Ultrasonic lens cleaning chipset enables self-cleaning cameras and sensors

Small and affordable cleaning systems for automotive and industrial applications can be created using Texas Instruments’ ultrasonic lens cleaning (ULC) technology which enables camera systems to quickly detect and remove dirt, ice and water using microscopic vibrations.

Removing contaminants from camera lenses traditionally requires manual cleaning which causes system downtime, or necessitates the use of various mechanical parts that could malfunction. TI’s new ULC chipset, including the ULC1001 digital signal processor (DSP) and companion DRV2901 piezo transducer driver, is based on a proprietary technology that allows cameras to rapidly self-clear contaminants using precisely controlled vibrations to rapidly eliminate debris, which improves system accuracy and reduces maintenance requirements. 

The chipset offers designers a compact and affordable way to use ULC in a wide range of applications and camera sizes.

Avi Yashar, product marketing engineer at TI, commented: “With the recent proliferation of cameras in a variety of applications, from automotive and traffic cameras to smart cities and manufacturing, there’s a strong need for a simple, cost-effective way to enable self-cleaning cameras.”

The ULC1001 controller includes proprietary algorithms for automatic sensing, cleaning, and temperature and fault detection without any image processing, making ULC technology adaptable to various camera lens designs. The chipset’s small form factor makes it possible to improve machine vision and sensing in a variety of applications , wherever a camera or sensor could get dirty, said TI. 

“As advanced driver assistance systems [ADAS] become more sophisticated and drivers rely on them more extensively, it will become more important than ever that the sensor suite is fully operational at all times,” said Edward Sanchez, senior analyst, global automotive practice, TechInsights. 

“Dirt or foreign material on a camera lens, which would be just a nuisance in the case of a rear view camera, becomes a vital functional and safety issue on a vehicle that relies on accurate and precise imaging and sensor data.

The ULC1001 ultrasonic cleaning DSP with proprietary algorithms integrates a pulse-width modulator, current- and voltage-sense amplifiers and an analogue to digital converter (ADC). Used with the DRV2901 piezo transducer driver as a companion amplifier, TI’s chipset enables ULC in a compact footprint with a PCB size less than 25 x 15mm, reducing the bill of materials while providing more functionality than a discrete implementation.

The ULC1001 DSP is in volume production and available from the manufacturer and authorised distributors in a 4.5 x 5.0mm, 32-pin HotRod quad flat no-lead (QFN) package.

The DRV2901 piezo transducer driver is also available now together with an evaluation module, the ULC1001-DRV290XEVM.


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