I'm a long time reader, but today I'm a first time poster! I would like to introduce you to my start-up's first kickstarter campaign
. Our product, the "Batlab" fills a need in the hobbyist/small-professional markets for use in characterizing lithium ion cells (18650 form factor). The Batlab does a complete characterization of each individual cell (capacity, ESR, etc etc) and provides reports for the user to utilize in battery pack design. For anyone that uses these cells, or likes to recycle them from drill batteries, laptop batteries, and the like, in order to build an ebike/eV, this product will be useful for your projects. By characterizing each cell, one can determine which cells are worth saving and which ones should be recycled. Additionally, it will advise the user on the optimal cell configuration for battery pack construction. A single Batlab can characterize 4 cells at a time. However, we have designed it so that multiple Batlabs can be daisy-chained together to measure many cells at once. The video on the kickstarter page provides a good overview of the system.
Because our team (I'll introduce "us" down below) are big fans of hobby electronics, "tinkering", etc, we are proud to say we are mostly creating this product open-source. We will release the full schematic, BOM, and every bit of code used on the device (both the embedded firmware and the PC software). We plan to release all of our code on github for easy use. Pretty much the only thing we don't plan on releasing (for now at least) is the raw CAD files and gerbers. However, we want to encourage people to alter and develop the functionality to meet their specific needs (if necessary) and to facilitate hardware modification/repair. We also are creating a "developer's guide" which will provide information such as circuit theory-of-operation, code descriptions, etc to aide in the personal modification of our device.
About me and our team
Our team is made up of 5 recent graduates from the University of Kentucky in Lexington, KY. 4 of us majored in EE (with myself and one of my partners getting our MSEE degree), and 1 in ME (currently pursuing PhD in ME). We worked together in all of our classes and assembled our team for our start-up. We each bring a skillset to the team that we hope will help us be successful. My partner Joshua generally does all of the PCB design and DFM work, I handle embedded firmware, and my partner Alex handles PC software, Hayden manages scheduling, purchasing, and "sales", and Chris handles system integration, thermal design, and DFM work. All of us were heavily involved in the University of Kentucky Solar Car Team (we build and race solar powered race cars) during our years of study, with all of us holding technical leadership roles on the solar car team. During my tenure on the team, I served as both the Electrical Team Lead (managing all electrical aspects of the solar car) and overall Team Manager (managing all technical and non-technical aspects of the team operations). The UK solar car team is primarily student-managed with occasional faculty advising.
While working on the solar car team, we designed and built multiple custom lithium battery packs for racing, and a variety of custom electronics such as Battery Management Systems, Data Collection Systems, etc. I probably designed and built upwards of 20 different system boards during my experience on the team.
These are some good links for the UK Solar Car team if you're interested in seeing what it is about. I know I consulted this forum many times when looking for ideas, advice, and parts while on the team.
You can see multiple pictures and footage of the battery packs we designed and built on both our kickstarter page and at those links.
When we built these lithium battery packs, we would spend a lot of time characterizing cells for optimizing the pack design. The latest pack, for example, is comprised of 420 cells (35 modules in series, each module having 12 cells in parallel). We purchased roughly 650 cells, fully characterized each of the 650 cells (using circuitry designed for this task) and selected the best 420 cells and determined which cells to put in which modules. It was through this process we realized that a similar system can be used by other people. That's how we came to design this system.
I'd love to hear any feedback you have on our design or campaign. We are definitely a start-up (formally started over the summer) so a lot of this is new to us. We have the engineering experience to make a successful project technically, but are brand new to the sales/marketing side of things. Any technical or non-technical comments/concerns/questions would be greatly appreciated!