VL6180X Time-of-Flight Distance Sensor
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This sensor is a carrier/breakout board for ST’s VL6180X proximity and ambient light sensor, which measures the range to a target object up to 20 cm away (or 60 cm with reduced resolution). The VL6180X uses time-of-flight measurements of infrared pulses for ranging, allowing it to give accurate results independent of the target’s color and surface. Distance and ambient light level measurements can be read through a digital I²C interface. The board has a 2.8 V linear regulator and integrated level-shifters that allow it to work over an input voltage range of 2.7 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 VL6180X from ST Microelectronics is a sensor that combines proximity ranging and ambient light level measurement capabilities into a single package. This board is a carrier for the VL6180X, so we recommend careful reading of the VL6180X datasheet (2MB pdf) before using this product.
Unlike simpler optical sensors that use the intensity of reflected light to detect objects, the VL6180 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, making it essentially a short-range lidar sensor. This time-of-flight (TOF) measurement enables it to accurately determine the absolute distance to a target with 1 mm resolution, without the object’s reflectance influencing the measurement. The sensor is rated to perform ranging measurements of up to 10 cm (4″), but it can often provide readings up to 20 cm (8″) with its default settings. Furthermore, the VL6180X can be configured to measure ranges of up to 60 cm (24″) at the cost of reduced resolution, although successful ranging at these longer distances will depend heavily on the target and environment. (For more information, see “Range scaling factor” below.)
The VL6180 also includes an ambient light sensor, or ALS, that can measure the intensity of light with which it is illuminated. Ranging and ambient light measurements are available through the sensor’s I²C (TWI) interface, which is also used to configure sensor settings, and two independently-programmable GPIO pins can be configured as interrupt outputs.
The VL6180X 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 voltages below 3 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.
The carrier board includes a low-dropout linear voltage regulator that provides the 2.8 V required by the VL6180X, which allows the sensor to be powered from a 2.7 V to 5.5 V supply. The regulator output is available on the VDD pin and can supply almost 150 mA to external devices. The breakout board also includes a circuit that shifts the I²C clock and data lines to the same logic voltage level as the supplied VIN, making it simple to interface the board with 3.3 V or 5 V systems, and the board’s 0.1″ pin spacing makes it easy to use with standard solderless breadboards and 0.1″ perfboards. The board ships fully populated with its SMD components, including the VL6180X, as shown in the product picture.