In fact, the use of robots is growing steadily. While some naysayers argue that automation will put people out of work, all the evidence to date shows that robotics can improve productivity, safety, and cost-effectiveness, and actually create new jobs. By the end of this year, the number of industrial robots deployed worldwide is expected to rise to approximately 2.6 million units.
According to data released by the International Federation of Robotics (IFR) last year, an average of 74 industrial robots are installed per 10,000 employees worldwide. The figures also show that the average is significantly higher in countries with rising measured productivity. For example, Germany, Singapore and South Korea have the most installed robots per 10,000 employees, with 309, 488 and 631 robots respectively.
Furthermore, in Germany’s automotive industry, for example, the number of employees has increased in parallel with the growth of robotic automation. A study published by ZEW (Center for European Economic Research) in cooperation with Utrecht University confirms the positive impact of increased automation on the number of jobs. It can be speculated that increased automation leads to lower production costs, which in turn lowers market prices, makes products more attractive to consumers and increases demand. The increase in demand can lead to employment growth.
Furthermore, industry and manufacturing are not the only areas where robots are having an impact. Increasingly, this impact extends beyond the factory floor, such as improving the delivery efficiency of online shopping and getting students more interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
In order to develop the smartest and most advanced robotic systems, innovative analog and embedded technologies are required. To help gain insight into how robotic system design works, Texas Instruments (TI) offers learning kits to help students fill in the gaps in current engineering courses. Some of the tools currently available from TI are discussed below:
TIDA-01600 – Smart Brake Control and Diagnostics Reference Design for Servo Drives and Robots: This TI reference design (Figure 1) provides a dual-channel output signal to control an external brake for IEC EN 61800 compliance in servo drives -5-2 Standard safety brake control function. In terms of function, when the power supply of the brake working coil is cut off, the brake is locked; when the voltage is applied, the brake is released. For this to work, a smart electronic load switch that supplies power to the coil must be enabled/disabled. The reference design also features diagnostics to detect various faults to ensure safe operation. To generate brake control signals and perform diagnostics, this design uses the C2000 Launchpad.
Figure 1: Texas Instruments’ TIDA-01600 servo drive and robot smart braking reference design. (Image source: Texas Instruments)
LMZ14201TZ-ADJ/NOPB – SIMPLE SWITCHER Power Modules for High Output Voltage: TI’s LMZ1420x family of power modules feature integrated shielded inductors, simple PCB layout, and flexible start-up sequencing using external soft-start and precision enable. These power modules provide inrush protection, input UVLO, and output short-circuit protection. Due to the high efficiency of the modules, the heat generated by the system can be reduced. This family of power modules has a single exposed pad and standard pinout for ease of installation and fabrication.
ISO7842: This is a reinforced 4-channel 2/2 digital isolator (VDE, CSA, CQC and TUV certified) with 8000-VPK isolation voltage. The ISO7842 isolator isolates CMOS or LVCMOS digital I/O while providing high electromagnetic immunity and low emissions at low power consumption. Each isolation channel has a logic input and output buffer and is isolated by an insulating barrier composed of silicon dioxide (SiO2) material.
TPS7B6933QDBVRQ1: The TPS7B69xx-Q1 devices are low-dropout linear regulators designed for operation up to 40 V VI. The TPS7B6933QDBVRQ1 device has a quiescent current of 15 μA (typical) at light loads, making it suitable for backup microcontroller unit systems, especially in automotive applications. These devices integrate short-circuit and overcurrent protection and operate over the -40°C to +125°C temperature range. These features make the TPS7B6925-Q1, TPS7B6933-Q1, and TPS7B6950-Q1 ideal for a variety of automotive power applications.
TPS27S100APWPR: TI’s TPS27S100x smart high-side switches are single-channel, fully protected high-side switches with integrated NMOS and charge pump. The TPS27S100APWPR features comprehensive diagnostics and high-precision current monitoring for intelligent control of the load. It also has an adjustable current limiting function, which can greatly improve system reliability. With accurate current monitoring and adjustable current limit, this device is differentiated from similar devices in the market today.
ULN2003APWR: This TI device is a high current transistor array. The ULN2003APWR consists of seven NPN Darlington transistor pairs, each with a high voltage output and common cathode clamping diodes to switch inductive loads. Each Darlington transistor pair in this device has a collector current rating of 500 mA. These Darlington transistor pairs can be paralleled to support higher current requirements. Some example applications include lamp drivers, display drivers (LED and gas discharge), logic buffers, hammer drivers, line drivers, and relay drivers.
TVS3300DRVR: The TVS3300 shunts up to 35 A of IEC 61000-4-5 fault current, protecting systems from high power transients or lightning strikes; Up to 1 kV IEC 61000-4-5 open circuit voltage. The device uses a unique feedback mechanism to ensure that the system exposure voltage is less than 40 V, resulting in accurate and stable clamping during faults. This tight voltage regulation allows designers to confidently select system components with lower voltage tolerances, reducing overall system cost and complexity without compromising robustness.
Logistics and Service Robots
Ultrasonic Distance Sensor Reference Design Using IO-Link – TI Reference Design: This design (Figure 2) features an ultrasonic distance sensor that fits well in an M12 housing due to its optimized layout and high level of integration. The device’s IO-Link interface is designed to communicate with system controls, thus enabling Industry 4.0. Ultrasonic sensors are used to detect and/or measure distance to objects, independent of their colour, transparency or surface characteristics. The device is capable of operating in harsh industrial environments such as factories and process plants.
Figure 2: Texas Instruments’ TIDA-01386 reference design for an ultrasonic distance sensor using IO-Link. (Image source: Texas Instruments)
EtherCAT P® Reference Design for Power Supply and EtherCAT® Shared Cable – TI Reference Design: This reference design shows the physical implementation of a power supply coupled to an EtherCAT P® power supply circuit. The design complies with all requirements in the official EtherCAT P implementation guide, featuring features such as continuous current limiting, inrush current limiting, and reverse polarity protection.
PLC Analog Input Module Surge Protection Reference Design – TI Reference Design: This design is intended to demonstrate the protection capabilities of a TI 33 V protection device such as the previously discussed TVS3300 for factory automation and control. This design has the precision required to measure protection device characteristics (ie, leakage and clamping voltage) before and after EMI stress.
TVS3300DRV-EVM: TI’s TVS3300DRV-EVM helps designers evaluate the operation and performance of the TVS3300 (discussed earlier); the latter is a precision clamp that maintains ultra-low and stable clamping voltage. With this precision surge technology from TI, the TVS3300 clamps a very small change in voltage regardless of the magnitude of the surge current. It also responds quickly to surges, limiting overshoot voltage when clamping occurs. The TVS3300DRV-EVM evaluation module includes two sets of screw terminal headers for general purpose in-circuit testing of various connector configurations. In addition, the board includes two banana plug inputs for easy testing, and four 50 Ω SMA connectors for easy connection to an oscilloscope.
LM5166DRCT: This device is an easy-to-use compact 3-V to 65-V ultra-low IQ synchronous buck converter that provides high efficiency over a wide input voltage and load current range. It integrates high-side and low-side power MOSFETs and can output current up to 500 mA at a constant output voltage of 3.3 V or 5 V or with an adjustable output voltage. The converter design provides options to optimize performance for the target application while simplifying implementation. Designers can select the LM5166DRCT pulse frequency modulation (PFM) mode option for best light load efficiency, or constant on-time (COT) control for nearly constant operating frequency. It must be noted that both control schemes require no loop compensation, provide excellent line and load transient response and short pulse width modulation (PWM) on-times, enabling large step-down conversion ratios.
PGA460TPWRQ1: TI’s PGA460-Q1 is a highly integrated system-on-chip ultrasonic transmitter driver and signal conditioner with an advanced DSP core. The device contains a pair of complementary low-side drivers that can drive transmitters in either a transformer-based topology using a step-up transformer or a direct-drive topology using an external high-side FET. The device is able to receive and condition reflected ultrasonic echo signals to reliably detect objects. To do this, it uses an analog front-end (AFE) consisting of a low-noise amplifier and a programmable time-varying gain stage fed back to the ADC. The signal digitized by the ADC is then processed in the DSP core before calculating near-field and far-field object detection using time-varying thresholds.
MSP430FR5959IRHAR: The MSP430 Ultra-Low-Power (ULP) FRAM platform combines embedded FRAM and an ultra-low-power system architecture to increase performance within a lower energy budget. TI uses FRAM technology in these devices because it combines the speed, flexibility, and endurance of SRAM with the stability and reliability of Flash memory at lower overall power consumption. The MSP430 ULP FRAM portfolio includes a diverse set of devices integrating FRAM, ULP 16-bit MSP430 CPU, and intelligent peripherals for a variety of different applications. The ULP architecture features seven low-power modes, each optimized for longer battery life in a variety of power-hungry applications.
TIOL111: This series of transceivers has an IO-Link interface for industrial-grade bidirectional point-to-point communication. When connected to an IO-Link master via a three-wire interface, the TIOL111 serves as a complete physical layer for communication. In this case, the host can initiate communication with remote nodes and exchange data. The devices are capable of withstanding surge voltages up to 1.2 kV (500 Ω) per IEC 61000-4-5 and have integrated reverse polarity protection.
10.8-V/15-W, >>90% Efficiency, 2.4-cm2 Power Stage Reference Design for Brushed DC Servo Drives – TI Reference Design: This 15 W power stage reference design (Figure 3) is only 12 mm x 20 mm, designed to drive and control the position of brushed direct current (BDC) motors powered by 3 to 6 Li-ion batteries. The design provides a high-efficiency solution and is optimized for a very small form factor that fits easily into the motor housing and enables precise motor position control. In addition, this reference design is capable of driving a motor at high speed without any position feedback, and can sense current quickly and accurately, enabling high-quality torque control. Finally, the onboard MCU provides a UART connection enabling control from any external controller.
Figure 3: Texas Instruments’ TIDA-01588 power stage reference design for brushed DC servo drives. (Image source: Texas Instruments)
IEPE Vibration Sensor Interface Reference Design for PLC Analog Input – TI Reference Design: Vibration detection is a key component of industrial condition monitoring and an essential part of predictive maintenance. The most commonly used vibration sensors in industrial environments are integrated electronic piezoelectric (IEPE) sensors. At the heart of the reference design (Figure 4) is a complete analog front end for IEPE sensor interfaces. This design demonstrates that low-power, flexible, high-resolution, high-speed conversion of IEPE sensor data can be achieved with a small footprint solution.
Figure 4: Texas Instruments’ TIDA-01471 Vibration Sensor Interface Reference Design for PLC Analog Input. (Image source: Texas Instruments)
MSP430FR2433IRGER: This is TI’s ultra-low-power FRAM-based MSP430FRx microcontroller family with the lowest power consumption and integrated peripherals to support a wide range of low-power and portable applications. These MCUs are ideal for applications where the MCU primarily operates in standby mode. In addition, the FRAM-based MSP430FRx MCU family has recently added options for scalable data logging and security features. The MSP43FR2433 is housed in a small VQFN package (4 mm × 4 mm), ideal for small industrial sensors, and combines various integrated peripherals in addition to ultra-low power consumption.
TPS70933DRVR: TI’s TPS709xx series of linear regulators feature ultra-low quiescent current, making them ideal for power-sensitive applications. These devices use a precision bandgap and error amplifier with 2% accuracy over the operating temperature range. Quiescent current as low as 1 μA makes these devices an ideal solution for battery-operated, always-on applications with very low idle power consumption. This family of devices also has additional safety features including thermal shutdown, current limit, and reverse current protection.
DRV8870DDAR: TI’s DRV8870 is a 3.6 A brushed DC motor driver for applications such as industrial equipment, appliances, printers and other small machines. Two logic inputs control four N-channel MOSFET H-bridge motor drivers, enabling bidirectional motor control with a peak current of 3.6 A. To control motor speed, the input can be pulse width modulated using an optional current decay mode. When both inputs are set low, the device enters a low-power sleep mode. The DRV8870 also integrates current regulation based on the VREF analog input and pin ISEN voltage from an external sense resistor through which the motor current flows. The device limits current to a known level, greatly reducing system power requirements and bulk capacitors needed to maintain motor voltage regulation, especially during start-up and stall conditions.
ESD122DMXR: This is a bidirectional TVS ESD protection diode array from TI designed for USB Type-C™ and HDMI 2.0 circuit protection, rated for ESD strike dissipation at the maximum level specified in IEC 61000-4-2 (17 kV contact discharge, 17 kV air gap discharge). ESD122 has low IO capacitance per channel and pin layout suitable for symmetrical differential high-speed signal routing, so it is ideal for protecting high-speed interfaces up to 10 Gbps, applications including Gen 2 USB 3.1 and HDMI 2.0, etc. The device’s low dynamic resistance and low clamping voltage ensure further system-level protection against transient events. Additionally, the ESD122 is an ideal ESD solution for USB Type-C Tx/Rx lines. Due to the two-layer structure of the USB Type-C connector, a VIA is required when using a quad-channel ESD device, which degrades signal integrity. However, using four ESD122 (dual channel) devices minimizes VIA count and simplifies board layout.
TLV9061IDPWR: The TLV9061, TLV9062, and TLV9064 are single, dual, and quad low-voltage (1.8 V to 5.5 V) operational amplifiers (op amps), respectively, with rail-to-rail input and output swing capability. These devices provide a cost-effective solution for low voltage, small size, and high capacitive load drive applications. Although the TLV906x capacitive load drive is 100 pF, the resistive open-loop output impedance makes it easier to stabilize with higher capacitive loads. As mentioned earlier, these op amps are designed for low voltage operation (1.8 V to 5.5 V) and have performance specifications similar to TI’s TLVx316 and OPAx316 devices.
TVS3300DRVR: See instructions in the “Industrial Robots” section above.
IWR1642: Based on frequency-modulated continuous-wave (FMCW) radar technology, this device is an integrated single-chip mmWave sensor capable of operating in the 76 to 81 GHz frequency band with up to 4 GHz continuous chirp. The solution is fabricated on TI’s low-power 45 nm RFCMOS process, which enables an unrivaled level of integration in an ultra-small form factor. The IWR1642 is an ideal solution for low-power, self-monitoring, ultra-high-precision radar systems in industrial applications such as security monitoring, factory automation, material handling, traffic monitoring, building automation, and drones.
Today’s industrial technology requires not only the smartest and most advanced robotic systems, but also innovative analog and embedded technologies. To support this need, TI offers a variety of solutions and reference designs that can speed or even simplify development.