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New Tech Tuesdays: Automotive Motor Controls Present Numerous Challenges, Solutions Tommy Cummings

New Tech Tuesdays

Join journalist Tommy Cummings for a weekly look at all things interesting, new, and noteworthy for design engineers.

When I start my electric car's engine in the morning, I like to pretend I'm an airline pilot readying for takeoff on an intercontinental flight.

Card key ... swiped. Display panel password ... entered. Seat adjustment ... made. Seatbelt alert ... acknowledged. Vent controls ... adjusted. Rearview mirrors ... deployed. Tune the infotainment system ... done. Backup cameras ... all clear. What's my vector? OK, I'm embellishing, but you get the idea.

A lot is going on—or will go on.

To be fair, the same routine happens for most modern vehicles, including hybrids or those powered by combustible engines. The proliferation of motor controls can make it seem like you're staring into the dashboard of a jumbo jet. Behind the dash controls are hundreds of wiring loops for routine motor-control functions—routing power at hundreds of amps and several hundred volts throughout the confines of a car chassis. Components have become so numerous and cumbersome that vehicle motors must now be networked and carefully controlled to meet precise performance requirements.

This means design engineers must deal with controls that require hundreds of solutions in dozens of small and medium-sized motors for operations as simple as power windows, outside mirrors, seat adjustments, and vent controls.

In this week's New Tech Tuesdays, we'll look at motor control solutions from Infineon Technologies, Toshiba, and ROHM Semiconductor.

Multiple Solutions, Stepping Motor Driver, PMICs

Infineon Technologies has a portfolio of comprehensive motor control solutions for an automotive industry that's leaning into electric vehicle development. Infineon's portfolio includes semiconductors for smart, state-of-the-art direct-current (DC), and brushless DC motor-control applications. A modern vehicle has DC applications that facilitate the control of sliding doors, seat adjustments, 4-wheel-drive transfer cases, seat ventilation, rear wipers, trunk and tailgate, window lift, and more. BLDC and DC motor applications include power sunroofs, front wipers, water and oil pumps, electrical power steering, HVAC compressor pumps, blowers, flaps, and more. Infineon's line covers solutions designed with low-, medium-, and high-integration possibilities. Other solutions include microcontrollers, sensors, transceivers, and power supply products.

The Toshiba TB9120AFTG Automotive Stepping Motor Driver can be used in a wide range of automotive general applications that use stepping motors—electromechanical devices that convert digital pulses into mechanical shaft rotation. The TB9120AFTG is a two-phase bipolar stepping driver that can be driven with a single chip. The AEC-Q100-qualified driver, which comes in a QFC package (6mm x 6mm), also features a clock input interface rather than a serial peripheral interface. The TB9120AFTG features a pulse-width modulation (PWM) constant-current control system. Learn more about its features in this white paper. Applications include small stepping motors that make adjustments to an angle of the concave mirror in heads-up displays, values in motorcycles, and valves/dampers for HVAC.

ROHM Semiconductor's BV1HJ045EFJ-C and BV1HL045EFJ-C AEC-Q100 PMICs (power-management integrated circuits) are built for automotive applications to handle resistance, inductance, and capacitance loads. The PMICs are high-side switches with an integrated complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) control unit and power metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET) mounted on a single chip. The BV1HJ045EFJ-C and BV1HL045EFJ-C are available in an HTSOP-J8 package and are AEC-Q100-qualified.

Tuesday's Takeaway

Today, vehicle dashboards simplify the complex inner workings of a vehicle’s motor control—the hundreds of amps and several hundred volts. As vehicles evolve into IC modules on wheels, the need for motor control in automotive applications will continue to grow—and keep design engineers busy.



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Tommy Cummings is a freelance writer/editor based in Texas. He's had a journalism career that has spanned more than 40 years. He contributes to Texas Monthly and Oklahoma Today magazines. He's also worked at The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. Tommy covered the dot-com boom in Silicon Valley and has been a digital content and audience engagement editor at news outlets. Tommy worked at Mouser Electronics from 2018 to 2021 as a technical content and product content specialist.


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