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validity of these practices, presumed to be highly effective and worthwhile

by the majority of RC model-car racers, through the application of modern
statistical methodologies.
The first phase of the experiment was designed to evaluate the hypothesis
that a high-cost battery with gold-plated connectors at low initial tempera-
ture will result in superior performance. The significance of each factor and
combination of factors was examined to determine its effect on battery-life
performance.
Commonly available AA dry-cell batteries, such as those used to
power RC-car controllers and popular RC-car electrical connector designs,
were used. A simple electrical test circuit with an indicator lamp to
detect the state of battery discharge was developed to permit testing of
these configurations.
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Using DOE to Determine AA Battery Life
Remote-control model-car enthusiasts
conduct an experiment.
by
Eric Wasiloff and Curtis Hargitt
T IS WIDELY BELIEVED AMONG ONE-TENTH SCALE ELECTRIC REMOTE-CONTROL
(RC) model-car racing enthusiasts that spending more money on
high-quality batteries, using expensive gold-plated connectors, and
storing batteries at low temperatures will improve overall battery-life
performance in a race. An experiment was conducted to evaluate the
Q U A L I T Y T O O L S
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To expedite testing and reduce the number of runs,
a design-of-experiments (DOE) approach was select-
ed instead of the typical one-factor-at-a-time method.
A 2
3
factorial design was used with three control fac-
tors, each at two levels, with eight total runs. In the
second phase of the experiment, the hypothesis that
high-quality, high-cost alkaline dry cells result in a
lower rate of voltage drop over time—a critical func-
tional requirement during a race—was evaluated. A
test was conducted to compare the voltage drop of
high-cost alkaline vs. low-cost dry-cell batteries as
installed in the test circuit and to determine the valid-
ity of this hypothesis.
Test procedure
Tests were conducted in a controlled environment
(indoors with consistent thermostat and humidifier
settings), with ambient temperature monitored using
a digital thermometer. While it is believed that the
potential for bias is limited (i.e., production samples,
no prototypical hardware), the principles of random-
ization were applied in establishing the order of
experiments. The batteries were randomly selected off
the shelf from a typical hobby shop and examined to
ensure selection from manufacturing lots with similar
expiration dates (i.e., Panasonic expired in January
2002, Duracell expired in December 2001). All batter-
ies were new at the start of testing.
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4 ohm R
1.2v 250 ma lamp
Tamiya
connector
Deans gold-plated
connector
Test board
Knife switch
AA battery test specimen
+
-
FIGURE 1 Experiment Setup
Run Control Control Control Response
factor A factor B factor C
1 + + + y1
2 + + - y2
3 + - + y3
4 + - - y4
5 - + + y5
6 - + - y6
7 - - + y7
8 - - - y8
TABLE 1 Experiment Design: 2
3
Factorial
Array (3 Control Factors, 2 Levels)
Run AA battery Connector Battery Time to discharge
design type temperature (minutes)
Deans:
1 High cost Gold-plated Ambient 493
contacts
Deans:
2 High cost Gold-plated Cold 490
contacts
Tamiya:
3 High cost Standard Ambient 489
contacts
Tamiya:
4 High cost Standard Cold 612
contacts
Deans:
5 Low cost Gold-plated Ambient 94
contacts
Deans:
6 Low cost Gold-plated Cold 75
contacts
Tamiya:
7 Low cost Standard Ambient 93
contacts
Tamiya:
8 Low cost Standard Cold 72
contacts
TABLE 2 Experiment Design: 2
3
Factorial
(3 Control Factors, 2 Levels)
High cost = Duracell Alkaline
AA dry-cell batteries
Low cost = Panasonic
Standard AA dry-cell batteries
Ambient temperature =
batteries at 25° C
Cold temperature =
batteries at 6° C
In the first experiment phase, a high-cost battery
was installed in the battery box in the test circuit at
ambient temperature, with the knife switch activated
to supply current through the gold-plated connector
to a 1.2-volt lamp. A stopwatch was then activated to
measure time until the test lamp was no longer illumi-
nated, indicating that the battery was fully
discharged. The initial temperature of the battery was
measured and recorded.
Once the battery had fully discharged, the elapsed
time was recorded in the specific cell for the defined
run in the experiment matrix. This process was
repeated using a standard connector, followed by the
same two runs with low-cost batteries. Chilled high-
cost and low-cost batteries were then tested under the
same conditions, until all eight combinations were
satisfied.
In the second experiment phase, a battery was
installed in the battery box at ambient temperature,
with the knife switch activated to supply current
through the nongold-plated connectors to the lamp. A
digital volt meter was used to make voltage measure-
ments, initially at two-minute intervals up to 10
minutes after activation and then at 10-minute inter-
vals up to 100 minutes after activation. Additional
voltage measurements were made, depending on bat-
tery-discharge status. The procedure was then
repeated with the remaining batteries.
Results
A basic electrical-test circuit board was used to con-
duct both phases of the experiment. The experiment
design selected—a 2
3
full factorial array—and experi-
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0
100
200
300
400
500
600
700
T
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493 490 489
612
94 75 93 72
Experiment run number
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
FIGURE 2 Test Results
612 72
75
94 493
489 93
490
C
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ld
A
m
b
ie
n
t
Low High
Deans
Tamiya
C
o
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c
t
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t
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p
e
B
a
tte
r
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te
m
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Battery cost
FIGURE 3 Graphical Description
of Main Effects
TABLE 3 Battery Voltage Drop Over Time
Panasonic Duracell
Time Voltage Voltage
(minutes) Voltage drop Voltage drop
0 1.405 0 1.497 0
2 1.338 -0.067 1.438 -0.059
4 1.297 -0.108 1.418 -0.079
6 1.268 -0.137 1.405 -0.092
8 1.244 -0.161 1.395 -0.102
10 1.222 -0.183 1.386 -0.111
20 1.180 -0.225 1.360 -0.137
30 1.141 -0.264 *
40 1.108 -0.297 *
50 1.067 -0.338 *
60 1.047 -0.358 1.325 -0.172
70 0.999 -0.406
80 0.941 -0.464
90 0.829 -0.576
100 0.766 -0.639
120 1.204 -0.293
180 1.149 -0.348
198 0.200 -1.205
210 1.1 -0.397
* Lamp burned out, data deleted
mental results as shown in Table 1 indicated that the
maximum value of time to discharge of 612 minutes
was achieved in experiment 1 (high-cost battery, stan-
dard connector, and chilled battery). The minimum
response was 72 minutes in experiment 4 (low-cost
battery, standard connector, and chilled battery). The
results are shown in Table 2.
A cube graph was constructed in Figure 3 to display
the data conveniently in preparation for calculation of
main effects. Figure 4 describes the mathematics
involved in calculating main effects, which are pre-
sented in Figure 5.
Test results of phase two, which evaluates battery-
voltage drop over time in the test circuit board, are
shown in Table 3. In summary, the high-cost Duracell
batteries performed significantly better than the low-
cost Panasonic batteries (no other factors varied
during the experiment) and retained higher voltage
for a longer time period (Figure 6).
Since most RC races are four to five minutes long,
including race preparation time, it was decided that
the first 10 minutes of battery operation are the most
critical. As a result of this decision, the voltage drop
over the first 10 minutes of battery life was examined
in detail in Figures 7 and 8.
Once again, the high-cost batteries performed better
than the low-cost batteries. At the 10-minute point, the
high-cost Duracell batteries retained 1.386 volts vs. the
low-cost Panasonic batteries, which retained only
1.222 volts. This represents a difference of 0.164 volts,
or a reduction of approximately 12% from the
Duracell voltage at 10 minutes.
Conclusions
The Duracell high-cost alkaline dry cells greatly
outperformed the Panasonic low-cost dry cells. The
battery-cost effect appears significant in that it increas-
es life from 84 minutes to discharge (low-cost battery)
to 521 minutes to discharge (high-cost battery). This
represents 437 more minutes of extended battery life
in an RC-car controller application.
The experiment provides support for one major ele-
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FIGURE 4 Data Analysis and Calculation of
Main Effects
Battery cost main effect:
Low = 72 + 93 + 75 +94 = 83.5 minutes
4
High = 612 + 490 + 493 + 489 = 521 minutes
4
Main effect = high - low = 521 - 83.5 = 437.5 minutes
Connector-design main effect:
Deans = 94 + 75 + 490 + 493 = 288 minutes
4
Tamiya = 72 + 93 + 612 + 489 = 316.5 minutes
4
Main effect = Tamiya - Deans = 316.5 - 288 = 28.5 minutes
Battery-temperature main effect:
Cold = 72 + 75 + 490 + 612 = 312.25 minutes
4
Ambient = 93 +489 + 493 + 94 = 292.25 minutes
4
Main effect = ambient - cold = 312.5 - 292.25 = 20 minutes
600
500
400
300
200
100
0
Low High Deans Tamiya Cold Ambient
Battery cost Connector design Battery temperature
T
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84
521
288
317 312
292
FIGURE 5 Comparison of Main Effects
FIGURE 6 Degradation in Battery Voltage
0
1.6
1.4
1.2
1.0
0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
0 50 100 150 200
Duracell voltage
Panasonic voltage
V
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t
s
Time (minutes)
ment of the hypothesis: High-cost
batteries have a longer life. The
experiment does not, however,
provide strong evidence to prove
or disprove the impact of gold
plating the connectors and chilling
the batteries. The main effects of
battery temperature and connector
design do not appear to be signifi-
cant.
An analysis-of-variance study of
main effects and their interactions
was conducted using Minitab soft-
ware, which resulted in an F value
of 170 for the battery-cost main
effect, 0.7 for the connector design,
and 0.4 for the battery tempera-
ture. In accordance with Fowlkes
and Creveling’s F-test interpreta-
tion guidelines, F > 4 for the
battery cost, indicating that this
factor is significant.
This supports the conclusion
that battery cost is a powerful factor in compari-
son to variance due to experimental error.
Conversely, the F-test values support the claim
that connector design and battery temperature
are not significant and are indistinguishable
from experimental error.
It is suggested for future experimentation that
the sample size be increased and the effects of
noise levels be examined. Of particular interest
is a noise level involving the condition of the
connectors. Another question that needs to be
examined is whether an additional replication of
this experiment with a noise level introduced
(N1 = dirty, oily, or aged connectors; N2 = new,
clean connectors) will change the results. The
authors propose to expand this experiment with
replicates in the presence of noise in a Taguchi
robust-design approach, with a detailed exami-
nation of signal-to-noise levels.
BI BLI OGRAPHY
Box, G.E., W.G. Hunter, and J.S. Hunter, Statistics for
Experimenters (New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1978).
Eyrich, Rick, “Test Dry-Cells,” Car Action, April 1997.
Fowlkes, W.Y., and C. Creveling, Engineering Methods for Robust
Product Design (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1995).
Macauly, D., The Way Things Work (Boston, MA: Houghton
Miflin Company, 1988).
Taguchi, G., and S. Konishi, Orthogonal Arrays and Linear Graphs
(Livonia, MI: American Supplier Institute, 1978).
ERIC WASILOFF is a ninth-grade student at Farmington High
School in Farmington, MI. His interests include RC cars, march-
ing band, karate, camping, boating, and skiing.
CURTIS HARGITT is a ninth-grade student at Farmington High
School in Farmington, MI. His interests include RC cars, band,
snowmobiling, jet skiing, mountain biking, and BMX riding.
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FIGURE 7 Voltage During the First 10 Minutes
1.497
1.5
1.45
1.4
1.35
1.3
1.25
1.2
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Duracell voltage
Panasonic voltage
V
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t
a
g
e
Minutes
1.405
1.438
1.418
1.338
1.297
1.268
1.244
1.395
1.405
1.386
1.222
0
-0.02
-0.04
-0.06
-0.08
-0.10
-0.12
-0.14
-0.16
-0.18
-0.20
Duracell voltage drop
Panasonic voltage drop
V
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d
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Minutes
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
FIGURE 8 Voltage Drop During the First
10 Minutes