Crash Test Comparison: What Cars and Mobile Computers Have in Common

If you’re a car guru, you probably know that YouTube entertainment channel Fifth Gear demonstrated a crash test of a Ford Focus at 120 MPH. ( ) They claim that no one has ever performed a crash test at these speeds. Such a crash is wholly un-survivable – no amount of crumple zones and airbags can save occupants in an accident with this much energy.

In fact, more than 1 million Newtons of energy had to be dissipated in about 3 feet of crushed metal – yielding an average of 80 Gs on occupants. The narrator claims that peak G-Force reached 400 Gs. Their crash test was far more violent that most anything that would be experienced in real life…unless you are a mobile device.

Tablets, laptops and handhelds are dropped every day, and each time they are subjected to over 300 to 425 Gs. The difference between these mobile computers and cars in such “crash tests” is that the mobile devices survive, if designed to be rugged.

A 2.4-pound tablet, dropped from a height of 5 feet, experiences 305 Gs of force on impact. There is little deformation of the frame (only about 0.5mm) and, because everything is so densely packed, there is no crumple zone. Users of rugged tablets (rightfully) expect to be able to pick up the tablet after a drop and continue working, with nothing more than a scuff mark at the impact point.

xplore rugged tablet drop testing

A 5.4-pound ultra-rugged tablet, dropped 7 feet as in this  video, experiences over 425 Gs of force. As you can see, it is operational when dropped, and still operational when picked back up, despite the impact.

So how can a tablet weighing just a few pounds experience so many more Gs than a car hitting a wall at 120 MPH? And how can the tablet survive undamaged? Well, there are a lot of physics involved. John Graff and I will discuss this in our DistribuTECH 2018 session “ Mobile Device Drop Testing in Action and the Science Behind It ”, January 25 th during the 10 AM track: Mobile Devices and the Modern Utility (#D0463). We hope you can join us then.

Not heading to DistribuTECH this year? Sign up now  to receive a copy of the presentation and videos after the show. Or,  contact us now to talk about your mobile computing needs and confirm the minimum drop test requirements you should look when buying laptop, tablet or handheld devices for your mobile workers – if you want to minimize device replacement costs.

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