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The Alphanumeric LCD Kit for Arduino using only one component, and of course the LCD, provide the Arduino board with at least a 16×2 alphanumeric LCD characters on a backlighted display that can be used in any Arduino stand-alone application.
Thanks to the adoption of the Shift Register 74HC595 device, this project consumes only three I/O Arduino pins, no matter what we decide to use, connected to the Shift Register on the board kit. I have personally experienced that an alphanumeric LCD added to an Arduino as a stable add-on device is very useful during the debug phase of the sketches and gives much more options to the projects. Especially in case of unavailability of the Arduino USB port connected to the PC.

The introductory video in this page show some examples on how the board can control several types of display.

The kit or the bare PCB is available on Tindie.com at a very affordable price.

Step 1: The Kit Content

If you have purchased the kit in the box you have found the following components:

  • No 1 Trimmer
  • No 1 16x2 backlighted display
  • No 1 IC 74HC595
  • No 1 16x1 male pin array
  • No 1 16x1 female pin array

If you have purchased only the bare PCB board you should provide the components listed above by yourself, plus some several colours wires (in this Instructable we have used 0.8 mm diameter wires)

Tools

To assemble the Alphanumeric LCD display for Arduino you need for sure an Arduino and a PC to program the board (are these tools ? :) ) Then you need too a solder and - better - a third hand as you can see in the images.

Ready to start ? Ok, turn the page!

Step 2: The Trimmer and the Pin Array

The first thing to solder on the board are the trimmer and the pin array.

I suggest to solder the trimmer as the very first component: pay attention to solder the trimmer very close to the PCB surface. This will give the better stability to any mechanical stress.

Not to do: don't solder the trimmer leaving space between the component and the board and then pressing it to eliminate the space. It is the better way to break the trimmer pins very soon.

The 16x1 female pine array is the support for the LCD. As you can see in the introductory video and in the video tutorial at the end of this instructable you can adopt several different ways to connect the LCD to the board but the more compact and reliable way I have experimented that it is connecting the two pin series provided (male and female) together without flat cables.

Pay attention to: Put your care to solder the female pin array perfectly vertical respect the PCB surface. This will grant the perfect stability and correct orientation of the LCD when it is plugged in the board. The images of this step underline this aspect.

TIP: After inserting the female pin array in the PCB solder only one pin on one of the sides. Then check for the correct orientation and eventually adjust it before proceeding to complete the soldering.

About the LCD pin array

To solder the LCD pin array, that as a matter of fact it is a separate component that will be plugged to the board later, follow the same instructions explained above for the PCB male pin array

Step 3: The Connection Wires

The five connection wires from the board to Arduino are not provided in the kit. As a matter of fact here I suggest a possible way but you can used the most useful method that fit your project needs, e.g. using a single 5-wires flat cable, a different kind of connector to the wire end and so on.

Cable needed

You need five wires (suggested to be all of the same length:

  • Board power cables: usually read (VCC) and black (GND). Should be respectively connected to the Arduino +5V and GND pins
  • Control signal cables: these are the cables that will be connected to three digital pins of the Arduino board. You can use the digital pins that best fit to your needs.

TIPs

Despite the cabling system you decide to use (and if you don't plan to use a cable connector on the board instead of soldering it directly) take a look to the images of this page explaining some general tips

  • Before soldering the wires to the board pre-solder the cable ends. This will reduce the soldering time keeping the board healthy.
  • Avoid to leave free cable on the components side, keep them as close as possible to the PCB surface.
  • If you plan to connect the cables to the Arduino board with pin heads, make the possible to use three adiacent pins to make the connection more compact.
  • Cut the extra cable portion to the soldering side of the PCB when you have finished.

Step 4: The IC

Last of all, you need to solder the IC Shift Register. If you prefer you can solder a socket but this IC is almost robust and with few attention it is very difficult to damage the component.

TIPs

I suggest anyway to follow these following simple advices:

  • Pay attention when adapting the IC pins to fist in the circuit holes
  • Pay attention to the IC orientation! It is indicated in the white silkscreen on the PCB reverting the orientation the circuit will not work and the IC maybe damaged
  • Insert the component close to the PCB surface and pay attention that remain in position while soldering the pins

Step 5: The Final Assembly

Now that all the components are soldered on the PCB the LCD can be plugged in the board pin array. The images shows what you should expect while keeping in your hands the finished product.

Look at the video to see a briefing of what has been detailed in this Instructable.

What next?

Now plug the three signal connectors in the Arduino pins of your choice and put the power cables in the Arduino board GND and +5V, then connect the Arduino to the USB and program it and enjoy!

Important!

To avoid damage to Arduino and theLCD board neve plug the LCD in the board while it is powered and never plug the board in the Arduino pins while Arduino is powered on.

Step 6: Libraries and Sample Sketches

To properly use the Alphanumeric LCD for Arduino in your sketches you need the ShiftLCD library. Note that in some cases there are some models of LCD that don't support all the features the library can do. For specific details of what your LCD device can or can't do please refer to the LCD Data Sheet.

Why two libraries?

The AlphaLCD library has been modified to support some features that generate an error when using the ShiftLCD library. Please read the documentation inside the libraries examples for further details.

About This Instructable

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Bio: Balearic Dynamics, owned by Enrico Miglino, is a R&D company located in Spain integrating technologies, creates new products and develop software and firmware components ... More »
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