GE was among the very first companies to bring to market commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products that were rugged by design–as opposed to commercial products that were ruggedized as an afterthought. Created to operate in the harshest of environments, GE’s products now reflect the company’s unparalleled experience and expertise in ruggedization, with its unique combination of design evaluation and assembly and test practices through to advanced thermal management, mechanical engineering and hermetic control techniques.

GE ruggedizes its products by upgrading or screening parts for extended temperatures, adding mechanical stiffening bars, and/or changing substrate materials for thermal conduction. An integrated stiffening frame/thermal management assembly is used to optimize the mechanical dynamic and thermal performance. A variety of conformal coatings are available for humidity and static control.

Ruggedization Levels 1-5

Knowing that our products will be deployed in a wide range of harsh military, aerospace and industrial environments, we offer five distinct ruggedization levels. Development systems are compatible and interoperable with deployed systems through the use of shared circuit design and software compatibility, allowing the most cost-effective option to be selected. Each of the five levels differs only in the mechanical build standard, type of cooling and the quality of the electronic components used.

GE’s five ruggedization levels offer increasing levels of environmental durability, enabling operational goals to be met at the lowest possible cost. Each ruggedization level has been carefully tailored to provide the optimal trade-off between cost, performance and reliability. Selection will depend on the type of cooling required–either forced air or by conduction–and the overall requirements for environmental performance.

Fully compliant with the ANSI/VITA 1-1994 VMEbus and IEEE Std 1101.2-1992 conduction-cooled specifications, GE products can be used with complete confidence in conjunction with both in-house designs and other vendor products that meet the same internationally recognized standards.

Ruggedization Levels 1-5

Ruggedization Levels A-E

GE has also introduced Ruggedization Levels A to E which are identical in every respect to Ruggedization Levels 1 to 5 except that the upper operating temperature limits are defined on a product by product basis. This allows GE to offer the very highest performance products without the restrictions of fixed upper temperature limits. For products rated under this scheme the upper temperature limit is defined in the product manual.

Design Methods

GE invests heavily in the development of new ruggedized computing and communications products for the military and aerospace market, which is a major core focus of our company. We have completed more than 250 military and aerospace system designs to-date, with the most complete product catalog in the industry.

As a company, we take considerable pride in our reputation for quickly developing a deep understanding of our customers’ needs, then undertaking system design and integration, board design five levels of ruggedization, mechanical design, analysis and certification, and software development and testing. Our engineering capabilities include Systems, Mechanical, Electrical, Software, Test, Project and Reliability. Just as expansive, our hardware capabilities range from chassis to hardware certification.

We were among the very first companies to establish a business model based on the use of COTS components that could be ruggedized to withstand thermal extremes, vibration, shock, sand and dust, salt fog, humidity, acceleration, electromagnetic interference, nuclear/electromagnetic pulse and high G-forces, as well as human intrusion and compromise. Our engineers are committed to the compatibility, interoperability and upgradability afforded by open architecture systems. Many members of our engineering staff have long been active members of technology groups that establish and update computing and communications protocols.

This paradigm has helped our customers dramatically reduce the costs and other program risks associated with the development of proprietary computing and communications systems while affording them the opportunity to leverage state-of-the-art technologies from the open marketplace.

COTS technology also provides a major advantage by reducing overall program risk. GE designs and qualifies its products toward the platform specifications using only proven technologies. Whether for a ground-up design project or technology insertion, our products are designed to meet all technical requirements without the program risks that might otherwise be encountered.

GE can fully appreciate the harsh environments in which many of our products are called upon to perform. And we know how valuable every square inch, every ounce and every watt are in most every military and aerospace platform. For that reason, we design ruggedized products that provide the appropriate level of technology for the application in form factors that provide the lowest possible size, weight and power footprint.

Advanced Research

Advances in processor technologies not only result in increasing power consumption, but as device geometries decrease, losses due to leakage currents increase while the surface area of the die from which heat must be extracted decreases. This leads to a need to continually innovate in techniques for extracting heat from devices, boards and systems.

By combining the capabilities of our engineers who have been working on rugged COTS since its inception with those of the researchers at GE’s Global Research Centers, GE is uniquely placed to advance the state of the art in thermal management techniques. Advances come from both internal and external research, such as DARPA contracts. By working on leading edge technologies such as Thermal Ground Planes and Near Junction Cooling of devices as research programs, then transitioning them to deployable implementations, higher power devices can deployed and junction temperatures can be reduced, leading to better reliability and mean time before failure.

GE’s engineers take a holistic approach to thermal engineering of a system. They address issues at every stage of heat extraction from the device level, through the board assembly and heatsinking, the thermal interface to the chassis and from the chassis to the final dissipation to the environment. Only by using such an approach can the deployed system be truly regarded as being optimal.

By partnering with GE on your system design, you can be assured of having access to the very best techniques that can be employed to bring the most reliable solution to deployment in the shortest time.

Testing and Qualification

Our comprehensive ISO9001/AS9100-certified development process lowers development costs, reduces non-recurring engineering costs, and dramatically cuts system program risks. In addition, project time-to-market is improved because both the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) and Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL) will be much higher with our subsystem technologies than through the development of analogous proprietary systems.

Our Qualification Test Plan and Qualification Test Report documentation services provide further risk protection for system developers. Typically, the qualification cycle would start with Functional testing, followed by Thermal Cycling, Shock, Random Vibration, Thermal Vacuum, and Electromagnetic Radiation tests. An Open Box Inspection would be conducted after completion of testing.

Functional Testing

Several Functional Tests (FTs) are performed on every product during the qualification test cycle. Although the FT is most frequently an automated process, user intervention may be warranted in some situations.

Thermal Design and Qualification

Sophisticated thermal analysis computer modeling is conducted early in the product design process. These computer simulations evaluate chassis and subassembly performance in worst-case thermal environments. This testing will predict junction temperatures between components, as well as suggest design modifications that would be expected to improve thermal survivability.

Shock and Vibration Analysis and Qualifications

Shock and vibration testing simulates qualification-level impacts on the chassis and subassemblies in order to predict potential areas of noncompliance. Our engineers often incorporate this valuable test information into future design modifications.

EMI Qualification

Electromagnetic interference and susceptibility testing on our products is conducted by an approved subcontractor. These tests typically include: Electromagnetic Compatibility (EC); Electromagnetic Interference (EMI); electrostatic charge control and dissipation; preclusion of an Electromagnetic Radiation Hazard (EMRADHAZ); and proper electrical bonding for MIL-STD-464.

Engineering Development Units

After subsystem requirements have been finalized, we can provide engineering development units (EDUs) to facilitate software development in advance of completed subsystem hardware. These EDUs include representative conduction-cooled boards with appropriate connectors or rear translation modules.