My trip to IKEA netted me many interesting items, which I am slowly sifting through. IKEA is not only about furniture – there is some lighting and electrical as well that interests me. In general, powerboards are pretty simple household items and a teardown isn’t really warranted or justified. I suppose this is true, and this is why you won’t see them happen very often. Despite this, there are still some finer points to making a powerboard, which is why this article got posted.
Like with most IKEA products, they are given a somewhat pretentious name, and are made simple. The Koppla powerboard is no exception. This six outlet power board features no great list of features – it has six sockets, spaced evenly, with no wide outlets for wall-warts. There is no indicators, no individual switches, no USB charging, no surge protection. It is pretty long for a 6-outlet board, featuring overhang at both ends. The one, and only one feature aside from an overload protection circuit breaker, is the black power switch which allows you to cut power to the whole board at once.
I looked upon it with a bit of skepticism. I know I’ve had trouble with those small switches on Chinese made powerboards carried across in my hand-luggage before, sometimes the contacts jam, and other times they’re only rated for 2A or 5A instead of 10A. Surely, this wouldn’t be one of them – but I wanted to know for sure.
The unit was made in week 43 of 2014, item number 22664. It has another model number of E1316-AU6W and an SAA approval number of 140509-EA. As a result, it really should be all good. Even a check of the flexible cable shows a 300/500V rating, made by Ningbo Sen Yi Kai Electric Co. Ltd. with an SAA approval number of 132245-EA.
The first obstacle, and a safety one at that, is the use of special Y-shaped security screws. This prevents your ordinary Joe from tampering with the board and possibly making a safety hazard out of it. Luckily for me, I’ve got a set of security bits, and the rear was taken off in a flash.
Internally, we find exactly what you would find in the majority of plain basic power-boards. A row of sockets, formed by the plastic body, with contacts made from the one brass bus-bar, which is really made of a “sheet” of brass anyway. The busbars have the word “GEM” stamped into them. This is low-cost but appropriate construction. The overhang at the end is probably there for symmetry and serves no real purpose.
Also appropriate for this “cost” level is the construction, which has the flex “soldered” to the bars at a point very close to the end of the bars. No quick-connect spades here, because they … well … cost money.
Which brings me to this strange construction. The switch itself comes from Xing Hua and is appropriately rated for 10A at 250V. Instead of soldering the mains wires directly to the spades at the rear, they’ve decided to make a PCB and instead solder the wires to the PCB, and then solder the PCB to the spades. Maybe this is because the spades don’t have any “isolation” or physical barriers against accidental touching of adjacent wires, so this is a way to enforce spatial isolation. The soldering job could be a little better – the top-left spade in the image doesn’t seem to have any solder on the side facing us.
Here, we can see the wire coming into the power-board, including the “integral” cord grip that’s formed by the casing itself when it’s screwed together. They claim that the unit cannot be repaired, and that’s likely due to the use of solder everywhere, but it’s not impossible. It’s probably impractical and unfeasible given the price though.
The final piece in the puzzle is the overload protection circuit breaker. I saved the best piece for last – this unit comes from Soudelor Electronic Technology, which isn’t a brand well recognized even online.
The unit is a 10A breaker, part of the 66 Series, capable of operating up to 250VAC. There’s just one problem – I’ll give you a second to try and spot it …
Yep. This circuit breaker is being back-fed. Note how the unit has line and load markings, which usually indicate the breaker needs to be connected directionally? Well the load terminal is connected to the incoming flex, and the line terminal is connected to the switch and rest of the board. If you didn’t take it apart, you wouldn’t know!
Is this such a big deal? Probably not. In DC based systems, like in Photovoltaic systems, getting this wrong can cause the breaker to fail or to catch fire. In AC systems, it is not as important – I note the articles about it from Eaton and Schneider Electric, which both state that if markings exist, they should be followed. The main concern is with parts of the breaker designed to be dead upon opening the breaker being live. This doesn’t really apply in this case as the whole unit is plastic insulated and enclosed in the power-board.
That being said, where there are markings, they should be followed, and the company manufacturing this would have only had to flip the breaker around 180 degrees to make that happen. Instead, it seems they didn’t pay attention.
Powerboards are pretty simple devices, and that’s probably why very few of them have been taken apart and photographed. That being said, this one manages to throw a surprise with a back-fed overload breaker – while not of great consequence in this case, it shouldn’t happen if care was taken during manufacturing.