Panasonic was keen to show me some of the custom parts that go into making the ToughBook line. Once of the most important components in a notebook is the hard drive, where the data stored within can be worth more than the whole notebook itself. Unlike many so called shockproof hard disk enclosures, the ones inside the fully rugged ToughBooks arenâ€™t made from rubber, which can in fact amplify vibration. Instead, the hard disks inside ToughBooks are suspended in dense foam. The foam shrouded drive is then inserted into a solid metal caddy, making it even more robust, while the flexible drive connector ensures that even under stress, the connector wonâ€™t break.
But the drive enclosure isnâ€™t just about shock resistance, it also ensures that the hard disk can operate in Arctic conditions. On either side of the enclosure are heating elements which will warm the drive before boot-up, ensuring that the fluid bearings are not frozen. Of course Panasonic is looking at the possibility of using solid state disks in ToughBooks which will remove the only mechanical part in the notebook.
All of the fully rugged ToughBooks are fanless too, thus removing another point of failure from the equation. Custom built heatpipe assemblies transmit the heat away from the internal components and out to the casing for dissipation into the atmosphere.
Even the main PCB is designed for maximum resilience, with all of the I/O connectors located off the main board, so if there is a failure in a connector, only the daughter board has to be replaced rather than the main board.