Sourcing Legacy Camcorder Batteries for Medical Monitor Use

Battery in the legacy camcorder format for FUJI NP-120

Camcorder batteries have a special place in battery history. Because they were all of relatively high capacity, removable, and high volume, they were used by designers of unrelated third party equipment. In particular, we have a customer that utilizes camcorder batteries in the Fuji NP-120 format for medical monitoring devices. For most part, camcorders are long gone as volume consumer devices (replaced by cellphones). But their battery format lives on in a legacy format.

Here is the deal when buying batteries in a legacy format. Given batteries are perishable and subject to mishandling, how do you know if batteries you buy in a legacy format are any good? That is the problem a local medical monitoring came to us with. They were buying batteries up to 100 at a time on the internet, and getting burned both on quality and availability. There is a catch-22 – no vendor purposely stocks legacy batteries in quantities of multiples of 100 if they don’t have a know customer. And if they have hundreds, there is a fair chance these were marooned with the vendor in the past and either are old or not properly cared for.

Use a Supply Chain that Sources from Factories

Our solution is to use a battery distributor/importer that we trust and have worked with for over 8 years. The distributor stocks perhaps 20 of these at a time. Lead time is about 2 months for larger order. The pattern we’ve evolved into is that we get a quarterly forecast from the customer. We then place an order with the distributor/importer 2 months in advance for 200 units, with a requested ship date.

The distributor/importer wishes we would have a blanket annual order, so they can crank up production and imports at one time, lowering their costs. The issue is that if this customer stops ordering for whatever reason, these batteries become white elephants for whoever they land with. Buying 200 a quarter at a time seems the right size herd of white elephants to risk. In good faith, I can see the distributor selling these over a year or so.

Third-Party Batteries in Legacy Formats are Typically Fresher

First, first basic rule of sourcing legacy consumer batteries, you are better off with a third-party replacement rather than the original brand-name. Consumer brand companies stop sourcing batteries when they stop supporting the equipment is used in. That means original brand batteries found on the internet are likely old and abused. By the way, “abused” here means not stored at an appropriate charge level and recharged as a appropriate. Or maybe just old. And likely means not tested before being shipped.

As to quality, these third-party replacements are good enough. They mare designed to meet but not necessarily exceed the specs of the original batteries. They have good quality control in that they come from a supply chain that sources hundreds to thousands of different legacy batteries formats. with quality control appropriate of organizations of that scale. Most importantly for quality, we know they are relatively new, since they are de facto being factory sourced rather than distributor sourced.

Jim Logan
PGH Batteries
[email protected]