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Aggressive battery design caused Note7's demise; this is how Samsung will prevent it from happening again

By Vijay Anand - on 23 Jan 2017, 10:29am

Samsung admits aggressive Note7 battery design caused its demise; this is how they will prevent it from happening again

Note: Article was first published at 9am, 23rd January 2017 and was updated with greater detail at 1pm.

DJ Koh, President of Mobile Communications Business, Samsung Electronics, took the stage to address the outcome and preventive measures from the company's extensive investigation of the Galaxy Note7.

Months after issuing an official recall of the much troubled Galaxy Note7 phablet, Samsung has finally concluded official investigations with third-party industry expert organizations.

Through a large-scale testing facility where approximately 700 Samsung researchers and engineers replicating the incidents observed by consumers by testing more than 200,000 fully assembled devices and 30,000 batteries, Samsung has finally concluded that the cause of the unexpected incidents was due to the Galaxy Note7 battery design. Such a thorough and large-scale investigation was necessary because of over 30 severe incidents reported and that translates to a device failure rate of more than 1 out of every 10,000 devices sold - this was unacceptable to the company.


The Revelation: Battery Woes

Their findings revealed that two different factors that originated in and specific to the two different batteries (one of which was supplied by Samsung's very own subsidiary, Samsung SDI) lead to the failures seen in the Note7 devices. In both instances, an internal short circuit is what caused the phone to catch fire, but the circumstances in how it occurred is very different.

Typical Lithium-ion battery structure.

For reference, we'll refer to the different batteries as Battery A and Battery B since Samsung wasn't inclined to point fingers on its partners as the company is taking full responsibility of this incident.

In Battery A, a combination of a deformation of the upper right corner of the battery during assembly/manufacturing and a thin separator between the positive and negative electrodes caused a higher possibility of separator damage that lead to an internal short circuit between the aluminum and copper foils at the upper corner of the battery. The high battery density further exacerbates the severity of the battery failure.

For Battery B, a combination of a missing or mis-aligned insulation tape, an abnormal protrusion of a welding spot and once more, a thin separator between the positive and negative electrodes caused a higher possibility of the separator to be be punctured and therefore leading to an internal short circuit.

President of Mobile Communications Business of Samsung Electronics, DJ Koh was truly apologetic for these oversights:-

We provided the target battery specifications of the innovative Note7, and we are taking full responsibility for our failure to ultimately identify and verify the issues arising out of the battery design and manufacturing process prior to the launch of the Note7.

We’ve taken several corrective actions to ensure this never happens again.

Preventive measures

Based on what the company learned from the investigation, Samsung has implemented a broad range of internal quality and safety processes to further enhance product safety for upcoming products:-

  • Multi-layer safety measures
  • 8-point Battery Safety Check
  • Formed a Battery Advisory Group of external advisers, academic, and research experts for battery safety and innovation

Samsung is committed to product safety and quality, and thus it will not be rushing to announce the upcoming Galaxy S8 at MWC 2017.

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