual reports or replicated at best ability of the test lab, this test method applies multiple stress factors at once to see how well the rugged computer system will battle until it starts to show signs of weakness.
Test Method 528.1 - Mechanical Vibrations of Shipboard Equipment (Type I – Environmental and Type II – Internally Excited
Strictly for shipboard equipment installed on ships, the test method measures environmental or internal vibrations and its effects on the computer.
There you have it, a brief summary of each Test Method from the MIL-STD-810G Military Standard.
It should help you better understand which test method makes sense for your program or application and also arm you with the right questions to ask a rugged computer manufacturer before you simply accept a vague answer at face value.
Who administers these different Test Methods?
There are multiple test labs that certify rugged computers to MIL-STD-810G (among various other Military Standards).
These testing houses are approved to run these tests according to Part One of the MIL-STD-810G Standard.
If you need such a test lab to run you through what it takes to certify a rugged computer or to put your products through the ultimate rugged gauntlet, please take a look at The List of Best Compliance Testing Laboratories (Domestic & International) and give one a call.
Ask them what it takes to certify to MIL-STD-810G and arm yourself even further to understand all the ins and outs of this popular Military Standard.
Hope this blog will be a helpful resource to you in understanding what all goes into the MIL-STD-810G and how much work needs to be done to certify a rugged computer to its various Test Methods.
If you would like to have the 804 page document for your keepsake, I've included a copy for you below.
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