Industrial workstation manufacturers have embraced hot swappable battery technology as a method of powering their mobile workstations. These swappable batteries are the main power source when the workstations are used in mobile mode. When a warehouse or Distribution Center (DC) employee uses his/her workstation for inventory management , he/she drops a hot swap battery into the receiver on the workstation and the workstation (and the affiliated IT devices – PC, display, barcode reader, printer, etc.) have access to AC and/or DC power throughout the shift.
Reasons for a hot swappable battery work flow are:
- Workstations are used 24/7 (so the workstation does not have enough downtime to recharge a depleted in-base battery).
- A warehouse or DC may not have AC power outlets near the work area to accommodate charging of workstations with in-base batteries (so the hot swappable batteries are charged in a centralized charger and then swapped in when the workstation is in proximity).
Components of a Swappable Battery System
There are more components to a hot-swap battery system than an in-base battery system. From a block diagram perspective, the system has at least three distinct components; the battery, the battery charger and the battery receiver/controller mounted on the workstation. The battery receiver/controller could include AC/DC power conversion, battery charging electronics, DC/AC power conversion, Internet of Things (IOT) processor, WiFi transceiver, a small reserve battery and electronics to drive a Remote User Interface (RUI) or Fuel Gauge. A fully integrated controller/receiver will have all these functions integrated, while a less integrated version may have some of this functionality in external accessories (such as battery charging electronics, DC/AC power conversion, or WiFi transceiver).
Hot-swapping a battery refers to the removal of a depleted battery and insertion of a charged battery without shutting down the workstation’s electronics and IT devices. This useful feature enables a mobile workstation to supply uninterrupted power, rather than docking a workstation for a battery recharge or shutting down the workstation’s electronics when the batteries are swapped. Hot-swapping can be achieved with two swappable batteries installed in the receiver/controller, or developing a single swappable battery system with a small reserve battery embedded in the receiver/controller. The alternative to hot-swapping is that power delivery is interrupted to the workstation and the user devices, which is disruptive to the operator’s workflow.
Integration with the Workstation
Other considerations for the design of a swappable battery system include human factors and ergonomics, such as the weight of the battery, the height of the mounting position of the battery on the workstation, the impact the battery has on the center of gravity of the workstation and where/how to display the state of charge.
If the hot swap battery system is used to power a industrial workstation, the industrial design can be optimized so the Ingress Protection (IP) rating should be high enough to ensure the interior components can be exposed to rain and condensation, and not penetrate the interior or erode the seals/contacts of the battery.
Most mobile industrial workstations have UL and/or CE approvals to ensure safe and non-intrusive operation of their product within a warehouse or DC environment. For the components of a hot swappable battery system, this typically dictates that the battery has the following regulatory approvals – UN 38.3 and IEC 62133. Additionally, the receiver/controller typically has UL 62368-1 (the new standard for audio/video, information and communication technology equipment safety requirements), as well as a CE mark for shipment into the EU.
Benefits of a Hot Swappable Battery System
Swappable battery systems enable the continuous operation of that workstation and eliminate any potential downtime for battery charging. Swappable battery systems have enabled innovative companies to offer “batteries-as-a-service” where the hot swappable battery becomes the delivery vessel for incremental purchases of power by the consumer.
Green Cubes offers standard swappable batteries to complement industrial workstations, such as the SWIB-1000 and SWIB-1300 batteries. The batteries can be complemented with custom receiver/controllers for the workstation, as well as stand-alone battery chargers.