Time-of-flight sensor has doubled range

February 25, 2017 // By Peter Clarke
STMicroelectronics has launched its third-generation time-of-flight (ToF) laser ranging sensor, the VL53L1, which brings multi-object detection and multi-array scanning as well as doubling range of operation to above 4.5m.

The VL53L1, part of ST's FlightSense series of sensors, has changes at the silicon and module level including the addition of optical lenses to the module.

This allows novel features such as multi-target detection and programmable multi-zone scanning. The VL53L1 is suitavle for robotics, user detection, drones, IoT, and wearable applications.

The sensor module integrates a VCSEL that emits at a wavelength of 940nm, a processor core and a SPAD photon detector. The addition of the optical lens system increases the photon detection rate to boost the module’s ranging performance. The embedded microcontroller manages the ranging function.

The VL53L1 performs a full measurement operation in as little as 5ms and for autofocus applications in smartphones, the sensor detects objects twice as fast as earlier-generation devices. The module measures 4.9mm by 2.5mm by 1.56mm.

"ST has already shipped hundreds of millions of time-of-flight sensors, which have been designed by OEMs into over 70 smartphone models as well as many other consumer devices," said Eric Aussedat, general manager of ST's imaging division, in a statement. "The third-generation FlightSense product uses its improved performance to support new applications, including human-presence detection, while continuing to improve sensor performance for existing use cases."

The VL53L1 is an I2C capable module that is in production and available now.

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