B&K Precision Battery Analyzer, BA6010 Series - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: B&K Precision Battery Analyzer, BA6010 Series

Author: dougw

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Test Equipment

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: I am not aware of comparable instruments - maybe a Hioki 3561 comes close.

What were the biggest problems encountered?: The manual does not explain very well how to use each of the features.

Detailed Review:

When I applied for this road test I was interested in exploring what this instrument could tell me about batteries. I have been spending significant effort to test battery performance, which is very different from measuring other components.

Battery analysis is different from many component measurements because batteries are always changing, and their capacity cannot be determined without completely depleting their energy, which either kills the battery or ages it. You could characterize a type of battery by measuring a sacrificial sample and assume others from the same batch are similar, but to analyze a specific battery without depleting it, it is necessary to take some measurements and use these to predict performance, usually relative to a previously tested sample. These measurements need to not stress or deplete the battery. I am interested to see how this analyzer does it and how useful it is.

So far I have just unboxed the instrument and puttered around for a few minutes and already I am extremely impressed with the utility of this instrument, without even measuring a battery. I was very surprised at how many things this instrument does that I was not expecting. Calling it a battery analyzer is way underselling its potential.

Normally at the start of an instrument road test I would run through the list of features described in the manual, but I found the manual doesn't do a very good job of describing what each feature is and how to use it. This is compounded by my total lack of experience with this type of instrument. So this road test is going to be a journey of exploration. I hope to cover all the features as I discover them and get into some detail as I learn more.

I also want to publish updates as I go so interested members get the information as soon as possible. This first installment is an unboxiing and brief discussion of the company followed by a quick teaser of features that surprised and delighted me.

Unboxing

 

Some very Useful Features we need almost every day...

I have always wanted an R-L-C meter, but I had no idea this instrument would do all of these measurements and more, and it uses a full 4-wire probe to perform it measurements. And it is absolutely easy to use with a great set of test leads.

All components exhibit multiple parasitic qualities which are not always apparent and often not specified. This instrument does a great job of measuring things like the parasitic inductance of a wire-wound resistor (while measuring its resistance) or the parasitic resistance of an inductor (while measuring its inductance).

 

I'm really having fun testing a bunch of random components around my lab - here are a couple more:

The online calculator I used to calculate the PCB inductance is here.

If you are adding a capacitor to tune this PCB antenna to the optimal frequency for power coupling, it is useful to know the actual inductance so the optimal capacitor can be calculated.

 

I couldn't resist trying a couple of other items...

 

I even tried it on a power supply...

These tests demonstrate a few applications that hint at just how versatile this instrument is, and I haven't even started testing batteries yet.

 

Of course I have to start testing some batteries to see what they look like to this instrument...

 

We test performance of these big batteries over a wide temperature range because we have very demanding requirements for batteries in critical applications. They come with various battery chemistries - you can get NiMH, Lithium Ion and Alkaline. The Alkaline batteries lose capacity at cold temperatures - it seems the electrolyte tends to freeze which severely restricts mobility of the ions and they stop supplying current at a fraction of expected capacity. If you thaw them out though, they recover the missing capacity, so the cold only stops some of the charge from flowing, it doesn't deplete the battery. The NiMH batteries perform better at low temperatures but still have reduced capacity. The Lithium Ion batteries perform the best at low temperatures.

These batteries have various amount of smarts in them - some have capacity gauges, some have thermal shutdowns, some have SMBus interfaces,  etc. One of my associates took an NiMH battery apart to find out where the temperature sensor was located, because it was not tripping properly. This is what that particular battery looked like inside:

It was filled with AA sized cells probably producing 1.2V each. And yes the manufacturer had positioned the sensors in a location we did not like, but was happy to change their design.

In the video below I'm just running a quick test on a bunch of random batteries of various chemistries and various states of charge from various manufacturers.

The screen captures came out fine - here is an example:

BattLi-IonNiMHWHVRSoC
1 8315.1030.197442
28313.8820.194730
3830.001436.60
48315.6440.192823
523015.6420.129055
62300.0014360
720715.5590.194042
822515.1290.094273
922515.0980.092923
1022515.1090.093133
1120715.8080.158374
128314.4850.195532
1310812.6300.119154
1410812.8590.124904
1511813.1630.259415
1611813.0850.242074

This data shows that the BA6010 has enough resolution to easily distinguish which manufacturer (colour coded in the table) made each battery just by reading the resistance. The instrument can be set up to automatically categorize each battery into a bin and I will try to show how later in the road test.

I had indicated I would try some lead-acid gel cells and this is what happened:

The cells were about 7 years old and had not been charged during that time, so they were not working. If you want to store batteries, there are limits to how long they will last and they still need to be maintained during storage. The analyzer did show open circuit - pretty tough to get charge to flow into an open circuit to charge them up.

 

Battery testing can be tedious but this fun video of a lemon battery being tested by the BA6010 shows that you can use the analyzer to figure out how to improve your home-made batteries - by decreasing the resistance and increasing the ion flow.

 

Now to go back to the manual and see if I can learn a bit more about the features...

A couple of oddities in the manual I'm still sorting out....

On page 1 in the overview it indicates: USB, GPIB and Ethernet come standard. I don't see an Ethernet connector or any other reference to Ethernet.  Also the Handler connector doesn't seem to me to be a GPIB connector. There are other references to GPIB on pages 3 and 15. I will explore these issues more when I try to use the remote control interfaces.

 

Stay tuned for more installments in this road test...

 

Conclusions (This section will grow as I discover more about the instrument)

My initial impressions are:

Calling this instrument a battery analyzer does not do it justice. It is much more than just a battery analyzer - it is a very nice component tester that can measure or calculate multiple component parameters at the same time. It measures voltage, resistance, inductance, capacitance, quality factor, reactance, impedance and phase angle. These are a very useful set of measurement capabilities, which I wouldn't normally associate with the instrument name of battery analyzer. The data sheet and manual don't highlight these features very well either.

I like the Kelvin clips - they are a very slick way to implement a 4-wire measurement system, they work well ergonomically and the cables are robust but still very flexible. They allow complex measurements to be taken very simply with minimal cable clutter.

The display has nice big digits for important readings and the measurements are taken quickly.

The power up/boot time is lightning fast - instant on.

I'm finding the manual challenging - it isn't organized in such a way that I can easily learn how to use the instrument and all of its features, but exploring the instrument itself is lots of fun.

So far I like this instrument a lot - far more than I expected to like it and that is because it has far more useful features than I anticipated.

 

Relevant links:

BA6010 Road Test page on element14

B&K Precision BA6010 web page

BA6010 Manual

BA6010 Datasheet

BA6010 Programming Manual

Anonymous
  • Hehe that would be mine, the triangle is complete : ) if you don't mind sending a copy that would be great.

  • Thanks I grabbed the certificate and test report you posted - Its nice to have a soft copy...

  • Aha! That means I have your calibration certificate and test report - I've posted it in B&K BA6010 RoadTest in Depth – Ch2: Unboxing under the subheading An Issue with the Calibration Certificate?

     

    Now to see if that certificate/test report belongs to - if so, then between us three, we've managed to sort out the calibration certificates .

     

    - Gough

  • and the serial number on my instrument is 520L17104.

    The Certificate of Traceable Calibration and the Test Report are for serial number 520L17114.

    If you would like a copy, please let me know.

  • Just an update - as it turns out ended up with my certificate and has given me a copy.

     

    I wonder if you have 's certificate as it seems the one I have doesn't belong to him? Or whether you received the correct certificate, or whether the mix-up goes further than just our three units ...

     

    - Gough

  • I will check on the certificate.

  • Looking forward to the final parts of your review once completed - but rather entertaining and somewhat amusing to see you test random things just out of curiosity. The lemon was the icing on the cake.

     

    Just wanted to ask whether you've checked the supplied calibration certificate and the serial number of your unit. I received unit 520L17113 but I received the calibration certificate and test report for 520L17104. I wonder if your unit was shipped with the correct calibration certificate, or if you might have the calibration certificate/test report corresponding to another unit?

     

    - Gough

  • Good points, there are still lots of areas to cover. I will try to find some material on how battery chemistry and geometry affects readings and performance as well as thermal performance, although this analyzer doesn't load or charge batteries to test for thermal shutdown, etc.

    I'm still trying to get a feel for how differences in readings translates into differences in battery performance. This is difficult with these big batteries as it takes accurately measured charging and discharging cycles to characterize battery performance and these batteries take a long time to discharge. To test multiple batteries takes weeks of time. We have a nice big programmable load at work, but I'm not sure I can commandeer it for weeks for a private test program. And it can only do one battery at a time.

    Another to-do exploration I started is - I have downloaded about 124 MB of software to try out the automation aspects of the instrument, but haven't installed it on the computer in my video studio area yet.