Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Going for growth - New chairman to accelerate business development

International battery manufacturer Accutronics has appointed Steve Lamb as its new chairman. The addition to the management team will allow the company's managing director, Rob Phillips, to focus his efforts on new business development.

The new chairman will have a general management focus, working alongside managing director Rob Phillips, operations director Mike Allen and financial director Debbie Hodgetts. Prior to joining the Accutronics board of directors, Lamb built up a highly credible reputation as MD, CEO and chairman of a number of other companies, and brings with him an extensive amount of knowledge and expertise.

Lamb began his career in manufacturing before moving into the IT sector with the advent of 3D CAD/CAM systems in the early 1980s. His previous senior roles and directorships have included positions at software development business ECS, GADC Networks and on the International Executive Committee of listed European firm GFI Informatique.

"Our primary objective in appointing Steve is to bring a new dimension to our new business work," explained Accutronics managing director Rob Phillips.

"Among his responsibilities, Steve will chair the monthly management board-meetings, and once Steve is on board I’ll have more time to focus on sales and marketing."

Accutronics specialises in developing smart batteries which offer improved functionality and performance and features such as charge control, accurate fuel gauging and device communication.

The company targets specific product application market sectors, including medical and healthcare, defence and security, industrial and portable electronics markets worldwide.

The independent battery design, development and manufacturing expert currently exports its products to over 30 countries across Europe, North America, Africa and the Middle East.

"The original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) we work with as customer are chosen to match our capabilities as a potential strategic supplier," continued Phillips. "With the support of Steve and the rest of the management team we can strike a better balance between managing the company and growing the business. Our aim is to successfully enter new markets and expand our customer base."

Friday, 15 May 2015

The next-generation of portable power - Inspired Energy boosts the capacity of its standard smart batteries

The industry demand for longer running, smaller and lighter handheld equipment has prompted USA based battery manufacturer Inspired Energy to launch the HD34 range of high capacity Lithium-ion (Li-ion) smart batteries. These batteries use the latest innovations in cell technology to offer outstanding volumetric and gravimetric energy density resulting in longer run-times.

The batteries use the latest Lithium-ion cells with an increased capacity of 3.4Ah to provide customers with a longer runtime.

“The batteries use '18650' cells, which are the workhorses of the rechargeable battery world," explained Neil Oliver, technical marketing manager at Accutronics, the sole distributor for Inspired Energy. “Over the last 25 years Lithium-ion technology has improved and the capacity has steadily increased threefold, resulting in the latest high capacity 3.4Ah version."

Batteries using the 3.4Ah cells are available in two, three, four, six and eight cell configurations covering 7.2V, 10.8V and 14.4V outputs, so original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) developing new products can be confident in finding a platform that meets their mechanical and electrical requirements.

A wide variety of applications make use of the Inspired Energy batteries, including portable laboratory equipment and medical patient monitoring devices, hand-held data terminals, unmanned underwater vehicles, professional and broadcast cameras and satellite communication.

Lithium-ion batteries must be transported as dangerous goods, requiring batteries to be subjected to testing. The companies offering such products for transport are subject to strict packaging, labelling and paperwork requirements. Shipping of Inspired Energy Lithium-ion smart batteries is made easier as they have already been tested for transport and all have an energy density under 100Wh reducing the level of paperwork and packaging.

The new 3.4Ah cells allow batteries and devices to be made smaller and lighter. Some of the older battery models in the range use twelve 2.2Ah cells to provide 95Wh. When using 3.4Ah cells it is possible to realise this energy with just eight cells. This means the batteries can be made around 30% smaller and lighter, a real benefit to OEMs looking to reduce the size and weight of their devices, while still providing maximum runtime to users.

Inspired Energy standard smart batteries can be customised to meet the need of the customer, including changing the artwork to carry own-brand labels and modifying the smart battery data. Accutronics designs and manufactures its own range of batteries and chargers, but is also the sole distributor of the Inspired Energy range of standard batteries, chargers and accessories.

Having worked with Inspired Energy for over 20 years, Accutronics offers multi-currency pricing, online purchasing, European stock holding and fast customer support from its headquarters in the UK. Accutronics technical support service ensures that customers can design an Inspired Energy battery into their new device with total confidence. 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The credit card battery goes mini - Battery specialist launches its smallest ever, sub credit-card sized, battery

Global battery manufacturer Accutronics has launched its smallest ever medical battery and charger set. The CC1150 mini credit card battery meets the trend in the medical and instrumentation sectors for the growing use of portable and handheld devices.

Having already built a reputation for delivering the latest in smart battery technology for the medical sector, Accutronics' new mini credit-card battery, the CC1150, occupies around half the footprint of a conventional credit card. Measuring in at 54mm square and 9.5mm high, it fits perfectly into smaller, handheld, devices with ease.

Featuring a state of the art impedance tracking fuel gauge, the CC1150 is equipped with an I²C interface, simplifying its integration into the device. Enhanced circuitry provides further protection against over charge, over discharge, over current and short circuit.

"OEMs making handheld devices will be pleased to hear that, with the CC1150 mini, we've not only halved the size of the standard credit card battery, but we've also packed it with the same powerful features as its predecessor," explained Neil Oliver, technical marketing manager at Accutronics. "At the same time, we've still met the vital IEC 62133 safety requirements for batteries manufactured for use in portable applications, as well as UN38.3 transportation regulations.

"To make it a truly global battery, we've accompanied the CC1150 with a new charger, the CX3050, which works anywhere in the world thanks to its AC power adapter and interchangeable blades. For portable and handheld devices, fast charging is just as important as long battery life, so we designed the CX3050 to charge the CC1150 in under 2.5 hours," concluded Oliver.

Both the battery and the CX3050 charger are available off-the-shelf in black and feature Entellion branding. Users can request custom colours, labels and packaging.

Launched in 2011, Accutronics' range of credit card batteries are targeted to meet the needs of medical and instrumentation original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) who need a small, off-the-shelf, Lithium-ion smart battery.

Four years after development, the credit-card range of batteries are now used widely in applications ranging from industrial laser measurement devices to medical infusion pumps. Other innovations such as desktop charging have given users the flexibility to charge batteries outside of their devices.

Top five tips for specifying batteries in medical devices

At Accutronics, we work with the world's leading medical device manufacturers to develop class leading batteries and chargers. I am often asked "what should we consider when specifying a new battery? Well here are my top five tips to get you going.

Tip #1. Select the right chemistry

There are numerous battery technologies to choose from, each with their own specific performance traits. Established chemistry couples such as Nickel Cadmium have now mostly been excluded from the market due to environmental legislation and lead acid batteries are large and heavy making medical devices that use them bulky and cumbersome. Nickel Metal Hydride offers a cost effective solution with higher energy density but issues with heat evolution and a lack of technology investment make it a doubtful choice for the future.

It is Lithium ion which is proving itself to be the reliable chemistry of choice for new medical devices. ‘Lithium ion’ is the umbrella term for a battery technology that uses the intercalation of Lithium ions between a graphitic anode and a layered oxide cathode. The technology provides high energy density, excellent safety, low self-discharge and outstanding cycle life. Through careful selection of cathode formulation and cell construction a wide range of Lithium ion cells have been developed that provide specific performance attributes, such as high discharge capability or high volumetric energy density. 

Tip #2. Size the battery correctly

It is important that the battery inside a medical device is correctly sized for the job it needs to do. Users that think their battery may not power the device for long enough may suffer from run-time anxiety and refuse to use the device on battery power or never move far away from an AC power outlet. Medical device designers should think carefully about their device’s power budget when running on battery power and then factor in the effect of battery ageing, ambient temperature before deciding on a battery energy rating. If space is at a premium and long run-time is required then hot-swappable batteries may be considered to lengthen the operation of a medical device.

Tip #3. Specify a ‘smart battery’

To gain maximum performance from batteries in medical devices they should be made part of the power management system where battery, charger and host device communicate with each other to maximise safety, efficiency and performance. These so called ’smart batteries’ only request charge when they need it, smart batteries charge more efficiently and use less power. Smart batteries maximise the run-time per discharge cycle because they tell their host device when to shut down based on a highly accurate remaining capacity prediction. This method is superior to dumb systems that use a fixed voltage cut-off. Host medical systems that use smart battery technology can provide accurate, meaningful run-time information to users – of vital importance in a medical environment where power failure is not an option.
Smart batteries constantly track their own capacity whether they are being charged, discharged or stored. Their battery fuel gauges use correction factors to adjust for changes in temperature, charge rate and discharge rate together with further modifications as the battery ages. Properly designed and calibrated smart batteries can predict their capacity to within 1% which means that medical device manufacturers can provide users with a device run-time figure they can trust.

Tip #4. Get certified

Medical devices that are certified to IEC60601-1 must have their batteries certified to IEC62133 which is a safety standard for portable batteries. If the product is to be sold in the USA then the FDA also recommend batteries are certified to another safety standard - UL2054. For batteries using Lithium ion cell technology then mandatory transportation testing must be performed to provide the battery is safe for transport. A good battery integrator will manage this certification process seamlessly, ensuring worldwide market compliance. 

Tip #5. Ensure it is reliable and safe.

Without the battery, any portable medical device becomes an expensive liability. It is the battery that is the heart of machine and it must work when needed and never pose a risk to its environment. A good battery integrator will ensure the battery contains ‘nested’ layers of safety that include its cell selection, mechanical design, passive protection and active electronic protection elements.
Battery integrators such as Accutronics that are certified to ISO13485 have the expertise and processes in place to ensure risk assessments, design reviews and performance verification is conducted diligently and thoroughly.
If you wish to discuss any of the points raised above or if you want to discuss your plans for a new battery development then please drop me an email.
Neil Oliver
Technical Marketing Manager
Accutronics Ltd