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Power management

Tactile feedback solutions using piezoelectric actuators (Part 1 of 2)

November 22, 2010 | Tim Blankenship | 222901335
Tactile feedback solutions using piezoelectric actuators (Part 1 of 2) Tim Blankenship, Product Definer, Touch Interface Products, Maxim Integrated Products Inc., outlines the basics of piezoelectric-based actuation and how it offers a fast response time, thin profile, and low power.
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Abstract
Implementing tactile (haptic) feedback in consumer-electronic devices enhances the users 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, 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.

Introduction
With the advent of touch-screens replacing mechanical buttons on portable handheld consumer devices, the loss of tactile feedback has created a need for real-time feedback. Users are familiar with the push to activate feel of mechanical feedback to indicate a successful entry, for instance, on a keypad (Figure 1). Recently, the lack of good tactile feedback has fueled the demand for adding electrically-based tactile feedback systems.



Figure 1. Push-to-activate software-based buttons.

One of the more promising approaches for real-time tactile feedback uses piezoelectric actuation, which has been available in a small number of consumer devices for several years. Piezo-based haptics offer several advantages including a fast response time, thin profile, low power, and a wide range of available piezo characteristics and mounting techniques.

Piezo characteristics and comparison
Piezos are available in many different shapes, sizes, thicknesses, voltage ranges, force and capacitance ratings. They can be made into custom shapes for specific applications or packaging constraints, and are offered as single-layer or multilayer structures. Multiple piezos can be used to provide a stronger haptic response and more localized haptic feedback.

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