Safety alert - Nitecore TM03

mhpreston

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Hey folks - I'm posting this in general discussion (admins - please move to Nitecore thread if need be).

I'm fairly new to high power LED flashlights (and this forum), but have collected a small assortment of lights and head torches. I've got a few Nitecore products and like them a lot.

Today I came within a few seconds of setting fire to my house, due to a design flaw with the Nitecore TM03 and the holster. I want to alert any other TM03 users of the problem and hopefully others will learn from my mistake.

The TM03 is a relatively recent addition to the Nitecore range and is a 2,800 lumen flashlight featuring a dual-switch tail-cap. In addition to the clicky, there is a 'mode' control that puts the torch straight into 'turbo' or 'strobe'. For me, the mode switch was really handy to use, but in my case it nearly proved lethal!

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I'm learning to fly a drone and had added my torch to a backpack I carry everything in. I wanted to have quick access to a flashlight with flexibility to allow me to delve into the bag or, if I was unlucky, search for my drone in the event I had landed it in a bush or tree. I thought the TM03 would do this nicely.

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As you can see from the photos, I used the standard Nitecore nylon holster that came with the torch. Having charged batteries on the drone ready for a flight, I put my backpack into a wardrobe. Luckily for me, I decided to get some spare batteries for my GPS navigation device and returned to the room a few moments later. I could then smell burning plastic. Looking around the room wondering where the smell was coming from, I reached in to grab the backpack and straight away felt the heat radiating from the holster. I quickly removed the torch and holster to a safe place.

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No damage was done to the torch or my new drone, but it was on the verge of catching alight and was in a wardrobe with plenty of clothing to act as fuel.

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What happened? As I placed the pack into the wardrobe, it must have pressed the mode switch with just enough force to power the torch on and into turbo mode.

As far as I know, I placed the torch in the holster correctly and as a 'tactical' holster it is designed to be attached to other webbing items and bags. I am a bit shocked at this development and how a handy feature also has a dangerous flip side. This now means I have to undo the tail cap every time I stow my torch, which is inconvenient and potentially reduces the waterproofing.

The instruction sheet does not warn of this danger and by comparison, my new Olight (Marauder) has a sensor that reduces the power whenever it detects an obstruction - I can see the value of this feature now!

Be interested to hear if anyone else has had a similar experience. Seems to me that it would be possible to trigger the flashlight in the same way of you had it stowed in a toolbox or backpack and it got pressed against other items.
 
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Bdm82

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I have experienced the same thing, though to a less dramatic extent. The mode switch instant turbo is great but in holster can be easy to activate. With great power comes great responsibility; these are not kids toys...

I recommend:
> when carrying on person, do it head down in the holster. This puts the mode switch up, and assuming you don't pull the holster flap down too hard, will be safe and fine.
> when carrying in a bag (holster or not), back the tail cap off a quarter turn to mechanically lock it out.

Another option is to switch the mode so the mode paddle does strobe instead of turbo. This isn't a good option for most, but hey, worth throwing out there.
 

mhpreston

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Perhaps time Nitecore look at sensors on these powerful flashlights like the system Olight have adopted? In the meantime, I've gone down the route of backing off the tail cap. Not feeling too confident in this light now, if I am honest.
 

NoNotAgain

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I had one instance of a Nitecore TM15 being activated in holster while in my coat pocket.

After that, I unscrew the tail-cap 2 revolutions. It's not enough to expose the o-ring, but more than enough that the light doesn't create a ground path.

It's not just a Nitecore thing, as the Surefire products will also activate if the tail cap is tightened.

Live and learn.
 

mhpreston

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Thanks - Surefire too? To my mind it's going to be an issue with the increasing popularity of these powerful lights. Everyone loves lumens!
 

KuroNekko

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I take it these bigger flashlights don't always have lock-out functions like pocket-carry EDC flashlights? If not, then loosening the tail cap or head is the way to lock it out against accidental activation.
 

Hooked on Fenix

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Seems part of the problem is the black holster absorbs all the light and turns it into heat. If that part of the holster was white, I doubt it would be as much of a problem. Sew in a piece of white nylon or polyester where the head of the light shines and you might not have that problem, or find a lighter colored holster. Also best to store these lights without the batteries in them if you're really concerned.
 

Boris74

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Seems part of the problem is the black holster absorbs all the light and turns it into heat. If that part of the holster was white, I doubt it would be as much of a problem. Sew in a piece of white nylon or polyester where the head of the light shines and you might not have that problem, or find a lighter colored holster. Also best to store these lights without the batteries in them if you're really concerned.

Just yesterday I started a fire with white birch bark with my S1R on second turbo. I do it often. It takes some effort by the user to get there though, thankfully. I don't think white will help. It'll still get hot, just might take a few seconds more is all.
 

rayman

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That's the second time here on CPF I read about a melted holster because the flashlight turned on accidently. I think that's an issue with potent flashlights which can end rather badly. One easy solution would be as you all mentioned the sensor which Olight is using, in my opinion that should be obligatory in that brightness range. Always mechanicaly locking out the flashlight makes a good holster, as a form of fast access to the flashlight, obsolete.
 

mhpreston

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I agree with you Rayman - what's the point of having a flashlight in the holster if you can't use it quickly? I'm going to be forever twisting and checking the tail cap on my TM03, and I don't like it. This is a fail for Nitecore, imho. I was using the Olight today and the sensor works a treat. Stops annoying reflected glare too. This will be the first thing I'll want when I get my next high lumen light.
 

Timothybil

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If the holster is getting hot enough to melt, the head should be getting rather hot as well. I would expect that a lite with Automatic Thermal Regulation (ATR) would be constantly turning the output down to moderate the temp of the head.
 

mhpreston

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Yes - and the TM03 is supposed to do this at 50c. The whole unit felt very hot when I picked it up. Wonder how I can test this feature?
 

TEMPA

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Been there, copped similar. Except I was carrying my TM03 in my front jeans pocket while driving the car. Was driving along wondering why my leg was getting hot and quickly realised the mode switch was being depressed in my pocket and the torch was on in full turbo mode in my pocket. It melted a hole in my jeans pocket and gave my leg a bit of a singe... Been super careful with it ever since!
 

zespectre

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Now I'm starting to feel like we're back in the old days when some of the custom hotwire (incandescent) stuff had these issues.
We had a guy turn on a custom hotwire and place it head down on a counter and forget and actually start a small fire, several people melted holsters like this, and a few overheating lights caused CR123 batts to go BOOM.
I won't even go into the reckless charging methods some used (yikes).

It's probably a good idea to remember that when we get into this class of Illumination Tool it is no longer "just a flashlight". There is a LOT of energy stored in there and a a LOT of energy coming out the front.

Good design and safety interlocks need to be expected from/demanded of manufacturers and prudent handling needs to come from the user(s).
 
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mhpreston

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Been there, copped similar. Except I was carrying my TM03 in my front jeans pocket while driving the car. Was driving along wondering why my leg was getting hot and quickly realised the mode switch was being depressed in my pocket and the torch was on in full turbo mode in my pocket. It melted a hole in my jeans pocket and gave my leg a bit of a singe... Been super careful with it ever since!

Wow! Without sounding dramatic, I was close to setting fire to a wardrobe full of clothes. I'm afraid that as much as I liked the mode switch feature, it is more dangerous than I realised. Clearly the thermal cutoff didn't help in your case either!
 

mhpreston

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Good design and safety interlocks need to be expected from/demanded of manufacturers and prudent handling needs to come from the user(s).

Nice points and couldn't agree more. It's been a valuable lesson for me for sure. Especially agree with your last point. That mode switch on the TM03 could have been a killer...
 

bemymonkey

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Yes - and the TM03 is supposed to do this at 50c. The whole unit felt very hot when I picked it up. Wonder how I can test this feature?

What did Nitecore support have to say? I think they'd be quite thankful for a tip-off regarding their suboptimal thermal regulation...
 

mhpreston

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What did Nitecore support have to say? I think they'd be quite thankful for a tip-off regarding their suboptimal thermal regulation...

I only spoke to the UK distributor, who were empathetic and are replacing my holster. We agreed that the ATR wouldn't have helped quickly enough in these circumstances. The company sells other brands too and said this is something they are hearing about with other high lumen products. I'm switching over to Olight, who uses sensors in the reflector on their most powerful lights to help stop me burning down my house!
 

Bdm82

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In my testing, thermal regulation doesn't kick in until about 4.5 minutes. There's another reviewer who did a teardown and found a substantial block of copper in the tm03 to dissipate heat.
In other words, the TM03 manages its own heat very well, taking a long time to get itself hot. It does not manage the heat of things around it, like the holster. But one cant say heat management is suboptimal.
I have several Olight lights that I'm happy with as well, but none of those - few lights anywhere - have the sort of environment sensor for which you desire. That's not to say it isn't a valid request.
Most lights that this much output just don't handle the heat this well, meaning they step down sooner either due to heat or an automatic timer. I know it sounds counterintuitive but absent such an environmental sensor, you'd be seeking a light with worse heat management...
 
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