Design of hardened devices for harsh conditions. Crafting resilience with VECTOR BLUE HUB

Wojciech Jesionkowski

27.11.2023

In today's dynamic technological landscape, devices have seamlessly woven themselves into the fabric of our daily lives, from urban comforts to the challenging fringes of our world. As society advances in search of new solutions for growing needs, there is also an increasing demand for resiliently designed, intelligent equipment in the telecommunications sector, across various fields of its application. As we push through this technological era, the hardening and reliability of these devices in harsh conditions become paramount.

At VECTOR BLUE HUB, we bring to the table our experience in system hardening standards and implementing market-ready industrial telecommunication devices tailored specifically for these demanding situations. This article sheds light on our approaches, best practices, and the methodologies we employ to guarantee that our devices not only last but consistently deliver optimal performance under challenging circumstances. 

Navigating tech terrain: mastering resilience in extreme environments

In an era marked by rapid technological progression, the concept of system hardening takes center stage. Before diving into the art and science of building ultra-resilient devices for severe conditions, we must first grasp why resilience is paramount in modern tech:

  • Diverse deployment: devices today find themselves in a myriad of challenging terrains, from the icy landscapes of the Arctic to the blistering heat of deserts, demanding robust operating system hardening.

  • Array of challenges: such environments pose threats of extreme temperatures, intense humidity, and heightened physical pressures, often leading to device dysfunction. This underscores the importance of comprehensive devices and systems hardening.

  • Real-world implications:  failures can wreak havoc on productivity and result in considerable financial and operational setbacks in sectors as diverse as energy, transportation, defense and outdoor adventures, underscoring the need for continued efforts in standards to strengthen the individual devices that make up the entire system.

  • More than a trend: prioritizing extreme environment electronic design is less about chasing a trend and more about addressing a critical need. As an example in telecommuncation systems: involving securing against potential attack surfaces and ensuring internet security through measures like multi-factor authentication and restricting access to sensitive systems.

Grasping the weight of these considerations sets the stage for our journey into the realms of best practices for designing hard-wearing devices meant for the world's harshest conditions.

"At VECTOR BLUE HUB, we have experience in designing telecommunication devices that not only need to be resistant to high temperatures (+65C externally and up to +85C internally) and low temperatures (-40C), but also to high humidity, corrosion, dust, and other conditions that could harm them."
Wojciech Jesionkowski Design Department Manager from VECTOR BLUE HUB.
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Importance of durable electronic design across various sectors

In the realm of manufacturing, industrial settings, the functionality and reliability of electronic, operating and computer systems  are paramount. Machinery, sensors, and other critical components often operate under demanding conditions. These conditions are especially prevalent in extreme environments characterized by extreme temperatures, high humidity, and exposure to dust and chemicals. Given these extreme challenges, there's a rising dependency on electronics specifically designed for extreme environments, ensuring optimal performance even under these severe conditions. By embracing extreme environment electronic design principles, these systems surpass the performance benchmarks set by conventional electronic devices.

Ensuring the robustness and seamless functionality of these devices in extreme conditions is vital to guaranteeing continuous production, significantly reducing potential downtime, and in the grand scheme, leading to substantial cost savings. This focus includes electronics hardening, firmware and software application hardening to protect against data breaches and intrusion prevention, as well as system hardening standards for critical infrastructure.

Telecommunications and IoT:

Standing at the forefront of this demand is the telecommunication industry. With the rapid expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the essential nature of uninterrupted communication, sectors such as intercom systems, satellite communications, and mobile networking demand devices of unparalleled resilience. Given the centrality of communication in today's world, ensuring these devices can weather extreme conditions is not just a priority—it's an absolute imperative. At VECTOR BLUE HUB, we have extensive experience in creating devices adapted to harsh conditions. Our advanced solutions include passive and if needed active cooling systems which protect devices against environmental conditions, and security systems that safeguard access at the firmware and software level.


What other areas require devices built to withstand challenging weather conditions?

  • Industrial Automation:

Delving into the manufacturing domain, we encounter machines and sensors operating round-the-clock, often in harsh conditions that challenge conventional electronics. Factors like chemical exposure, dust, and even extreme temperature variations necessitate devices with robust design, ensuring consistent production and influencing significant cost savings.


  • Military and Defense:

High stakes and challenging environments define this sector. From arid deserts to the icy expanses of the poles, military operations need equipment that's more than just reliable; they need the robust. Communications, surveillance, and mission-critical systems must withstand these extremities without a hitch.


  • Outdoor Consumer Gadgets:

For the modern adventurer, resilience is as essential as functionality. Whether it's tools for hiking or equipment for extreme sports, outdoor gadgets must withstand nature's myriad challenges. In this realm, a brand's commitment to quality is often reflected in the durability of its products. This approach often includes ongoing assessments and adherence to system hardening standards to ensure gadgets are capable of handling harsh conditions without compromise.

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Robust design fundamentals. Understanding the principles of designing for extreme conditions is the bedrock of creating devices that surpass expectations.

Creating devices suited for extreme environments demands a deep dive into both the theoretical and practical aspects of electrical and computer engineering. Unlike conventional electronic devices, extreme environment electronics are crafted specifically to face the harshest conditions. Understanding the principles of extreme environment electronic design is crucial. By focusing on these core principles, designers can ensure the longevity, performance, and resilience of devices in even the most challenging settings.

 

Designing telecommunication and IoT devices that can thrive in extreme environments requires a more profound grasp of both electrical and computer engineering than only a basic background. Unlike standard electronic systems, extreme environment electronics, a field of study where extreme environment electronics explains the intricacies of designs tailored for harsh conditions, stands at the forefront. By incorporating the principles of environment electronics, telecommunication devices are not only ensured seamless connectivity but also guarantee device longevity and resilience in the most demanding of scenarios.

Materials and Construction for Telecommunications and IoT

The foundation of resilient telecommunication and IoT devices is rooted in the selection of suitable semiconductor technologies, pivotal for environment electronics. Beyond just durable plastics or corrosion-resistant metals, it's about embracing the realm approprate  semiconductors electronics units and other tailored technologies. These devices are designed to be immune to challenges like humidity, corrosive environments, and even electromagnetic interference - concerns prevalent in the telecommunication spectrum. Electronic systems intended for such rigorous demands safeguard the device's core functionalities, ensuring seamless communication even when faced with conditions that would hinder ordinary devices.

Sealing and Protection in Communication Devices

When it comes to extreme environment electronics, especially in the telecommunication sector, shielding against external threats like moisture, dust, and electromagnetic interference is non-negotiable. Such devices should not just meet but exceed the highest IP (Ingress Protection) class. Using gaskets, seals, and specialized coatings, all integral to environment electronics, ensures the device's integrity, reliability and signal quality.

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Temperature Adaptability in Telecommunications

Telecommunication and IoT devices destined for extreme environments represent a challenge, especially when considering temperature variances. These devices, often linked with energy and space exploration endeavors, need components resilient to both high and low temperature environments. Efficient thermal management, encompassing heat dissipation strategies and advanced cooling solutions, is essential. These considerations, combined with the intricacies of analog circuits operating under such conditions, ensure that communication channels remain open and uncompromised. This necessitates continuous effort in maintaining operational security and adhering to system hardening standards.

Shock and Vibration Resilience in IoT Devices

In the vast IoT landscape, resilience against shocks and vibrations is crucial, particularly when devices are near heavy machinery or areas of high mechanical stress. By integrating effective mounting solutions and shock-absorbing materials, these IoT devices, designed for extreme environments, ensure data integrity and stable connection. This is especially important in maintaining operational security and protecting sensitive and crucial information under harsh conditions.

Power Management in Telecommunications

In the telecommunication sector, where devices often communicate over vast long period, distances, power efficiency is paramount. The adoption of energy-efficient semiconductor solutions, alongside optimized firmware and smart power modulation techniques, is indispensable. This approach is integral not just for prolonging the device's operational life but also for ensuring consistent signal strength and data transfer rates, critical in operating IOT systems.

Environmental Testing and Device Verification

Comprehensive environmental testing is essential for any device intended for extreme environments. This includes temperature cycling, humidity tests, shock and vibration testing, and modeling radiation effects. Real-world simulations, coupled with reliability estimation and verification techniques, form the cornerstone of this process. Such rigorous testing ensures devices stand up to challenging conditions, guided by system hardening standards, ongoing assessment, and regular assessments. This thorough approach aims to lower risk and ensure devices adhere to industry standards, reinforcing their resilience and reliability.

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VECTOR BLUE HUB - Your partner in designing resilient devices

At VECTOR BLUE HUB, our approach to high temperature resilience leans on passive cooling, though we also have expertise in active cooling via fans. Tackling low temperatures often requires innovative solutions, such as using additional electronics to heat certain components to operational levels. We've mastered designing devices that can withstand up to 95% humidity and are corrosion-resistant through the judicious selection of materials and rigorous verification tests.

Moreover, our devices adhere to an IP67 rating, ensuring dustproof and water-resistant capabilities, and are built to endure vibrations during both transport and operation. The security of our IoT devices against hacking is fortified with hardware-based key protection. Furthermore, these IoT devices are power-efficient due to optimized software and hardware design. We've also tackled the challenge of vandalism, crafting devices such as vandal-resistant intercoms. Importantly, we prioritize longevity in these challenging environments. At VECTOR BLUE HUB, this is achieved through comprehensive construction analysis (e.g., MTBF calculations, lifetime of key components) and reliability tests (HALT, demonstrated MTBF, etc.).

Wojciech Jesionkowski

Hardware Engineering Manager

Wojciech leads the development team and strives to bring customers’ ideas to life. During his 14 years at VECTOR as an engineer, he has gained strong problem-solving skills and analytical thinking in product development. Privately, he's a father who loves to spend time with his family on shared outdoor activities and travels.

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