Maxim’s Digital IO IC’s Shrink LiDAR Technology for SICK AG’s Safety Scanner

June 29, 2021 by Jake Hertz

Maxim Integrated and SICK AG have teamed up for, what they are calling, the industry’s smallest LiDAR scanner for safety.

For many designers, the most significant drawbacks of utilizing LiDAR technology in their application have been the size and cost of a system. 

However, the past decade has seen a massive increase in LiDAR popularity thanks to machine learning, autonomous vehicles, and robotics. These fields have helped progress LiDAR technology, resulting in significantly reduced costs and form factors, to the point where even iPhones can afford to incorporate the technology. 


A high-level depiction of types of LiDAR technology and the applications. Image used courtesy of Yole Développement


Even with the recent improvements, the technology still has room to mature further, which the industry continues to push for it. One key example comes from last week with a collaboration between SICK AG and Maxim Integrated. This team-up propelled the LiDAR field even further, resulting in, what the companies are calling, the industry’s smallest LiDAR safety scanner. 

This article will discuss the new release along with the work that went into making it happen.


SICK AG’s nanoScan3 

The newest product from SICK AG, its nanoScan3, is an industrial safety scanner based on a LiDAR system.


The nanoScan3 is SICK AG’s newest LiDAR scanner.

The nanoScan3 is SICK AG’s newest LiDAR scanner. Image used courtesy of Maxim Integrated


Coming in at 106.6 mm x 80 mm x 117.5 mm, a size that represents a 50% decrease from previous generations, the nanoScan3 was explicitly developed for compact mobile platforms operating in harsh industrial environments. 

To this end, the scanner was built into a compact and durable metal enclosure, making it highly resistant to sources of interference, including dust, contamination, and ambient light. Using a spinning LiDAR technique that operates at a rate of 80,000 pulses per revolution, the nanoScan3 can achieve a 275-degree scanning angle along with a protective field range of 3 m.

In addition, according to the datasheet, the system is powered by a 24 VDC rail, consuming up to 3.9 W, which doesn't seem like IoT numbers; however, in the industrial space, it could be reasonably efficient. 

When looking at this new innovation, the main focus is the miniaturization of the LiDAR scanner, but how do Maxim and SICK AG claim to accomplish it?


Achieving Miniaturization 

According to the companies, reducing the camera's size by 50% from previous generations directly resulted from Maxim's configurable digital IO technology. 

Specifically, the nanoScan3 incorporates the MAX14914 software-configurable digital IO, a component that allows designers to reduce the number of components and peripherals significantly. Specifically, the MAX14914 allowed the SICK AG designers to remove six external components and several peripherals, integrating them into one IC, saving space and power.


Block diagram of the MAX14914.

Block diagram of the MAX14914. Image used courtesy of Maxim Integrated


On top of this, Maxim attributes the size reduction to the MAX22191, which the nanoScan3 also incorporates. This IC is an industrial digital input device that converts a 24 V industrial switching signal to a 3.3 V or 5 V CMOS-level output. The key aspect of the MAX22191 is that it is used as a single channel, parasitically powered digital input. This attribute is what Maxim claims miniaturizes the nanoScan3.


A Developing Field 

The field of LiDAR technology is growing at an accelerating rate, and announcements like this from Maxim and SICK AG indicate that this growth is not slowing down any time soon, especially with the rise of more LiDAR applications and the need to miniaturize further grows. 

As applications like autonomous vehicles, robotics, and computer vision continue to integrate into our daily lives, it seems so will LiDAR.