Re-purpose Broken Power Banks

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Introduction: Re-purpose Broken Power Banks

About: I've always liked pulling things apart - it's the putting back together again that I have some issues with!

I hate throwing anything away - especially if it can be fixed (and hopefully improved!).

I have a few power banks that have kicked the bucket and instead of adding them to the great 'e-waste spirit in the sky', I decided to pull them apart and re-build them.

I've found that in most cases, it's not the battery that has failed but the electronics inside. I'm not too sure why this happens (prob built with cheap components), however by pulling out the circuit board and replacing it, you can usually revamp a power bank and give it a new lease on life.

To make it even more useful, I also added a voltage regulator module which allows me to power any of my circuit builds I am working on!

The build isn't a difficult one, although I probably make it more complex then necessary with the case I built. You could easily just find a project box and stick all of the components and battery into. However, I'm really happy with the overall finish of the build so hopefully you take the time (if you decided to do this project) to make a nice case for your build.

Supplies

PARTS:

Components

  1. Old power bank. If you just want to build this power bank yourself you could just buy a li-po battery here
  2. Power bank charging module - here
  3. Voltage regulator - step up/step down module - here. There are quite a few different varieties that you could use so if you are looking for something a bit more robust then try here
  4. 10K Potentiometer - here
  5. Voltage meter display - here
  6. Banana Plugs (male & female) while you are at it - you may as well get a couple of connectors like alligator clips
  7. SPDT Switch - here
  8. Momentary tactile switch - here
  9. Wire

Case

  1. Skirting board (hardwood). I used 20mm by 5mm but you can use whatever size you want
  2. Acrylic - here

Tools

  1. Dremel - comes in handy
  2. Superglue
  3. Spudger tools to open the power bank
  4. Soldering iron
  5. Files
  6. Wire cutters
  7. Sander
  8. Drill

Step 1: Pulling Your Power Bank Apart

At first glance, it might not look like your power bank can come apart - where the hell are the screws!! It can be a little tricky sometimes to find out how it has been put together but with a little perseverance you'll work it out.

STEPS:

  1. I had to remove the 2 front covers of the power bank to reveal a couple of small screws inside. To remove these I used a spudger tool
  2. Once the screws were un-done the battery and circuit board just slipped right out
  3. Remove the battery and circuit board from any plastic holder that may be in place so you are only left with the battery and circuit board

Step 2: Testing the Power Bank Charging Module (and Battery)

The next thing to do is to check and see if the battery is ok by connecting the charging module

STEPS:

  1. The first thing to do is to remove the circuit board from the battery. Mine was spot welded to the battery so I used a pair of wire cutters to cut through the tabs. Be careful when you do this though - my battery was fully charged (def a problem with the circuit board) and I accidently touched the 2 tabs with the pliers and nearly melted one of them!
  2. Make sure you mark which tab on the battery is ground and which is positive.
  3. Add some solder to each of the tabs and to the solder points on the charging module and connect them together with some wires
  4. To activate the charging module, you need to push a small tactile button on the side of the module. If nothing happens it could either be because the battery is flat or the module needs a re-boot. you can re-boot it simply by plugging in a micro USB to the front of it and connecting to mains power.
  5. Try the button again. You should now get a % reading that shows you how much power is inside the battery.
  6. Leave it to charge fully to 100%

Step 3: Planning Out Where All the Components Will Go

Now its time to work out how to layout the components.

STEPS:

  1. Start to place each of the components around or on the battery. You want to make it as compact as possible whilst also practical.
  2. There is a good chance that the layout will change (mine did) but it will give you a good place to start working out how big to make the case
  3. Once you have a layout you like - it's then time to make the case

Step 4: Making the Case

I went with some hardwood edging for the case. it's relatively cheap, cut to size and easy to work with

STEPS:

  1. Measure each of the sides of the layout so you can get a rough outline of what lengths to cut the wood at
  2. Cut each of the sides and place around the layout to make sure it fits ok
  3. If you are happy with the size, it's then time to glue the case together. I used superglue to stick the wood together. You will add a base in the next step and this will help make the case strong.
  4. Once the case has been glued, place it again over the layout to make sure you are happy with the size

Step 5: Making the Base & Top of the Power Bank

For the top and bottom of the case I used some acrylic that I had lying around the workshop. I'm actually quick chuffed on how it turned out!

STEPS:

  1. Mark out and cut the pieces of acrylic to size. you can see that I used a red and white piece - that's because it's what I had spare!
  2. Superglue the bottom section onto the case. for the top section, add a couple dots of superglue and glue it also onto the case. you will need to take it off later so go gentle on the glue
  3. Now it is time to sand the sides and make them flush. I used a belt sander which made the job easy. just keep on sanding until the acrylic is flush with the sides of the case
  4. Lastly, pop off the top with a small screwdriver

Step 6: Making the Cutout for the Voltage Indicator Display & Output/inputs

Now it's time to do some measurements and make some cuts into the case and top.

STEPS:

Let's start with the voltage indicator

  1. Firstly, find the centre of the acrylic top and mark
  2. Take measurements of the voltage indicator along with how far the indicator is away from the input/outputs on the module. the input/output USB's will need to slightly stick out of the case to enable you to use them
  3. Once you have the measurements, mark on the acrylic and check them again to make sure they are right
  4. I used a dremel to make the cutout but you could also do it with a drill and files as well
  5. Check to see if the voltage indicator fits. make small adjustments where necessary until the display fits into the space
  6. I didn't have to glue anything into place as it was a very tight fit. if yours is a little loose, then add some superglue around the indicator and stick into place

Next let's make the cutout on the case

  1. Place the top onto the case and make where the input/output touches the case
  2. The reason why you need to do this so you can access the output/input on the module once it has been secured inside the case
  3. Use a dremel or some files to remove the section marked on the case
  4. Test to make sure the module fits into the cutout section


  1. Now do the same thing for the voltage display for the voltage regulator
  2. Lastly, you need to add a tactile switch to the charging module. There is already one on it but you need to add one to the top of the case.
  3. Solder a couple wires to the legs of the switch
  4. Drill a couple small holes into the acrylic for the legs of the tactile switch to go into and thread the soldered wires through them
  5. Solder the other ends of the wires to the solder points on the tactile switch on the module. Add a little glue to the legs to hold them in place.
  6. Test to make sure it works and the voltage indicator display comes on

Step 7: Adding the Battery and Voltage Regulator to the Case

Time to secure the battery and add the voltage regulator

STEPS:

  1. You may of noticed that I put the voltage regulator up-side-down in the case. The reason was, the caps on the regulator stuck up above the height of the case so I had to come up with another way of adding it.
  2. You will need to first remove the trimmer potentiometer from the regulator and replace it with a 10K potentiometer. I don't have any photos of this as I had already done it a while ago. You could also prob just buy a regulator with a pot already attached if you look around.
  3. As the regulator is up-side-down, I decided to solder all the wires to the board along with the on/off swtich. A wiring diagram can be found on the next step.
  4. Drill a hole into the side of the case for the potentiometer. As the wood is slightly too thick to add the pot nut, I had to add a little superglue to the pot and glue it onto the wood. Not ideal as adding glue to pots and switches can cause them to be damaged. However, if you use a small amount you'll be fine
  5. Next, attach the toggle switch to the case

Step 8: Wiring & Testing

I've included a wiring diagram to help make it clear

STEPS:

  1. Follow the wiring diagram attached and connect the battery up to the voltage indicator and regulator modules
  2. Don't forget to connect the output of the regulator to the voltage meter and also the banana plugs
  3. Before you close up the top section with superglue (I couldn't add screws because the wood for the case is too thin and there isn't enough material to add screws), test everything to make sure it works. This includes testing charging through the module and also connecting up a phone to make sure it is charging
  4. If everything works, then you are ready to close up the top. Add some superglue long the top section of the case and carefully place the top onto the case, making sure everything is aligned.

That's it! you have successfully re-used and re-built your power bank to be even more useful than before!

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    21 Comments

    0
    Anjin Meili
    Anjin Meili

    3 months ago

    Might mention that lipo pouch cells are very easy to damage. Any nick that breaks the vacuum of that pouch will lead to the faint sweet smell of electrolyte and perhaps some fun times with fire. Stacking things with pokey bits right on the cells is another way that many folks have learned lead to more bad things.

    In fact, many RC folks put them in steel boxes, or fireproof bags. And the warnings are pretty strong from the manufacturers.

    As well, one should never drop the battery controller out of a circuit. Power the Buck/Boost from the controller, not directly off the cell. Because abuse can cause bad things, those boards have lots of protection. But that XL6009 has nada, and it can draw 4 amps at peak.

    Now don't get me wrong, I applaud the recycling, as well the getting to understand it, and making useful things at the end. However, I feel this particular project needs disclaimers, and.. one should invest in some battery management gadgets to insure those cells really are good.

    That can be as simple as a USB power meter and load cell.. Some of those are pretty crazy and spiffy. Or buy a BMS, better battery protection cells, or any number of charging and testing kit from the RC community. One could of course build a pretty nice one with an Arduino and a handful of parts.

    Cheers
    Anjin

    0
    Electricalwhizz
    Electricalwhizz

    4 months ago

    It is worth mentioning to appreciate your efforts. Your article can become more attractive if you also make circuit diagrams on any simulation software like MULTISIM or any other.

    0
    lonesoulsurfer
    lonesoulsurfer

    Reply 4 months ago

    Howdy. If there is a schematic needed, then I usually supply this in Eagle. As this project uses a lot of modules, it's easier to just create a diagram using images

    0
    JohnW51
    JohnW51

    4 months ago on Step 8

    FINALLY a project that doesn't require a 3D printer! Good job. This is a very handy small power supply that would find a lot of uses around an engineering lab or a home hobby lab.

    0
    NirL
    NirL

    Reply 4 months ago

    Sorry for jump in but I just wanted to say that many of the 3D printed projects don't really require a 3D printer! I bought a printer last year (you should too, if you can!) - it's a really nice tool and it saves a ton of time / work / headache, but more often than not, you don't really need it :) It's a nice short-cut, but that's all! I think you shouldn't skip over projects that include 3D printed parts because sometimes they would have really good ideas and you can find your way around the 3D printing :)
    Anyways that's just my opinion

    0
    charlessenf-gm
    charlessenf-gm

    Reply 4 months ago

    " you shouldn't skip over projects that include 3D printed parts"
    Nah, o course not. But when you come across a project that was crafted by hand . . . well you've got to stand and applaud.

    0
    JohnW51
    JohnW51

    Reply 4 months ago

    I've had a couple projects that needed 3D printed parts. I found a few local people that will print parts for a small fee. I found that very useful. I got the parts I needed without buying a printer. It's not so much the price of the printer as it is a place to keep it. All of the storage spaces in my house and garage are full and overflowing. Admittedly, I need to get rid of some stuff, but it is mostly in the attic where I would not want to store something like a 3D printer.

    0
    charlessenf-gm
    charlessenf-gm

    Reply 4 months ago

    "without buying a printer."
    Buying a printer is but a few click operation.
    Then you've got to learn how to use it!
    Using CAD software - a learning curve in itself.
    Expending expendables practicing.
    Discovering you shoulda got the other one.
    Great if one is in school and they have a lab!
    And a class or two full of other students learning how to use it.
    But, regardless, the purchase is the easiest bit.

    0
    lonesoulsurfer
    lonesoulsurfer

    Reply 4 months ago

    Cheers! I know that no everyone has access to 3D printers and like to use off-the-shelf parts (or even old vintage cases from other thrown away electronics) to build most of my cases. However, I'm still keen to get my hands on a 3D printer - especially for printing mounts, part holders etc.

    0
    charlessenf-gm
    charlessenf-gm

    Reply 4 months ago

    I second that (3d) sentiment!

    0
    ka5hop33
    ka5hop33

    4 months ago on Step 8

    I have torn apart a few power banks to get the batteries for other projects and you are right usually the electronics go bad not the battery. The tabs look like they are welded to the board but that is not always so. Usually the tabs are spot welded to a small piece of metal that is soldered to the board. A little heat on the board end of the tab an they will come loose. Safer than trying to cut them as you found out.

    0
    lonesoulsurfer
    lonesoulsurfer

    Reply 4 months ago

    most def! I've also come across some with soldered wires which does make the job a little easier.

    0
    woofman
    woofman

    4 months ago

    Thanks for showing us the warts and all with your instruction video. Saves me time and mistakes!

    0
    NirL
    NirL

    4 months ago

    supergluing the top part requires so much confidence, well done!! :)

    0
    lonesoulsurfer
    lonesoulsurfer

    Reply 4 months ago

    haha. I was a little nervous when doing it - only get one chance!

    0
    lonesoulsurfer
    lonesoulsurfer

    Reply 4 months ago

    awesome - thanks for the tip!

    0
    charlessenf-gm
    charlessenf-gm

    4 months ago

    SPUDGER TOOL !!!
    Better pictures on AMAZON!
    Also a kit on offer "iFixit Prying and Opening Tool Assortment - Electronics, Phone, Laptop, Tablet Repair" for Ten (10$) USD
    Dental picks might also prove useful.

    PS Interesting project. Recycling electronic components is a good thing!
    Now, please present an Instructable on recycling Harbor Freight Tools Solar Motion Lights! I've got a boxful!