Instrumental may only be a manufacturing engineering firm, but it may have done something that even the biggest seller of smartphone devices in the world could not -- find the cause of the Galaxy Note 7’s failure. The company recently conducted a teardown of Samsung’s incendiary phablet, and found that the super aggressive approach to design and production process all combined to spell doom for one of the South Korean phone maker’s flagship devices.
It is no secret that consumers want their mobile devices bigger and wider, but as slim as possible on the sides. In order to hit target sales every year, phone makers often do not have any other choice but to give in to what end users demand. In making handsets, the size of the battery often dictates how thin a device will be, so by this logic, building thinner smartphones almost certainly means manufacturing slimmer batteries.
The problem with making batteries thinner is that mobile manufacturers also have to keep the electrolytic separator thinner. For those not familiar with the electrolytic separator, it is used to keep the lithium cobalt oxide anode from touching the graphite cathode. Now, most objects in the planet expand, contract, or even deform when exposed to extreme temperatures or physical stress (i.e. they bend when enough pressure is applied). Smartphone batteries are not an exception to this.
When the Galaxy Note 7 is charging, or dealing with physical stress (for instance, when it is being kept inside a tight pocket), it is possible that the lithium cobalt oxide anode and the graphite cathode might come into contact with each other. These two should never touch each other, because if they do, fireworks might ensue.
As explained by Anna Shedletsky, the chief executive officer and founder of Instrumental, Samsung’s designers might have done away with all of the margin in the thickness of Galaxy Note 7’s battery. Also, Instrumental believes that the phablet’s design does not leave enough room for its battery to expand. Indeed, a number of the tolerances between the battery and the Galaxy Note 7’s CNC machined aluminum chassis are as thin as 0.1 millimeters. When charging a smartphone, the device’s battery will always expand. This is why proper tolerances are important -- they allow enough space for charging batteries to expand. If they are not given enough room, they can be punctured or damaged, resulting to potential fires and even explosions.
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