Sunday, November 11, 2012

External iRobot battery charger modifications - manual

In order to test the Roomba 4xx series battery, it is needed a battery tester.
The ultimate goal is to design an automatic gadget, but first some experiments are needed.
More articles will follow.

The test battery project, uses different components.
The most important is the battery charger.
Instead to design one from the scratch, I decided to use the external iRobot charger model 02004, out of production for some time now but still available on eBay and modify it.

Battery charger 

As usual, before any modifications ...

The modifications make void any guarantee and are potentially dangerous !

If you are not sure about what you are doing, DON'T DO IT !

There are some advantages to use it.
  • the battery charger circuit is already done
  • it provides mechanical support for the battery 
  • it provides an optimal electrical connection to the battery

However it is not perfect. It was designed mainly for the traditional NiCd batteries, not the NiMh (APS - yellow ones).
It can charge them but it requires TWO charges (see the 02004 technical description by G. Plews )

Anyway, the first thing to do is to modify it in order to be able to connect the battery to the dis-charger and the voltmeter.

Battery charge modifications

The idea is to bring out the battery connectors, in order to connect the battery to the charger or to the dis-charger and the voltmeter.
To open the unit, there are 6 screws on the bottom, 4 of them hidden under the rubber pads. 
Once removed the screws the upper half of the charger separates from the base.
The electronics is anchored to the base.

There are two set of wires going in the upper shell.
Two wires are for the LED, and three wires are for the battery.
The three wires are the negative (black wire), the positive (red wire) and the thermistor feedback (blue wire).

To "bring out" the battery connections, I used a 4 pins audio connector (Radio Shack mod. 274-0002).
The choice of the connector was mostly due to what I was able to find to the local Radio Shack, it is enough for testing manually the batteries, for an automatic way more signals are needed to be brought  out.
The maximum current involved is less than 5 A, so this connector is perfect for the usage.

Pins usage :
  1. + from battery
  2. - from battery
  3. - from charger
  4. + from charger
The plug used with this connector is the Radio Shack mod. 274-0001.

The idea is to disconnect the 3 wires going to the electronic below, from the PCB with the micro-switches (only  the positive and negative connections) and connect them to the connector.

The charger with the connector.
With this modification I can now connect the battery to the charger, putting together the battery wires with the charger wires, or connect the battery to a dis-charger.

In the picture the battery is connected to the charger manually.

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