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article imageSamsung's Galaxy Note 7 battery factory catches fire

By James Walker     Feb 8, 2017 in Technology
The factory that built the explosive batteries inside Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 smartphone has caught fire, according to media reports. Over 100 firefighters were sent to the building after lithium batteries in half-finished products set alight.
The fire ignited at Samsung SDI's factory in Tianjin, China, earlier today. It has since been extinguished without any significant impact on the building's operations. No casualties have been reported.
19 fire trucks and 110 firefighters from the Wuqing branch of the Tianjin Fire Department, China, were dispatched to the incident. Despite the large number of resources sent to the scene, the fire department described the fire as "minor."
A Samsung SDI spokesman told Reuters that the fire was contained to an on-site waste facility rather than the production line. In a post on its blog, the fire department claimed material from lithium batteries "inside the production workshops and some half-finished products" ignited. The cause is not clear.
The Tianjin factory was one of two suppliers responsible for building the defective batteries inside Samsung's recalled Galaxy Note 7. In an investigation published last month, the company said two distinct manufacturing problems allowed the negative and positive terminals of the batteries to touch, causing a short circuit.
In the original handsets, the battery was slightly too large for its casing, forcing the negative electrode to be pinched inwards at the top of the phone. Samsung made further errors in the construction of the replacement phones. Welding burrs on the positive electrode penetrated the battery's insulating tape, causing direct contact between the two electrodes.
The recall led to Samsung losing $5.3 billion in operating profit during the last quarter. The vast majority of Note 7 handsets have now been returned to the company, although some devices remain unaccounted for. Samsung has issued software updates that limit the phone's functionality, pressuring customers to participate in the recall.
Although today's factory incident is unrelated to the Note 7, the irony hasn't been lost on many Samsung customers. It comes as the company prepares to launch its Galaxy S8 flagship, again set to use batteries manufactured by Samsung SDI in Tianjin.
In the wake of the Note 7 recall, Samsung has implemented a series of new battery safety measures to prevent similar issues occurring again. Rigorous protocols and standards have been brought in to address shortcomings in the design process.
The company has also announced an 8-point battery safety check that monitors batteries for a wide variety of manufacturing defects. It allows unsafe units to be isolated before reaching customers. The checks include visual inspections, puncture tests and extreme temperature variations.
Samsung SDI has invested around $130 million in improving safety. The company is an affiliate of Samsung, producing batteries for several electronics firms. It owns five factories in China which it uses to assemble products. Tianjin is a major plant focused on smartphone-sized batteries.
More about Samsung, galaxy note 7, Batteries, Fire, Smartphones
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