Samsung details the cause of Note 7 battery fires

So how about that Samsung Galaxy Note 7? The would-be Korean competitor to Apple's iPhone 7 ended up being a literal flaming disaster. It's a shame for several reasons, not the least of which that it seemed like a real nice phone. Samsung has completed its in-depth investigation and come to the conclusion that both the original battery and the model given out as a replacement in the first recall had completely separate defects that caused them to be prone to short-circuiting. The company held a press event in Korea early this morning to talk about what happened, and why it hopefully won't happen again.

Samsung found that the original battery suffered from an internal deflection of the negative electrode in the upper-right corner. For the second model, the company discovered that a welding burr on the positive electrode eventually broke the layers separating it from the negative electrode.

For its investigation, Samsung sought assistance from groups that had already performed their own research into the Note 7 fires, including Exponent, TUV Rheinland, and UL. Previously, industrial QA firm Instrumental seemed to believe that the issue was at least partially caused by the impossibly tight space tolerances inside the phone itself.

Samsung's new eight-point battery check procedure

There's little doubt that this high-profile fiasco has damaged Samsung's brand, at least in the smartphone arena. Moving forward, Samsung says it's implementing much stricter quality assurance testing, including an eight-point battery safety check. The company also assembled a "Battery Advisory Group" consisting of a number of folks with doctorate degrees in chemistry and engineering.

Whatever the case, what's done is done. Aside from a tiny minority of holdouts, buyers have returned their Note 7s and the FAA feels safe letting people fly without a warning about the handset.

Comments closed
    • Krogoth
    • 3 years ago

    Phone anorexia is deadly business.

    • Unknown-Error
    • 3 years ago

    I knew it! It is Chukula fault!

    • ronch
    • 3 years ago

    Samsung should add an extra QA step there called Airplane Test, where an actual passenger will bring the phone on an actual plane ride from Sydney to California (not through the Pacific; the other way around), subject it to the usual airport hustle and bustle, and see if it starts smoking. It also calls for arriving at the airport late so the passenger has to run like crazy with the phone stuffed in his/her tight pants’ pocket stuffed with other things like keys, beepers and magic 8 balls.

    • ronch
    • 3 years ago

    I’ve always thought battery technology is Samsung’s weakness (although they’ve been great lately). This new battery QA process just might make them into one of the most formidable players when it comes to batteries. That is, if the other major battery makers aren’t doing this sort of QA yet. And if they aren’t they just might try to implement something like it to ensure their quality.

    Speaking of batteries, we almost never hear about these battery manufacturers. There must be tons of them behind the scenes. My Acer has a 5,000mAh battery and I have no idea who made it.

      • HERETIC
      • 3 years ago

      At the beginning of this fiasco I’m sure I read the original batteries were manufactured by Samsung.

        • ronch
        • 3 years ago

        I don’t recall ever disputing that. The batteries were originally from Samsung SDI, yes.

      • Philldoe
      • 3 years ago

      You don’t seem to know much about the battery scene. Samsung, LG, Sony and Sanyo/Panasonic are the big 4 manufacturers of Li-On cells. Its likely that the battery back for you laptop is made up of 18650 cells from either Panasonic or Samsung.

      Samsung is generally regarded as the best maker of reliable cells for the 18650 market.

        • ronch
        • 3 years ago

        I haven’t been following the battery industry but I’m just speaking out of experience and the experiences of some folks I know who’ve had Samsung devices.

      • Meadows
      • 3 years ago

      Things that your clients never see will not make you into a “formidable player”. They’re boasting about all that to regain investor confidence.

    • ronch
    • 3 years ago

    I have to say I’m quite impressed at how Samsung handled the entire affair. Very professional. I don’t recall any other company ever willing to go to such lengths to address a technical issue and protect its customers, and then release a report and future action plan. This puts Apple, Volkswagen, etc. to shame.

      • HERETIC
      • 3 years ago

      Apple has always had a “Head in the sand” la la la la-it’s only affecting a few users,approach
      to problems-must keep up the RDF……………………………………………………………….

    • Shinare
    • 3 years ago

    All I can say from practical experience is that 4 people in my family have had Samsung smart phones for much of their adult life. Now 2 of those 4 have iPhones. (I still have one because I’m cheap and still have an S5).

      • ztrand
      • 3 years ago

      The S5 was my first attempt at using an Android phone as my regular phone. Holy shit what a mistake that was. Hands down the worst phone I’ve ever had before or since (I’ve had other Androids since). Shitty plastic build quality and horrible horrible Samsung garbage customisations of Android.

    • TheRazorsEdge
    • 3 years ago

    And a new generation of management learns the core business lessons:

    1. Engineers are the experts
    2. There are reasons we do QA
    3. Sometimes you choose between paying now and paying later with interest

    They probably wanted to pump up profit margins in a very competitive market. But physics isn’t very interested in motives.

      • superjawes
      • 3 years ago

      “Management learns” is an oxymoron.

        • willmore
        • 3 years ago

        It doesn’t ‘learn’ so much as the failed ones get fired and the not so bad ones remain.

        • GrimDanfango
        • 3 years ago

        Indeed, I’ve worked places where management would learn the same lessons on every… single… project. One week I’d be thanked for bailing people out as everything fell apart during crunch time. The very next week, I’d be getting it in the neck for spending too long trying to do things properly to avoid everything falling apart during crunch time.

    • superjawes
    • 3 years ago

    [quote<]There's little doubt that this high-profile fiasco has damaged Samsung's brand, at least in the smartphone arena.[/quote<] Well they also took some brand damage for their [url=https://techreport.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=118605<]washing machines[/url<], too...

      • just brew it!
      • 3 years ago

      …and [url=https://techreport.com/news/27847/samsung-investigating-840-evo-slowdowns-prepping-another-fix<]SSDs[/url<]...

        • DancinJack
        • 3 years ago

        And yet they’re still selling washing machines, phones, and SSDs at record numbers.

          • J'Tok
          • 3 years ago

          I thought their phone sales dropped after the recall? Are your saying they’ve recovered?
          I’m not sure about the other stuff.
          Do you have sources for any of that?

          …Or where you referring to record lows? 😛

        • jihadjoe
        • 3 years ago

        Wasn’t there a gerbil in the forums who had a Samsung SSD burn down his dad’s house?

    • Kougar
    • 3 years ago

    So it’s worth noting Samsung managed to score not one but two entirely separate disastrous designs in one product. That’s a bit scary.

      • superjawes
      • 3 years ago

      Well, I think JBI and others were suggesting that the faults were a result of overarching strategy, specifically tied to device thickness (or thinness). Even though the faults were “different”, it still feels like the root cause is the shrinking size.

        • Sargent Duck
        • 3 years ago

        Honestly industry, I’m ok with a smartphone a few mm’s thicker (actually, I prefer it. Harder to break).

          • bfar
          • 3 years ago

          And bigger [s<]explosions[/s<] batteries too

          • eofpi
          • 3 years ago

          Easier to hold, too.

          But for some reason, everyone seems to want a phone they can shave with.

          • trackerben
          • 3 years ago

          Say it!

      • ImSpartacus
      • 3 years ago

      It is scary, but I’d chalk the second up to the lack of qa from rushing.

        • Kougar
        • 3 years ago

        More than likely. Still, the first fault was due to over-aggressive design, and the second from poor or rushed QA. Both are the result of poor management decision making, which I’m not sure has been addressed here.

        My point being, all the rigorous QA in the world and opinion briefs from advisory groups won’t do any good if the same people in corporate management ignore and/or bypasses them yet again.

        • sleeprae
        • 3 years ago

        There’s no doubt that they rushed, by my understanding is that the second battery was already qualified and was being used in handsets shipping to China even before the first recall was performed.

          • dodozoid
          • 3 years ago

          But they sudenly increased demand by an order of magnitude. Supplier probably rushed the production ramp…

      • adisor19
      • 3 years ago

      Too big a coincidence if you ask me.

      Adi

      • Yeats
      • 3 years ago

      Kinda like the American Presidential election.

        • Anonymous Coward
        • 3 years ago

        Sadly one of the defective presidential products is still in use.

    • adisor19
    • 3 years ago

    What is not clear from what I read is whether the corner of the SDI bat was deformed from manufacturing of the bat or from insertion/mechanical work inside the phone.

    The replacement battery was clearly rushed and proper QA was not done on it but the same question is raised : if there was more space tolerance inside the phone, would the puncture ever come to happen ?

    While Samsung has indeed identified issues with the 2 batteries, they went mum on what triggered the fires. Both batteries could function just fine forever if no pressure or mechanical force is being done on their weak spots.

    I think Instrumental was right in their initial findings : it was the low space tolerance inside the phone that triggered the fires.

    Adi

      • RAGEPRO
      • 3 years ago

      For what it’s worth, I think you’re right. Samsung could never admit that though.

        • blastdoor
        • 3 years ago

        If future devices have more space then I guess that will be an implicit admission.

      • ludi
      • 3 years ago

      Yeah, several people including Instrumental proposed this as the real “root” cause and it’s hard to ignore. Whether the destructive flexing was caused during final assembly or during consumer use, the battery didn’t have enough room to play and that seems to have instigated the final failure mode.

      Adding physical space is always the cheapest way to mitigate problems. Every industry, large or small, has to deal with this tradeoff sooner or later.

      • tipoo
      • 3 years ago

      I kind of felt like Samsung was trying to pass the blame each step of the way, as you were getting at. They first switched battery suppliers and blamed the old one without even understanding the problem, then after the too little battery gap and sharp interior case was found by everyone else, they took weeks to come up with this explanation, and then again put bent battery nodes at the forefront, not the fact that something in the case would poke those nodes when the battery got hot.

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