Sensors

Time of flight sensors enhanced for more applications

8th July 2021
Mick Elliott

Time of Flight (ToF) ranging sensors are based on STMicroelectronics’ range of Flight Sense patented technology which allows the sensors to provide highly accurate distance measurement and proximity sensing.

They are in stock at distributor Anglia Components.

Building on the VL53L platform, STMicroelectronics next generation VL53L1 and VL53L3 series of ToF sensors offer enhancements to make them suitable for a wider range of industrial and consumer applications.

ToF sensors work by emitting invisible 940nm photons from a VCSEL which hit a target and reflect back to a SPAD array sensor integrated onto the same device.

The distance can be accurately measured by calculating the time it takes the photon emission to travel from the emitter and be reflected back the sensor divided by 2 and then times by the speed of light, so for example a target at a distance of 1 cm from the device would have a photon round trip time of 67ps.

Measurement is completely independent of the size, colour and reflectance of the target object and distance can be calculated very fast in just a few ms.

The ToF sensors are designed to consume very low power making them suitable for battery powered devices also.

The VL53L1 is a state-of-the-art, ToF, laser-ranging, miniature sensor enhancing STMicroelectronics’ FlightSense product family.

This sensor is housed in a compact package measuring just 4.9 x 2.5 x 1.56 mm and is compatible with automatic reflow soldering processes.

The device integrates a SPAD (single photon avalanche diode) array, physical infrared filters and optics allowing it to achieve the best ranging performance in various ambient lighting conditions, with a wide range of cover windows.

Unlike conventional IR sensors, the VL53L1 uses STMicroelectronics latest generation direct ToF technology which allows absolute distance measurement whatever the target colour and reflectance.

It can provide accurate ranging above 4 m and works at fast speeds (60 Hz), making it one of the fastest miniature ToF sensor on the market.

The sensor features patented algorithms and ingenious module construction allowing the VL53L1 to detect different objects within the field-of-view with depth understanding at 60 Hz.

This means scene browsing and multi-zone detection is now possible with the VL53L1, thanks to software customisable detection array for quicker “touch-to-focus” or mini depth-map use cases.

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