No matter how innovative a solution it is, it must be reliable. The embedded computing industry is mature with many suppliers that produce reliable systems and quality components that offer the long production lifecycles required to support mission critical applications.
Challenges arise with the need to augment these components and systems with components and subsystems whose primary market is consumer, retail or other markets that don’t share the same demand for reliability and production longevity.
One example is a consumer graphics processing unit (GPU) or video card. GPUs are attractive components for embedded technology because they may offer a level of performance that enables a higher level of realism in a training/simulation application or a greater resolution that leads to improved surgical or diagnostic outcomes in medical equipment.
More examples are solid state disk (SSD) drives and dynamic random access memory (DRAM) modules, which offer limited choices for “embedded class” modules that usually lag in performance, capacity and form factor, forcing design and performance compromises. So, most embedded and purpose-specific computing devices use common commercial/consumer grade DRAM and SSD components.
This practice can cause areas of great concern for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). While consumer-grade components enable the application, they bring with them failure rates that can compromise the overall reliability of the end product.
Memory modules fail at rates of .13% per module, video cards at greater than 1%, and hard disk drives at around 1%. Overall system failure rates can be between 3% and 7% with this kind of stack up. Add the fact that there may be several purpose-specific computing devices in an application, and it creates an unacceptable user experience.
For our customers, the failure of a relatively simple computer can quickly cascade into a breakdown of the expensive and critical OEM device, tarnishing the reputation of the OEM and the larger system. Patients in a hospital may have to reschedule critical tests, soldiers may not receive training, or a manufacturing line can be brought to a stop.
OEMs in all segments are challenged to drive failure rates down by their installed base. It is commonly measured as a consideration for purchasing their product and a point of competitive differentiation. If you are looking to improve the reliability of a new product, your ideal manufacturing partner should demonstrate a commitment to creative engineering, quality design, and streamlined manufacturing.
The Creative Engineering Approach
EmbedTek leverages creative engineering to design the innovations OEMs want while eliminating failure rates. Through our design, manufacturing, and quality testing process, we can eliminate early life failures and present a best case scenario for long-term component reliability. As a result, we are consistently demonstrating component failure rates that are 35 to 50 percent less than an OEM’s general experience.
One universal solution we have developed is a material and application process that protects connectors from oxidation in the field and from wear caused by vibration. This effectively eliminates the condition of components not being found at startup due to inconsistent connectivity. If you’ve ever seen a failure report full of “no problems found,” you can benefit from this process.
The EmbedTek engineering team conducted an analysis of common failures and developed a multi-level approach to the problem, for which we are seeking patent protection. Our step-by-step process involves physical card retention, careful cleaning and the enforcement of safe handling practices, plus the application of a synthetic material to protect the plated contacts. The material coating covers the surface and protects the metal from mechanical wear and corrosion.
EmbedTek is applying this overall process on systems and racks of systems today with great results, and without additional expense to our customers.
Inconsistent electrical connections, GPU card failures, and unreliable DRAM all come with a great cost to both EmbedTek and our customers — whether through direct services or the impact of lost revenue. Creative engineering that eliminates failure points by design gives manufacturers the ability to trust the longevity of a product, and a strong competitive advantage when it comes to purchasing decisions.