It has been reported that an internal battery in a BlackMagic Cinema Camera has exploded fortunately no one was hurt in the incident. This has brought into sharp focus how we all take L-ion batteries so much for granted and in my opinion is no bad thing if it stops people buying cheaper alternatives.
Back in the 1980s Ni Cad battery belts like the one shown above were the norm as camera batteries did not hold their charge and lasted about 20mins. Ni Cads are actually safer than L-ion and if charged correctly do not hold any memory as this was a myth banded around by jealous lead acid manufacturers during the 1980s.
I recently swapped out my son’s L-ion battery from his MacBook Pro as it had swollen so much the battery lid would not close.
What do Apple, Sony, Dell, Acer, Lenovo and HP have in common? They all make laptops, sure, but each has been forced to recall their laptop batteries because of the risk of fire. In fact, since 2002, there have been more than 40 recalls due to explosion or fire risk from lithium ion batteries in laptops, phones and other electronic devices.
And when lithium ion batteries fail, they can do so in spectacular fashion. As the video below from computer support company PC Pitstop shows, lithium ion battery fires not only burn extremely hot (up to 1000 degrees fahrenheit), but can explode, sending chunks of burning metal across the room.
Lithium ion batteries have circuitry inside to prevent overcharging and short circuits, but if this circuitry is damaged, the battery could become overheated, resulting in a process known as “thermal runaway.” Thermal runaway is a chemical process where the battery generates heat, causing additional reactions that generate more heat, and so on until the entire thing finally erupts in flame. Manufacturing defects can also result in thermal runaway.
How much heat it takes to get a battery to go into thermal runaway may vary based on the type of battery. According to Tony Olson, CEO of D2 Worldwide, which conducted the lithium ion battery test for PC Pitstop, thermal runaway can occur if the battery is heated to anywhere from 140 degrees fahrenheit up to 350 degree fahrenheit. Not standard household temperatures, obviously, but possible if the battery experiences a failure.
While the likelihood of lithium ion battery fires is still very low, two factors are increasing the risks. First is the simple fact that it’s becoming far more common for us to own devices containing lithium ion batteries, including laptops, tablets, smartphones, Kindles, etc. Secondly, as manufacturers are pushing to put more and more power into these devices, the results of a failure become more pronounced.
To help avoid issues with your batteries, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends the following safety tips:
- Only purchase batteries and chargers directly from the manufacturer or from a manufacturer-recommended source. Buying counterfeit or poorly manufactured batteries increases the chance of having an issue.
- Do not let a loose battery come in contact with metal objects, such as coins, keys, or jewelry. Metal objects can cross the electrical connections and cause an incident if the internal protection circuitry isn’t functioning correctly.
- Do not crush, puncture or put a high degree of pressure on the battery, as this can cause an internal short-circuit, resulting in overheating.
- Do not place the phone or batteries in areas that may get very hot, such as on or near a cooking surface, cooking appliance, iron, radiator or the dashboard of your car in the summer.
- If you drop your phone or laptop on a hard surface, it can potentially cause damage the battery. If you suspect damage to the battery, take it to a service center for inspection.
- If your phone gets wet, even if the device dries and operates normally, the battery contacts or circuitry could slowly corrode and pose a safety hazard.
And if you see any bulging, leakage or other abnormality from your battery, stop using it immediately.
Lastly here is whats left of the SSD drive in the BlackMagic camera, unusable.
Mr Forrest Gibson…”After getting footage for the Kickstarter video for my new game, my Black Magic Camera’s battery exploded, spewing smoke violently.
We ran out of there for safety reasons. However, knowing we had to get some footage of it, we put damp rags over our mouths and ran back in to grab some footage.
I’ve contacted Black Magic Design regarding issues with Batteries, but have yet to hear back from them. Has anyone else had their Black Magic Camera explode?”
UPDATE : Response from Black Magic:
“There have been a small number of isolated incidents where it has been reported the battery had exploded. This is not a common occurrence, and we would like to gather as much information about the situation as possible to ensure that it does not become common. We do apologize for the issue you’ve encountered and would like to assist in getting an RMA set up to sort this out. Do let me know if you have any additional questions.”
Mr Forrest Gibson “As many people asked, and was an important detail I forgot to include in the original video:
I was running a “Switronix PB70-BMCC PowerBase-70 Battery Pack for Blackmagic Cinema Cameras” connected to the camera while filming. Right as the camera start spewing smoke, I ripped the battery off in fear of it catching on fire too.
The room was cool, the camera was not close to any hot lights or in direct sun, the camera and battery were 7 months old, I had been shooting for about 20 mins and had just stopped recording when this happened.
Will send out more updates when I send the camera off to BM.”
HDW : I know myself that from time to time you can drop your batteries on the floor, I have two such batteries, tomorrow they will be disposed of…safely.