Triton Review

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ElectriFlyTRITON PRODUCT REVIEW

BY Red Scholefield – Red’s R/C Battery Clinic

triton.jpg

Great Planes raises the ante in the $100-200 charger range with their introduction of the Triton. Behind the distinctive red plastic bezel the extruded aluminum case contains some innovative features. As the hobby standard Ni-Cds are being challenged by newer technology offered by Ni-MH and now Lithium-Ion/polymer systems, the Triton presents a battery maintenance system that addresses these new offerings.Item Tested - Triton Computerized Charger, Discharger, Cycler

Purpose – Battery Maintenance System

Manufacturer – Great Planes

Suggested Retail Price – $129.99

Warranty – One year

Input Power -10-15V DCCharge Range – 1- 24 Ni-Cd or Ni-MH, 1-4 Lithium Ion/polymer, 3-12 Pb (lead acid)Fast Charge Rate – 100 mA to 5A - 90 watts max (2.5A max. for Li-Ion/polymer) Trickle Charge Rate – 30 to 250 mA – automatic (n/a for Li-Ion and Pb) Discharge Current - 100 mA to 3A - 20 watts max (2.5A max. for Li-Ion) Discharge Cut-Off - 0.5-1.16V/cell NiCd & NiMH, Li-Ion/polymer 2.8V/cell, Pb 1.8V/cell Cycle Count - One to ten cycles (n/a for Li-Ion/polymer and Pb) Battery Memories - 10 Dimensions – 6.2 x 4.0 x 2.0 in (157 x 102 x 51mm) Weight - 16.4 oz (466g)

Instructions –19 6 X 8 ½ pages – plus 5 program flow charts.

Tested On – Ni-Cd, Ni-MH, Pb (lead acid), Lithium Ion/PolymerCHEERS – The broadest range of battery types served. Programmable voltage cut off, peak sensitivity, topping charge and safety features. Banana plug connections on the SIDE of the charger where they belong so as to not obstruct the display or controls. Once you are over the initial learning curve, which is about the same as other units, the Triton is faster to program.

JEERS – Programmable trickle charge and an on-off switch would be nice. 

Lithium charge rates based on very conservative protocol may not fully charge lithium packs.When in doubt, read the directions! For a preview of the details of how this unit works, the instruction manual may be downloaded from: http://www.electrifly.com/manuals/gpmm3150-manual-v1_1.pdf
For reasons known only to the instruction book authors, charger purveyors feel bound to comment on the “Nickel Cadmium memory problem” and what their unit does to address it and well as perpetuating other popular battery myths. The Triton instruction manual is no exception. Just ignore it in that regard, you won’t buy the Triton for the literary value of the instruction book, but rather to maintain your battery packs. This is accomplished quite nicely with the aid of the five programming flow charts that were thoughtfully included with the product.Once you have the basics down these programming charts are all you need for future reference.

Cooling Fan

Instruction book states that the Triton will shut down if internal temperatures exceed 100° F. This is in error and should read 100° C.Great Planes technical people have clarified the fan operation: The fan does not turn on until needed, which occurs in the following circumstances: 
  
  1. During discharge once needed. 
  
  2. During charge:

a. if the temp of the charger exceeds 50 degrees centigrade

b. if the charge output power is over 30W

c. if the charge current is over 2.5A

d. if charging 1cell, or packs containing 2 or 3 cells 
  
  3. During charge or discharge, if the temp of the charger itself exceeds 100 degrees C the charger will stop all charge or discharge functions unitl the temp of the charger becomes below than 70 degrees C. The fan should continue to run unitl the temp of the charger drops below 45 degrees C. (We cover this in the manual) 
  
 In addition, once the fan turns on it should work until the charge or discharge function is finished. If the temp of the charger still exceeds 45 degrees C after a function is completed the fan should continue to work until the temp drops below 45 degrees C."

Testing

 

tritoncurves.jpg

We ran the usual performance tests on this unit using a digital multimeter with an RS232 port connecting to a laptop. Old as well as new packs ranging from single cells to the maximum of 24 were tested. Dozens of charge/discharge curves covering all the settings were accumulated. Charge and discharge curves (Figure 1) obtained from a well used 7 cell Cs electric flight pack are typical.Figure 1. As the curves indicate, the Triton employs voltage-sampling techniques that are pretty well standard in chargers of this type. Suffice it to say that the testing verified the manufacturer’s claims and found them to be an honest representation of the unit’s performance and capability. Voltage and current readings were within 1% of those indicated by the unit.Based on time and discharge currents the capacity readings were also well within reasonable limits for a unit of this type. Neat Features:

The people at Great Planes tried to cover all the bases and did a pretty good job.

If the buzzer annoys you it can be turned off – or set to any of 10 different melodies.

But they considered some serious things also. Two backups are provided in case the charge termination scheme doesn’t do its job. You can set a Safety Timer and the Max Charge Input (in Ni-MH mode). If you are still timid, a Thermal Sensor is available as an accessory, which allows you to program the Temperature at which you would like the charge to terminate. This reflects an understanding of the real world of batteries rather than distrust of the system’s ability to terminate charge. To address the problem of early or premature peak shut down they give you a programmable Peak Delay as well as the ability to set the Peak Sensitivity. If you can’t get enough flying in to wear out your batteries the Triton lets you cycle them up to10 times automatically and keeps the capacity in/out readings for each cycle. You have the option of Charge then Discharge or Discharge then Charge. Many peak detector chargers don’t provide the needed trickle or topping charge needed to balance out the pack after it peaks. The Triton has taken care of this with a default Trickle Charge based on the charge rate selected and for Ni-MH, 20 minutes of programmable Topping Charge. There are 10 Battery Memories available to store your favorite set up. And for those that don’t have a clue there is an Auto function for most settings that has the Triton making all the decisions – and quite conservative ones. Per the instructions, auto mode is not recommended for smaller capacity packs. I don’t recommend the auto mode for any packs. With all the programming functions at your disposal why let the charger have all the fun making decisions? When used, the auto charge was very conservative and did not set up charge rates that would be satisfactory for electric flight (or your transmitter/receiver packs) field charging where a fast turn around is required.

Pushing buttons – when and when not to. The first thing that strikes you on this unit is that it has two buttons and a combination rotary dial/push button, unlike the 4/6 button arrangements seen on competitive units.I would have to temper the marketing hype, “amazingly easy programming in almost no time”, to “it took me about as long to get comfortable programming this unit as it did others I have tested”. Thanks to another modeler, Darral Teeples <hdthc@juno.com> that was also working his way through the amazingly easy programming, we collaborated, comparing notes on the Triton’s operation secrets – when our notes did not agree we isolated the problem to a slow switch (unit immediately replaced by Great Planes) or in another instance to a low battery in a DVM (that’s what that little flashing battery symbol means).When you first connect the Triton to a 12 volt source you get a few seconds of“GREAT PLANES ELECTRIFLY” then it goes to the charge mode and rate of the last battery type you used with all of the settings you had programmed for it.If this is what you want to do you simply depress the rotary button for a few seconds and the charge process begins.If you want to change any of the setup, depress the MENU button and rotate dial to what you want to set, press the dial momentarily and then rotate to the setting you want, pressing the dial once more to the setup where you can rotate to move to the next item. Once you have made the any changes to the setup press the MENU button again to go to the charge mode. Five battery types (Ni-Cd, Ni-MH, Pb-lead acid, Lithium or one of 10 battery memory setups) are selected by the BATT TYPE button, where you can then set one of the 4 routines (charge, discharge, charge then discharge, or discharge then charge) with the rotary button. Individual settings with these charge rates, discharge rate etc. are set by pushing the rotary button momentarily and then dialing the rate you want. It is actually simpler to do than describe. Just follow the Programming Flow Charts. Once you get use to it, the Triton is easier to program and is certainly faster with the rotary dial feature to scan back and forth in the various display screens.

Fooling the “Smart Charger”

While they tell you some of the features are available in the Ni-MH mode only, you can cheat a little. Just set up for Ni-MH (set the peak sensitivity for 10 mv) and then connect your Ni-Cd battery and start the process. The Triton, smart as it is, cannot tell it is charging a Ni-Cd and will allow you to use all the Ni-MH features.Screw up protection. Both input and output have reverse polarity protection and in the case of the output connection gives you an error reading to inform you of your sin. It also features an internal thermal protection that shuts the unit down with an Overheating display if the unit internal temperature exceeds a 100 degrees F. I didn’t check this out but heard one user complained that where he flew it frequently got over 100 degrees – maybe Triton had the good sense to warn the user as well as protect itself. Overcoming the DC only stigma.Many chargers are being offered that operate on DC only, while limiting them to 12 volts overcomes the onerous UL certification process, many find that this restricts the utility of the product. One does wonder how many people actually use the full features and capability while the unit is connected to their car battery.The thought of having to purchase a separate DC supply at $40 or more to use the cycler in your shop is not appealing either.There is an inexpensive solution. It is found in the power supply of your old PC, or if you don’t have an old one laying around you should have trashed, you can get one at most any PC repair shop just for carting it off. Once you have rescued the power supply drop by the Battery Clinic where you will find a link to Pat Harvey’s excellent article on the conversion details hosted by the Minnesota Area R/C Electric Flight Enthusiasts. The Triton may not be the ultimate in chargers in this category, but it comes as close as the reviewer has seen to date.  Red Scholefield

red@rcbatteryclinic.com

12-14-02

Rev 12-21-02

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