RCU Review: Spintec Battery Manager


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    Contributed by: Eric Hege | Published: March 2005 | Views: 32832 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    Spintec Battery Manager


    Spintec

    2611 AZ Delft
    The Netherlands


    Phone: +31 646 221 471
    Fax: +31 152 159 068
    Website: www.spintec.nl


    Easy To Use
    Gathers Useable Battery Data
    Easy On The Batteries
    Retains Previous Cycle In Memory


    Price

    Discharging batteries is a frequently required task for those in the hobby. Normally, battery discharging is something that only racers tend to consider. However even the backyard bashing crowd may find it useful, depending upon the quality of the packs used. This is due to the fact that even many non-racers will use mid-level to higher-end packs to gain a little more power or a more reliable pack, especially when brushless motors are involved.

    There are several methods you can use to discharge your packs, and some chargers even provide this capability. One of the more popular, and more affordable methods, is a bulb discharger. However this method can quickly destroy a pack if the discharger does not utilize a cutoff switch. I was never a huge fan of the "just disconnect the discharger when the bulbs start to dim" method. It's too easy to get sidetracked and not catch the discharger before it pulls the pack down too far. Plus the bulb discharger doesn't really give you any feedback regarding the pack's condition.

    Evidently someone at Spintec has had some of these very same thoughts and concerns. So they developed the Spintec Battery Manager. The Battery Manager's primary function is to discharge your battery pack, but it also has a few other features as well. These features, as well as the discharging function, will all be revealed as I spend some time with Spintec's product and see what all it can do.

    At the time of this writing the Spintec Battery Manager isn't available in the United States. However, I've seen some predictions that estimate by February or March of 2005 U.S. distribution should be underway. However I should caution that this is not set in stone and timetables can change in certain circumstances. Regardless, I expect that the Spintec Battery Manager will soon be easily obtainable in the states.

    The Spintec Battery Manager consists of a circuit board mounted on a heatsink. The circuit board is covered with a plate brandishing the product's name and features, except for an area on the right-hand side of the discharger. On this side of the discharger, you'll see a set of segmented LED's that provides a scrolling display of data during the discharge process. The battery leads on the discharger utilize soft silicone wire and alligator clips, making it easy to hook up to the various connectors on the market as well as straight-soldered packs.

    The first thing I noticed, upon hooking a battery up the charger, was the scrolling display. To be honest, I thought that it would be hard to read in my initial assessment of the charger. However, once the discharger was supplied some power, I quickly saw that I was wrong in my initial feelings. The scrolling text was very easy to read, and I could feel myself being sucked into the absolute coolness of the Spintec. I remember thinking to myself, that it appears discharging has finally moved towards something more modern than the old bulb dischargers.

    Features

    Discharge data is stored in memory
    Scrolling text messages
    Easy connection to all packs
    Cycle counter keeps track of how much you race
    No external power supply necessary
    Complete overload and reverse voltage protection


    Displayed Data
    RuntimeSeconds
    VoltageVolts
    EnergyJoules
    CapacitymAh
    Internal ResistanceOhms
    Technical Specifications
    Discharge Current35 Amps Coolflex
    Cutoff VoltageV-Sense 0.85 V Per Cell
    MicrocontrollerHigh Performance RISC CPU, 4 MHz
    MemoryEEPROM
    Loading DeviceCMOS FET
    Accuracy10 bit ADC
    DisplaySmart 4 character alphanumeric
    WiresUltra flexible silicone
    HeatsinkHigh efficiency extruded profile
    ConnectionCrocodile clips
    Dimensions75 x 70 15mm (without wires)
    Weight84 grams

    I started with a fully charged pack, so I could see the condition of the pack as determined by the Spintec. I should go ahead and mention that normally discharging a full pack serves no purpose and can be detrimental to an extent. This is because a pack does have a finite lifespan, and can only be charged and discharged a certain number of times. However, I wanted to get a feel for what the discharger would do, and compare several of my packs that were similar in brand and design. So I performed this procedure a few times to get an understanding of how the discharger worked for this review. Under normal circumstances, you would probably be discharging a partially spent pack.

    During the process I could actually hear some crackling which Spintec mentions on the instruction card that comes with their product. This is a result of the Coolflex process that Spintec uses to discharge the pack, and indicates their process is working. The Coolflex process works by gradually raising the current pulled from the battery and then suddenly cutting it off. This results in cell decrystallization, which should provide a better cell structure able to hold more of a charge. The crackling is the cell decrystallization taking place.

    The discharge cycle of the Spintec uses a 35 amp discharge current, as discharging at a lower voltage than the packs would normally see can cause them to lose their punch. However the Spintec doesn't put a constant 35 amp load on the pack as I've previously mentioned. Also the pack is provided cool down periods during the discharge process as well. This prevents the pack from being overheated and damaged during the discharge process.

    During these discharging runs, one other thing became very evident. That is that Spintec doesn't lie regarding the heatsink becoming hot during the discharging process. Make sure that you don't place the Spintec Battery Manager near anything that may be affected by the heat it generates during the discharging process, and be careful if you need to touch it as well. You could easily burn yourself.

    After doing each discharge run, I was provided data for the pack during the discharge and once it was finished. This data, containing information such as capacity, energy, internal resistance, and voltage told me the state of the pack and how well it was functioning. In the case of a partially discharged pack the information would be relevant as well, especially when providing information regarding how much capacity was left in a racing scenario. This could directly affect what gearing you might wish to run, or even indicate that your pack isn't providing you the capacity it did when new.

    Keep in mind that the data provided is gathered over the entire discharging process. You can't just plug the battery into the discharger and get all of these statistics regarding the pack immediately without going through the discharge process. However, it's all very valuable information as it provides plenty of insight into the condition of the pack. Using this data could easily help someone know when a battery pack should simply be retired.

    Scrolling Text
    Average Voltage "7.22"
    Capacity "2254"

    I ended up connecting several fully charged batteries to the Spintec Battery Manager. There's just so much data that the discharger provides, I found myself utilizing the previous cycles information quite often. I wanted to compare several of my packs that were of similar make, and if I forgot to make notes, the stored information allowed me to catch back up and record the data. In fact, this data can be stored as long as you wish, provided you don't start another discharge cycle. The Spintec provides you a countdown to the beginning of the discharge process. So if you are just trying to obtain data from the previous cycle you can disconnect the battery before the discharge process starts.

    The information gathered by the Spintec Battery Manager was put to good use for the packs I tested. I knew that a couple of them where in poor shape, but once I got some feedback on the lower than optimum voltage, and the poor mAh capacity I knew exactly where I stood with each pack. While I was running these tests was more of a maintenance routine for me, this sort of data would be invaluable in a racing situation. As you would want to make sure you're using a pack that is in perfect shape. Otherwise you'll be at a disadvantage before you even start the race.

    The Spintec Battery Manager is certainly a much better way to discharge your packs as opposed to the old "bulb discharger" method. Bulb dischargers are just plain risky unless closely watched, and don't provide you stats on your pack that are very useful when it comes to diagnosing their condition. The Spintec Battery Manager may cost a little more than bulb dischargers, but its benefits certainly make up the difference.

    The Spintec Battery Manager's Coolflex discharging method isn't as harsh on a pack as a bulb discharger is either. Since it allows the pack periods in which it can cool off, you don't have to worry about overheating your pack while discharging. The Coolflex process also helps to strengthen the cell crystallization structure as well, which is paramount to providing an exceptional pack. These are similar procedures you'll see many high end chargers try to utilize effectively, although some may not do it very well. The age of the bulb discharger is over, and its time for discharging methods to move forward into the 21st century. The Spintec Battery Manager is certainly leading the way.

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    The comments, observations and conclusions made in this review are solely with respect to the particular item the editor reviewed and may not apply generally to similar products by the manufacturer. We cannot be responsible for any manufacturer defects in workmanship or other deficiencies in products like the one featured in the review.

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