Tactile feedback solutions using piezoelectric actuators

Posted on Feb 6, 2014

Implementing tactile (haptic) feedback in consumer-electronic devices enhances the user ’s experience. It provides a sense of touch in a user-interface design and is the newest major interface on smartphones and other portable consumer-electronic devices. Several haptic technologies are available now, including but not limited to vibration motor actuation, piezoelectric actuation,

Tactile feedback solutions using piezoelectric actuators
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and electro-active polymer actuation. This article explains the basics of piezoelectric-based actuation and how it offers a fast response time, thin profile, and low power, all of which are important in handheld applications. The information from Table 1 suggests using single-layer piezo actuators. They are more available and already in production volumes; multilayer piezos, while in production, are less available. Also, a single-layer piezo costs much less, a factor that becomes more important in solutions with more than one piezo. For example, several smartphones on the market have multiple single-layer discs mounted behind the display. A similar multilayer piezo solution would cost considerably more. One of the drawbacks of piezo-based haptics has traditionally been the complexity of the solution. Typical piezo-based solutions have used discrete components to implement the complete tactile feedback system; the extra discrete components included a microcontroller, flyback boost or charge-pump integrated circuit, flyback transformer or inductor, miscellaneous resistors, capacitors, diodes, and transistors. Compare that with DC-motor-based haptics which require few or no external components. A single-chip monolithic haptic solution such as the MAX11835 has several advantages over the older, discrete designs: smaller printed circuit board (PCB) footprint, lower power, lower bill-of-materials (BOM) cost, and simple software...

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