Categorized | arduino, kit review, LCD

Kit review: Freetronics 16×2 LCD Arduino Shield

Hello everyone

This kit has now been discontinued, however Freetronics now have a great LCD+Keypad Shield.

Today we examine their latest kit, the “16×2 LCD Arduino Shield“. This is a very easy to construct, yet useful tool for those experimenting, prototyping and generally making things with their Arduino-based systems.  The purpose of the shield is to offer easy access to a 16 x 2 character LCD module, and also the use of five buttons – connected to an analog input using the resistor ladder method. The kit comes packaged very well, and includes not only detailed printed instructions in colour, but also the full circuit schematic:

contentsss

It is nice to see such a high level of documentation, even though most people may not need it – there is generally someone who does. Sparkfun – get the hint. All the parts are included, and for the first time in my life the resistors were labelled as well:

partsss1

So being Mr Pedantic I followed the instructions, and happily had the components in without any troubles. The next step was the Arduino shield pins – the best way to solder these is to insert into your Arduino board, drop the shield on top then solder away as such:

shieldpinsss

And finally, bolting on the LCD whilst keeping the header pins for the LCD in line. Some people may find the bolt closest to D0 interferes with the shield pin, so you can insert the bolt upside down as I have. Remember to not solder the LCD pins until you are happy it is seated in correctly:

lcdtopcbss

Once you are satisfied the pins are lined up and sitting in their required position – solder them in, tighten your nuts and that’s it:

finishedss

The contrast of the LCD in real life is better than shown in the photo above – photographing them is a little difficult for me. However once assembled, using the shield is quite easy. If your LCD doesn’t seem to be working after your first sketch, adjust the contrast using the potentiometer. The LCD is a standard HD44780-interface model, and wired in to use a 4-bit parallel data interface. If using these types of LCD is new to you, perhaps visit this article then return. Our shield uses the pins: A0 and D4~D9.

One uses the standard Arduino liquidCrystal library with this LCD, and the function parameters to use are as follows:

The buttons are read using analog pin A0. Use the following sketch to find the values returned by the analogRead function:

and a quick video of this in action:

Now that we know the values returned for each button, we can take advantage of them to create, for example, a type of menu system – or some sort of controller. In the second example, we have used a modified TwentyTen with a DS1307 real-time clock IC to make a digital clock. The buttons on the LCD shield are utilised to create a user-friendly menu to set the clock time.

You can download the demonstration sketch from here.

In general this is an excellent kit, and considering the price of doing it yourself – good value as well. To get your hands on this product in kit or assembled form – visit Freetronics’ website, or your local reseller.

Remember, if you have any questions about these modules please contact Freetronics via their website. Higher resolution images available on flickr.

[Note - the kit assembled in this article was received from Freetronics for review purposes]

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John Boxall

Founder, owner and managing editor of tronixstuff.com.

6 Responses to “Kit review: Freetronics 16×2 LCD Arduino Shield”

  1. Ed Young says:

    I have a couple questions:

    Doesn’t this shield consume many of the io pins, which would limit the use of the host arduino?

  2. scouris says:

    The bolts look to hang down through the shield a fair way – enough, I would think, to affect any board underneath. Why not put all the bolts upside-down so the nut is on the top? Done this way, the end of the bolt (with the nut screwed down) is lower than the height of the LCD.
    I was pretty impressed with this board and, as you described, the awesome information that came with it.

    • The bolts are the one aspect of the design that really frustrated me, but they were the best I could find at the time. 10mm bolts are too short, and the 15mm bolts I included in the kit are just a touch too long. Ideally I’d like M2 or M2.5 (ie: slightly thinner) bolts 12mm long. Then they’d clear the LCD body better and the ends of the bolts wouldn’t protrude.

  3. juergen says:

    hello,, it´s a nice tutorial ;-)
    have you a sketch with this shield an a menu ??? or can you say my wer i can find this???

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