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Shaped up and shipped out!

02 April 2012

The credit card battery was developed by Accutronics in response to its OEM customers' demands for a compact and rechargeable lithium-ion battery that would be available for delivery on a short lead time. Neil Oliver describes the rationale behind the company's decision to develop such a product.

If I described an object as being as small as a sugar cube, you would understand what I’m saying. Equally, if I told you that something is about as big as a £2 coin, then you would still have a good idea of the object’s dimensions. But what if I described it as being the size of an ‘1ICP-06/34/50-2 lithium-ion smart’ battery? Undoubtedly, that would leave most of you puzzled.

This very debate recently took place at the Staffordshire headquarters of Accutronics. The design team wanted to brand its newest battery range by giving it a descriptive nickname that would give everyone an idea of its approximate size; they came up with the phrase ‘credit card battery’. But when planning to build such an off-the-shelf battery, a few key points need to be considered, not least quality, availability and the level of customisation that might be required by the end user.
Most OEMs want to be able to integrate a battery into their application, without going through hoops to develop a new energy source for every new product. However, finding a product that meets their quality expectations and coming with the right level of functionality and regulatory compliance is no mean feat.

In order to meet these demands, the credit card battery series was designed as a standard, readily available product which lends itself to customisation in a timely and cost effective manner. The battery is pre-engineered, tooled and qualified before it reaches the end user.

Professional needs
The rationale for developing this new range came from the fact that electronic device OEMs in professional markets find it difficult to access smaller high quality rechargeable lithium ion battery packs for their portable devices. This might seem surprising, given the success of these batteries in consumer electronic devices such as mobile phones and laptop computers.
However, the requirements of OEMs in professional markets are very different from those in the consumer sector, and there is often a disconnect between managing expectations and what the battery industry is willing or, indeed, able to provide.

For instance, the lifecycle of an average consumer battery is 18 months. In contrast, specialist OEM devices have a lifespan of 15 or more years, which makes the risk of obsolescence very high. This means that embedding a consumer battery, which may become obsolete in just a couple of years, is not a viable solution for manufacturers.

Regardless, OEMs often have to buy a battery which was, likely as not, designed for a mobile phone or portable camcorder; but such products don't come with the technical backup required and the OEM is at the mercy of the product life cycle of the consumer device for which the battery was originally intended.

Accutronics’ credit card batteries feature accurate impedance tracking fuel gauges, and an active protection system that makes them resistant to over-charging, over-discharging and short-circuiting. Designed with flexibility in mind, they offer freedom of choice to OEMs, in the same way in which credit cards and other financial products offer freedom of choice. And just like a sugar cube or a £2 coin, the name of the battery clearly describes the technology encapsulated in such a small piece of engineering real estate.

Neil Oliver is with Accutronics


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