12. Battery Maintenance Equipment 3

GUIDE: Batteries in a portable world. 12. Battery Maintenance Equipment 3

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Battery-specific adapters are available for all major batteries; user-programmable cables with alligator clips accommodate batteries for which no adapter is on hand. Batteries with shorted, mismatched or soft cells are identified in minutes and their deficiencies are displayed on the LCD panel.

User-selectable programs address different battery needs. The Cadex 7000 Series features ‘Prime’ to prepare a new battery for field use and ‘Auto’ to test and recondition weak batteries from the field. ‘Custom’ allows the setting of unique cycle sequences composed of charge, discharge, recondition, trickle charge or any combination, including rest periods and repeats.

More and more battery analyzers now measure the internal battery resistance, a feature that enables one to test a battery in a few seconds. The resistance check works best with lithium-based batteries because the level of internal cell resistance is in direct reflection to the performance. The resistance measurements can also be used for NiMH batteries but the readings do not fully disclose the battery’s condition.

One of the most powerful features offered in modern battery analyzers is battery quick testing. Within two to five minutes, reasonably accurate state-of-health (SoH) readings are available. The test is independent of the state-of-charge (SoC). Some charge is needed, however, to facilitate the test.

New requirements of battery analyzers are the ultra-fast charge and quick prime features. When a battery is inserted, the analyzer evaluates the battery, applies an ultra-fast charge if needed, and prepares the battery for service within minutes. Such a feature helps the mobile phone industry, which receives a large number of batteries under warranty. With the proper equipment, many of these presumably faulty batteries can be jump-started instead of replaced.

To accurately test batteries that power digital equipment, a modern battery analyzer is capable of discharging a battery under a simulated digital load. The GSM waveform, for example, transmits voice data in 567 ms bursts with currents of 1.5A and higher. By simulating these pulses, the performance of a battery can be tested under these field conditions. Not all analyzers are capable of simulating such short current bursts. Instead, medium-priced battery analyzers use a slower motion to accommodate the load signals. Pulse duration of 5 ms, or ten times slower than the true GSM, is commonly used.

Another application involving uneven load demand is the so-called 5-5-90 program used to simulate the runtime of analog two-way radios. The battery is loaded 5 percent of the time on transmit, 5 percent on receive and 90 percent on standby. Other combinations are 10-10-80. Each stage can be programmed to the appropriate discharge current. Because of the different load conditions, calculating the predicted runtime in the absence of a battery analyzer would be difficult.

Easy operation is an important feature of any battery analyzer. This quality is appreciated because the user is confronted with an ever-increasing number of battery types. Displaying the battery capacity in percentage of the nominal capacity rather than in milliampere-hours (mAh) is preferred by many users. With the percentage readout, the user does not need to memorize the ratings of each battery tested because this battery information is stored in the system. The percentage readout allows an added level of automation by implementing a recondition cycle if the set target capacity level cannot be reached.

Some analyzers are capable of setting the appropriate battery parameters automatically when a battery is inserted. An intelligent battery adapter reads a passive code that is imbedded in most batteries. The code may consist of a jumper, resistor or specified thermistor value. Some battery packs contain a memory chip that holds a digital code. On recognition of the battery, the adapter assigns the correct service parameters. Automatic battery identification minimizes training and allows battery service by untrained staff.

Most analyzers are capable of printing service reports and battery labels. This feature simplifies the task of keeping track of batteries. Marking batteries with the service date reminds the user when a battery is due for service. Labeling works well because the basic service history is attached right to the battery.

A battery analyzer should be automated and require minimal operator time. The task of the operator should be limited to scheduling incoming batteries for testing, marking the batteries after service, and replacing those that did not meet the performance criteria. Occasional selection of the correct current rating and chemistry may also be necessary. Properly used, a battery analyzer generates major cost savings in terms of longer battery life and more dependable service.

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