Last Saturday I had a team of teenage hackers over to build Arduino line-following robots from a kit. Everything went well with the mechanical assembly and putting all the wires on the correct pins. The first test was to check that the motors were moving in the proper direction. I’d written an Arduino program to test this. The first boy’s robot worked fine except for swapping one set of motor leads. That was anticipated because you cannot be totally sure ahead of time which way the motors are going to run.
The motor’s on the second robot didn’t turn at all. As I checked the wiring I smelled the dreaded hot electronics smell but I didn’t see any smoke. I quickly pulled the battery jack from the Arduino and – WOW! – the wires were hot. That didn’t bode well. I checked and the batteries were in the right way. A comparison with another pack showed the wires going into the pack were positioned properly. I plugged in another pack but the motors still didn’t run.
I got my multimeter, checked the voltage on the jack, and it was -5.97 V from center connector to the barrel. The other pack read 6.2 V. I had a spare board and pack so swapped those and the robot worked fine. Clearly the reverse polarity had zapped the motor control ICs. After that everyone had a good time running the robots on a course I’d laid out and went home pleased with their robots.
Wires going into pack were correct.
Shaved jack showing positive lead on outside of jack.
After they left I used the ohmmeter to check the battery pack and found the wiring was backwards, as you can see in the feature photo. A close inspection showed the wire with a white line, typically indicating positive, indeed went to the positive battery terminal. I shaved the barrel connector down to the wires and the white line wire was connected to the outside of the barrel. FAIL!
This is a particularly bad fail on the part of the battery pack supplier because how hard is it to mess up two wires? You can’t really fault the robot kit vendor because who would expect a battery pack to be bad? The vendor is sending me a new battery pack and board so I’m satisfied. Why did I have an extra board and pack, actually an entire kit? For this exact reason; something was bound to go wrong. Although what I had imagined was for one of the students to break a mechanical part or change wiring and zap something. Instead, we were faced with a self-destructing kit. Prudence paid off.
DIY electric longboards are a ton of fun to build and ride (we’ve featured several builds before). Most boards have batteries strapped to the bottom of a rigid board, or they have battery packs near each truck so the board can still flex. Instead of going with either of these designs, [Ben] created a custom battery pack design that’s able to flex with the board.
[Ben]’s pack is made up of A123 26650 cells nestled in his custom-fabricated enclosure. [Ben] designed his pack in CAD and used a CNC machine to create a foam mold. He used the mold to do a fiberglass layup, vacuum-bagged it, and left it to cure. Since the fiberglass bonded really well to the foam, [Ben] used acetone to dissolve the foam while leaving his fiberglass layup intact.
[Ben]’s pack fits 18 cells which he soldered together with some flexible copper grounding wire. The top side of the enclosure is covered with a layer of insulating rubber, and the rim is covered with a soft foam to form a gasket against the board. As you can see, the pack bends really well with the board, and it doesn’t look like [Ben] has had any issues with his design so far. Check out [Ben]’s blog for more info and for more details on the overall design of his board.
No one will deny that cordless drills can be super convenient. Sure, they need to be charged once in a while but that’s not a big deal. The big deal is when the batteries no longer hold a charge. Buying a new battery pack from the drill OEM is not cheap. If you need several, it’s almost cheaper to buy a new drill/battery combo.
It is not uncommon for only one cell is bad in the battery pack. Getting a replacement cell makes economic sense. And at about $1 per cell, even replacing all of the cells in the pack is way cheaper than the alternatives. [ksickafus] had a battery pack that did not work and not only did he replace all the cells, he wrote a great instructable about it.
The process started by removing the cells from the plastic container. Since they were soldered together they came out in one unit. The cluster of cells was then laid down on a piece of paper and the perimeter of each cell was marked to document the cell orientation. Next, the leads connecting each cell to its neighbor were noted on the same sketch.
The new cells were then laid out on the template to make sure they were in the same orientation as the originals. [ksickafus] uses braided shielding as his new tabs to connect the cells together and learned from experience that flux is necessary for this type of repair. Once everything is soldered up, it’s time to re-assemble the cells in the plastic case and give it a charge. If you do this at home, make sure you keep an eye on it the first time so nothing goes wrong!
If replacing NiCd’s with NiCd’s isn’t cool enough for you, maybe popping some LiPo’s in your drill would be up your alley.
[NeXT] got himself an IBM ThinkPad TransNote and yeah, we’re pretty jealous. For the uninitiated, the TransNote was IBM’s foray into intelligent note transcription from roughly fifteen years ago. The ThinkPad doesn’t even have to be on to capture your notes because the proprietary pen has 2MB of flash memory. It won an award and everything. Not the pen, the TransNote.
Unfortunately, the battery life is poor in [NeXT]’s machine. The TransNote was (perhaps) ahead of its time. Since it didn’t last on the market very long, there isn’t a Chinese market for replacement batteries. [NeXT] decided to rebuild the replacement battery pack himself after sending it off with no luck.
The TransNote’s battery pack uses some weird, flat Samsung 103450 cells that are both expensive and rare. [NeXT] eventually found some camera batteries that have a single cell and a charge controller. He had to rearrange the wiring because the tabs were on the same side, but ultimately, they did work. He got the cells together in the right configuration, took steps to prevent shorts, and added the TransNote’s charge controller back into the circuit.
Nothing blew up, and the ThinkPad went through POST just fine. He plugged it in to charge and waited a total of 90 minutes. The charging rate was pretty lousy, though. At 94% charge, the estimated life showed 28 minutes, which is worse than before. What are your thoughts on the outcome and if it were you, what would be the next move?
Fail of the Week is a Hackaday column which runs every Wednesday. Help keep the fun rolling by writing about your past failures and sending us a link to the story — or sending in links to fail write ups you find in your Internet travels.
Tesla Motors club user [wk057], a Tesla model S owner himself, wants to build an awesome solar storage system. He’s purchased a battery pack from a salvaged Tesla Model S, and is tearing it down. Thankfully he’s posting pictures for everyone to follow along at home. The closest thing we’ve seen to this was [Charles] tearing into a Ford Fusion battery. While the Ford battery is NiMH, the Tesla is a completely different animal. Comprised of over 7000 individual lithium-ion cells in 16 modules, the Tesla battery pack packs a punch. It’s rated capacity is 85kWh at 400VDC.
[wk057] found each cell connected by a thin wire to the module buses. These wires act as cell level fuses, contributing to the overall safety of the pack. He also found the water cooling loops were still charged with coolant, under a bit of pressure. [wk057] scanned and uploaded high res images of the Tesla battery management system PCBs (large image link). It is a bit difficult to read the individual part numbers due the conformal coating on the boards.
A second forum link shows images of [wk057] pulling the modules out of the pack. To do this he had to chip away the pack’s spine, which consisted of a 2/0 gauge wire potted in some sort of RTV rubber compound.
We’re sure Tesla doesn’t support hackers using their packs to power houses. Ironically this is exactly the sort of thing Elon Musk is working on over at Solar City.
Those of you who have played with a Pleo know exactly where this is going. The Pleo averages about 30 minues per 2-3 hour charge. Just swap batteries you say? Nope, the battery packs aren’t available. Fortunately, you can make your own pretty easily. The basic frame is a standard battery pack for 6 AA’s. There are only a few modifications necessary to line up the leads and make it fit once you’ve loaded it with batteries.