This is a description of an open source/open hardware project of a remotely controlled Arduino (Freeduino) based clock/thermometer utilising power supply and VFD panel from a broken DVD player in a custom made acrylic enclosure. The aim of the project was to demonstrate what could be done from electronics that has been literally thrown away rather than design one more digital clock.

Having source code and all design files as a starting point it becomes very easy to customise it for your own needs and your own DIY project, even VFD driver might be modified with little efforts to control VFD panel from another DVD player - they all designed in a unified way.

This is a list of features that we've got in the end (and what could be potentially enhanced if you like):
  • Real time clock battery backed up dedicated chip;
  • 1Wire temperature sensor;
  • Controlled wirelessly by any RC;
  • Activated by PIR motion sensor;
  • Speaker;
  • Serial-to-USB convertor for reprogramming and logging purposes;
  • Acrylic enclosure;
  • Full source code is available;
The video demonstrates designing and assembling process and if you find it interesting please welcome to the next page for more technical details!

Thank you and we hope you will find this project useful and worth making!

Step 1: Scrapped DVD player parts

Vacuum fluorescent displays (VFD) make any consumer device looking eye-catching, compelling and unusual. A VFD emits a very bright light with high contrast and can support display elements of various colors, some of them are capable of rendering not only seven-segment numerals but characters and even graphical information. VFDs are equally great for anything from professional devices to basic do-it-yourself things. Yet VFDs are rather expensive for small hobby projects and notorious for their non-trivial control as they require voltages higher than just TTL levels, necessity to drive grids in addition to segments or dots and therefore make presence of dedicated VFD controllers highly desirable just to simplify communication with microprocessors.

But what if all this infrastructure already existed, would it be that difficult to combine together something like Arduino controller and VFD? The answer is no, not at all! Most modern DVD players equipped with VFDs and when less reliable mechanical parts (DVD ROM drives) fail devices are simply thrown away. Instead, some electronics could still be reused to give your project a completely new look reducing costs at the same time and saving the environment. In addition to a VFD with controller onboard and a power supply which provides everything with all vital voltage levels there is a bonus – an IR receiver and buttons. VFD controller takes care of refreshing display, handling events from buttons and IR receiver encapsulating whole control into a serial interface and making integration with even primitive controllers very possible, giving in exchange fully functional remotely controlled system.

But enough theory, let’s have a look at a real example. We found a broken DVD player literally lying in the street. Quick test indicated that VFD board and power supply were functional. VFD was 16-segment and therefore capable of displaying not only digits but characters as well. After a few minutes of internet search model name was identified: Philips DVP630

For our experiment we will need a front VFD panel and a power supply board only.

<p>Hi dmitryp,</p><p>can you help me with this project :) can i use another kind of DVD player aside from Philips? will the code still work on that? email me at ghennz.gll@gmail.com or just reply to my comment :) Thanks :)</p>
<p>All VFD panels in DVD players are slightly different. And the difference is also in a chips which drive VFDs so you won't get away without modifications to the source code. The good news that usually those changes are not dramatic.</p>
<p>Where can i get the whole code for this project? I really want to do this project. I hpe you would help me :)</p>
<p>The link to the firmware source code is on page 8 :)</p>
<p>Hey awesome instructable! I had the same DVD player and took it apart last year. I still have the VFD display and was hoping to make an Arduino Display Shield using this. Unfortunately I discarded the circuit board the VFD was soldered to. (sigh) Anyways, is it possible to make a simple Arduino Display Shield with this or no? If so, I would like to pick your brain.</p><p>Melissa</p>
Hi, thank you!<br><br>Not sure what the circuit board had and what you have left. Is it just a glass or your VFD is still fitted to a board? Can you maybe take a picture of what you currently have? This place is not very convenient for lengthy discussions, you can create a new topic at http://forum.magictale.com and we can go from there.<br><br>Cheers,<br>Dmitry
<p>Hey awesome instructable! I had the same DVD player and took it apart last year. I still have the VFD display and was hoping to make an Arduino Display Shield using this. Unfortunately I discarded the circuit board the VFD was soldered to. (sigh) Anyways, is it possible to make a simple Arduino Display Shield with this or no? If so, I would like to pick your brain.</p><p>Melissa</p>
<p>can i ask the schematic/pcb of freeduino??? email me : happyday_20484@yahoo.com</p>
nice....thanks bro.. :)
<p>Hi, I have a VFD I want to use which is (on original pcb) driven by PT6311 datasheet download: <a href="http://www.princeton.com.tw/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=62RtFN1Ggp4%3d&tabid=566&portalid=0&mid=882&language=en-US&forcedownload=true" rel="nofollow">http://www.princeton.com.tw/LinkClick.aspx?filetic...</a></p><p>I would like to drive it with an arduino of some sort. </p><p>How you wrote your VFD driver is a bit over my head but do you think it would take much work to adapt it for the PT6311? If it looks relatively easy to you I will persevere. </p>
<p>Hi, thank for your interest to my project! My hardware was based on HT16512 controller and given that there is little difference between it and PT6311 I already implemented a simple driver for PT6311 which your can use to test your panel. The source code is available at <a href="http://magictale.com/download/PT6311_Test.zip" rel="nofollow"> http://magictale.com/download/PT6311_Test.zip</a>, it contains a library for PT6311 and a sketch giving general idea how to use the driver. As a first step we need to make sure that your Arduino can communicate to your VFD panel, so as a minimum we would need to make sure that we can send a command to switch the panel on and make sure that we can write to controller's frame buffer - this is exactly what the provided code does. When it is verified your can progress further. As for now, you need to connect physically your VFD panel to Arduino board, specify correct values for VFD_CLK_PIN, VFD_CS_PIN and VFD_DATA_PIN in provided sketch and try to get to know how many segments and digits your VFD has in order to initialize PT6311 properly (see VFD_DISP_MODE_12D16S etc). </p><p>Any more questions - I would be more than happy to assist, let's discuss it further at our forum <a href="http://forum.magictale.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=357" rel="nofollow"> http://forum.magictale.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&amp;t=35...</a> </p><p>Good luck,</p><p>Dmitry</p>
<p>Dmitry,</p><p>Really, thanks a lot for helping out with this - it has saved me some head scratching for sure. </p><p>I'll wire things up next week and continue this discussion on your forum. I will more than likely have some extra questions :)</p><p>Sam</p>
<p>Hi Sam, no worries mate! </p><p>Dmitry</p>
Hi! I have a vfd display from philips DVD625/001. i've seen that some pins are coresponding but i'm not sure if it's working...i want to connect this display to arduino because it's pretty shame to throw it to the garbage...I'll be pleased to know your answer! cheers!
Congrats!!! Good stuff!!! I've thrown away at least two or three dvd players because I didn't know what to do with the internal parts. Once I found a Vizio flat panel's tv tuner (made by samsung) that I had taken apart from a discarded tv in hopes that I could do something with it one day but ultimately dumped it, wished that I had kept it now after seeing this instructable as I might've tried to see if I could power it! The world needs more instructables like this so that we can recycle all these broken electronics into something fun and educational :)
Thanks a lot and glad to hear that this project is worth of making efforts because unfortunately there are people who don't share your point of view arguing that 'I can buy a digital clock cheaper'. As you already noted, it is all about fun and education and passion, not about clock as such. As for your unsuccessful attempt to reanimate display panels - just believe in yourself and be a bit more persistent. It is not as difficult as it may seem - just put it aside for a while if you run out of ideas and then try again in a few days/weeks/months - sometimes it is due to lack of good mood or inspiration :)
Great project and awesome reuse of someone else's trash! Congrats on the grand prize win!
Thanks a lot! Didn't expect to win! :)
Very nice! Congratulations on a grand prize! <br>
Thanks a lot guys for your support!
Great job. Congratulations on your win. :)
Thank you very much!
Congratulations, excellent job! Your video is fantastic, did you use some sort of time lapse photography snapshot method?
Thank a lot! The movie was made at normal speed then was postprocessed by ffmpeg and finally edited in Youtube Video Editor so no money was involved! :)
Hey congratulations on being a finalist in the hack it contest! Good luck to you!
Thanks a lot! :) It is a great honor but at the same time great responsibility!
I wish i can buy it from u with instructions all its features
Instructions, drawings and source code are available for free :) <br>As for the DVD player - you can find one on ebay. Freeduino is available at sparkfun, for example.
Very Well Design !!!!
Thank you!
I disassembled my dead 1990 JVC cd player to get its VFD to tinker around with: <br>http://www.hifimuseum.info/tn_JVC%20XL-V231%20a.jpg <br>Due to its age, I despair at finding a service manual/schematics for it online, though. It just has a thin ribbon cable that connected it to the main board.
gotta love those VFDs. <br>i just started working with them myself, although its more difficult without the controller IC.
Use Arduino then :)
i have been :P
<br> Your segments image on&nbsp; <u>step <strong>3</strong></u>&nbsp; has two <u>nine segments</u> and no <u>seventh segment</u>.<br> <br> I was going to hook up a PIC uP.... Can you explain ?
Yes, step3 says that 'Two vertical segments in the middle of digit are simultaneously driven by a single bit 9, there is no way to activate only one out of two segments'. And bit 7 does not drive anything - that is how VFD is connected to the driver chip by DVD designers. And if you have a look at the source code at http://code.google.com/p/magicclock/source/browse/trunk/CPP/HT16512.cpp then you could see that a charset defined as FONT_PGM[63][2] does not use bit 7.
Thanks for the quick response.
This is an INCREDIBLE instructable, but unfortunately far out of my league at the moment! I'm trying to get my electronics work up to scratch, and then I think I might make this my first major project - thanks man!
Thanks. Don't restrict yourself by saying that you are out of someones's league. Step by step, gain knowdledge and skills - and eventually you will do things that you only dreamed of.
Hey anonymouse19, i am in the same situation as you are. I also want to take this project up, but i dont have enough knowledge in electronics. You did mention that your trying to gain more knowledge on electronics. If you dont mind me asking you, how do you plan on do that; are there certain instructables that will teach you the basics? Also if anyone wants to share feel free. <br>
Hi neerthigan. Yes, I am trying to improve my understanding of electronics. <br>Well I've recently invested in some second hand books; one of the O'Reilly Media books on electronics, and an Electronics for Dummies, but they are quite hard going, so I'm also trying to take apart some broken kit and see what is noticeable.<br>For example a couple of friends calculators have stopped working, i've whipped the back off, and found a capacitor has gone. I've then looking into the function of a capacitor to see what it does in the circuit etc, but this gets quite difficult the moment integrated circuits come in.<br>I've also tried experimenting with the Arduino, and am trying to learn the electrical laws behind current and resistance, something that has come, thankfully, quite naturally. I wish there were some good electronic circuit simulating software out there for Mac, as that would be a real help.<br>Until then I'm going to play around on a breadboard, keep trying some instructables and other tutorials and try and learn what stuff does along the way. I'm finding it quite helpful that the moment I finish one project there is another waiting there somewhere that's just a little harder, so I can build my way up, but I just don't have the time to do that at the moment.<br>I hope that's of some help, and as you say I would love any other suggestions - as it is this kind of thing that I want to be setting my sights on! /A
thats Great!!! i like it very much
Cool ideas! maybe you could help me too? <br>I have an LG home theatre system DVD player. the dvd is messing around and won't load all sorts of movies...however, we have moved on from there and plug a hard drive through an HDMI player directly into the TV. What irritates me is that we now have an amplifier sitting idle in the old DVD player with speakers all round the room that we can't use! <br>The DVD player doesn't have the plugs for audio input although there is a USB port on it. <br>The question for all you smart folk out there is: <br>How can I connect the old Home theatre's sound system into the TV to get the audio out signal from the TV to run on the surround sound?! I'm quite happy to scrap the DVD players innards as required! <br>Thanks I'd appreciate the help!
MAN. I threw away that EXACT DVD player! WHY?!?!?! XD great ible though.
Oh no! Maybe it is still on the street? Thanks for commenting, you are the first one :)