FLEx in Action: Reflective Displays in Dangerous Conditions

FLEx in Action: Reflective Displays in Dangerous Conditions

A 100+ year old industrial engineering company in the UK wanted to give their engineers a device to measure waste in high-pressure systems. The methods they were using—measuring pressure at every point, and doing the math—took a ton of time and effort and were fairly inefficient. But there wasn’t any handheld device that engineers could easily carry and withstand the potentially explosive conditions in which the engineers were working. So they set out to make their own device.

Success criteria

  • Long battery life — Engineers would have this device with them at all times, and they needed it to work at all times. 
  • Tough build — The conditions this device was designed for are tough, to say the least. So the engineers knew they needed something that would last. 
  • ATEX compliance — The new device would have to meet some stringent regulations before it could get into engineers’ hands. 
  • Usability — This screen needed to be simple enough to integrate into the device, and work in dark rooms and out in the sun. 

With these criteria in mind, the design team set out to create a solution that could work for their engineers out in the field.

The solution

Immediately, the team knew that the ATEX compliance would influence the design a great deal. As part of the ATEX rules, the device couldn’t have any exposed charge pumps or printed circuit boards (PCBs). In order to remain compliant with ATEX, many devices cover their internal PCBs with an epoxy coating to prevent any potential sparks from igniting a dangerous gas in an enclosed space.

empty desert with smoke stacks

Luckily, one of the electrical engineers on the project had seen FLEx products online and at tradeshows. He knew that the display lacked charge pumps (unlike most other displays), so it was close to being ATEX compliant. With a little modification, it would be the perfect screen—for a few reasons:

  • Intrinsically safe — The FLEx front light panel didn’t have any charge pumps, so it was close to being ATEX compliant.
  • Long battery life — With such a small power draw, battery life could be diverted to other parts of the device.  
  • Sunlight readability — Field engineers would be in dark rooms and very sunny conditions, so the screen was perfect.
  • Space savings — Engineers were worried about a thick display stack that needed an epoxy coating as well, but the FLEx FLP was around 3x thinner than other solutions. 

With all of these benefits in mind, the team reached out to FLEx to ask some questions and collaborate on some solutions. Together, they were able to modify the front light panel so that it didn’t require a separate PCB, which would require extra epoxy protection. The FLP could operate on the main PCB, which was encased in epoxy to meet ATEX regulations. And with some help from the FLEx team, the engineers made the FLEx FLP work in their device by reorienting some connectors to fit in the epoxy-covered PCB.

The device is almost ready for field use. It’s ATEX compliant and it’s passed all of the rigorous testing (including dropping significant weight on the screen housing). And competitors in the space don’t yet have a tool as convenient and durable. They’re all using several devices to accomplish the same tasks.

How can FLEx innovate for you?

Contact us today.

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