MEMS scanner projects Bosch Sensortec into displays, user interfaces

MEMS scanner projects Bosch Sensortec into displays, user interfaces

Technology News |
By Peter Clarke

Bosch Sensortec is launching the BML050 at the Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona.

The BML050 incorporates two hermetically sealed MEMS micromirrors for X and Y scanning.

The core component is a two MEMS mirror optical scanner for RGB visible light and IR laser projection which is inherently in focus. The component can be used for the projection of images and the creation of a projected virtual user interface and Bosch has developed its geometry perspective scaling to allow images to appear correct when under oblique projection. Interactivity is enabled by use of a receiving photodiode that measures the reflected light intensity pixel by pixel. It is thus possible to detect if the light intensity has changed in a given region and interpret that as key stroke or button press. Embedded projectors and augmented reality applications include games, infotainment and in-car head-up displays.

The BML050 reference design is a ready-to-run sub-system although Bosch Sensortec can discuss other layouts and formfactors.

Bosch Sensortec is also attempting to move up to a subsystem-level of supply. While it, with parent company Robert Bosch, has researched and developed the optical MEMS scanner the company has also worked with partners to develop laser driver ASIC, MEMS driver and video processor ASIC, power management IC. Finkbeiner wouldn’t name the partners but he said Bosch Sensortec is prepared to bundle all these devices together lasers to produce a subsystem.

“We can deliver all the ingredients, optical MEMS and others. It is a new deal in terms of new markets and we’re moving up from being a pure component supplier. It’s a new step in the history of Bosch Sensortec; a new value proposition,” Finkbeiner said.

Next: What’s changed?

Stefan Finkbeiner, CEO of Bosch Sensortec

Similar MEMS-based optical scanners have been offered before for picoprojection applications but to date have failed to gain traction. Finkbeiner said: “Until recently obtaining green lasers of comparable brightness was a problem. They were also too expensive.”

“And then there was micromirror robustness. Previous systems have been open and could admit dust.” Bosch Sensortec’s design features two separately hermetically sealed MEMS micromirrors facing each other on either side of a carrier substrate.

The final reason why such picoprojection has struggled was essentially because it was too complex for customers to engineer at the component level. “It was too complex for customers to do, so our reference design approach helps address that,” Finkbeiner said.

Market research firm IHS Markit sees growth in the market for MEMS scanning mirrors, with a compound annual growth rate of 18 percent over the period 2017 to 2020. “The Bosch Sensortec MEMS scanner BML050 enables two functions in one product, namely projection display and gesture user interface,” said Jeremie Bouchaud, director of MEMS and sensor research at IHS Markit. “Other new use cases of MEMS scanners include adaptive headlights and automotive head up displays.”

The BML050 can operate with full video up to about HD resolution (720p) but it has limited range because of issues over laser brightness so it is primarily intended for projecting simple images as part of a user interface up to a range of about 0.5m and image size of about 30cm by 20cm.

Next: Product specifications

Finkbeiner told eeNews Europe Bosch has two lead customers for the component with volume production scheduled for 2H17 and that he expects products that include the device in the market by the end of 2017. He declined to name the customers or identify the applications. However, typical applications include application areas in IoT, smartwatches, head-up displays, coffee machines, industrial and medical equipment, he said.

Sub-system layout including laser driver, MEMS driver, video processor and PMICs. Source: Bosch Sensortec.

Bosch Sensortec provides software support for major operating systems and is ready to assist customers with operation and parameter configurations as well as hardware integration and calibration tasks.

Preliminary specifications. Source: Bosch Sensortec.

More preliminary specifications. Source: Bosch Sensortec.

As for power consumption Finkbeiner said that in the context of a smartwatch – where it could be used for back-of-the-hand virtual interface – it would be no more power consumptive than a conventional display. “It is not yet suitable to go in a smartphone but maybe the next generation,” Finkbeiner said.

Related links and articles:

News articles:

RealSense teardown highlights IR light projector

Intel selects ST micromirrors for human-machine interface

Sony picoprojector teardown shows ST, Microvision inside

MEMS platforms are way to go, says Bosch’s Finkbeiner

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