VITA 47: An Objective Baseline for High-Level Ruggedization

COTS Journal

Published in: COTS Journal

Every vendor of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) products intended for use in the defense and aerospace industries claims their products are rugged. The need to withstand extreme environmental conditions and wildly varying temperatures is an everyday requirement. The real challenge is to make sure that COTS products can perform at the highest levels in the harshest conditions for years, or even decades. That means ruggedness alone is not enough, and long-term durability must also be demonstrated.

To that end, the VPX community is concerned with far more than electrical and mechanical specifications. ANSI/VITA 47 is an American National Standards Institute standard that defines a rigorous test regime, enabling vendors to demonstrate to their customers that their VPX product is designed to perform optimally while complying with specific environmental, manufacture, safety, and quality criteria.

VITA 47 testing/verification includes thermal, cooling, vibration, shock, humidity, altitude, rapid decompression, fungal resistance, ESD (including 2LM), corrosion resistance, workmanship (soldering, conformal coating, and PWB fabrication), interchangeability, status lights, fans (including noise), safety (including materials, flammability, and toxicity) and quality assurance. VITA 47 also includes tests for long-term reliability and durability.

VPX3-652 switch card with VITA 47

VPX3-652 card that has undergone full VITA 47 ECC4 testing to ensure the highest levels of ruggedization and reliability

By formalizing this test regime in a standard, the VPX community ensures that test procedures and results are consistent and meaningful. For example, VITA 47 calls for 500 thermal cycles for long-term reliability/durability, including minimum dwell times, which means that performing just one of these tests can take over seven weeks!

Due to cost, and perhaps a lack of infrastructure, required to complete the full test regime, some vendors may choose to only cite part of the VITA 47 standard, such as just the operational temperature ranges, rather than full VITA 47 compliance. When VITA 47 is cited for a particular product, it’s a good idea to request a test report from the COTS vendor.

The report should show that the module has been fully tested to meet VITA 47 and not just support partial compliance. Typically, the full regime of VITA 47 testing is only provided by larger vendors, particularly those that have in-house test facilities and the expertise to not only perform the tests but also to learn from failures and then implement changes to enhance their COTS ruggedization and reliability.

The VITA 47 standard gives system integrators a baseline with which to objectively compare the ruggedization of COTS products from various vendors. Products that have passed the highest levels of the VITA 47 standard provide the highest level of reliability and long-term durability in the most extreme environments required for the defense industry.