The new PLASMA Japan Facility working on highly guarded 3D Laptop Technology. Panasonic chose to build this plant in Japan where Labor Prices and Land are high end...but so are the products. Learn all about your USED Panasonic cf-29 Toughbook and what it endured prior to landing on your desk.
Panasonic’s ToughBook range in many models and configurations. The ToughBooks differ from most other notebooks by being... well,... tough. Panasonic has built a reputation for itself by creating notebooks that can function in the most inhospitable environments, Land, Sea and Air.
Panasonic applies a rigorous testing regime that goes on at the R&D
Osaka and at the ToughBook factory in Kobe. There’s nothing quite like
seeing something first hand. Take a tour, Jump at the chance to go over
to Japan and see Panasonic’s
setup in person.
Panasonic manufactures all of its notebooks (bar the CF-51) at its plant
in Kobe, Japan. Unlike the vast majority of notebook vendors, Panasonic
doesn’t buy base hardware from manufacturers in Taiwan. Instead each
ToughBook is created from scratch at the Kobe plant, allowing Panasonic
to maintain its exacting quality control. It’s this quality control that
makes the ToughBooks harder than your average notebook. In fact, between the R&D and Q/A
departments, over 1,000 ToughBooks are damaged every year in Panasonic’s
quest for the near indestructible notebook!
The ToughBook line is split into two sections – Fully Rugged and Semi-Rugged, or as the guys out in Japan referred to them, Field Mobile and Business Mobile. The fully rugged notebooks are pretty hardcore devices that can work virtually anywhere, like the CF-29 and the CF-19. These machines can take an excessive amount of abuse and keep coming back for more. The semi-rugged notebooks are very different – these can take a few knocks and bashes, but can’t withstand the serious abuse of their big brothers. Machines like the CF-W5 fall into this category and used to come under the ToughBook Light umbrella, but this branding has now changed to the ToughBook Executive line.
Panasonic was keen to show off some of the custom parts that go into
making the ToughBook line. Once of the most important components in a
notebook is the hard drive, where the data stored within can be worth
more than the whole notebook itself. Unlike many so called shockproof
hard disk enclosures, the ones inside the fully rugged ToughBooks aren’t
made from rubber, which can in fact amplify vibration. Instead, the
hard disks inside ToughBooks are suspended in dense foam. The foam
shrouded drive is then inserted into a solid metal caddy, making it even
more robust, while the flexible drive connector ensures that even under
stress, the connector won’t break.
But the drive enclosure isn’t just about shock resistance, it also ensures that the hard disk can operate in Arctic conditions. On either side of the enclosure are heating elements which will warm the drive before boot-up, ensuring that the fluid bearings are not frozen. Of course Panasonic is looking at the possibility of using solid state disks in ToughBooks which will remove the only mechanical part in the notebook.
All of the fully rugged ToughBooks are fanless too, thus removing
another point of failure from the equation. Custom built heatpipe
assemblies transmit the heat away from the internal components and out
to the casing for dissipation into the atmosphere.
Keyboards are also designed to withstand the elements. The CF-Y5 for
instance is designed to allow water to pass directly through it and out
of the bottom of the notebook. This was demonstrated at the R&D
facility in Osaka, but don't test this yourself. Basically the main board in the CF-Y5 is
completely sealed and there are gullies underneath the keyboard that
pipe water out of the case. Of course this won’t stop your keyboard
getting sticky if you spill a cup of coffee over it, but it does mean
that your notebook won’t just die.
Being that the ToughBooks are built to customer requirements,
there are a number of keyboard options offered. Some are built to be
completely waterproof, made of rubber with no gaps between the keys.
Some are semi-waterproof with a slightly more traditional feel, while
others are like standard notebook keyboards with ergonomics being the
prime focus. Some of the keyboards are backlit to ensure that machines
can be used at night as well as in the pouring rain.
Panasonic also showed off the CF-R6 which is an ultra-portable notebook,
weighing in at under 1kg. There’s no definite plan to launch the R6. Not only is this
machine thin and light, but one of the engineers demonstrated it being
dropped from 76cm while open and operational! So you wouldn’t have to
worry about knocking an R6 off a desk, even if it was switched on at the
Behind locked doors at Panasonic’s Osaka and Kobe facilities poor
ToughBooks are thrashed to within an inch of their lives. It’s not all
shock punishment either, some of the damage is cumulative over a
tortuously long period of time. below is a very sorry looking CF-29
strapped to a rack, being poked with metal spikes. The spikes were
simulating key presses, with the most heavily used keys being hammered,
to ensure that the keyboard can go the distance and not fail when the
user most needs it.
Below the torture rack was a counter showing that the keys had been
pressed over 15,000 times, which was a drop in the ocean considering
that the duty cycle of the test was 5,000,000 presses! the keyboard can last five million key strokes,
it’s not likely to fail during the lifetime of the notebook.
But it’s not just whole keyboards that receive the punishment. Single
keys are being repeatedly hammered by a metal poker, this time
to ensure that the lettering on the key would not wear off after
excessive use. During a key test, a little key only has to suffer 50,000
attacks before it crawls into a corner to cry.
Of course a big part of the ToughBook appeal is its ability to
function in the most extreme environments, including excessive hot or
cold operational exposure. The Heat Shock test will roast a ToughBook at
200 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes, before dropping the temperature
down to a teeth chattering -70 degrees. With ToughBooks surviving this
kind of test it’s fair to say that in extreme temperature situations,
the user will fail before the notebook.
The Combined Environment Test subjects the ToughBooks to temperatures
varying from -40 to 150 degrees Celsius, along with humidity ranging
from 20 – 95 per cent. To make things more interesting, the platform on
which the notebook resides in the chamber will vibrate at rates between 3
The waterproof nature of ToughBooks is also highly regarded, so the
machines have to undertake a fair amount of wet work as part of the
testing regime. The water resistance test has a water sprinkler arcing
over an operational ToughBook dousing it with water.
This poor old CF-29 that is in the water resistance chamber is being
subjected to a full hour of sprinkler treatment.
In another water resistance chamber, four ToughBooks huddled
together in a vain attempt to share body heat, and somehow stay warm.
ToughBooks are famous for their shock resistance as well as
their water resistance. Panasonic undertakes a significant amount of drop testing as part of the
ToughBook quality assurance procedure. The drop testing machine that’s
located at the Osaka R&D facility is one of only eight in the world.
Basically that huge metal platform is raised as high as required then
dropped down, allowing gravity to do the hard work. Various stands and
caddies are employed to allow the notebook to be positioned in a number
of angles when dropped.
At the Kobe facility there’s another less impressive looking
drop test machine, but very interesting. The notebook
is placed on a platform which can be adjusted to the desired height.
Then, at the press of a button the platform drops and the notebook
plummets to the ground. Again the ToughBook can be positioned in any
number of angles to simulate every possible drop scenario.
Despite the ToughBook's obvious resitance to the forces of gravity, the Panasonic technician couldn't hide his look of panic when the machine bounced off the wooden base onto the concrete floor!
What's most impressive at the Panasonic’s
facility was the huge Anechoic chamber at Kobe. This one is large as the
example in Kobe. Measuring approximately 10m square, this chamber is
used to measure the electromagnetic radiation produced by notebooks. The
walls of the chamber are lined with ferrite and then covered with
anechoic projections to ensure that there is no reflection of radio
At one end of the chamber is a table mounted on a revolving platform. On
the table is a notebook with every possible accessory attached to it,
ensuring that the maximum amount of electromagnetic radio waves were
produced. At the other end of the chamber is an antenna that measures
the radio wave output from the equipment on the table. Because the
chamber is completely isolated from the kind of electromagnetic
interference that surrounds us every day, Panasonic can measure exactly
how much electromagnetic radiation its notebooks are producing.
In another sealed room adjacent to the chamber, the operator will
monitor the radio waves and log the data. This kind of research is
paramount, since electronics manufacturers have to adhere to strict
electromagnetic radiation emissions standards around the globe.
To give you an idea of scale, an Engineer at Panasonic stands
next to the antenna. As you can see, this really is a huge room where
even a big Sumo looks tiny. The shot from the
outside shows just how large the building that houses the chamber is,
especially since there is nothing in there apart from the anechoic
chamber and the small control room.
Because Panasonic manufactures its notebooks in-house from start to finish, any important findings from research like this can easily be implemented into the production cycle.
On the production floor, the whole production process starts with a
blank circuit board. This is inserted into Panasonic’s proprietary
mounting machines, which will automatically mount all the components and
then solder them to the board.
It’s impressive seeing whole rolls of components just waiting for
the automated mounting machine to pick them up and plonk them down on
the circuit board. There are Intel chipsets housed in plastic
rolls and being fed into the machines in
After the circuit boards are finished, they move onto the production
lines where a plethora of workers start the arduous task of actually
building the ToughBooks. Panasonic employs both assembly line and cell
based building methods. The cell based building method has one
individual building machines from start to finish, rather than doing a
single job and passing it onto the next person. This is very rare in any
kind of factory these days, but it would appear that Panasonic isn’t
scared of doing things a bit differently.
To finish things off you can add a splash of colour to the ToughBook
Executive line. Panasonic has started offering colour options for the
lids for customers ordering from its website. This option will be rolled
out to UK customers very soon, when the ToughBook online shop goes
We have personalized your Machine with the BLACK aircraft anti-glair UH-60 coating. They are rare, painted correctly and HOLD THEIR VALUE. See Below
Sales Support is very important to Panasonic. Panasonic stores thousands of spare parts for its products, ensuring
that customers can keep a favoured platform going, even if the actual
models are no longer available as a whole. CF-29 Run and Run Long after Man.
Even though it can be more cost effective to replace older, defective
notebooks with new ones, Panasonic understands that some users,
especially corporates, want to maintain a platform for a number of
years. Therefore, spare parts for products well over ten
years old are stored in this warehouse.
The whole process from beginning to end, is a customer buying one from
Japan's Biggest Electronics Superstore, Yodobashi Camera in Osaka. A
electronics superstore that sells just about anything that runs
on mains or battery power! Here, the Panasonic
notebooks are displayed at retail, and here is a customer
spotted who actually bought one, thus completing the circle of life for
the ToughBook. Thanks.
See the Unique line of BLACK and BLACK II CF-29's on eBay. Perhaps the best and most sought after used Toughbook CF-29's for sale.