STMicroelectronics has announced the second generation of its FlightSense Time-of-Flight ranging sensor technology, now available in the VL53L0X laser-ranging sensor. The VL53L0X extends the ToF measurement range to 2m, and is accurate to within ±3%. It is also faster, measuring the distance in under 30ms, and highly energy-efficient, consuming only 20mW in active ranging mode and drawing 5µA in standby.
Unlike conventional infrared proximity sensors, the VL53L0X gives accurate distance measurement in millimeters, and is unaffected by the color or reflectivity of the sensed target. Its fast-acting FlightSense technology, well known from the laser-assisted camera auto-focus featured in several smartphones from top brands, can also distinguish movement towards or away from the sensor or from side to side. Distance is calculated internally and communicated over I2C thereby minimizing demands on the system host controller.
The integrated eye-safe laser emits non-visible light of 940nm wavelength, which eliminates the distracting red glow typically associated with other infrared proximity sensors and improves immunity to interference from external light sources. The sensor’s digital architecture and automatic light compensation further enhance performance in scenes with high ambient-lighting levels.
The sensing capabilities of the VL53L0X can support a wide range of functions including gesture sensing or proximity detection for new innovative UIs, wall detection, cliff detection and collision avoidance for robotic appliances such as vacuum cleaners, as well as hands-free actuation of home appliances or washroom devices such as faucets, soap dispensers, hand dryers, and flushers. Other applications include user-presence detection for laptops or monitors for power-on/off control, drones, and Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices.
To support fast and easy integration, the VL53L0X is supplied with a software API (Application Programming Interface) as well as full documentation and example source code. Developers can take advantage of the X-NUCLEO-53L0A1 expansion board, which can be connected to the family of STM32 Nucleo microcontroller boards for easy evaluation of the VL53L0X performance. At 2.4x4.4x1mm, it is also the smallest such device in the market.
The VL53L0X is in production now in a 12-pad reflow-compatible module, priced at $2.30 for orders of 1,000 pieces. For mass-production orders, minimum order quantity (MOQ) is 5,000 units.