Pololu VL53L1X Time-of-Flight Distance Sensor Carrier with Voltage Regulator 400cm Max

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This sensor is a carrier/breakout board for ST’s VL53L1X laser-ranging sensor, which offers fast and accurate ranging up to 4 m. It uses the time of flight (ToF) of invisible, eye-safe laser pulses to measure absolute distances independent of ambient lighting conditions and target characteristics like color, shape, and texture (though these things will affect the maximum range). The VL53L1X also features a programmable region of interest (ROI), so the full field of view can be reduced or divided into multiple zones. Distance measurements can be read through a digital I²C interface. The board includes a 2.8 V linear regulator and level-shifters that allow it to work over an input voltage range of 2.6 V to 5.5 V, and the 0.1″ pin spacing makes it easy to use with standard solderless breadboards and 0.1″ perfboards.

The VL53L1X from ST Microelectronics is a long-distance ranging time-of-flight (TOF) sensor integrated into a compact module. This board is a carrier for the VL53L1X, so we recommend careful reading of the VL53L1X datasheet (1MB pdf) before using this product.

The VL53L1X is effectively a tiny, self-contained lidar system featuring an integrated 940 nm Class 1 laser, which is invisible and eye-safe. Unlike conventional IR sensors that use the intensity of reflected light to estimate the distance to an object, the VL53L1X uses ST’s FlightSense technology to precisely measure how long it takes for emitted pulses of infrared laser light to reach the nearest object and be reflected back to a detector. This approach ensures absolute distance measurements independent of ambient lighting conditions and target characteristics (e.g. color, shape, texture, and reflectivity), though these external conditions do affect the maximum range of the sensor, as do the sensor configuration settings.

Under favorable conditions, such as low ambient light with a high-reflectivity target, the sensor can report distances up to 4 m (13 ft) with 1 mm resolution. See the datasheet for more information on how various external conditions and sensor configurations affect things like maximum range, repeatability, and ranging error. The minimum ranging distance is 4 cm; inside of this range, the sensor will still detect a target, but the measurement will not be accurate. Ranging measurements are available through the sensor’s I²C (TWI) interface, which is also used to configure sensor settings, and the sensor provides two additional pins: a shutdown input and an interrupt output.

The VL53L1X offers three distance modes: short, medium, and long. Long distance mode allows the longest possible ranging distance of 4 m, but the maximum range is significantly affected by ambient light. Short distance mode is mostly immune to ambient light, but the maximum ranging distance is typically limited to 1.3 m (4.4 ft). The maximum sampling rate in short distance mode is 50 Hz while the maximum sampling rate for medium and long distance modes is 30 Hz. Performance can be improved in all modes by using lower sampling rates and longer timing budgets (as can be seen in the figure above).

For advanced applications, the VL53L1X supports configurable thresholds that can be used to trigger interrupts when a target is detected below a certain distance, beyond a certain distance, outside of a range, or within a range. It also supports an alternate detection mode that generates an interrupt when no target is present. Additionally, unlike its predecessors, the VL53L1X supports a configurable region of interest (ROI) within its full 16×16 sensing array, allowing you to reduce the field of view (FoV). With all 265 detection elements enabled, the FoV is 27°. An “Autonomous Low Power” mode that is specially tuned for advanced presence detection is available. This mode allows for significant system power saving by switching off or waking up the host automatically when a human or object is detected within the configured distance thresholds in the region of interest.

The VL53L1X is a great IC, but its small, leadless, LGA package makes it difficult for the typical student or hobbyist to use. It also operates at a recommended voltage of 2.8 V, which can make interfacing difficult for microcontrollers operating at 3.3 V or 5 V. Our breakout board addresses these issues, making it easier to get started using the sensor, while keeping the overall size as small as possible.

Features and specifications

  • Dimensions: 0.5″ × 0.7″ × 0.085″ (13 mm × 18 mm × 2 mm)
  • Weight without header pins: 0.5 g (0.02 oz)
  • Operating voltage: 2.6 V to 5.5 V
  • Supply current: ~15 mA (typical average during active ranging at max sampling rate)
    • Varies with configuration, target, and environment; peak current can reach 40 mA
  • Fast and accurate ranging with three distance mode options:
    • Short: up to ~130 cm, 50 Hz max sampling rate; this mode is the most immune to interference from ambient light
    • Medium: up to ~300 cm in the dark, 30 Hz max sampling rate
    • Long: up to 400 cm in the dark, 30 Hz max sampling rate
  • Minimum range: 4 cm (objects under this range are detected, but measurements are not accurate)
  • Emitter: 940 nm invisible Class 1 VCSEL (vertical cavity surface-emitting laser) – eye-safe
  • Detector: 16×16 SPAD (single photon avalanche diode) receiving array with integrated lens
    • Typical full field of view (FoV): 27°
    • Programmable region of interest (ROI) size on the receiving array, allowing the sensor FoV to be reduced
    • Programmable ROI position on the receiving array, allowing multizone operation control from the host
  • Configurable detection interrupt thresholds for implementing autonomous low-power presence detection:
    • target closer than threshold
    • target farther than threshold
    • target within distance window
    • target outside of distance window
    • no target
  • Output format (I²C): 16-bit distance reading (in millimeters)

Included components

A 1×7 strip of 0.1″ header pins and a 1×7 strip of 0.1″ right-angle header pins are included. You can solder the header strip of your choice to the board for use with custom cables or solderless breadboards, or you can solder wires directly to the board itself for more compact installations. The board has two mounting holes spaced 0.5″ apart that work with #2 and M2 screws (not included).

(Pololu product 3415)

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