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Philips Recalls Almost 12,000 Flat Panel TVs 173

wh0pper writes "Arcing capacitors have caused Philips to recall select Ambilight flat panel (read plasma) TVs. Because the TVs make use of flame retardant materials, damage was only sustained to the TVs and not homes. This is the first time I've heard of TVs having this type of issue. How safe are LCD and DLP TVs from this type of thing?"
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Philips Recalls Almost 12,000 Flat Panel TVs

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  • Plasma?!?! (Score:5, Funny)

    by brohan ( 773443 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:02AM (#14939292) Homepage
    The plasma's leaking all over Engineering Seal off engineering with a level 10 forcefeild and jettison the warp core^W^W TV.
  • CRT (Score:5, Funny)

    by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:02AM (#14939294) Journal
    Ever see a CRT go up? A nice big flash followed by some of the worst stench outside of a Linux convention ;)

    Seriously, I think the hazard from the toxic chemicals is worse than the danger of something catching on fire.
    • Re:CRT (Score:5, Funny)

      by voice_of_all_reason ( 926702 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:04AM (#14939306)
      The tingle just means it's working!
    • Re:CRT (Score:3, Funny)

      I'd just like to say that the "Linux convention smell" is obviously directed at all the Microsoft employees who sneak in to see what they are up against. In no way was I refering to our Open Source Overlords' bathing patterns.

      (bye bye karma)
    • Re:CRT (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by pryoplasm ( 809342 )
      yeah, though you have to go in and break off the nipple first before disposal of a CRT, if you want to do it the legit way and what not...
    • Wells Gardner (a major player in the arcare monitor business) had to recall several thousand of their units for a similar problem. It turns out that the high-grade capacitors the engineer spec'd for were substituted for cheap parts by a contractor.

      Result: 2-inch arcs from the flyback transformer to the capacitor. I have several of the carcasses under my bench, some have holes the size of golf balls burned through the boards.
    • Re:CRT (Score:2, Informative)

      by bodester17 ( 892112 )
      Actaully arcing capacitors just mean that there is a design flaw in the capacitor, not the TV itself. This has nothing to do with the type of TV it is. All electronic devices have capacitors. An arcing capcitor just means that the insulating material inside the capacitor does not have a high enough insulation constant to prevent the amount of voltage in the capacitor from sparking. Either phillips overloaded the capacitors or the manufactorer of the capacitors did not spec them correctly.
  • "Because the TVs make use of flame retardent materials,"
    RoHS does not allow for this. Arching capacitors can be just a smoke screen.
    • In this model however, the "flame retardant" is just a water filled baloon stuck above the power supply. Excessive heat triggers the water release. Perfectly environment friendly.
    • Re:fire retardant (Score:4, Informative)

      by caesar-auf-nihil ( 513828 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @01:46PM (#14943049)
      Actually, RoHS does allow for some flame retardants deemed safe under those use guidelines. While not knowing exactly what Philips uses for its plastic, since I am a fire safety researcher, I'm betting that they used a polycarbonate + RoHS allowed flame retardant system, or something similar.
      Not all flame retardants are banned under RoHS. Many are eliminated under a related code (waste electronic and electical enclosures or WEEE) but not all are banned.

    • Does that necessarily mean "impregnated with a flame-retarding chemical"? Concrete is a good flame-retardant material, but I doubt it's banned by RoHS. (yes, IAAEE, but RoHS hasn't hit our 5-prototypes-a-year lab yet)
  • The fourth state of matter you get from Super-heating gas? Clouds of highly charged particles and that? Wouldn't you kind of expect that to be dangerous?
    • by theurge14 ( 820596 ) * on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:30AM (#14939437)
      No, it's something you donate by sticking needles in your arm.
      • No... (Score:3, Funny)

        by Kittie Rose ( 960365 )
        Someone's been watching too many 90s Spider-man cartoons with Michael Morbius in them. Plasma is something found in blood, but it's also a kind of high energy gas.
    • Re:Isn't Plasma... (Score:5, Informative)

      by tector ( 959062 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:36AM (#14939464)
      Plasma TV methodogy basics.

      A Plasma tv has two plates of glass that sandwich panels of cells (the pixels) that house 3 sub-pixels corresponding to the colours blue red and green.

      The TV's control circuit can address any of the sub-pixels through the rear glass substrate mounted circuit and pass an electrical charge through neon and xenon gas and as a result, the gas state changes to plasma and ultraviolet light is emitted.

      This UV light is absorbed by the blue, red and green phosphors in the cell, and re-radiate the energy in the visible spectrum.

      It's fairly old technology, dating back to the '60s.

      Isn't science fun?

    • The fourth state of matter you get from Super-heating gas? Clouds of highly charged particles and that?
      Sounds like a really ripe fart.
      Wouldn't you kind of expect that to be dangerous?
      Only if you try to light [] it.
    • Not really. Neon signs? Plasma. Ordinairy fire? Plasma.

      Basically any self-illuminating gas is in the plasma state.
  • Turnips... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Spactonic ( 683577 )
    LCD and DLP rear projection TVs use entirely different technology, you muppet. if you want to be a techie, know WTF you are talking about.
    • They're not entirely different. They all have power cords so they all have an associated fire risk. Something else they have in common is that they are usually mounted to a wall where a small fire could turn into a big one.

      • I have never seen a DLP mounted to a wall...I guess it would be possible since my 46 inch Samsung only weighs about 75 lbs, but there is no wasy way to do it unless you buy a huge wall bracket or something. So there's one less thing they "all have in common". Yes, the power cord is a fire risk I suppose...
    • He didn't say they were, he asked. That sounds less like him trying to be a techie, and more like he's trying to learn. Learning should always be encouraged.

      To answer the OP, much "safer", but only if you plan on jamming metal implements into your TV. Plasma TVs make use of highly charged gases (neon and xenon, my favorine noble gases), which means you need to generate that charge in the TV set. CRTs also use high voltage, but LCDs can run on just a few volts of power with little current (I.E. a slow tric

  • by heli0 ( 659560 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:08AM (#14939333)
    "This is the first time I've heard of TVs having this type of issue. How safe are LCD and DLP TVs from this type of thing?"

    The source of the problem are fluorescent lights that Philips built into these sets to illuminate the wall behind the display. There is a fix: turn the bulbs off. puters/philips-plasma-tvs-recalled-306.htm []

    "The recall includes sets with "Ambilight," or ambient light technology that projects a soft glow onto the wall behind the set, to create atmosphere and an enhanced viewing experience, according to the company. If owners turn off the Ambilight feature, the hazard is eliminated."
    • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:53AM (#14939530) Journal
      You know why the Ambilight feature is cool don't you?

      It helps reduce eye strain when you watch tv/movies with the lights off.

      Even neater is that it provides different colors based on what's being displayed.

      I was really hoping the idea would take off & quickyl trickle down to cheaper TVs. Looks like they're going to have to reengineer their solution :o(
    • by tech10171968 ( 955149 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @02:23AM (#14939895)
      I'm surprised this has just *now* made the news, because my electronics repair shop received the bulletin a few months ago (we're a Phillips-authorized electronics repair facility). There's also another issue not many people know about: it seems that when Ambilight is engaged the unit will sometimes shut down intermittently. My shop's been swamped with fixing these Phillips recalls lately, but fortunately none of our customers have experienced "Phillips flameout" as of yet.
      • This is off-topic (although I'd be glad to throw in a rant about "capacitor disease"), but do you guys have access to Daewoo VCR parts? I need a source for a particular gear that got chewed up due to a design flaw and they won't sell to individuals. No Daewoo authorized shops around here either. You can email me your shop phone number at if you can help.
    • "to create atmosphere and an enhanced viewing experience"

      Well, that's what you get for watching Backdraft on this thing.
  • by Alien Being ( 18488 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:09AM (#14939335)
    images so realistic you won't be sure your wall's not on fire.
  • Not a plasma issue (Score:5, Informative)

    by stephenisu ( 580105 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:09AM (#14939339)
    How safe are LCD and DLP TVs from this type of thing?

    RTFA, the fires were caused by an arcing capacitor used in the ambilight system. The ambilight system has nothing to do with the plama technology, its just a rear lighting system projected on your back wall to help prevent the weird feeling you get from watching a large image (that and a marketing gimmick). This is more fire cause by a faulty ballast or capacator in a flourecent lighting system in your ceiling.

  • When ever there is a product recall, will it make fron page at Slashdot?
    • When ever there is a product recall, will it make fron page at Slashdot?
      News for nerds. Stuff that matters? Im not sure about you but something that may set fire to my house may be something that might matters to someone.
  • HDTV (Score:5, Funny)

    by Taimat ( 944976 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:10AM (#14939343)
    "WOW Dad.. you were right about HDTV - Those flames in Ladder49 look real!"
  • by Anonymous Coward
    China still uses the capacitor formula that they "aquired" from a japanense firm. Of course, the firm detected the theft and allowed the spy access to an old formula from the 60's. Sadly, the formula fails after about 2 years. Hence the reason why so many motherboards fail after just 2 years (capacitor leaks and arcs).
  • Yeah, no other type of TV uses caps.
  • Oh, hell... (Score:5, Funny)

    by k4_pacific ( 736911 ) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (cificap_4k)> on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:49AM (#14939512) Homepage Journal
    What is it with people these days, back in my day, I had a 21" black and white console Zenith TV that caught fire once. Yup, one of the wax capacitors arced over and up she went. I blasted it with a dry chemical extenguisher and replaced the bad capacitor with some rolled up wax paper and alumninum foil and she still worked!! Hell, I'd still be using it if Rexall still carried vacuum tubes. The 6U8A that drives the sound went out, and I don't have a glass blowing kit to make a new one. Product safety, hummmpphhh!! Damn yuppies.
    • "The 6U8A that drives the sound went out, and I don't have a glass blowing kit to make a new one."

      You can make a new electrolytic out of Cut-Rite and Reynolds Wrap but you couldn't use the old tube base, stick in a dropping resistor for the filament string and an FET and some resistors for the triode? :-)

  • by rlp ( 11898 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @12:59AM (#14939559)
    At least it's not one of those hazardous TV's with three guns that shoot beta particles at you!!
  • Caps go sometimes. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dbc ( 135354 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @01:07AM (#14939589)
    Well, sometimes caps go.

    A few years back, one of the big-two makers of the electrolytic paste put out bad goop for several months. This paste found its way to several manufacturers of high quality capacitors. These caps found their way into PC mobo's, and there was a spate of in-the-field capacitor failures in certain motherboards. Some name-brand makers of high quality mother boards got bit by that one. (My then-employer included.) No flames, though. These caps were being operated entirely within spec, but were fabricated with out-of-spec paste.

    Caps that are pushed beyond their ratings will go. Sometimes, their are transient voltages the designer didn't account for that cause caps to be operating beyond their rating.

    I remember oh... about 25 years ago when the TI "Silent 700" thermal printing terminal with built-in acoustic modem was the Bee's Knees. No shit, we all coveted those babies. Way better than an ASR33. Anyway, I was working in the cube next door to one guy that was cranking away on a Silent 700. For some odd reason, it was a period of dead silence among the 16 code monkeys in that area. There was a loud *BANG* and then a "Woah" from the user when a fairly large 'lytic released it's magic smoke(*). A rather spectacular amount of smoke, as I recall, since it was a large cap. A memorable occasion.

    About 20 years ago at a startup company, we had just gotten the first prototype PC boards for the first product. The boards were the first of the design, using a brand new CAD system tool flow. The entire company (all 16 people) gathered in the lab for the power-on ceremony. Anyway, with the whole company watching, the VP of Eng flips the big red switch, and -- *BANG* -- along with lots of smoke. Now, the engineers were in their glory, fanning the smoke away with notepads and laughing like drunken sailors. The newly hired VP of Finance turned white as a sheet. The Pres. got a frozen smile on his face and mumbled something encouraging. He told me later he was thinking about how much money he could get for the furniture at liquidation. Turns out, with several brand new untried cad tools in the tool flow, the silk screen for one type of electrolytic had the polarity backwards, and so those caps had been stuffed backwards. A trival, but spectacular bug.

    And then, in college, after a couple of brews my roomie and I decided to strip out the electrolytic caps from a worthless transistor radio, plug them into the end of an extension cord, and lower them out the window to the room blow, plug in the extension cord, and let them go *BANG* outside the window of the room below. Yes, sometimes caps go.

    (*) The magic smoke theory of electronics: All components run on factory inserted magic smoke. This is easy to prove, as sometimes you will see a component rupture and release its magic smoke. It never works again after that. Therefore, all electronic components require magic smoke in order to operate.
    • I'm pretty sure I had one of those motherboards with the bad caps. The top end of some of the caps sort of split open a bit, and goop oozed out, hardening over the split. It worked fine for years, until one day I went into lab and one of my coworkers told me there was a horrible burning smell when he got there that morning. That particular computer had died, and when I opened it up, I found that the mobo had indeed caught fire for a brief moment.

      Back in undergraduate circuits lab, we had to build the pow
    • And then, in college, after a couple of brews my roomie and I decided to strip out the electrolytic caps from a worthless transistor radio, plug them into the end of an extension cord, and lower them out the window to the room blow, plug in the extension cord, and let them go *BANG* outside the window of the room below.

      Sounds like a fun prank, When I was a kid I took a large cap out of something and wired it up to my model railroad transformer; I counted the seconds ("one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand

      • You can often fix those bad motherboards; I desoldered the bad cap and soldered in a good replacement on a co-worker's Abit PIII motherboard, and he says it's worked fine since.

        That works if the cap went open. If the cap shorted, then it's destroyed other components in the process.

        Personally, I returned my motherboard to MSI (about 4 years outside of warranty) and they replaced it with a much newer, much more expensive model, which I'm using right now...
      • Yeah, you can replace them... But I had about 15 bad caps on mine. Cost of parts + labor (and my times worth too much). It was not worth it. A cheap motherboard from a local shop and It was back up and running.
      • You can often fix those bad motherboards; I desoldered the bad cap and soldered in a good replacement on a co-worker's Abit PIII motherboard, and he says it's worked fine since

        I've done that a number of times as well. Note that most MOBO's use lead-free solder which requires a bit hotter temp than regular lead solder and also tend suck heat away from the soldering point pretty quick. This can make it tedious to get capacitors out. Use a high-wattage iron (45 to 90W works pretty well) or pick up one of th
    • You're probably referring to this [];
    • That reminds me of our old Data General Nova 2, which was still running in the late 1980's. We were always replacing components, including the whopping 8K of magnetic core (that ran a few grand).

      Anyway, one day the tech was over working on it with me late at night. He sealed it up and plugged it in, then hit the power switch. There was a high pitched whine that increased in pitch and volume, and then BANG!, and we were choking on the magic smoke. The cap had blown - and it was huge, easily as big as a

    • a formula was stolen, and improperly formulated, by one of the big two. []
      Cause of the failing capacitors
      The primary cause of these problems is industrial espionage gone wrong, with some Taiwanese electrolyte manufacturers using a stolen formula that was incomplete, and lacked ingredients needed to produce a stable capacitor.

    • I believe you're referring to the recent theft of technologies for tantalum bypass capacitors: unfortunately, the technology thief didn't get all the details of the technology, and the result was a lot of failure-prone motherboards coming out of Taiwan and failing after less than a year in the field. Dell, in particular, had a problem with them but was very good about replacing the motherboards at the first sign of trouble. They got some good support reviews for dealing so well with something clearly not th
    • >These caps found their way into PC mobo's, and there was a spate of in-the-field capacitor failures
      >in certain motherboards.

      That's funny, because it's exactly what happened here just last week. All the caps on a Dell motherboard blew out, and the tech that came in to fix it told me it was a known issue with that particular batch of mobo's.

    • by smoker2 ( 750216 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @02:25PM (#14943438) Homepage Journal
      I used to work for a company called AVX (part of the Kyocera group) where we made tantalum caps. When some of those went wrong, they were quite nasty.

      I remember seeing a Motorola phone that had some of our caps in and when they went, they made a nice black sqishy mess out of the phones back casing.

      Another thing about burning tantalum caps, the only thing that will put them out is salt. The manufacturing process is pretty involved with each cap taking about 1 to 2 weeks to go through all the processes. The chemicals were pretty shitty too. Phosphoric acid, glycolic acid, acetic acid, manganese and many other horrible mixtures. I remember one day I was working on the manganese section (Black dip) where the anodes were dipped into the manganese solution up to the shoulder, then blotted to remove excess fluid. After that, they went into an oven with a water bath for an hour. The dozy QA came walking round and was opening each oven door in turn and big clouds of green (highly toxic) smoke was pouring from the ovens. Apparently she was "checking that I had put water in the baths" ! I think she ended up in management...

      I'm glad I got away from that place.

  • by SEWilco ( 27983 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @01:14AM (#14939623) Journal
    It has been determined the real problem is that there is nothing on.
  • by SaidinUnleashed ( 797936 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @01:55AM (#14939801)
    I don't think that term is politically correct.

    Shouldn't it be "ignition challenged" material?
  • LCD panels: Backlight runs off of a high voltage supply to power the cold cathode tube, relying on capacitance based power supplies, depending on the company making it, and how cheap the components are, can burst into flames.

    Plasma: See above.

    DLP: See above.

    Television: Different tech, yes, but still see above.

    The quality of your product is based on the quality of the products put into it. If they're sub par, don't be surprised if it doesn't melt into a pile of plastic and glass.
  • I hear some people complaning that their ambilight emits a buzzing sound after some time after getting the TV, could that be part of the same problem?
  • bad caps?! (Score:3, Informative)

    by bjoeg ( 629707 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @06:16AM (#14940491)
    How safe are LCD and DLP TVs from this type of thing?

    If I read the article correct, the products are just as safe as any other product. Caps arcing has been seend for ages and is a "common" problem. Here at work, we got old computers dieing every month due to caps.

    Just check out []
  • How many times have I been around when an electronic device has failed catastrophically (loud noise and smoke?) That is, when the failure has occurred for some reason other than something I was doing? Twenty? Fifty?

    In none of these events did anything nearby catch fire. Fire extinguisher not needed, nothing required of me but the mourning of the dead device.

    That creates the illusion that these are riskless non-events. But that's always the with risks. One of the reason why accidents happen: we start to igno
  • IT crowd (Score:5, Funny)

    by Graemee ( 524726 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @07:47AM (#14940699)
    Dear Sir stroke Madam.

    Fire, exclamation mark. Fire, exclamation mark. Help me, exclamation mark.
    123 Carlignton Road. Looking forward to hearing from you.

    All the best, Maurice Moss.
  • by tbone1 ( 309237 ) on Friday March 17, 2006 @07:55AM (#14940711) Homepage
    Having this come out during the opening weekend of the NCAA basketball tournament is not a way to endear your brand most Americans. You should try during an event that no one in this country cares about, like The Stanley Cup Finals or The World Series.

  • How safe are LCD and DLP TVs from this type of thing?"

    I suspect about as safe as any good design that is built with crap parts. Same as many of us who got Mexican Palm Pilots that bled the batteries in three or four days? Maybe capacitors are difficult to successfully cheapify?

  • "damage was only sustained to the TVs..."

    That just makes my head hurt.
  • What a bunch of amateurs. When I first plugged in my lastest power supply design, the capacitor exploded.

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