Lithium-ion Battery Woes Continue


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By Meredith Courtemanche, assistant editor

TOKYO A World Travel news release came into the Pennwell offices today, warning that both Korean Air and Australian Quantas Air have banned Dell and Apple laptops on flights unless the battery is kept away from the computer itself. While this might be difficult for business travelers married to their portable offices, it raises even more concerns for manufacturer reputation and marketability. Will Dell and Apple experience a consumer fallout because of the inconvenience of brand-specific laptop bans? What about the unreliable components that went into a certain segment of their products? Since the Dell recall was announced last month, ramifications have spread to affect more areas consumers, related corporations, and process-reliability and design checks.

After Dell's initial recall, other large manufacturers faced reliability questions with their lithium-ion batteries. Dell recalled laptops with Sony's lithium-ion battery cells due to assembly issues that could potentially lead to fires. To see SMT's coverage of the recall, click here. Apple subsequently announced a similar recall, due to the same risk.

Toshiba had indicated in August that they were not affected by similar safety concerns as those in the Dell battery recall. However, the company announced today that they would recall Sony battery cells for other reasons, joining other major computer suppliers in this seemingly increasing problem. Toshiba claims that the batteries in about 340,000 laptops were improperly made to hold a charge, and will lose all power. Toshiba states that the problem was solved by a third-party vendor, and no longer occurs with current production models. The affected models were manufactured between March and May of 2006. For model numbers and details on recall specifics, visit the company's battery exchange Website. For analysis from an industry and consumer point of view, check out SMT editor-in-chief Gail Flower's editorial in the October issue.

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