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Reliability to switch on: Small position sensor keeps consumer products running

The ams AS5600 position sensor saves our customers space and weight in household appliances and toys. It replaces failure-prone mechanical switches thus increasing the reliability of the whole product.

Since the invention of the silicon chip, electronics engineers have used semiconductors to replace heavy, clunky mechanical devices with so called ‘solid state’ technology. Small, light electronic components like the magnetic rotary position sensor AS5600 from ams offer space and weight advantages in a wide range of electronic products. The AS5600 replaces mechanical switches, buttons, and knobs in smart home and consumer devices like washing machines, refrigerators, robots or toys. With the sensor, electronic devices can boost their performance and are less prone to failure caused by friction or wear and tear. In this way they are more reliable and enduring than their mechanical equivalents. In addition, every economy in space and weight gives a saving in cost of materials and transporting the product from the factory to the consumer.

Why appliance manufacturers are going contactless

Old-style buttons, switches or sensors operate via the following mechanism: when you press a button, for instance, a spring behind the face of the button is squeezed and transfers the force of your finger to an actuator which registers the button press. In the button, the metal spring is stressed more and more with every press: eventually it will fail. And even before metal fatigue breaks the spring, dust, dirt, grease, or other contaminants can clog up the mechanism to the point at which it can no longer trigger the actuator.

The AS5600 contactless, magnetic position sensor detects the movement of a two-pole magnet rotating parallel to the top surface of the chip. There is no mechanical linkage, so no material to become worn out, and nothing which is vulnerable to contamination. A position sensor system based on the AS5600 can be operated millions of times without any degradation in its condition. A version of the product, the AS5601, can also detect vertical motion, so can be used as a push-button as well as a rotary switch.

All versions help product manufacturers to realize space-saving designs: the AS5600 and AS5601 are supplied in a 4.9mm x 6.0mm SOIC-8 package. The AS5600L is also supplied in this package, and in an even smaller chip-scale package which has a footprint of just 2.1mm x 2.6mm.

 

 

Thanks to its low-power modes, when the sensor is not in use, the AS5600 is even suitable for use in battery-powered devices. The low power consumption also helps manufacturers to achieve better efficiency ratings in standards such as the European Union’s new consumer labelling scheme for consumer products, introduced in March 2021.
 

A special reliability feature: stray magnetic immunity

In home appliances, powerful motors generate magnetic fields which can disrupt the operation of the magnetic position sensor system. To avoid that, the position sensor from ams automatically cancels out the effect of all external magnetic fields. Therefore, it uses a unique differential sensing technology, embedded in every ams magnetic position sensor. The technology ensures that the sensor only operates on the changes in the magnetic field induced by the motion of the target magnet.

To achieve smooth motion in a home robot’s arm, or accurate detection of the position of the program selector knob on a washing machine, the AS5600 includes a high-speed processor on-chip. The processor performs the complex calculations required to convert the magnetic field measurements into precise angle measurements.

 

The advantages at a glance

The small AS5600 combines reliable performance, low power consumption, and immunity to stray magnetism with a competitive unit price. To evaluate this product, designers should use the AS5600’s dedicated evaluation kit, the AS5600-SO_EK_ST available online from ams.

For more technical information or for sample requests, go to AS5600.