As the name implies, military-grade products are custom-made devices and materials used exclusively by military and defense contractors.
However, the term mil-spec has become common in commercial settings even though it still evokes images of rugged, camouflage green. Demand for devices with a rugged design is increasing. In response, marketers have adopted the term military grade or mil-spec to describe their products.
Overusing this term can be misleading, and buyers are often led to believe that products can be used in defense applications.
Keep reading as we provide some basic information about mil-specs.
What Are Military Grade Products
Military-grade products, also known as mil-spec products, are designed in line with military standards (mil-STDs).
These standards were first developed by the United States Defense Force in 1945 and have since been used to ensure their military equipment performs at optimum levels.
The Department of Defense now enforces revised versions of mil-STDs along with inspection methods and protocols to trace failures to the root cause. It relies on designing standard components that are easily interchangeable. These standards define how military products are designed, built, and tested.
Producers of consumer goods, commercial products, and industrial equipment are looking for mil-spec materials that would otherwise be used in military applications.
Commercially, the most common mil-spec standards include:
- Mil- STD-461: This standard tests the susceptibility of electronic equipment to electromagnetic interference (EMI).
It was first documented in 1967 and has since undergone numerous revisions. mil-STD-461G is the current working version. It also determines the electromagnetic compatibility of different types of devices and systems.
This is applicable for commercial use where large servers contain sensitive data yet need to operate near other electronic systems. Research institutions and think tanks may require this form of military specification packaging.
- Mil-STD-810: The specifications found in mil-STD-810H form the basis for environmental testing. They outline the requirements for devices that are used in harsh environmental conditions.
Manufacturers use these standards to identify environmental stresses their devices are likely to face and fix defects during the design stage. This standard has recently gained popularity.
Because custom military products and tactical gear are made to withstand some of the harshest environments and weather conditions, commercial use of these durable products has rapidly increased. They now feature more prominently in non-military industries, including automation, aviation, electronics, and medical industries.
Designing a Mil-Spec Product
If you are looking for mil-spec products, leaving everything to your chosen mil-spec supplier won’t do. You need to do your part to ensure the end-products are of the highest quality. Follow these steps:
- Define a detailed product profile: Consider the performance characteristics that you require from the final product and which mil-STDs and tests will apply. This will work as an outline of what a successful design is expected to achieve.
- Create a product requirements document: A wide range of requirements fall under mil-STD-810H, from abrasion and water resistance to handling humidity and high temperatures. Although it’s unlikely one custom manufacturer will need to fulfill all these quality requirements, be specific about the types of materials required.
- Have the product using mil-spec materials developed: Make sure you choose a reliable mil-spec supplier for this. The supplier must have vast experience making mil-spec products and using the relevant mil-spec documents. The commercial supplier’s facilities must also comply with strict protocols and environmental regulations.
- Test the final product: Conduct tests – either internally or through compliance testing facilities – to evaluate if the product meets the required mil-STDs. Perform simulated and real-time laboratory tests to check the robustness of your device and fix any shortcomings.
Follow this design process to ensure your products meet the parameter and standards necessary to be certified mil-spec.
Examples of Mil-Spec Products
In addition to the United States military, mil-spec material suppliers are developing products for numerous industries. Here are two very useful military specification products.
Biological Decontaminant Accelerated Spray Plus, or BDAS, is a pressurized canister that sprays neutralizing agents up to 15 feet. It decontaminates hazardous chemical and biological weapons, unstable organic compounds, and toxic industrial chemicals.
It also neutralizes bodily fluids, harmful bacteria, and viruses. The BDAS’s design is based on military specification products and combines the simplicity of a fire extinguisher with a ruddy exterior.
In addition to military service personnel, this portable, lightweight canister is also used by firefighters, the police force, emergency responders, and public health officers. It is an efficient way of giving first responders access to the world’s most effective mil-spec decontaminant for rapid response.
The U.S Navy, Army Special Forces, and Air Force Pararescue Jumpers all use the Speedbox as an airtight and watertight storage container. Made from damage-resistant materials and custom alloys, the Speedbox can be described as a cooler box on steroids.
The cooler is made of shatter-resistant roto-molded polymer and features sturdy, off-road tires that move easily over rugged terrain. It was designed by an ex-Special Forces soldier and has evolved to cater to standard consumer use.
Ideal for storing perishables or transporting camping gear, it’s a perfect tool for those who love the outdoors.
There are other mil-spec products available for use across industries, from automation to electronics. At the core of mil-spec products are reliability, standardization, and compatibility.
The rigid tests set by the defense industry make mil-spec products popular for commercial applications that promise quality and durability. Devices can be advertised as mil-spec, but if they do not go through testing in certified labs, there is no way to ensure they meet mil-STDs guidelines.
Manufacturers may run the tests in-house, but without external verification, you can never be sure of the authenticity of their claims.
Choose a mil-spec supplier that has a proven track record of delivering quality products. Before you make a choice, perform the necessary research. Remember, if your chosen mil-spec supplier falsifies test results or adjusts performance metrics, your products will eventually fail. That will damage your brand reputation and hurt customer trust.
Meanwhile, if your product proves to be authentically mil-spec, you’ll win life-long customers and improve brand loyalty.
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