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Innovative data converter technology aims to revolutionize position and motion sensing solutions

Innovative data converter technology aims to revolutionize position and motion sensing solutions

Technology News |
By eeNews Europe



Unveiling the industry’s first inductance-to-digital converter (LDC), introduced as the LDC1000, the company claims that the new technology will deliver higher resolution, increased reliability, and greater flexibility than existing sensing solutions at a lower system cost.

Inductive sensing is a contactless sensing technology, which has been around for many years without capturing the imagination of mechanical engineers or electronics design engineers aside from a few niche application areas which saw the benefit of using the technology to measure the position, motion, or composition of a metal or conductive target, as well as detect the compression, extension or twist of a spring.

Texas Instruments design teams in California and Milan, Italy now claim that they have be able to hone inductive sensing technology to now offer a multitude of contactless sensing solutions with appeal to a wide spectrum of applications which range from simple push buttons, knobs, and on/off switches to high-resolution heart rate monitors, turbine flow meters, and high-speed motor/gear controllers. Given their versatility, Texas claims that the LDCs can be used in many different markets, including automotive, white goods, consumer electronics, mobile devices, computing, industrial, and medical.

“LDC technology enables engineers to create sensors using low-cost and readily available PCB traces or metal springs. LDCs provide high-resolution sensing of any metal or conductor – including the human body,” explained Dave Heacock, senior vice president of TI Silicon Valley Analog. “LDCs provide system designers with a new platform for developing breakthrough solutions to difficult system problems. We can’t wait to see what they come up with.”

Texas Instruments claims the LDC technology will enable sub-micron resolution in position-sensing applications with 16-bit resonance impedance and 24-bit inductance values. The LDC1000 offers reliability benefits because contactless sensing is immune to nonconductive contaminants, such as oil, dirt and dust, which can shorten equipment life.

“This is the first new data converter category to be introduced for a very long time,”  explained Jon Baldwin, Product Line Manager, Sensor Signal Path for Texas Instruments. “But what we are most interested in with this data converter technology is what we can do with it.  Inductive sensing technology has been around for a long time but has never been applied to a lot of different applications. It has primarily been used in position and motion sensing but never really took off in those applications.  But when you do apply it you get better performance, better reliability, lower system cost and lower system power than most competing solutions out there”.

“Where we really see the application benefits of inductive sensing technology is in its much greater flexibility.  When you go through a system design you find that inductive sensing technology is much easier to integrate and it gives you much more options in terms of electrical and mechanical design.  In terms of markets and applications we have found application solutions in just about every market segment”.

Greater flexibility is claimed because the sensor can be located remotely from the electronics, where PCBs cannot be placed. Lower system costs are anticipated by using low-cost sensors and targets.  In addition no magnets are required.  The technology supports pressed foil or conductive ink targets, to offer endless opportunities for creative and innovative system design. The LDC1000 consumes less than 8.5 mW during standard operation and less than 1.25 mW in standby mode.

The LDC1000EVM, which includes an MSP430F5528 microcontroller (MCU), is available to evaluate the device and can be purchased for $29.00.

The EVM and GUI provide a complete prototyping and evaluation platform with a USB interface allowing control and evaluation of LDC1000 with GUI.  The EVM includes a 14-mm, 2-layer PCB coil sensor and the coil can be removed to allow prototyping with other coils, springs or inductors.  Coil and LDC1000 board section can be removed. The EVM is designed to enable multi-channel prototyping to be implemented.

To help design engineers to create custom sensor coils in seconds Texas Instruments has developed the WEBENCH Inductive Sensing Designer which simplifies the sensor coil design process and provides configuration settings for the LDC based on the coil’s characteristics, application requirements, and system performance needs. The design tool enables the chosen design to be exported to a variety of CAD programs which can quickly incorporate the sensor coil into the overall system design.

Availability and Pricing

The LDC1000 is available to order now in a 16-pin, 4-mm by 5-mm SON package for $2.95 in 1,000-unit quantities. An automotive-qualified version will be available the first half of 2014.

More information about Texas Instruments LDC1000 inductance-to-digital converter at www.ti.com/ldc1000-pr-eu

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