July 2012 Update - Texas Instruments DRV2603 Added
Most vibrating motors in our product range are DC Eccentric Rotating Mass (ERM) motors which are produced with a offset weight attached to the shaft. These are available in commutated pager motor form factors as well as brushless, and ‘coin’ types which use the ERM principle. When the weight rotates the centripetal force of the weight causes a vibration. The ERM is crude but it works. A recently developed alternative to the ERM is the Linear Resonance Actuator (LRA).
LRAs use a movable mass, permanent magnet, voice coil and spring to generate vibrations. The voice coil produces a magnetic field which interacts with the permanent magnet, causing it to move and by doing so, compresses or stretches the spring to which it is attached. The drive signal needs to alternate the direction of current (i.e. it's an AC signal) and hence the magnetic field to make the permanent magnet oscillate back and forth with the spring. The moving mass is attached to the magnet, and it is the moving of the mass back and forth that generates the vibration.
There are several reasons why LRAs may be preferred haptic vibrators in some designs:
Mostly it is not possible to directly swap an ERM motor with an LRA vibrator. As you may have noticed above, we already mentioned that the input signal to the LRA has to alternate, i.e. it needs an AC drive signal.
AC drive signals can have a frequency and an amplitude. The higher the amplitude the greater the vibration output for a given frequency. However, the frequency of the drive signal is a very important factor. The LRA has a resonant frequency which the input signal should operate at, to maximise the vibration generated.
Vibration performance drops off significantly when the input signal frequency is moved too far from the resonant frequency, as can be seen in the diagram below. Our datasheets state the resonant frequency of our LRAs and have a typical performance 'bode plot' which shows the amplitude vs frequency; e.g. the bode plot below is taken from our C10-100 LRA.
Since most applications for LRAs will have a single power supply, generating an AC drive signal is not trivial. Whereas one can use a single MOSFET with a microcontroller to drive a DC motor, for the LRA the easiest option is to use a dedicated driver IC.
That said, some haptic drive ICs are capable of outputting to both an ERM or an LRA, so in these cases / existing applications, it may be a simple configuration adjustment. Often, if the device can drive an LRA it can drive an ERM, however not all ERM drivers can produce the AC output for the LRA.
Several driver ICs are available as an independent chip, and some companies have vertically integrated the haptic driver capability into touch screen or other input device drivers. Below we’ve summarise a few of the more readily available models on the market.
TI have a haptic division, who have produced a driver for both ERMs and LRAs. Aimed primarily at portable electronic devices the DRV8601 can accommodate a range of supply voltages (and therefore battery types). It's controlled by a PWM signal, the frequency of which relates to the resonant frequency of the LRA. It uses the duty cycle of the PWM to change the amplitude of the LRA’s vibration.
A typical driver schematic is show below.
Component values should be configured as follows:
This too gives you greater haptic control because it allows you to control the amplitude of vibration by adjusting the PWM duty signal. The (optional) feedback capacitor in parallel with Rf forms a first order low-pass RC filter. This means the output voltage is a function of the average PWM voltage, which can be controlled with the duty cycle. An important consideration when using the RC low pass filter is that the cutoff frequency must be higher than the resonant frequency of the LRA. As an example we’ve chosen our C10-100, which has a resonant frequency of 175 Hz and typically shows little vibrational amplitude above 220 Hz. Using 220 Hz as our cutoff frequency, and 50 kΩ for Rf, we can solve the following low pass filter equation for Cf:
Texas Instruments have released a new generation of chips aimed at driving LRAs, and they include some pretty impressive features.
The most significant of which is the Auto Resonance Detection for the LRA. This solves many of the problems facing linear resonant actuators:
With auto resonance detection the processor can use a wide range of PWM signals, with the duty cycle adjusting the vibration amplitude. The LRA will always be driven right on its resonant frequency regardless of its environment, and the actuator can even be swapped for one of a different resonant frequency with no change to the control circuit.
For example, we have two LRAs what vibrate in different axes:
If you wanted to compare them to see which vibration direction worked best for your product, you would need to change the frequency of the drive signal. This would require editing the code in the processor - which you may not be familiar with or may not have access to development tools. When using the DRV2603 you can simply swap the LRAs over.
In fact, you do not need to calibrate the input frequency at all, the DRV2603 will handle it automatically.
There are a host of other features, including automatic braking and fast start up time, and it can even support ERMs too which makes it excellent for prototyping. If you’re interested in testing it out we suggest you look at their evaluation kit on the following link (with one of our LRAs, naturally):
CORERIVER Semiconductor Co. - RingCore210 Family (RC210-QF16IP / RC210-DF10IP)
The RingCore210 chips are similar in performance, with the ‘QF16IP’ or ‘DF10IP’ packages. They can both drive either ERMs or LRAs, one pin sets the mode of the device accordingly. They are driven with PWM drive signals, but for LRAs, the frequency of the output is determined by the value of a capacitor between the negative output pin and the GAIN pin. This allows for resonant frequencies to be set anywhere between 80 Hz and 390 Hz.
The ringcore schematic is shown below:
Many chips from Semtec's range have haptic drivers and an interface designed to process the input from resistive touchscreen devices. The major difference between models is the inclusion of a proximity sensor system, or the ability to handle multitouch inputs. They can drive the ERM or LRA using either an external PWM, or by writing the desired vibration level to a register using the I2C serial interface. A simple configuration value changes the chips from operating with and ERM or LRA, with the duty cycle of the PWM changing the amplitude of vibration.
Maxims two devices are capacitive touch screen interfaces with integrated proximity sensors and haptic controller and driver. The difference in models is that the MAX11810 uses an SPI interface, while the MAX11811 uses an I2C interface. The haptic controller and driver are seperated because the controller can also produce a PWM signal for use with piezo haptic devices. Instead of accepting an input signal to drive the haptics, the chips use their own internal waveform generator to control the LRA or ERM through a serial interface.
This application bulletin presented a review of linear resonant actuator (LRA) vibration motor drivers, and detailed how to use the most available one - the DRV8601 from TI. Remember to take a look at other application bulletins which may cover different aspects of this subject. You can always find these on our vibration motors application note page.
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