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Enhancing Repairability of Lithium-Ion Batteries in Mobile Devices

With the growing number of connected things, more lithium-ion batteries will be powering mobile devices. Standardizing practices in the removal of these temperamental batteries during disassembly processes will not only enhance production but will ensure employee and workplace safety.

by Craig Boswell, HOBI International, Inc.

Concern for safe battery removal -- particularly in mobile devices -- is prompting processors, industry organizations, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to examine design, manufacturing, and disassembly procedures. Due to the highly volatile nature of lithium-ion batteries, establishing a set of industry safety standards and manufacturing protocols is necessary not only to create efficient methods in the processes of repairing and recycling devices but also ensuring safe work environments.

The growing prominence of Internet of things (IoT) and mobile devices is resulting in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries powering more and more devices and connected gadgets. However, while lithium is lightweight and has the ability to store a great amount of energy, it is also undeniably, and quite literally, explosive. In the past year alone, we’ve seen numerous accounts of lithium-ion batteries catching fire, most notably the Samsung Note 7 batteries in 2016. In response we must work to find a solution that addresses OEM manufacturing concerns and also guarantees the safety of the devices, users, and technicians.

Many OEMs are opting to use adhesives within the device in an effort to address some device issues. Using bonding agents, such as films and glues, allows all components of a device to stay in place but makes it infinitely harder to repair the device. These adhesives hinder not only the efficiency of the disassembly process but pose a significant risk to the safety of employees and the workplace. To repair the devices, disassemblers must apply force to remove the batteries, which can cause the battery to catch fire if it is defective, fully-charged, or punctured during the extraction process.

To correct this, the industry needs to implement a set of standards that will administer design changes to devices, which will ensure batteries aren’t being damaged during the disassembly process. If not, mounting mechanisms such as adhesives become a disrupter in the recycling stream. Batteries must be removed from devices for the devices to be further processed for recycling purposes or during repair operations.

A potential solution could lie in the creation of a mechanism that will either determine the discharge of lithium-ion batteries or discharge the battery at a quick but safe rate. This type of technology would help decrease the chance of a possible battery fire and would help streamline the process of removing lithium-ion batteries while maintaining efficient production output for both OEMs and processors.

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