Marine grade panel PCs with various display and interface options (by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
Winmate is a Taiwanese company founded in 1994. Specializing in industrial display technologies and solutions, Winmate also branched out into Tablet PCs, digital signage, Panel PCs and, most recently, rugged Mobile PCs, embedded automation controllers, and marine grade displays and computers such as the RUGMATE Marine Grade Panel PC shown here.
Marine grade computers are becoming ever more important in applications ranging from basic monitoring to surveillance, navigation and complex ship automation. While some panels and computers used on ships and vessels may never see harsher operating conditions than those encountered in an office, many do, and there are also a number of navigation and radio communication equipment and system requirements as well as international maritime standards. As a result, Winmate says that all of its Marine products are built and tested according to DNV Standard Certification 2.4, IEC60945 and IACS-E10 and that they are certified by Det Norske Veritas (DNV), the Norwegian foundation internationally certifying materials, components and systems relevant to safe operation and quality of ships.
Display and touchscreen issues
Since maritime applications have a wide range of display size requirements, Winmate offers their RUGMATE marine panel PC with screens ranging in size from 8.4 inches all the way to 19 inches. Marine grade computers may also encounter various lighting situations, and so most display sizs are available either with transflective screen technology or a high brightness display. Further, all models are available with one of three touch and glass options:
Anti-reflective protective glass
Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) touch
5-wire resistive touch
Note that the SAW touchscreen offers IP54 sealing of the entire unit whereas the protective glass and 5-wire touchscreens have enhanced IP65 sealing from the front in addition to IP54 sealing from the side and rear.
As far as sunlight viewability goes, there are numerous combinations of display and touch technologies and backlight intensities. For the transflective displays Winmate states a "net reflectance rate" of betwen 0.9% and 1.3%. For the protective glass option Winmate state reflection of less than 0.6%. Backlight intensity for the transflective displays is between 400 and 500 nits whereas high brightness panels offer 800 to 1,000 nits. Note that actual sunlight readability is determined by a variety of factors, most importantly the overall effective contrast ratio (for more information, see explanation of outdoor-readable display issues).
The SAW touch option appears to be using the ELO Touchsystems IntelliTouch surface wave touch technology that uses small transducers on the backside of a touchscreen glass. Pure glass construction means almost total scratch-resistance and SAW touchscreens can be used with bare finges or gloves but not a stylus (see description of IntelliTouch surface wave technology). The SAW touch displays have no layers or moving parts which makes them extremely durable. They are available from 10.4-inches on up.
5-wire touchscreens seem based on the Elo AccuTouch technology where both x and y measurements are made on the rigid rear glass as opposed to the flexing front coversheet (see description of AccuTouch 5-Wire technology). 5-wire touchscreens can be used either with a bare or gloved finger, or a stylus.
Design and electronics
Physically, Winmate's marine grade panels have powdercoated aluminum housings designed for panel mounting, with VESA mounting available as well. All connectors are in the back, facing down.
The fanless 15-inch RUGMATE panel has a footprint of 16.2 x 13.6 inches and is just over three inches thick. The sturdy aluminum housing has anti-corrosion protection and carries an IP54 sealing rating, with certain front panel options rated at IP65 (see above). Standard operating temperature is 14 to 131 degrees Fahrenheit, with a special wide-range option (-4 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit) available. The RUGMATE panels can handle significant vibration and shock as well as operation in high humidity. Winmate's impressive torture testing is documented in a number of the company's videos.
Onboard connectivity consists of two USB ports, a RS232/422/485 connector, video, two RS232 ports, Ethernet RJ45 jacks (10/100), video, and a legacy PS/2 port. Power is 8-36Volt DC; 90-265V AC is optional. Wireless connectivity can likely be added via optional mini-PCI modules.
All RUGMATE marine grade PPCs use a 500MHz AMD Geode LX800 processor and come standard with 512MB of RAM in a single SODIMM slot. There is a CF card Type II connector and units are equipped with a 40GB 2.5-inch hard disk.
The video shows how marine grade displays are being used. The video concentrates on Winmate's larger marine bridge displays, but also applis to the RUGMATE series.
See the video below for an interesting overview of Winmate's ruggedness testing procedures.