This weeks’ EYE ON NPI (video) is right on time, it’s the ST VL53L5CX Time-of-Flight Ranging Sensor, the latest in a long line of successful and popular Time of Flight (ToF) ranging sensors. These sensors have gone through many revisions, and each version has improved on the prior one.
Starting with the VL6180X, the VL53L0X and VL53L1X, these sensors increase the range, speed, accuracy with each generation. Each sensor works the same way: they have a tiny near-IR laser that emits light and is bounced off nearby objects to determine the distance.
The sensor has extra-ordinary time sensing, so it can measure the ‘time of flight’ between the photon emitted by the laser, and when it arrives bounced back. Thus, they are called “Time of Flight / ToF” sensors and the series of boards are called ST FlightSense.
STMicroelectronics’ VL53L5CX is a state of the art, time-of-flight (ToF), laser-ranging sensor, enhancing the ST FlightSense product family. Housed in a miniature reflowable package, it integrates a single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) array, physical infrared filters, and diffractive optical elements (DOE) to achieve the best-ranging performance in various ambient lighting conditions with a range of cover glass materials. The use of a DOE above the vertical cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) allows a square FoV to be projected onto the scene. The reflection of this light is focused by the receiver lens onto a SPAD array.
Unlike conventional IR sensors, the VL53L5CX uses ST’s latest generation, direct ToF technology, which allows absolute distance measurement whatever the target color and reflectance. It provides accurate ranging up to 400 cm and can work at fast speeds (60 Hz), which makes it the fastest, multizone, miniature ToF sensor currently on the market…the VL53L5CX is able to detect different objects within the FoV with a distance information range up to 60 cm. The Histogram also provides immunity to cover glass crosstalk beyond 60 cm. Multizone distance measurements are possible up to 8×8 zones with a wide 61° diagonal FoV that can be reduced by software.
The big updates in the L5 version is a new diffraction element which allows the SPAD to measure an 8×8 zone of distance measurements, which makes it more like a spatial LIDAR than a point-LIDAR. It’s not super-fast, but you can use it for gesture recognition and possibly simple robotics-navigation. The price is not much different than before, and you still get 4 meter range.
Another nice thing about this sensor is ST is starting to release ‘platform agnostic’ sensor drivers, including an ‘ultra lite driver‘ for this chip that is easy to port to other platforms without heavy IDE/toolchain/chipset dependencies.
The ST VL53L5CX is in stock right now for immediate shipment from Digi-Key! There’s also eval/dev boards if you want to get started instantly. Order today and you can add a micro-LiDAR to your project or product by tomorrow afternoon.
See on digikey.com at https://www.digikey.com/short/hwb7rd0m