Samsung Talks About New Battery Processes

Samsung engaged MIT technology Review to publish a white paper on the phone manufactures last year debacle and how it implemented an 8 point battery check process in its plants to eliminate such incident ever happening again in the company.

Estimated $10 billion in loses, the punch left Samsung disorientated for 2 months before it decided to pull all the Galaxy Note 7 off the shelves across the planet. The cause was identified to battery short circuit caused by deflection of the negative electrode. Samsung was determined to get to the root of the problem, find a solution and share it with the public and industry.

Just weeks away from the launch of Galaxy Note 8 (or that’s what we think Samsung will name the new model) the company has released this commissioned article on the processes the plant undertakes since the implementation of the battery checking procedure first applied on Galaxy S8.

Here’s and excerpt of the white paper:

By the end of that month, reports of Note7 incidents began to surface, ultimately precipitating a global recall. Samsung quickly identified the problem: a battery short circuit caused by a deflection of the negative electrode. CT and X-ray scans revealed the “jelly roll” (a design used in most rechargeable lithium-ion batteries) was compressed in the battery pouch, which weakened the separator between the two electrodes. This created multiple paths to short circuit. Samsung engaged a second supplier—one that was already providing a portion of the original Note7 batteries on a global scale without incident.

That second Note7 battery supplier confirmed that it could meet the worldwide demand for the Note7 replacement devices. However, a separate, distinct battery failure soon emerged in these replacement batteries. This one was caused by abnormally high burrs on the positive electrode tab due to
ultrasonic-welding defects.

Quality Control: How Samsung Is Using Data to Mitigate the Battery Challenge

Ultimately, Samsung withdrew the Note7 from the market less than two months after its launch, with industry reports estimating the company has lost some $10 billion in sales. Almost as quickly as the recall process played out, Samsung implemented a safety-management program unparalleled in its scope and size for the mobile industry. Augmenting existing battery tests and creating new levels of testing, Samsung developed a holistic quality and safety framework known as the 8-Point Battery Safety Check, which both built upon and improved existing benchmarks.

Samsung instituted these inspection and review processes across both Samsung’s and its battery suppliers’ quality assurance processes—from producing the individual components that make up the device itself through the process of putting those components together and assembling the phone to the very end, when the completed device was subject to additional tests. “The lithium-ion business is highly varied and stratified, with many different types of suppliers, making batteries for everything from e-cigarettes and hover boards to smartphones,” says Jack Gold, principal analyst at industry researcher J. Gold Associates, LLC.

Gold says that Samsung “got a bloody nose” from the Note7 battery incidents, which in his opinion prompted a response completely unique for manufacturers of finished devices. “They looked at failures, and tried to determine exactly where in the process those failures occurred,” he says.

Determining the root cause was only half the battle. From there, Samsung worked on creating a new, comprehensive testing protocol based on the findings of their investigation. Gold says this was perhaps made more pressing for Samsung because it is one of the few smartphone manufacturers that actually have more control of its production processes. “Figuring out which tests should be conducted is the important piece,” he says. “If you are building a device, this is what you should check.” “The lithium-Ion business is highly varied and stratified, with many different types of suppliers, making batteries for everything from e-cigarettes and hover boards to smartphones.”
– Jack Gold, Principal Analyst at industry researcher J. Gold Associates, LLC

Quality Control: How Samsung Is Using Data to Mitigate the Battery Challenge

The electronics giant developed this testing regime in consultation with an independent
Battery Advisory Group. This group includes four experts—three from academia and one from
the industry—who now regularly review Samsung’s processes and responses to issues related to
battery materials, design, and dynamics.

“We have made significant investments in order to cast the widest possible net [to find solutions],” says Justin Denison, senior vice president, Product Strategy and Marketing at Samsung Electronics America. The company has custom-built mass-scale testing facilities, which helps its engineers detect production issues and validate the quality and safety of devices before they are released. Samsung is not only achieving its primary goal of boosting product quality, but is seeking to elevate the manner in which the entire industry manages fault monitoring and quality control.

Samsung’s enhanced safety program includes expanded testing processes throughout the production chain to ensure that devices and all device components are safe. It is now using larger sample sizes, often involving lots in excess of 100,000 units, and increasing integration with its suppliers’ testing processes.
“We have increased the sampling size of many of the tests by a significant factor,” says Dr. Tae Moon Roh, executive vice president, head of Hardware R&D of Samsung Electronics Mobile Communications Business, during a recent tour of Samsung’s smartphone factory in Gumi, South Korea. Millions of lithium-ion batteries flow through Samsung’s global supply chain every month.

“We realised we had to enhance our processes, and find new methods, if we were to create a system that could embrace both static detection and be dynamically responsive at such scale,” says Dr. Roh. Samsung also undertook a far-reaching initiative aimed at increasing its ability to mitigate the risk of failure. This complex project has increased the company’s ability to systematically and comprehensively detect battery failures. More importantly, it has also created an immense volume of data on the phenomenon of smartphone battery failure itself. In other words, their operational scale has provided Samsung with an invaluable knowledge base that may help accurately predict and proactively mitigate production issues yet to come and share those findings across the industry.

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