Monday, 28 May 2012

What Accutronics really does in industry

When industrial equipment has to operate without a mains electricity supply, OEMs need to find sustainable alternatives to ensure continuation of plant activity at all times. As a consequence, the manufacturers turning to us are looking for battery solutions that will give their equipment a real power advantage over the competition.

Robots require emergency power
Power back up is a vital part of an emergency shutdown strategy in industry, especially if there are high levels of automation in the plant. Accutronics supplies batteries for applications such as industrial robots, power monitoring equipment and door entry systems. In each of these instances, the provision of emergency power in the event of a problem with the mains supply is essential as none of them can afford to be inoperable during the time between the loss of supply and the continuity provided by the diesel generator.

One simply can’t afford to have a robot moving in an uncontrolled way in the cell or a door locked in the closed position while you wait for the emergency power to kick in. In an industrial environment, batteries are crucial for the safety of operators and plant activity. If the electricity connection fails, the reliable smart batteries are there to take over with minimum disruption.

Many of our industrial projects can be used in a variety of applications, from oceanographic monitoring to vehicle emission testers and tracking systems. We understand that each of these dedicated battery designs need to provide the most cost effective solution over the lifetime of the application. 

Ahead of the market
Accutronics continually strives to stay ahead of the market in the development of intelligent battery solutions. For example, we continually improve the integration of fuel gauging electronics, active protection circuits and cell balancing into batteries to provide class leading functionality. 

Over three decades of experience in developing and manufacturing rechargeable battery solutions for OEMs worldwide has given the Accutronics team an in-depth understanding of industrial equipment requirements. This is really important because too many battery manufacturers get lost in the minutiae of following the design brief, building the battery and then shipping it to the customer.

However, at Accutronics we like to regard your project holistically, taking into account every detail which affects the running of the application. We don’t just design batteries; we offer whole of life support and advice, from discussing your ideas to implementing the customized battery into the application.

In addition, our consultants ensure that any newly designed energy solution is compliant with European, as well as industry specific regulations. Safety issues are high on our agenda and all off the shelf and customized batteries undergo thorough testing.     

If you have an industrial battery project in mind send us an email at or contact us by telephone on +44 (0) 1782 566688.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Ask Neil – frequently asked professional battery application questions

How do I select the best cell for a custom battery design?
Cell selection depends on a number of factors including cost, weight, available volume, charge time, discharge current, environmental conditions and required service life.

Battery developers have a number of cell types available to them including Nickel Cadmium, Nickel-Metal Hydride, Lithium ion and Lithium ion Polymer. In recent years it is the Lithium ion chemistries that have dominated product development due to their high energy density and reducing cost, but the older Nickel chemistries do still offer superior performance in certain applications.

Yet when designing a customised battery, cell selection needs to be regarded holistically. This means that a decision should be based on individual cell attributes that fit the design best. It is important to remember that no single cell type offers every performance attribute that might be required – there will always have to be a compromise.
What communication methods are there for batteries?
There are a number of different ways of communicating with a battery. Some manufacturers use proprietary protocols, but I believe that an open standard such as the Smart Battery System (SBS) offers the best solution for battery, charger and device manufacturers alike. Using SBS allows all of the actors to develop their own products with the knowledge that they will work seamlessly with each other. Adopting a common standard also allows for ‘chemistry independence’ where chargers that are developed now will work perfectly well with batteries that are developed in the future.

When the world demands higher energy density from its batteries, what are you doing to keep the weight of your products down?
It is a known fact that anything you add around the cells of a battery pack reduces energy density. However it is important to carefully weigh up the need for energy with the need to create a battery solution that is easy and safe to use throughout the life of the product. All components in and around the battery have to add value in some way – if this is to protect against vibration, prevent water ingress or to simply allow the battery to be latched onto the host device they must all play their part. There is little point in creating an integrated electronic protection system for the battery if this is damaged by external mechanical abuse – such a system must be protected in the same way as the cells must be protected – to ensure that safe and reliable operation is maintained under all operating conditions. The use of modern polymer materials can provide both light weight and extreme strength when used correctly. Alternatively, materials such as magnesium can provide enhanced electrical shielding for mission critical applications.

What do I need to know about battery certification?
The days in which a battery pack could be quickly assembled, reviewed by an OEM and then dropped into an application are long gone. Today, most OEM applications require their rechargeable batteries to undergo a level of regulatory testing before they can be used. IEC62133 is already a mandatory requirement of many device standards. For Lithium ion batteries there are additional testing requirements for transportation. Once testing has been done for CE marking and country or application specific testing have been completed you can see that the list of regulatory tests becomes quite long. Accutronics boasts a great deal of experience in having batteries tested to all of these standards. We manage the process seamlessly, ensuring batteries are approved on time and within budget. 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Embedded Batteries? Have you got a screw loose?

This intriguing battery related story caught my eye recently. An Apple i-phone developed a fault and started emitting black smoke while onboard a commercial  aircraft and had to be doused with a fire extinguisher. The 'fault' turned out to be a rogue screw inside the phone that was left there following a screen repair made by an unauthorised repair centre. The screw was pressed into the soft packaging of the phones embedded Lithium Ion Polymer battery causing a short circuit that resulted in a rapid increase in temperature which quickly led to degradation of the battery itself. Luckily no-one was hurt on this occasion.

This story should act as a warning for original device manufacturers who are designing any sort of electronic device with an embedded battery. You can control your own assembly operations or audit those of your subcontractor - but what happens down the road when someone else opens up your device and and starts messing around with a screwdriver? - how well is the battery protected? Can a foreign body be introduced that could create a short circuit? Furthermore, can you even stop someone from removing the approved battery and replacing it with one they bought for $5 on the internet?

There was a time, in the not so distant past when "no user serviceable parts inside' meant you should leave your screwdriver in the draw - but in the age of the internet it is possible to Google a solution to any repair problem and then watch a HD video where a self appointed 'expert' shows you how to tear down, repair and rebuild almost anything with the use of a pen knife  and a soldering iron. When embedded batteries are concerned this raises serious safety concerns as the OEM cannot control what an end user might attempt to do to the battery, its protection circuitry or the device charge circuitry. The device may just stop working but the illegal repair could start a fire putting both property and lives at risk.

My advice for manufacturers who are designing a device containing an embedded battery is to consider what should happen to the battery when someone opens the device. I would advocate a mechanical disconnect so the battery is rendered useless if the device is opened. In this circumstance the device would have to be returned to an authorized centre for a new battery to be fitted. Manufacturers can further protect themselves by incorporating electronic authentication into their batteries and devices to protect against the use of illegal copies which can damage company reputations and aftermarket sales.

Of course embedded batteries are not the only solution for powering portable electronic devices. Removable battery solutions remain a viable option for all but the smallest of devices. Removable batteries permit the use of multiple batteries per device and do not require the device to be opened when the battery needs replacing. In a product with an extended product life cycle the use of a removable battery makes far more sense as the battery may be replaced many times during the life of the device.

Accutronics CC2300 and CC3800 are good examples of batteries for professional electronic devices where a removable solution is required. They meet all current transportation and IEC safety standards and they have been designed without screws in mind...