Looking to purchase a Refurbished Toughbook? Black Hawk Toughbooks at www.PanasonicToughbooks.net sell a very unique CF-29 and CF-30 Machine. Our Refurbished Toughbooks are designed to withstand more abuse than the current model Panasonic Toughbooks on the market. Black Hawk Refurbished Toughbooks come equipped with a Rubber Knobby Protector and a Base Coat of specific paint color for each operation the machine will be used in. Refurbished and Rebuilt CF-29 BLACK HAWK, DESERT HAWK and CHROME Panasonic Toughbooks at www.PanasonicToughbooks.net are designed to withstand Natural disasters, Earthquakes, Flooding, Tsunami's better than any other laptop are perhaps now more useful than ever before. The Panasonic Toughbook Relief will use a percentage of each purchase to help where needed the Earthquake Relief Effort in Japan, home to The Worlds Best Laptops. In times like these, communication and power are vital in certain regions of the Planet.
Osaka: Inside The Toughbook Facility -Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Kobe Japan-
Panasonic's Toughbooks -- A high tech success story
How can that be?
To give you an example of how difficult it is to succeed in the PC market, just look at IBM itself, the company that introduced the PC in 1981. Hundreds of millions of PCs have been sold since then, yet IBM soon lost the leadership in the market it created, and IBM never really managed to make much of a profit on PCs. And neither did most of its competitors. Clearly, creating a market and selling mass quantities of good products does not guarantee success. Not even if a company has the resources of an IBM, and if the products are of good quality and provide value.
Above: Matsushita's Panasonic computer factory outside Kobe
At Pen Computing Magazine, we have been following the Toughbook line almost since its inception and, over the years, have reviewed every model. So when we got an invitation to take a closer look at just exactly how Panasonic managed to do it, we jumped at the opportunity. My subsequent travels took me to Japan where I visited Panasonic facilities in Osaka, Kobe, and Tokyo. I also examined Panasonic's stateside service facilities in Kansas. Panasonic was extremely cooperative and gave me a chance to examine every aspect of the process, and talk to everyone involved. I had almost unprecedented access to every facility, and I found everyone being very forthcoming in answering every question, even the difficult and uncomfortable ones.
Above: Osaka Castle, the landmark of Osaka, home of Matsushita Electric Co.
Above: Engineers at Matsushita's Moriguchi City complex in Osaka, Japan
The answer is that it was extremely unlikely to happen. It came about because a man and his team of enlightened individuals had a vision, and made that vision a reality by skillfully tapping into all the resources a giant industrial complex could provide. What that team did is the exact opposite of the way things are done today. They did not farm out the entire design and manufacturing to OEMs or contract manufacturers. They did not go on a shopping spree to gather together the cheapest components from the lowest cost suppliers. They did not delegate and farm out everything until they, like most US computer companies, were merely marketers. Instead, they turned a perceived weakness into a strength. All Toughbooks are conceived, designed, built, and tested right there at Matsushita's own facilities. When they needed special batteries, they simply stopped by Matsushita's battery division. When they needed optical drives, well, Matsushita makes the best. When they needed a special case, Matsushita is a leader in manufacturing processes and one of the world leaders in magnesium casting. And then they put it all together right there at the most impressive Panasonic Computer manufacturing plant outside Kobe, Japan. The result is the real thing. Just like a Toyota is the real thing and in a league of its own, a league that the Kias and Daewoos and Hyundais of the world aspire to but cannot reach. Like Toyota, Matsushita is the real thing. 290,000 worldwide employees, 14,000 products, 320 companies, and an annual budget of US$4.4 billion for research and development alone.
Things weren't always that good. Panasonic tried it the conventional way first. They made portable PCs in the early 1980s but couldn't make a profit. Between 1983 and 1990 they were a channel OEM, making computers for other companies. In 1992, Panasonic decided to change the focus of their PC operation and go for corporate and ruggedized sales to government, corporate and a number of special vertical markets. At Pen Computing Magazine, we've seen many rugged products over the years. They ranged from computers that looked more like science projects, to honest but underfunded efforts, to the real thing. With Matsushita's resources, it's clear that the Toughbooks falls into the third category.
I began my tour of Matsushita's Panasonic facilities with a visit to the Matsushita Hall of Science and Technology, which is part of the company's Moriguchi City complex in Osaka, Japan. The hall is a combination of Matsushita history, its many current concepts and products, a number of technology demonstrations, and a peek at future products. All in all, there are about 300 technologies and products, all chosen to highlight the company's dedication to research which, as a brochure points out, "is for the happiness of mankind." This sounds flowery to Western ears, but it is very much in sync with my impression from earlier visits to Japan. The Japanese view technological progress as something that increases happiness and well-being and generally and genuinely improves society. Sounds good to me.
Above: Mr. Yoshi Yamada, father of the Toughbook, flanked by his top lieutenants
Mr. Harada recapped the history of the computer division and related how in 1992 they decided to identify niche markets and eventually specialized on corporate and ruggedized notebook sales to government, corporate and vertical markets. 1996 was a milestone year as they received a request from Lucent for Toughbooks with integrated wireless capabilities. Rather than simply using wireless PC Cards they decided to engineer wireless radios into the device. The result was an order for 7,000 Toughbook 25s using the Ardis and Motient wireless networks. Subsequently, plenty of research went into integrating wireless components into all Toughbook products. At the same time there was a constant effort to make products thinner and lighter without giving up battery life and ruggedness.
To reflect the solutions-oriented approach, Matsushita decided to change the name of the group from Panasonic Personal Computer Company to Panasonic Computer Solutions Company. While the initial focus of this solutions-based marketing approach was on Japan where the Toughbook line is sold under different names and includes some lighter duty models, it quickly expanded to the UK, the United States, and will soon be introduced in Germany and other countries. Panasonic's new approach was different, just like Fujitsu Personal Systems' approach was different, but it definitely put the Toughbook brand on the map. At a past PC Expo trade show a Toughbook 34 was being horribly abused yet survived, garnering much media coverage.
Above: Police motorcycle equipped with wireless Toughbook 07
It is important to understand that Panasonic's Toughbook computers are not consumer products but are geared towards mission-critical applications and uses. And while Toughbooks do not sell by the millions, orders can be quite large. Among the international success stories Panasonic likes to share are British Gas which bought 7,000 CF-27s in a customized solution that packed the computer, wireless communication and a printer into a special suitcase-like case. British Gas vans have those systems onboard and thus have instant access to parts lists, schematics, and manuals. In Spain and Canada, McDonalds uses the Toughbook 07 for taking orders. And Bell Canada is using the wireless CF-07s for field maintenance.
Throughout the presentations I was surprised at the complete openness with which Panasonic discussed the many ways they employ to detect and improve weaknesses in their products. For example, the US Coast Guard is interested in Toughbooks, but the inevitable salt water exposure required a battery of special tests. The tests resulted in substantial corrosion and salt build-up on the Toughbooks (see above). Panasonic engineers recorded the results and went back to the drawing boards to create a special model for the USCG that could stand up to use in saltwater environments. This includes special resistant paints, anti-corrosive greasing and coating, stainless steel screws, airtight gaskets, and sophisticated chemical counter measures against electric corrosion. The retest is still under way, but preliminary results show great improvements, and also Panasonic's willingness to adapt their technology to their customers' needs.
Above: Keyboard torture testing at Moriguchi plant
Even the paint applied to the outer and inner surfaces of a Toughbook makes a difference. Hardness of paint is measured by the same standard as the graphite hardness of a pencil. Current paint hardness is 3H, but the engineers aim for 6H which means that the paint cannot be scratched by a 6H pencil. For plastics, the acidity in sweat can discolor or break down the paint or the plastic itself. PH levels are important and must be taken into consideration when specifying such materials. Since heat dissipation is always an issue with notebook computers, heat-insulating paints can minimize heat on metal bodies. Water-shedding paints can make water pearl off and a device so painted will be more resistant to dirt. But each change may impact other properties. I had no idea how much work went into perfecting every aspect of this.
With regard to wireless, Panasonic prides itself on using numerous standards in response to customer needs: Mobitex and DataTAC, CDPD, GSM/GPRS, and wireless LANs. Research is now on emerging technologies such as Bluetooth and faster wireless LAN protocols.
Since Toughbooks may be used indoors and outdoors, Panasonic currently uses both transmissive and transflective technologies. Brightness and contrast are always big issues, and Panasonic engineers experiment with different fluorescent tube mounts, backlights, reflectors, and even multiple lamp 1000 NIT systems for stationary use in a never-ending quest for perfection.
During my visits, I had a chance to meet with Mr. Yoshi Yamada, the director of the computer division and the father of the Toughbook. Yamada is a remarkable man who succinctly and concisely explains the thought process he and his team went through. Like the computers he creates, Mr. Yamada is tough and all business. I immediately knew that this man would never build or authorize anything that he didn't believe in, anything that he did not feel was beneficial for his customers. In many ways, he reminded me of Jeff Hawkins, the brilliant yet humble creator of the Palm Pilot, and arguably the PDA.
My tour also allowed me a chance to visit the various divisions that contribute parts to the Toughbook. Matsushita's AV Technology Center, for example, creates some of the world's most advanced optical drives. It stands to reason that those drives will work extra well in Toughbooks because they came from the same people who make the Toughbooks. Which means that they're probably better integrated, better tested, and more suitable for the computer than a generic third party device.
Above: Water testing at Kobe plant
Here again, having the full might of the giant Matsushita company at their disposal is invaluable as I saw when I met with Mr. Yukio Nishikawa at Matsushita's Production Core Engineering Laboratory. The mission of Mr. Nishikawa's lab is to develop new manufacturing processes that advance the state-of-the-art, create cost savings, and place emphasis on recycling and recovery which is becoming very important given Japan's tough new recycling laws. Due to magnesium's properties, the metal is widely used by Panasonic in products ranging from cellphones to computers to big screen TVs. Magnesium-light and readily available-is also rigid, conducts well, shields electromagnetic waves, and is easily recyclable. Add to that the much higher tensile strength and elasticity and it's clear why magnesium has become a desirable material. Most companies use a die-cast process that uses environmentally harmful SF6 gas to prevent the metal from burning. Panasonic uses thixo-molding, an injection process invented by Dow Chemical in the US, that uses melted magnesium chips and argon gas and offers increased safety and cleanliness, and higher quality parts. I was one of the few outsiders ever to get a tour through Panasonic's magnesium foundry with its thixo-molding machines. An impressive sight indeed.
Earlier, I mentioned that Matsushita even makes the batteries that go into the Toughbooks. A tour through Matsushita Battery Industrial company (16,000 employees and factories in 14 countries) conducted by Mr. Kuniharu lizuka revealed an unbelievably complex and complicated facility that is sort of like the ultimate Rube Goldberg machine. Batteries are born in a process that takes them through a sequence of impossibly complex machines where the chance of something going wrong seems endless. The line I saw was for CGR18650 Lithium-Ion rechargeables where positive electrode, negative electrode, and separator material are first rolled tightly, then insulated, and inserted into a metal bullet casing. It then gets terminal contacts and is filled with electrolyte that settles through a number of steps. A cap is put on, the whole assembly is crimped, sealed, and then shrink-wrapped into a plastic shell. Numerous tests are conducted at every step. Whenever something goes wrong and a warning sound goes off, a specialist immediately diagnoses and fixes the problem. Environmental conditions are crucial and meticulously maintained. It is hard to even imagine the complexity of this assembly line. Then the battery goes into a Toughbook.
Above: Mr. Kitabayashi, head of the Kobe computer plant
I am sure other fine companies have stories to tell, but I must say that the Panasonic Toughbook story ranks right up there as a prime example of how things ought to be. - PanasonicToughbooks.net
Panasonic manufactures all of its notebooks (bar the CF-51) at its plant
in Kobe, Japan. Unlike the vast majority of notebook vendors, Panasonic
doesnâ€™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. Itâ€™s this quality control
that makes the ToughBooks harder than your average notebook. In fact, I
was slightly shocked to find out that between the R&D and Q/A
departments, over 1,000 ToughBooks are damaged every year in
Panasonicâ€™s quest for the near indestructible notebook!
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.
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 poor old CF-29 that was in the water resistance chamber was being subjected to a full hour of sprinkler treatment's
at least it only had about five minutes left!
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.