Low-voltage DC power electronics are an exciting field right now. Easy access to 18650 battery cells and an abundance of used Li-Ion cells from laptops, phones, etc. has opened the door for hackers building their own battery packs from these cheap cells. A big issue has been the actual construction of a pack that can handle your individual power needs. If you’re just assembling a pack to drive a small LED, you can probably get by with spring contacts. When you need to power an e-bike or other high power application, you need a different solution. A spot welder that costs $1000 is probably the best tool, but out of most hackers’ budget. A better solution is needed.
Enter [Micah Toll] and his Vruzend battery connectors, whose Kickstarter campaign has exceded its goal several times over. These connectors snap onto the ends of standard 18650 cells, and slot together to form a custom-sized battery pack. Threaded rods extend from each plastic cap to enable connection to a bus bar with just a single nut. The way that you connect each 18650 cell determines the battery pack’s voltage and current capability. There are a couple of versions of the connector available through the campaign, and the latest version 2.0 should allow some tremendously powerful battery pack designs. The key upgrade is that it now features corrosion-resistant, high-power nickel-plated copper busbars allowing current up to 20A continuous. A side benefit of these caps instead of welded tabs is that you can easily swap out battery cells if one fails or degrades over time. Continue reading “Assemble Your Own Modular Li-Ion Batteries”→
The greatest enemy of proprietary hardware and components is time. Eventually, that little adapter cable or oddball battery pack isn’t going to be available anymore, and you’re stuck with a device that you can’t use. That’s precisely what happened to [Larry G] when the now antiquated 7.2V NiCd batteries used by his cordless drill became too hard to track down. The drill was still in great shape and worked fine, but he couldn’t power the thing. Rather than toss a working tool, he decided to 3D print his own battery pack.
He could have just swapped new cells into his old pack, but if you’re going to go through all that trouble, why not improve on things a little? Rather than the NiCd batteries used by the original pack, this new pack is designed around readily available AA NiMH batteries. For the light repairs and craft work he usually gets himself into, he figures these batteries should be fine. Plus he already had them on hand, and as we all know, that’s half the battle when putting a project together.
Interestingly, the original battery pack was wired in such a way that it provided two voltages. In older tools such as this one, this would be used for rudimentary speed control. Depending on which speed setting the drill is on, it would either connect to 4 or 6 cells in the original pack. [Larry] didn’t want to get involved with the extra wiring and never used the dual speeds anyway, so his pack only offers the maximum speed setting. Though he does mention that it may be possible to do PWM speed control in the battery itself via a 555 timer if he feels like revisiting the project.
[Larry] tells us the pack itself was rendered completely from scratch, using only the original battery pack and trial-and-error to get the fit perfect. He reused the side-mounted release buttons to save time, but otherwise everything is 3D printed in PETG for its strength and chemical resistance.
The twenty best projects will receive $100 in Tindie credit, and for the best projects by a Student or Organization, we’ve got two brand-new Prusa i3 MK3 printers. With a printer like that, you’ll be breaking stuff around the house just to have an excuse to make replacement parts.
If you grow up around a small engineering business you are likely to gain something of an appreciation for power tools. You’ll see them of all ages, sizes, manufacturers, and technologies. When thinking of the power tools constantly on hand in the workshop of a blacksmith like my dad for instance, I’m instantly seeing a drill and an angle grinder. The drill that most comes to mind is a Makita mains powered hand drill, and given that I remember the day he bought it to replace his clapped-out Wolf in 1976, it has given phenomenal service over four decades and continues to do so.
Of course, the Makita isn’t the only drill in his possession. A variety of others of different sizes and speeds have come and gone over the years, and there is always one at hand for any given task. The other one I’d like to single out is I think the most recent acquisition, a Bosch cordless model he bought several years ago. It’s similar in size and capabilities to the Makita save for its bulky battery pack, and it is a comparably decent quality tool.
So, we have two drills, both of similar size, and both of decent quality. One is from the mid 1970s, the other from the end of the last decade. One is a very useful tool able to drill holes all day, the other is little more than a paperweight. The vintage model from the days of flared trousers is a paperweight, you ask? No, the not-very-old Bosch, because its battery pack has lost its capacity. The inevitable degradation due to aged cell chemistry has left it unable to hold enough charge for more than maybe a minute’s use, and what was once a tool you’d be glad to own is now an ornament.
If you have an older handheld battery-powered device, you may be fighting a diminishing battery capacity as its lithium-ion cells reach the end of their life. And if you are like [Foxx D’Gamma], whose device is an Alinco DJ-C7 handheld transceiver, you face the complete lack of availability of replacement battery packs. All is not lost though, because as he explains in the video below the break, he noticed that a digital camera battery uses a very similar-sized cell, and was able to graft the camera battery into the shell of the Alinco pack.
Cracking open the Alinco pack, he was rewarded with the rectangular Li-Ion cell and two PCBs, one for the connector and another for the battery management circuitry. By comparison the camera battery had a much smaller battery management PCB, and it fit neatly into the space vacated by the Alinco cell once those covers had been removed. A fiddly soldering job to attach the connector PCB, and he was rewarded with a working Alinco pack and an unexpected bonus when he found out that the transceiver was a dual band model.
Along the way he’s at pains to point out the safety aspects of handling Li-Ion cells, and to ensure that the polarity of the cell is correct. It’s also worth our reminding readers that these packs must always be accompanied by their battery management circuitry. The result though is pleasing: a redundant piece of equipment made obsolete by a proprietary battery, given a new lease on life.
We’ve heard a lot about the Tesla Model S over the last few years, it’s a vehicle with a habit of being newsworthy. And as a fast luxury electric saloon car with a range of over 300 miles per charge depending on the model, its publicity is deserved, and that’s before we’ve even mentioned autonomous driving driver-assist. Even the best of the competing mass-produced electric cars of the moment look inferior beside it.
Tesla famously build their battery packs from standard 18650 lithium-ion cells, but it’s safe to say that the pack in the Model S has little in common with your laptop battery. Fortunately for those of a curious nature, [Jehu Garcia] has posted a video showing the folks at EV West tearing down a Model S pack from a scrap car, so we can follow them through its construction.
The most obvious thing about this pack is its sheer size, this is a large item that takes up most of the space under the car. We’re shown a previous generation Tesla pack for comparison, that is much smaller. Eye-watering performance and range come at a price, and we’re seeing it here in front of us.
The standard of construction appears to be very high indeed, which makes sense as this is not merely a performance part but a safety critical one. Owners of mobile phones beset by fires will testify to this, and the Tesla’s capacity for conflagration or electrical hazard is proportionately larger. The chassis and outer cover are held together by a huge array of bolts and Torx screws, and as they comment, each one is marked as having been tightened to a particular torque setting.
Under the cover is a second cover that is glued down, this needs to be carefully pried off to reveal the modules and their cells. The coolant is drained, and the modules disconnected. This last task is particularly hazardous, as the pack delivers hundreds of volts DC at a very low impedance. Then each of the sixteen packs can be carefully removed. The packs each contain 444 cells, the pack voltage is 24 V, and the energy stored is 5.3 kWh.
The video is below the break. We can’t help noticing some of the rather tasty automotive objects of desire in their lot.
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.
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