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Morning all, I am toying with the idea of wiring up a small On-Off-On rocker switch which will control which battery will be active in my Airsoft setup. Below is a brief diagram of how I expect this the setup would be wired: enter image description here

I am looking for some guidance: 1) Would you expect this wiring setup to work, apologies I am by no means electrically competent. This has been drawn up using various other diagrams and forum posts. 2) Previous tests show that during the initial engagement of a airsoft rifle, the circuit can see upwards of 47.5amps. Am I correct in assuming that the Single Pole Double Throw switch would indeed need to be rated approx. 50amps?

Again, apologies if the above is completely incorrect.

Thanks in advance, Connor.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ btw what voltages are we talking here? \$\endgroup\$ – Trevor_G Apr 28 '17 at 12:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Trevor, most airsoft batteries are around 10V (2 or 3 cell lipos) . I've seen 11.7V NiMH used aswell. \$\endgroup\$ – Joren Vaes Apr 28 '17 at 13:19
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Would you expect this wiring setup to work

Yes.

Am I correct in assuming that the Single Pole Double Throw switch would indeed need to be rated approx. 50amps?

Indeed, that would be the right thing to do regarding selecting a mechanical switch. That would get very bulky and expensive.

You might get away with e.g. a 10 A switch, as your application isn't exactly safety critical, you probably aren't holding the trigger down all the time or toggling the switch while firing and you probably don't need a switch life measured in hundreds of thousands of cycles.

Airsoft guns generally use transistors to switch the motor current on and off, so that the trigger switch only has to turn the transistor on instead of some beefy motor. That's why the trigger assembly can be so compact. You could use such electronic means for your transfer switch, but I fear that it'd get too complicated for a layman. Diodes are normally very simple to use, but in this case you'd need some with a current rating over 50 A and they'd need heatsinking.

However, I'm skeptical about your need for a transfer switch in the first place. If you are just willing to extend battery life, you can just parallel the two battery packs directly. Note that the chemistry, state of charge and most importantly the cell count of the two batteries must match (You risk a nasty battery fire otherwise). This way the load is also shared among the two batteries.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi jms, thanks for getting back to me and for the great response. My only reason for the switch is more of interest and a 'can it be done'. Wiring in parallel would be the logical thing as in reality all the switch is doing is extending the battery life by having the ability to change on the fly. How would you recommend joining the two negative lines? Would there be a specific terminal or other assembly? \$\endgroup\$ – Connor David Reid Apr 28 '17 at 10:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would like to quickly point out that most airsoft guns don't use a "mosfet" (as they call it in airsoft, even though it's usually more than just a mosfet). This is generally a thing added by the player when "upgrading" the gun. Most use plain old switches, although pretty beefy ones. The reason they are compact is because they don't need to carry 50A continuous, only few a few milliseconds, after which the current drops down. (In fact, I believe the ASCU, one of the more 'high end' mosfets, used MOSFETS rated at 46A even though the fastest motors will exceed that current during startup) \$\endgroup\$ – Joren Vaes Apr 28 '17 at 11:05
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Previous tests show that during the initial engagement of a airsoft rifle, the circuit can see upwards of 47.5amps. Am I correct in assuming that the Single Pole Double Throw switch would indeed need to be rated approx. 50amps?

Yes and no. It needs to be rated to have 50A peak. This is a very short pulse while the motor is ramping up - you can get a way with a less beefy switch, especially since it won't be switching the current, and current will only flow when the connection is already made. Once the motor is spooled up, the current is smaller, on the order of a few amperes. A lot of smaller switches should work.

I would like to respectfully disagree with the following:

I'm skeptical about your need for a transfer switch in the first place. If you are just willing to extend battery life, you can just parallel the two battery packs directly.

While true when one has full control over the batteries, but even then, I would not advise it. The batteries commonly used in airsoft are often rated to provide on the order of 100A, and often will provide far more when short circuited. Having one battery have an issue, you now have not one but two batteries that potentially destroy themselves - and when these go, they don't go in a gentle poof like phone batteries do. I would like to link to the following video, where Photoinduction demonstrates just how fast this all happens:

Battery short circuited internally by poking the two layers together

I think it might actually be doable to diode-protect the batteries - again, these current spikes are /very/ short. All that said, I don't really see the point of this setup. For the cost of the switch and extra connectors, you should likely find a bigger battery on hobbyking or similar. If it is a pure mental exercise, let me know, I can give some more information about this.

Edit to extend the depth of the response:

Safetywise, the key is that when you put batteries in parallel, you have to make sure that they are at exactly the same voltage, and have very closely matched internal resistance rating.

Airsoft/RC batteries can have internal resistances less than 10mOhm. That would mean, if I take two of these batteries, and put them in parallel, without any load, we get the following circuit:

Batteries in parallel with internal resistance drawn

Now, let's say that the battery on the left is slightly more charged than the battery on the right - only 0.1V difference. This means the battery that is charged to a slightly higher voltage, will try to charge the second battery to the same level. Since there is a 0.1V difference, the initial current will be 5A! That means that just by connecting the two batteries, 5A of current will flow from one into the other. If your battery can't take being charged at this current (they tend to be far more picky when it comes to charging currents), you could damage the battery.

In order to prevent this, you can insert a diode in series with the battery. If the batteries are now less charged, the diode will prevent the current flowing into that battery. However, diodes have a voltage drop. This could cause issues when you try to start the motor, and will cause loss of energy (as part of the power is wasted in the diode). This is why production systems that put powerful batteries in parallel will usually have a MOSFET as switch for every chain of cells, and will actively monitor each to ensure none of them tries to charge the others. Series protection diode added The diodes have the additional benefit that they will prevent a short circuit in one battery cause problems in the second - it will block external flow back into the damaged battery, saving your second battery.

The problem can get more complicated when you try to use different batteries (same voltage, but different internal resistance). Now, during load, the battery with the lowest internal resistance will provide most of the current. This will cause it to discharge slightly faster than the second battery. When the load is removed, this second battery will try and charge first battery back up to the same level. This will then repeat over and over again.

The main reason it gets more complicated with these batteries, more complicated than common with smaller batteries, is because they have such low internal resistance. In the case of smaller batteries - be it AA-type rechargeable NiMH batteries, or even 18650 lithium cells - the internal resistance is height enough that it can form a kind of regulator: it will prevent any high currents due to slight mismatches. If my memory serves me right, most 18650 lithium cells offer internal impedance on the order of 100mOhn (in our 0.1V difference example above, this would give a current of "only" 500mA). High end RC/Airosft batteries, that are new, and fully charged, can get as low as 3-4 mOhm.

This is also the reason why you should not underestimate the capabilities of these batteries to do damage. Unlike most batteries, that are optimized to have as much charge in them. This means they have a somewhat high internal resistance, and while a short can be damaging, and cause the cells to get hot, expand, and perhaps rupture their case, batteries for the airsoft and RC world are built to be able to dump their energy as fast as possible - and they can do so at such a rate they will blow themselves up within seconds of a short-circuit condition.

(I realize now that I might have gone a bit off topic here, sorry)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Jason, this essentially is a mental exercise unless the cost can be kept to a minimum. In reality, a higher capacity battery would be the best option as it removed the need to mount the switch assembly to the gun and also just keeps this easy but I am interested in how this would be done, if it indeed can be done. Regarding the switch, is there any guideline I should work to when looking at switches, as I have noticed that anything >40A rated seems to be quite costly. If you would not mind, I would love to get some more information on the overall setup and what you may recommend. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – Connor David Reid Apr 28 '17 at 11:10
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Although you MIGHT get away with a smaller switch, the contact resistance may significantly impact the performance of the gun. PLUS, attaching big beefy cables to a smaller switch is going to cause you grief.

If you want to switch that much power you would be better to use a small switch and a relay or contactor capable of handling that much DC current. The relays can be close to the batteries limiting your extra cable losses, while the switch can be remote.

Power the relay from one side or the other, or from a separate battery.

schematic

simulate this circuit – Schematic created using CircuitLab

Or if you want to turn off both sides, use two relays like this.

schematic

simulate this circuit

Example 50A switch.. ~$70

Example 50A Relay.. ~$10

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Won't a relay capable of switching that much current always be bigger and more expensive than a similarly rated switch? (This is a honest question, I don't usually deal with relays and switches, but it would make sense to me that a relay is just a switch with more additional stuff to make it switch due to a current in the coil, hence it would be bigger and more expensive) \$\endgroup\$ – Joren Vaes Apr 28 '17 at 12:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JorenVaes not necessarily. The issue with switching large DC is making the contacts and the separation / arc removal mechanism big enough. Doing all that inside a switch is tricky. Doing it in a relay is easier. \$\endgroup\$ – Trevor_G Apr 28 '17 at 12:04

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