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  #1  
Old 14th August 2006, 09:21 PM
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Bomb! Dell to Recall 4 Million Sony Lithium Ion Laptop Batteries

From the Financial Times:

Quote:
Dell to recall 4m laptop batteries

By Richard Waters in San Francisco

Published: August 15 2006 00:50

Dell on Monday recalled the batteries in 4.1m of its notebook computers in what is believed to be the biggest safety recall involving the rechargeable power units.

The lithium ion batteries, made for the US computer company by Sony, were being withdrawn because they were liable to overheat and, in rare cases, produce smoke or on catch fire, Dell said.

The product withdrawal comes at a time of heightened concerns about the potential dangers of laptop computers powered by unstable battery packs.

A number of cases of fires caused by laptops spontaneously bursting into flames have circulated on the internet, drawing concerns from aircraft regulators among others.

Roger Kay, analyst at Endpoint Technology Associates, said that while damaging to Dell at a time when the company is already under pressure, the recall should not have a lasting impact if the company acts quickly to replace the products.

The withdrawal comes at a sensitive time for the company, which has been fighting broader perceptions of poor customer service and slowing sales growth.

Mr Kay added, however, that it could have a deeper impact on Sony, given the Japanese company’s reputation for quality in the consumer electronics industry.

“Sony’s supposed to have a premium brand and they’re supposed to have control of their manufacturing,” he said.

The batteries covered by the recall were produced by Sony over the past two years. Dell has issued recalls of unstable laptop batteries before, but never on the scale of the current action.

The problems of overheating and possible fire have been caused by manufacturing deficiency that led to metallic impurities being introduced into some of the batteries, Mr Kay said.

The metallic parts intrude through the insulation that is supposed to keep apart the anode and cathode elements in the battery cells, leading to a spark that can cause a catastrophic fire.

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  #2  
Old 15th August 2006, 12:47 PM
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Cool Re: Dell to Recall 4 Million Sony Lithium Ion Laptop Batteries

For interested folks, the Dell list of affected machines:
https://www.dellbatteryprogram.com/Default.aspx

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  #3  
Old 15th August 2006, 01:28 PM
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Re: Dell to Recall 4 Million Sony Lithium Ion Laptop Batteries

It could be interesting to check whether the batteries had the C.E mark of Safety to enter in the E.U.

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Last edited by jrubio; 16th August 2006 at 01:34 AM.
  #4  
Old 15th August 2006, 01:48 PM
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Re: Dell to Recall 4 Million Sony Lithium Ion Laptop Batteries

I've got a recalled battery in my laptop. Note that if you punch in a number into the Dell website, use a zero (0), not "o" for the serial number. "o" returns that the battery is fine, whereas using zero indicates replacement is required. As the font on the label is unclear, I checked with a bar code scanner just to be sure.

The battery does carry CE, CSA, UL and TUV/GS markings. No explosions so far.
  #5  
Old 15th August 2006, 11:39 PM
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Re: Dell to Recall 4 Million Sony Lithium Ion Laptop Batteries

Exactly what is the issue affecting batteries? Do ALL lithium batteries have potential to catch on fire? (think of billions and zillions of cell phones gps, Blackberries, hearing aids, pacemakers, etc. with Lithium batteries.)

Is the problem a design flaw in the battery or in the computer? Is the problem due to a manufacturing defect in processing? Whatever happened to "root cause" investigation? Whatever happened to product testing? Seems like they are using the mickey soft testing model (sell it and wait for complainers to figure out what's wrong!)

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Old 16th August 2006, 10:23 AM
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Re: Dell to Recall 4 Million Sony Lithium Ion Laptop Batteries

Why would you assume there was no root cause or product testing? From something I picked up on CNET there were a total of six complaints of damage - none causing injury. That would be 1.46 ppm - better than the so called goal of six sigma.

Pretty good explanation from CNET: http://news.com.com/FAQ+How+to+smoke...77.html?tag=nl

What causes these batteries to burst into flame?
The same thing that causes any fire: heat, fuel and oxygen, said Forrest Norrod, vice president of engineering with Dell.

A battery cell is basically a cylinder stuffed with two metal spirals that have the two electrodes needed for a battery, an insulating material between those spirals, and electrolyte fluid. Making a battery cell is a lot like filling a soda can on the assembly line; the bottom and sides of the cylinder form one piece; the combination of the spirals and insulating materials is inserted into that container; and then the top is affixed. Dell believes that little pieces of metal are dislodged into the cell when the lid is put on the top of the cylinder.

Over time, those pieces of metal can work their way through the insulating material and cause a short circuit when current is allowed to flow uncontrolled between the two electrodes. Dell estimates that most of the batteries that failed were in use for 10 to 14 months.

If the pieces of metal are larger than a certain size, Sony or the other battery manufacturers will notice them in testing. If they are too small, they'll cause a small short circuit that might shut down the cell, but won't cause a larger problem.

But the pieces of metal that fall in between those sizes are another story. They will cause current to flow directly to the cathode, which is made of lithium cobalt oxide. The current breaks that down into lithium and oxygen. So now you've got fuel (lithium), heat (electrical current) and oxygen. That will cause a fire.
  #7  
Old 16th August 2006, 02:29 PM
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Re: Dell to Recall 4 Million Sony Lithium Ion Laptop Batteries

Maybe Apple should use there batteries. You'd have a really hot machine there...

Sorry, felt a little sarcastic today...

Jerry
(This place swears by Dell, guess because they're so da** cheap...)
  #8  
Old 16th August 2006, 04:49 PM
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Re: Dell to Recall 4 Million Sony Lithium Ion Laptop Batteries

Quote:
In Reply to Parent Post by tomvehoski View Post

Why would you assume there was no root cause or product testing? From something I picked up on CNET there were a total of six complaints of damage - none causing injury. That would be 1.46 ppm - better than the so called goal of six sigma.

Pretty good explanation from CNET: http://news.com.com/FAQ+How+to+smoke...77.html?tag=nl

What causes these batteries to burst into flame?
The same thing that causes any fire: heat, fuel and oxygen, said Forrest Norrod, vice president of engineering with Dell.

A battery cell is basically a cylinder stuffed with two metal spirals that have the two electrodes needed for a battery, an insulating material between those spirals, and electrolyte fluid. Making a battery cell is a lot like filling a soda can on the assembly line; the bottom and sides of the cylinder form one piece; the combination of the spirals and insulating materials is inserted into that container; and then the top is affixed. Dell believes that little pieces of metal are dislodged into the cell when the lid is put on the top of the cylinder.

Over time, those pieces of metal can work their way through the insulating material and cause a short circuit when current is allowed to flow uncontrolled between the two electrodes. Dell estimates that most of the batteries that failed were in use for 10 to 14 months.

If the pieces of metal are larger than a certain size, Sony or the other battery manufacturers will notice them in testing. If they are too small, they'll cause a small short circuit that might shut down the cell, but won't cause a larger problem.

But the pieces of metal that fall in between those sizes are another story. They will cause current to flow directly to the cathode, which is made of lithium cobalt oxide. The current breaks that down into lithium and oxygen. So now you've got fuel (lithium), heat (electrical current) and oxygen. That will cause a fire.
OK! I am still wondering what happens in the manufacturing process which allows under-size or over-size metal strips to get to the assembly floor. What kind of tolerance are we talking about that is the "make or break" difference between a properly functioning product and improper functioning one? Was there no FMEA (Failure Mode & Effects Analysis)? Almost any metal forming system today can hold a length tolerance within one thousandth of an inch.

Mistake proofing seems tailor made for preventing use of wrong size components at the assembly point. TSK! TSK!

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