A Modular Rugged Chassis for Military Applications

M Sundar Ganesh, Digilogic Systems Pvt.

"Digilogic Systems Pvt. Ltd. designed and developed the Modular Rugged Chassis with PXI Express products to ensure the usage of the PXI Express COTS-based systems for deployments in field applications."

- M Sundar Ganesh, Digilogic Systems Pvt.

The Challenge:

Developing a system for PXI Express commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products that can deploy systems in harsh environments for military applications.

The Solution:

Designing a rugged chassis on HE30 material and integrating the PXI Express architecture to create a Modular Rugged Chassis that can be used for military applications.

Digilogic Systems PVT. LTD. (DSPL), an ISO 9001:2008-certified company accredited by UKAS in India, provides systems, products, and solutions for defense, aerospace, automotive, and manufacturing market segments. The DSPL technical staff comprises a pool of professionals with vast experience and skill sets in developing automatic test equipment (ATE) and simulators for testing systems ranging from DC to 40 GHz, PCB diagnostics, data acquisition, and control systems with LabVIEW software. We are staffed with more than 30 engineers with an average experience of six years and in-depth LabVIEW knowledge. Our expertise varies from control systems to high-end RF and EW applications. We also work on IP developments based on LabVIEW FPGA and converting client-specific algorithms into FPGA target codes.



Why Modular Rugged Chassis?

Systems based on PXI Express with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products have been used successfully in various test and measurement solutions for laboratory environments. With the recent growth of FPGA-based RF products in the PXI Express platform, many organizations have already started building various RF systems using PXI Express.


This approach is limited to laboratory environments due to the environmental specifications of PXI Express products. But when the same systems need to be used for deployment in fields, these COTS-based systems do not meet the required specifications. This results in users choosing platforms other than PXI Express for their deployable systems.


Digilogic Systems Pvt. Ltd. designed and developed the Modular Rugged Chassis with PXI Express products to ensure the usage of the PXI Express COTS-based systems for deployments in field applications.



System Design

We designed our Modular Rugged Chassis with the following components:


  • NI PXIe-1075, 18-slot backplane
  • Power supply for the backplane
  • Various electronic components, including air inlet fans, air outlet fans, AC line filters, temperature sensors, and heaters (for low temperature operation)
  • A PXI Express controller and I/O modules (based on application needs)


We used the forced air cooling method for thermal management within our Modular Rugged Chassis. The air flow is from front to rear. The I/O from various PXI Express modules will be terminated into standard Series-III MIL circular connectors fitted in a connector plate on both the front and rear sides of the system. We can configure the type and number of connectors on this connector plate based on the PXI Express configuration.



Why We Chose NI Products

As software-defined modular systems become more common, any deployment system should also be based on modular design. PXI Express is an open architecture with good system throughput, high bandwidth, and low latency. The platform is more suitable for these kinds of applications. The powerful LabVIEW software platform empowers us to address any complex software algorithms.


Features of the Modular Rugged Chassis

Our Modular Rugged Chassis combines the benefits of the PXI Express platform with ruggedized design. We are no longer tied to the lab with the PXI Express applications. This all-metal industrial and military standard system provides a highly robust chassis to protect sensitive measurement modules and withstand harsh environmental conditions and demanding applications. Also, we designed this system with maintainability in mind by reducing the mean time to repair and replace. The modular assembly includes a removable power supply, fan assembly, and filter tray to simplify on-site diagnostics and replacement of any failed components.


We manufactured our first Modular Rugged Chassis and integrated it with an NI PXIe-8135 controller, an NI PXIe-5667 RFSA module, a FlexRIO-7966R FPGA module, and an NI 8260 RAID with SSD. In this system, we ported our spectrum monitoring system application that we developed using LabVIEW and the LabVIEW FPGA Module. We subjected the Modular Rugged Chassis system to various harsh environmental tests like operating it at -20 °C for 16 hours, at 55 °C for 16 hours, and vibration and shock. The system successfully passed all the tests we subjected it to.


Based on the success of this design, we generated interest for our Modular Rugged System. We have delivered two systems to customers that are being used in the field.


Benefits of the Modular Rugged Chassis system

  • Qualified for JSS-55555 (ground mobile) applications
  • Rugged PXI Express platform for field applications
  • Built-in heaters for extreme low-temperature operation (-20 °C)
  • A wide range of PXI Express modules available to tackle any test or data acquisition application
  • Optional rugged integrated touch screen display to use the system as stand alone
  • Universal AC power input
  • MIL-STD-461E compliance (EMI/EMC)
  • Meets MIL-STD-810F requirement for harsh environmental conditions


Author Information:

M Sundar Ganesh
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Internal View of Modular Rugged Chassis With Modules Plugged In
Rear View of Modular Rugged Chassis
Front View of Modular Rugged Chassis With Integrated Touch Display