Creating the next-generation of robotics

3rd December 2018
Alex Lynn

There is no doubting that robots are on the rise. And despite some naysayers claiming that automation will take jobs away from humans, all the evidence points to robotics improving productivity, cost effectiveness, safety and actually creating employment. By next year it is predicted that the number of industrial robots deployed worldwide will increase to around 2.6 million units.

Figures published last year from the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), showed that the number of industrial robots installed per 10,000 employees was at a global average of 74. However, figures from countries where productivity was on the rise were distinctly higher. The Republic of Korea, Singapore and Germany has the most installed robots per 10,000 employees, with figures at 631, 488 and 309 respectively.

And, in the German automotive sector for example, the number of employees increased parallel to the growth of robotic automation. The positive effect of automation on the number of jobs has been confirmed by a study published by the ZEW, in partnership with the University of Utrecht. In essence, reduced production costs result in better market prices. The increasing demand then triggers more jobs.

However, it’s not just industry and manufacturing where robots are having an impact. They are increasingly getting out of factories, either increasing efficiencies in deliveries for on-line shopping or helping students to get excited about STEM.

Innovative analogue and embedded technologies enable engineers to develop the most intelligent and sophisticated robot systems. Texas Instruments (TI) learning kits are giving students a deeper understanding of how robotic system designs work by filling in a gap in the existing engineering curriculum. Some of the TI tools currently available from Digi-Key can be seen below:

Industrial Robots

Smart Brake Control and Diagnostics Reference Design for Servo Drives and Robotics tida-01600: This reference design implements safe brake control functionality in servo drives as per IEC EN 61800-5-2 by providing two-channel output signals to control an external holding brake.

The holding brake will be latched when the power supply is cut off and released when voltage is applied to the coil. This is accomplished by enabling/disabling the smart electronic load switches that supply power to the coil. This reference design also includes diagnostic features for detecting various faults, ensuring safe operation. The design uses the C2000 Launchpad to generate the brake control signals and to perform the diagnostics functionality.

LMZ14201TZ-ADJ/NOPB: The Texas Instruments LMZ1420x Series SIMPLE SWITCHER Power Modules for High Output Voltage feature an integrated shielded inductor, simple PCB layout, and a flexible startup sequencing using external soft-start and precision enable. These power modules offer protection against inrush currents and input UVLO and output short circuit protection. Their high efficiency reduces system heat generation and they have low package thermal resistance. The LMZ1420x Series power modules each come with a single exposed pad and standard pin-out for easy mounting and manufacturing.

ISO7842: TI’s ISO7842 Reinforced 4-Channel 2/2 Digital Isolator has a 8000-VPK isolation voltage. The ISO7842 has reinforced isolation certifications according to VDE, CSA, CQC, and TUV. The isolator provides high electromagnetic immunity and low emissions at low-power consumption, while isolating CMOS or LVCMOS digital I/Os. Each isolation channel has a logic input and output buffer separated by a silicon-dioxide (SiO2) insulation barrier.

TPS7B6933QDBVRQ1: The TPS7B69xx-Q1 device is a low-dropout linear regulator designed for up to 40-V VI operations. With only 15-µA (typical) quiescent current at light load, the device is suitable for standby microcontrol-unit systems especially in automotive applications.

The devices feature an integrated short-circuit and overcurrent protection. The TPS7B69xx-Q1 device operates over a –40°C to +125°C temperature range. Because of these features, the TPS7B6925-Q1, TPS7B6933-Q1, and TPS7B6950-Q1 devices are well suited in power supplies for various automotive applications.

TPS27S100APWPR: TI’s TPS27S100x Smart High-Side Switch is a single-channel, fully-protected, high-side switch with an integrated NMOS and charge pump. Full diagnostics and high-accuracy current-monitor features enable intelligent control of the load. An adjustable current-limit function greatly improves the reliability of the whole system. The device diagnostic reporting has two versions to support both digital fault status and analogue current monitor output. Accurate current monitor and adjustable current limit features differentiate it from the market.

ULN2003APWR: The ULN2003APWR is a high-current Transistor Array consists of seven NPN Darlington pairs that feature high-voltage outputs with common-cathode clamp diodes for switching inductive loads. The collector-current rating of a single Darlington pair is 500mA. The Darlington pairs can be parallelled for higher current capability. Applications include relay drivers, hammer drivers, lamp drivers, display drivers (LED and gas discharge), line drivers and logic buffers.

TVS3300DRVR: The TVS3300 robustly shunts up to 35A of IEC 61000-4-5 fault current to protect systems from high power transients or lightning strikes. The device offers a solution to the common industrial signal line EMC requirement to survive up to 1kV IEC 61000-4-5 open circuit voltage coupled through a 42Ω impedance. The TVS3300 uses a unique feedback mechanism to ensure precise flat clamping during a fault, assuring system exposure below 40V. The tight voltage regulation allows designers to confidently select system components with a lower voltage tolerance, lowering system costs and complexity without sacrificing robustness.

Logistics and Service Robots

Ultrasonic distance sensor with IO-Link reference design: The design features an ultrasonic distance sensor that fits in a M12 housing due to its high integration and an optimised layout. The design offers an IO-Link interface to communicate with the system control, which makes it industry 4.0 ready. The purpose of ultrasonic sensors is to detect or measure distances of an object independently from their colour, transparency, or surface characteristics and from the surrounding environment. Ultrasonic sensors are able to function in harsh environments such as factories and process plants.

EtherCAT P® One Cable for Power and EtherCAT® Reference Design: This design shows a physical implementation of the power couple in circuitry of an EtherCAT P® power sourcing device. The reference design is designed to meet all requirements from the official EtherCAT P implementation guide. This includes features like reverse polarity protection, in-rush current limit, and continuous current limit.

Surge protection reference design for PLC analogue input module: This design shows the superior protection capabilities of new 33-V protection devices (such as TVS3300) for factory automation and control. The design has the required accuracy to measure the behaviour of protection devices before and after EMI stress with respect to leakage and clamping voltage.

TVS3300YZFR: TI’s TVS3300YZF Evaluation Module (EVM) helps designers evaluate the operation and performance of the TVS3300. The TVS3300 is a precision clamp that keeps ultra-low and flat clamping voltage during transient overvoltage events like surge.

With TI precision surge technology, the TVS3300 clamping voltage barely changes no matter how high the surge current. The TVS3300 also responds fast to the surge to limit overshoot voltage during clamping. The evaluation module includes two sets of screw terminal headers for general purpose inline testing of various connector configurations. There are also two banana plug input ports for easy testing along with 4-50Ω SMA connectors for convenient connection to an oscilloscope for testing.

LM5166DRCT: TI’s LM5166 is a compact, easy-to-use, 3V to 65V, ultra-low IQ synchronous buck converter with high efficiency over wide input voltage and load current ranges. With integrated high-side and low-side power MOSFETs, up to 500 mA of output current can be delivered at fixed output voltages of 3.3V or 5V, or an adjustable output. The converter is designed to simplify implementation while providing options to optimise the performance for the target application. Pulse frequency modulation (PFM) mode is selected for optimal light-load efficiency or constant on-time (COT) control for nearly constant operating frequency. Neither control scheme require loop compensation while still providing excellent line-and-load transient response and short PWM on-time for large step-down conversion ratios.

PGA460TPWRQ1: The PGA460-Q1 device is a highly-integrated system on-chip ultrasonic transducer driver and signal conditioner with an advanced DSP core. The device has a complimentary low-side driver pair that can drive a transducer either in a transformer based topology using a step-up transformer or in a direct-drive topology using external high-side FETs. The device can receive and condition the reflected echo signal for reliable object detection. This feature is accomplished using an analogue front-end (AFE) consisting of a low noise amplifier followed by a programmable time-varying gain stage feeding into an ADC. The digitised signal is processed in the DSP core for both near-field and far-field object detection using time-varying thresholds.

MSP430FR5959IRHAR: The MSP430 ultra-low-power (ULP) FRAM platform combines uniquely embedded FRAM and a holistic ultra-low-power system architecture, allowing innovators to increase performance at lowered energy budgets. FRAM technology combines the speed, flexibility, and endurance of SRAM with the stability and reliability of flash at much lower power.

The MSP430 ULP FRAM portfolio consists of a diverse set of devices featuring FRAM, the ULP 16-bit MSP430 CPU, and intelligent peripherals targeted for various applications. The ULP architecture showcases seven low-power modes, optimised to achieve extended battery life in energy-challenged applications.

TIOL111: TI’s TIOL111 family of transceivers implements the IO-Link interface for industrial bidirectional, point-to-point communication. When the device is connected to an IO-Link master through a three-wire interface, the master can initiate communication and exchange data with the remote node while the TIOL111 acts as a complete physical layer for the communication. These devices are capable of withstanding up to 1.2kV (500 Ω) of IEC 61000-4-5 surge and feature integrated reverse polarity protection.

10.8-V/15-W, >90% Efficiency, 2.4-cm2, Power Stage Reference Design for Brushed DC Servo Drive : This 15W, 12mm x 20mm, power stage reference design drives and controls the position of the brushed DC (BDC) motor operating from a three to six cell Li-ion battery. This highly efficient solution is optimised with a very small form factor that easily fits into the motor, and supports precise motor position control. The design is also capable of driving the motor at high speed without any position feedback. The reference design demonstrates fast and accurate current sensing for quality torque control, and the onboard MCU provides UART connectivity, which enables controllability with any external controller.

IEPE vibration sensor interface for PLC analog input reference design: Industrial vibration sensing is crucial part in condition monitoring necessary for predictive maintenance. Integrated Electronic Piezoelectric (IEPE) sensor is the most common vibration sensor used in industrial environment. This design is a full analogue front-end for IEPE sensor interface demonstrating how to achieve flexible high-resolution, high-speed conversion with low-power and small-footprint implementation.

MSP430FR2433IRGER: The MSP43FR2433 is an ultra-low-power MSP430FRx FRAM-based microcontroller (MCU). MSP ultralow-power microcontrollers from TI offer the lowest power consumption and the perfect mix of integrated peripherals for a wide range of low-power and portable applications. These MCUs are ideal in applications where the majority of the microcontroller life is spent in standby. The latest addition to this family is the series of MSP430FRx FRAM-based MCUs, which offer extended data logging and security capabilities. The MSP43FR2433 offers the small VQFN package (4mm × 4mm) in the FRAM microcontroller portfolio, combined with a variety of integrated peripherals and ultra-low power consumption.

TPS70933DRVR: TI’s TPS709xx series of linear regulators are ultra-low quiescent current devices designed for power-sensitive applications. A precision band-gap and error amplifier provides two percent accuracy over temperature. Quiescent current of only 1 µA makes these devices ideal solutions for battery-powered, always-on systems that require very little idle-state power dissipation. These devices have thermal-shutdown, current-limit, and reverse-current protections for added safety.

DRV8870DDAR: TI’s DRV8870 3.6A Brushed DC Motor Driver is a brushed-DC motor driver for printers, appliances, industrial equipment, and other small machines. Two logic inputs control the H-bridge driver, which consists of four N-channel MOSFETs. These MOSFETs can control motors bidirectionally with up to 3.6A peak current. The inputs can be pulse-width modulated (PWM) to control motor speed, using a choice of current-decay modes. Setting both inputs low enters a low-power sleep mode. The DRV8870 features integrated current regulation, based on the analogue input VREF and the voltage on pin ISEN. This is proportional to the motor current through an external sense resistor. The ability to limit the current to a known level can significantly reduce the system power requirements and bulk capacitance needed to maintain stable voltage, especially for motor startup and stall conditions.

ESD122DMXR: TI’s ESD122 ESD Protection Diode is a bidirectional TVS ESD protection diode array for USB Type-C and HDMI 2.0 circuit protection. The ESD122 is rated to dissipate contact ESD strikes at the maximum level specified in the IEC 61000-4-2 international standard (17kV Contact, 17kV Air-gap). This device features a low IO capacitance per channel and pin-out to suit symmetric differential high-speed signal routing. This feature makes the device ideal for protecting high-speed interfaces up to 10Gbps such as USB 3.1 Gen2 and HDMI 2.0. The low dynamic resistance and low clamping voltage ensure system level protection against transient events. The ESD122 is also an ideal ESD solution for the USB Type-C Tx/Rx lines. Since the USB Type-C connector has two layers, using 4-channel ESD devices require VIAs which degrade the signal integrity. Using four ESD122 (2-Ch) devices minimise the number of VIAs and simplifies the board layout.

TLV9061IDPWR: The TLV9061 (single), TLV9062 (dual), and TLV9064 (quad) are single-, dual-, and quad- low-voltage (1.8V to 5.5V) operational amplifiers (op amps) with rail-to-rail input- and output-swing capabilities. These devices are highly cost-effective solutions for applications where low-voltage operation, a small footprint, and high capacitive load drive are required. Although the capacitive load drive of the TLV906x is 100pF, the resistive open-loop output impedance makes stabilising with higher capacitive loads simpler. These op amps are designed specifically for low-voltage operation (1.8V to 5.5V) with performance specifications similar to the OPAx316 and TLVx316 devices.

TVS3300DRVR: See above for description.

IWR1642: The IWR1642 device is an integrated single-chip mmWave sensor based on FMCW radar technology capable of operation in the 76- to 81GHz band with up to 4GHz continuous chirp. The device is built with TI’s low-power 45nm RFCMOS process, and this solution enables unprecedented levels of integration in an extremely small form factor. The IWR1642 is an ideal solution for low-power, self-monitored, ultra-accurate radar systems in industrial applications such as building automation, factory automation, drones, material handling, traffic monitoring, and surveillance.

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