Sunday, November 16, 2008

GPS waterproof standards

WaterProof.. Submersible.. Spray proof.. What DO these terms mean?

MIL-STD 810 Immersion Standard, Military Specification equipment
MIL-STD 810 Blowing Rain, Military Specification equipment
JIS 2-8 Japanese Water Protection Specs similar to IEC529
CFR Title 46 Part 110.15 Aircraft Civilian specifications
IEC 529 European (ECC) water protection specifications

Of these, only IEC 529 (European Community Specification) and JIS2-8 (Japanese Industry Standard) have graduated test levels. These two specifications are very similar, but IEC 529 is gaining more acceptance in Europe which is a major market for many US manufacturers and is more defined in terms of the actual test. The table below gives a summary of the requirements for IEC 529 for WATER PROTECTION PROVISIONS.

Level Definition
0 Non protected, No special protection
1 Protected against falling water Equivalent to 3-5mm rainfall per minute for a duration of 10 minutes. Unit is placed in its normal operating position.
2 Protected against falling water when tilted up to 15 degrees. Same as (1) above but unit is tested in 4 fixed positions - tilted 15 degree in each direction from normal operating position.
3 Protected against spraying water, Water spraying up to 60 degrees from vertical at 10 liters/min at a gage pressure of 80-100kN/m2 for 5 min.
4 Protected against splashing water. Same as level 3 but water is sprayed at all angles.
5 Protected against water jets Water projected at all angles through a 6.3mm nozzle at a flow rate of 12.5 liters/min at a gage pressure of 30kN/m2 for 3 minutes from a distance of 3 meters.
6 Protected against heavy seas. Water projected at all angles through a 12.5mm nozzle at a flow rate of 100 liters/min at a gage pressure of 100kN/m2 for 3 minutes from a distance of 3 meters.
7 Protected against water immersion. Immersion for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter.
8 Protected against water submersion The equipment is suitable for continuos submersion in water under conditions which are identified by the manufacturer.

*Note: IEC 529 level 7 is designated "IPX7" and is equivalent to JIS 7. The position of "X" being left blank indicates that the unit has no special mechanical protection.
*Note: Garmin typically uses the IEC-529 spec for the design spec for water protection level for their line of GPS equipment. Marine rated GPS equipment is usually tested to IPX7.

Garmin units in current production,
rated for submersion to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes.

There has been discussion as to the degree of "waterproofness" of Garmin GPS receivers and especially the eTrex and Summit (Legend and Vista use essentially the same package).

Here is Garmin's statement on waterproofness:

Garmin reports (from a past review): "Our specifications for eTrex (and Rino) are that they are waterproof per IEC529-IPX7. IEC is a European specification published by the International Electrotechnical Commission. It is very similar to the Japanese Industry Standard JIS-8. IEC529 gives an excellent breakdown of the relative degrees of protection against water ingress. (IEC529 specification can be found HERE.) (A layman's breakdown of IEC529 can be found HERE.) By the way, our products are more waterproof than virtually everyone else's. We even test 100% of them in our factory. It costs a lot more, but we do it anyway to be sure what we ship meets IPX7. We understand and acknowledge that the marine environment can be very harsh. Even the brass contacts with nickel plating and gold over that will eventually corrode if left exposed to sea water long enough. That's the best contact material available, and we use it on all our external power contacts. All other marine electronic products in the $100-$500 class that we are aware of have this weakness. IEC529 specifies that the immersion test is to be done in fresh water, probably for this reason. The harsh environment does occasionally cause failures and we continually work on improvements to existing products while introducing new ones."

"The classification of IPX7 is for temporary (i.e. accidental) immersion in water. It is not for continuous underwater use. If the end user is looking for something that can be used underwater continuously, they need to find something rated IPX8 or JIS8. However, we are not aware of any or GPS or fish finder that is rated for IPX8 in any price category. You will see in the attached sections of IEC529, that "The manufacturer of the equipment should be consulted to determine the degrees of protection available and the parts of equipment to which the stated degree of protection applies." We recently did start to add to our packaging a note concerning the extended waterproofness of our battery compartments as the seal is rubber and over time and wear and tear, will not be able to maintain as good of a seal as when new. We have a vested interest in presenting truthful, correct information to all of our current and potential customers." (End of Garmin statement.)

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