Hardware hacks have something in common with renovations that involve taking down a wall: until one actually gets started and opens things up, there’s no telling what kind of complications might be lurking. [voussoir] has a project that demonstrates this nicely: modifying a rechargeable mouse to use USB-C instead of micro-B turned out to have quite a few little glitches in the process. In fact, changing the actual receptacle was the simplest part!
On one hand, the mouse in question seems like a perfect candidate for easy modification. The enclosure isn’t too hard to open, there is ample space inside, and USB is used only for recharging the battery. So what was the problem? The trouble is something familiar to anyone who has worked on modifying an existing piece of hardware: existing parts are boundaries to hacking work, and some are less easily modified than others. Continue reading “Mouse Charging Mod Shows Even Simple Hacks Can End Up Complex”→
If you’ve ever worked with multi-cell rechargeable battery packs, you know that the individual cells will eventually become imbalanced. To keep the pack working optimally, each cell needs to be analyzed and charged individually — which is why RC style battery packs have a dedicated balance connector. So if you know it, and we know it, why doesn’t Dyson know it?
It’s that question which inspired [tinfever] to start work on the FU-Dyson-BMS project. As you might have surmised from the name, [tinfever] believes that Dyson has intentionally engineered their V6 and V7 batteries to fail by not using the cell balancing function of the onboard ISL94208 battery management IC. What’s worse, once the cells get as little as 300 mV out of balance, the controller considers the entire pack to be shot and will no longer allow it to be charged.
Or at least, that’s what used to happen. With the replacement firmware [tinfever] has developed, the pack’s battery management system (BMS) will ignore imbalanced cells so you can continue to use the pack (albeit at a reduced capacity). Of course the ideal solution would have been to enable cell balancing on the ISL94208, but unfortunately Dyson didn’t include the necessary resistors on the PCB. Though it’s worth noting that earlier versions of the board did have unpopulated spots for them, lending some credence to the idea that their omission was intentional on Dyson’s part.
But not everyone is onboard with the conspiracy theory. Over on the EEVBlog forums, some users pointed out that a poorly implemented cell balancing routine can be more problematic than not having one at all. It’s possible that Dyson had some bad experiences with the technology in earlier packs, and decided to move away from it and try to compensate by using higher-quality cells. That said, at least one person in the thread was able to revive their own “dead” battery pack by installing this unofficial firmware, so whether intentional or not, it seems there’s little debate that usable batteries are indeed being prematurely marked as defective.
Batteries were once heavy, awkward things, delivering only a limp amount of current for their size and weight. Thankfully, over time, technology has improved, and in 2020, we’re blessed with capable, high-power lithium polymer batteries that can provide all the power your mobile project could possibly need. There are some considerations one must make in their use however, so read on for a primer on how to properly use LiPos in your project!
So Many Types!
With the first commercial lithium-ion battery entering the market in 1991, the (nearly) 30 years since have seen rapid development. This has led to a proliferation of different technologies and types of battery, depending on construction and materials used. In order to treat your batteries properly, it’s important to know what you’ve got, so paying attention to this is critical. Continue reading “A Beginner’s Guide To Lithium Rechargeable Batteries”→
[Glen], at Maker Space Newcastle Upon Tyne, is refreshingly honest. As he puts it, he’s too cheap to buy a proper battery.
He needed a 1AH battery pack to power his quadcopter controller and FPV headset, and since inadequate discharge warnings had led him to damage lithium polymer cells with these devices, he wanted his pack to use lithium-ion cells. His requirements were that the cells be as cheap, lightweight, and small as possible, so to satisfy them he turned to a stack of mobile phone cells. Nokia BL-4U cells could be had for under a pound ($1.46) including delivery, so they certainly satisfied his requirement for cheapness.
It might seem a simple procedure, to put together a battery pack, and in terms of physical wiring it certainly is. But lithium-ion cells are not simply connected together in the way dry cells are, to avoid a significant fire risk they need to have the voltage of each individual cell monitored with a special balanced charger. Thus each cell junction needs to be brought out to another connector to the charger.
[Glen]’s write-up takes the reader through all the requirements of safe lithium-ion pack construction and charging, and is a useful read for any lithium-ion newbies. If nothing else it serves as a useful reminder that mobile phone cells can be surprisingly cheap.