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Maplin 3W LED Torch Charger Fail

A member of the family recently bought one of these torches from Maplin electronics, and the included chargers for the 18650 lithium-ion cells leave a lot to be desired.

Torch
Torch

Here’s what’s supplied. The torch itself is OK – very bright, and a good size. Me being cynical of overpriced Chinese equipment with lithium batteries, I decided to look in the charging base & the cigar-lighter adaptor to see if there was any actual charging logic.

Charger
Charger

Answer – nope. Not a single active component in here. It’s just a jack connected to the battery terminals. There’s all the space there to fit a proper charging circuit, but it’s been left out to save money.

OK then, is it inside the cigarette lighter adaptor?

Lighter Adaptor
Lighter Adaptor

Nope. Not a single sign of anything resembling a Lithium-Ion charger IC. There’s a standard MC34063A 1.5A Buck converter IC on the bottom of the PCB, this is what’s giving the low voltage output for the torch.

Charger Bottom
Charger Bottom

Here’s the IC – just a buck converter. The output voltage here is 4.3v. This is higher than the safe charging voltage of a lithium ion cell, of 4.2v.

The cells supplied are “protected” versions, having charge/discharge protection circuitry built onto the end of the cell on a small PCB, this makes the cell slightly longer than a bare 18650, so it’s easy to tell them apart.
The manufacturers in this case are relying on that protection circuit on the cell to prevent an overcharge condition – this isn’t the purpose they’re designed for, and charging this way is very stressful for the cells. I wouldn’t like to leave one of these units charging unattended, as a battery explosion might result.

More to come shortly when I build a proper charger for this torch, so it can be recharged without fearing an alkali metal fire!

73s for now folks!

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Pringles Speaker Modifications

USB Charging Port
USB Charging Port

These speakers are available free from Pringles, with two packs bought. Normally running on 3x AAA cells, I have made modifications to include a high capacity Li-Ion battery & USB charging.

18650 Battery
18650 Battery

New battery is 3x 18650 Li-Ion cells in parallel, providing ~6600mAh of capacity. These are hot glued inside the top of the tube under the speaker, with the charging & cell protection logic.
The battery charging logic is salvaged from an old USB eCig charger, these are single cell lithium chargers in a small form factor ideal for other uses. Charging current is ~450mA.

Amplifier Board
Amplifier Board

The cells are connected to the same points as the original AAA cells, with the other pair of wires going into the top of the device to connect to the MicroUSB charging port.

The amplifier in this is a LM4871 3W Mono amplifier IC, connected to a 6Ω 1W speaker.
The other IC on the board is unidentifiable, but provides the flashing LED function to the beat of the music.

 

 

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Co-Op Bank Card Reader

Keypad
Keypad

This is a little security measure you get with Internet Banking with the Co-Op, generates codes to confirm your identity using your bank card. About the size of a pocket calculator, this is the keypad & screen.

Card Slot
Card Slot

The rear of the unit, the card slots into the top, manufactured by Gemalto Digital Security.

Card Contacts
Card Contacts

Outer back cover removed, showing the 8 contacts for the chip on the bank card, the 2 contacts below that switch on power when a card is inserted. Power comes from 2 lithium coin cells in the compartment on the lower left.

PCB Rear
PCB Rear

PCB removed from the casing, showing the internal components. Two large pads at top left are battery connections, while the only IC on the board is the main CPU, under the card connector. 6MHz oscillator & 32Khz crystal on board for processing & timekeeping. LCD screen connection at far right.

Keypad Contacts
Keypad Contacts

Reverse side of the PCB, with the keypad contacts. LCD on right, with programming interface pads at side of keypad.