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Laptop Explodes at Japanese Conference 531

An anonymous reader writes "A laptop reported to be a Dell burst into flame and was caught on camera during a recent Japanese conference. Guess this laptop could be a poster child to prove that laptops really can cause sterility if they are on your lap."
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Laptop Explodes at Japanese Conference

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  • by IAstudent ( 919232 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @11:37AM (#15576112)
    I thought someome told Kusanagi to stop diving into random portables.
  • Temperature issues (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ThinkingInBinary ( 899485 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [yranibnignikniht]> on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @11:39AM (#15576134) Homepage

    Perhaps this will convince manufacturers to start thinking about the temperatures that their computers run at. Sure, they make sure that the processor and hard drive run below their rated maximum temperatures, but in a practical sense, they've been letting computers run too hot. My Asus M2400Ne runs pretty cool most of the time, but the hard drive and AC adapter (both the power brick and the plug) can get so hot that they burn you a little if you hold them for a few seconds. This is ridiculous. You can't build a product that reaches insane temperatures, and then stick a little label that says "Do not use with less than 3 feet of space next to eachvent" on it! Let's see some better cooling. Personally, I think a laptop with one big (4 to 6 inches), slowly rotating fan in the middle of the bottom, plus exhaust vents on the sides and back, would actually look nice, keep the laptop much cooler (no more "hot spots" on the keyboard), and run quietly. (You'd need rubber feet to hold it up enough, but most bottom vents need them.) This would probably also help with blocked vents, since it's much harder to block a huge circle-shaped vent in the middle of the case than a small square vent near the side, where the laptop is likely to rest on your leg.

  • by carlosponti ( 716259 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @11:56AM (#15576275) Journal
    the laptop probably had a li-polymer battery which i know for a fact will explode and catch fire if too hot or if improperly charged. I fly RC airplanes and the electric planes are coming with li-polymer and if you charge them wrong or apply too much heat they will explode and catch fire.
  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @11:56AM (#15576276) Journal
    In both pictures, you can see an open carafe of water (on the left).

    Maybe it ties into the explosion/fire.
  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @12:12PM (#15576426) Homepage Journal
    I responded to the Dell AC recall with their official website form. Two units. Never heard from them again.

    That made me certain that Dell incompetence would make my bricks explode.

    I replaced them at my own expense. And considered sneaking into a Dell office and swapping mine in for theirs.
  • by ThinkingInBinary ( 899485 ) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [yranibnignikniht]> on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @12:42PM (#15576647) Homepage
    It helps to have any CPU other than a Pentium 4.

    I have a Pentium M. The second Google result for "Asus M2400Ne" shows this. I would never buy a Pentium 4 laptop, for the same reason that I'm not buying a Conroe laptop, even if Merom comes out later. They are too hot, and are really absurd. (From what I've heard, they run at something like 50% CPU speed when unplugged, get ridiculously low battery life, circa 1-2 hours, and are full of fans and fan noise. I'm not saying any of this is true--it's just what I've heard.)

  • by LurkerXXX ( 667952 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @12:55PM (#15576741)
    That's why I went to a local electronics junk/surplus store and got a large aluminum plate with fins (a heatsink off of something huge) about the size of the base of my laptop, and place it between my lap and my laptop. It's relatively thin aluminum, so it's not too heavy, and it keeps my nuts from roasting.
  • Re:Laptops can't... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LinuxHam ( 52232 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @12:56PM (#15576752) Homepage Journal
    No matter how many laptops you buy, you won't be able to share your life, your lessons, your beliefs, or your ideas with a laptop.

    You obviously don't run an ALICE bot [] :) Its the closest thing to producing a digital "mini me", created after your own image. Learning from your lessons. Following your beliefs. Remembering your ideas forever.
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:16PM (#15576911) Homepage
    You think the D600 get's hot?

    When the D600 battery goes defective they can get insane hot to melt the case plastic a bit when left on the charger.

    Of the fleet of D600's we have here (190 laptops) I have replaced about 50% of the batteries and of them 25% damaged the laptop case. (laptops were rolled out last year this time.)

    I'm betting the laptop in the photos is a D600 with a bad battery that was left on the charger for a long time causing it to fail dramatically.

    My D800 and D400 both get insane hot but the D600 is the only one that scares me.
  • I call BS (Score:1, Interesting)

    by IceCreamGuy ( 904648 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:43PM (#15577129) Homepage
    While Dell machines may be notorious for their heat problems (think Inspiron 5100), I can't see any way this could possibly happen. If the battery explodes, that's one thing, but batteries explode from pressure when they get too hot, it's not like they actually combust(they can when they're drastically overcharged), wich is clearly the case in the picture. It looks like magnesium oxidizing! What in a laptop could possibly burn that bright? Plastic doesn't burn like that, PCB doesn't, and I can't imagine ICs do. And multiple explosions? I guess fromm the different cells in the battery, but once again, they don't explode like that from just overheating. Maybe I'm totally off the mark here but I call BS.
  • by DJStealth ( 103231 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:46PM (#15577152)
    One story like this costs the company a LOT more than the cost of a settlement or the cost of replacement of 1000 units.

    The questions I have are.. Has this story been verified and not staged? Maybe it was just someone who hates dell? What news conference did this happen at? Why's it so difficult to get a model #, or get another closer shot after the fire was put out?
  • Why the Dell hate? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by retro128 ( 318602 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @01:56PM (#15577257)
    Man, there's a lot of hate in here for Dell. Just curious, why? My GF and boss both have a Dell 700m and I've got to say those things are solid. Small, light, battery life of 3+ hours. Light years better than Vaios, IMHO. I've experienced few problems with their desktop systems as well.

    As far as the exploding laptop, is it really the manufacturer's fault? This question would apply regardless of who it is. It would seem to me that if it were a manufacturing defect in the laptop, say in the charging circuitry, those models would be exploding left and right. It was very likely that the battery pack on that thing was made by a third party and sold for half the price of an OEM pack.

    That's not to say that OEM battery packs can't blow up. The battery cells are procured from outside manufacturers. Of course, laptop manufacturers will (hopefully) only buy batteries made by reputable firms, but right now there's big business in counterfeit batteries over in China. I remember awhile back Kyocera had phones coming with counterfeit batteries that were exploding in peoples' pockets and hands, inflicting some serious injuries. [] The thing is, don't just eye Dells with suspicison - I imagine it's possible for any manufacturer to get a bad batch of batteries if they're not careful, but I imagine that's rare and they are, indeed, careful. Big laptop manufacturers probably have direct accounts, anyway.
  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @02:53PM (#15577709) Homepage
    Hared drive failures are related to battery failures. if you let the system sit on the desk for a 4 -8 hour period running and your battery is defective it will heat up making the hard drive hotter than normal which causes drive failure.

    WE had to replace every drive in the laptops we had dead batteries in.

    Also some of the wifi cards they sent in the D600 became defective after 6 months. they would intermittently lose connection with accesspoints to the level that installing netstumbler on the machine you could see lots of vertical bands of loss of signal for an accesspoint while a good unit nest to it shows solid strength.

    Personally I have been trying to get the company to go away from dell for the next round due to the nasty problems but they like the 3+ years extended service agreement.

    Dell compensates for crappy hardware with warrenties.
  • by 6ULDV8 ( 226100 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @03:06PM (#15577827)
    So if you see a fat suicide bomber holding a box of Twinkies, you should really worry?

    I've had primary lithium cells "vent" (I called it an explosion, but the manufacturer disagreed), I even have photos of the aftermath. It's a very rapid process and creates enough compression to disassemble things much like a genuine explosive device. The batteries themselves as well as the container become flaming projectiles in cases like mine. I have burnt carpet to prove it. This "venting" can even take place hours AFTER the batteries are depleted. My battery failure had a mass of less than an ounce (1 3V 123A Ultralast cell manufactured by North American Battery Company) and it destroyed a flashlight and lit my carpet on fire.

    Admittedly, I didn't have my chronograph running quickly enough to determine if it happened within a tenth of a millisecond, but it was lickity split(TM) and very, very LOUD. So while it may not pack the same punch as TNT, I'd still prefer it not impact my more delicate parts.

    Manufacturers of devices dependant upon lithium batteries are well versed in the dangers of using poorly designed batteries and will readily communicate preferred brands as well as caution against others. You should probably believe them.
  • by Suidae ( 162977 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @03:40PM (#15578088)
    A bad photoshop job posted under a huge headline that says 'The Inquirer' and a link below to 'Flame Author' and you want to know if it's been verified?
  • by saskboy ( 600063 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @03:57PM (#15578198) Homepage Journal
    LG fridges have had a nasty habit of going up in flames in Canada. It took many months for them to issue a recall, the first of which didn't mention the word FIRE. They issued another later stating they cause fires from being plugged in.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @04:03PM (#15578233)
    I was recently on 5 hour plane trip from Seattle to DC when about 1/2 way through the trip I decided to fire up my brand new Dell laptop that had been in the overhead compartment in a Dell carry bag. I pulled it out and almost dropped it it was so hot. Somehow it had not suspended or something and just heated up. Luckily there was an empty seat next to me so I opened it up and stood it on edge to let it cool down. You could feel the heat radiating off it! I have no doubt that it would have started a fire or at least smoldered if I had not tried to start using it. Pretty scary stuff at the time.
  • by pitu ( 983343 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @05:28PM (#15578747)
    this reminds me of a little american play that I can not remember the name

      in WWII the father a great industrial magnat produces war aeroplanes' motors which are known to have a flaw (the flaw is a secret & known only by the father)

      his son gets recruted in the army as a pilot and eventually gets killed by his fathers' manufactured planes...

      this was an obligatory high-school lecture in my ex socialist country centered to picture the 'inhuman quest for profits at any cost in the capitalist society'

  • Laptop Battery (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ice Wewe ( 936718 ) on Wednesday June 21, 2006 @09:35PM (#15579840)
    The people around that laptop are very forntunate. All batteries used in modern laptops use Lithium Ion batteries. Now Lithium Ion, or Li-Ion (as it shall now be reffered to) is considered safe technology. However, there are exceptions to this. If a Li-Ion is shorted, overcharged, charged at too high a rate, or discharged below the minimum voltage (3V per cell) it can explode. I should rephrase that, it wont explode in the conventional sense, what it will do it burst into intese flame quite quickly. This flame is very dangerous. Because lithium is very reactive, the flame is several thousand degress F. Normal methods of extinguishing this flame don't tend to work well, and you can forget the old 'throw the glass of water on it and get on with life' solution, because it wont work. Most laptops (again, I am generalizing) have a 12V battery. This means that the battery contains 3 Li-Ion cells. Each cell runs at 3.7-4.2V. If the battery is abused (overcharged, undercharged, damaged, swelling, etc.) it can easily become a safety hazard. This is why you should always handle damaged or defective Li-Ion batteries with care. If one of those cells becomes unstable, and starts to flame, the plastic membrane of the other cells doesn't stand a chance, those other cells are gonna go up too. This is why the witness heard several explosions. I'm actually surprised that the table didn't receive more damage.

    If you want to dispose of a damaged or defective Li-Ion/Li-Po battery, you must:

    1) Discharge the battery to the minimum voltage per cell

    2) Puncture the membrane around the cell. (remove any labels or covering. Wear eye protection!)

    3) Submerge compelety in salt water. (Make sure the water is really salty. Infact, put salt in until the water doesn't absorb anymore. You don't ever want to put a lithium battery in fresh water!!! The lithium in the battery reacts with fresh water, and you will have a reaction much like an explosion.)

    4) Leave in the water for at least a few hours (6+) a day to be sure.

    5) Throw away in normal garbage.

No amount of genius can overcome a preoccupation with detail.