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Mechatronic approach eases automotive electric motor control

Posted: 04 Jul 2012     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:mechanical actuators  electrical distribution system  mechatronic 

In the recent generation of cars, there are numerous applications that require combining electronics and mechanical actuators in order to simplify the automotive electrical distribution system, improve electronics quality and reliability, and reduce C02 emissions. Mechatronic approaches help reach those targets by dealing with the fully integrated and optimised design of an entire system, including sensors, actuators, mechanics, electronic components, and all the data processing signals required (i.e., control of the "internal system," communication with external "entities" by means of physical layers, or simply, generic, data transferring). A simplified diagram of a typical mechatronic approach is shown in figure 1.

Figure 1: A simplified diagram of a typical mechatronic approach.

From safety critical applications to comfort related ones, most automotive applications may benefit from this synergistic integration, and the use of mechatronics has even increased in recent years. In fact, it is abundantly used in cars, and is found in more than 15 systems, including keyless entry, fully integrated rear-view mirrors, climate control, adaptive front lighting, ABS brakes, electric power steering, and many others.

Within the DC motor control area (window lift, steering column lock, sunroof, and smart motor connectors, etc.), mechatronic approaches are multiplying. This is because, on top of the above mentioned needs for the merging of electronics and mechanics, this approach brings additional advantages.

Traditional centralized topologies, in which the control unit is located far from the actuator, need very distant connections (wiring) and a high number of different interconnect technologies including rivets, solder, wiring, and joints. Having lengthy power connections leads to unnecessary power waste, less than optimised EMC performance (due to stray components), and an overall less compact solution. A typical mechatronics solution, in which a single electronic module has been constructed using a multi-chip module and "connectorized" for compact and simple interfacing with a motor housing, would usually have many less interconnections than the traditional solution.

Figure 2: A typical mechatronics implementation for a simple, low cost, DC motor control.

A typical mechatronics implementation for a simple, low cost, DC motor control is illustrated in figure 2.

The SUPPLY signals are delivered to an LDO voltage regulator that fixes and re-distributes a 5V constant voltage for all the devices populating the PCB. Communication with the "external world" is done through the LIN (local interconnect network), which is the correct choice in all those ECUs where low speed networking is enough to properly handle the data. The internal module connections, algorithm, and driving strategy of the motor and power management are handled by an 8bit microcontroller. Finally, there is the actuator driver that, according to the load configuration, can vary from a fully integrated silicon state solution to some simple relays.

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