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Beyond the Military: The Influence of Mil-Spec on Civilian Industries

Beyond the Military: The Influence of Mil-Spec on Civilian Industries

Technologies initially intended for military use often find their way to civilian markets, changing how we live. For instance, GPS technologies, initially for military applications, or drones, originally flying aircraft targets, are now common in our lives. These products have all been designed under rigorous military requirements called Mil-Spec.  Let’s discuss military specifications and their advantages and influence of mil-spec technology in detail.

Mil-Spec vs. Mil-Std

Mil-spec is an abbreviation for military specification. To put what mil-spec means simply, it is a product originally for use in the military that has significant modifications in every aspect to meet the criteria of the military. This includes dimensions, materials, resistance to shock and vibration, and shielding from electromagnetic interference, among other features.

Mil-std, on the other hand, stands for military standard. This is a broader set of guidelines that detail the processes and materials to design a mil-spec product to establish uniformity and design criteria across different systems. This essentially means in product development that mil-spec products are designed to mil-std.

The United States Military initially set military specs to ensure that their equipment meets specific criteria to optimize performance and resistance to different harsh environments. After all, the military are likely to face these conditions semi-regularly. However, they are not limited solely to the U.S. Department of Defense operations; non-government organizations use them too.

Civilian products aren’t subject to military standards, but many industries use mil-spec products to ensure durability and longevity.

Mil-Spec in Civilian Industries

Here are a few civilian applications of mil-spec standards:

1. Aerospace Industry

The aerospace industry relies on mil-spec standards to ensure an aircraft's and its components’ safety, reliability, and efficient performance. Mil-specs offer standardization that allows interoperability between products. If you buy the same products from two companies and they meet the same mil-spec standard, you can use them interchangeably. This enables the aerospace industry to maintain consistency across various aircraft companies, providing essential quality control.

Standards in the aerospace industry, like the Aero, AN, MS, and NAS,  also ascertain that products meet all requirements and function safely and efficiently. Components with such ratings have better quality than commercial-grade components and are more likely to keep the aircraft running safely.

For example, MIL-STD-461 is a United States military standard that describes the testing for electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) in an aircraft. It ensures that computer systems function properly within electromagnetic environments and prevents interference with nearby electromagnetic devices.

2. Automotive Industry

Adopting mil-spec standards in the automotive industry ensures that, along with standardization, vehicles meet the requirements for safety and durability. For example, let’s take a look at the wiring of a car. They need to resist harsh conditions even after years of use. Conventional wiring, such as OEM wiring harness, weighs more than 70 lbs, which can be a significant disadvantage in cars for racing. The thickness of standard wiring may also create problems when space is minimum.

Mil-spec wires are an excellent alternative to use in such cases. These Teflon-coated wires resist heat and radio frequency signals, preventing electrical interference. They also take up less space, leading to a lighter wiring harness.

3. Consumer Electronics Sector

Electronic products and cable assemblies subject to mil-spec requirements meet a specific level of quality in terms of performance and reliability. A military-grade wire, for example, will withstand harsh environmental conditions that are likely to be in the field. These wires are also common in commercial and industrial applications due to their toughness and reliability.

MIL-STD-810H is a military standard for a device that focuses on environmental stress and is widely used to test for tablet or laptop ruggedness. A military-grade rugged device is simply one that can withstand extreme conditions without any impact on its performance. If your device is MIL-STD-810H compliant, it will likely survive being dropped.

4. Clothing and Apparel Industry

The influence of mil-spec technology on clothing is substantial. This clothing is highly durable and protects the wearer in hostile environments while being lightweight and breathable.  In addition to uniforms, the military textile industry also includes the manufacture of parachutes, ropes, tents, etc. These textiles must resist damage and cold weather conditions, and, in the case of uniforms, they must provide sweat management and integrate high-tech materials into uniforms.

Many organizations have created tests to determine whether textiles meet mil-spec requirements. These include the US military, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), and the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATC).

MIL-STD-3064 is a military standard that evaluates the quality of textile materials, including threads to make them. Other military standard tests for clothing come under MIL-STD-810G, such as Method 506.5, for water repellency and absorption, or Method 514.6, which tests the garment's ability to withstand vibration.

Endnote

The influence of mil-spec standards in civilian industries is improving the quality and reliability of products, ranging from aircraft to electronic devices. If you want to gain an advantage in the marketplace, you might want to consider designing your products according to mil-spec standards.  As technology advances, military specifications, and grades will play an even more significant role in ensuring the optimal performance of different products and maintaining a high standard for consumers.

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