Tag Archives: tutorial

Arduino Tutorials – Chapter 42 – Numeric Keypads

Learn how to use various numeric keypads with your Arduino.

This is chapter forty-two of our huge Arduino tutorial seriesUpdated 16/12/2013

Numeric keypads can provide a simple end-user alternative for various interfaces for your projects. Or if you need a lot of buttons, they can save you a lot of time with regards to construction. We’ll run through connecting them, using the Arduino library and then finish with a useful example sketch.

Getting Started

Numeric keypads are available from many retailers, and no matter where you get them from, make sure you can get the data sheet, as this will make life easier when wiring them up. Here are the two examples for our tutorial, from Futurlec (slow and cheap):

Arduino numeric keypads

 Again, the data sheet is important as it will tell you which pins or connectors on the keypad are for the rows and columns, for example the black keypad shown above. If you don’t have the data sheet – you will need to manually determine which contacts are for the rows and columns.

This can be done using the continuity function of a multimeter (the buzzer). Start by placing one probe on pin 1, the other probe on pin 2, and press the keys one by one. Make a note of when a button completes the circuit, then move onto the next pin. Soon you will know which is which. For example, on the example keypad pins 1 and 5 are for button “1″, 2 and 5 for “4″, etc…

Furthermore some keypads will have the pins soldered to the end, some will not. With our two example keypads, the smaller unit had the pins – and we soldered pins to the large white unit:

Arduino numeric keypads rear

At this point please download and install the keypad Arduino library. Now we’ll demonstrate how to use both keypads in simple examples. 

Using a 12 digit keypad

We’ll use the small black keypad from Futurlec, an Arduino Uno-compatible and an LCD with an I2C interface for display purposes. If you don’t have an LCD you could always send the text to the serial monitor instead.

Wire up your LCD then connect the keypad to the Arduino in the following manner:
  • Keypad row 1 to Arduino digital 5
  • Keypad row 2 to Arduino digital 4
  • Keypad row 3 to Arduino digital 3
  • Keypad row 4 to Arduino digital 2
  • Keypad column 1 to Arduino digital 8
  • Keypad column 2 to Arduino digital 7
  • Keypad column 3 to Arduino digital 6

If your keypad is different to ours, take note of the lines in the sketch from:

As you need to change the numbers in the arrays rowPins[ROWS] and colPins[COLS]. You enter the digital pin numbers connected to the rows and columns of the keypad respectively.

Furthermore, the array keys stores the values displayed in the LCD when a particular button is pressed. You can see we’ve matched it with the physical keypad used, however you can change it to whatever you need. But for now, enter and upload the following sketch once you’re satisfied with the row/pin number allocations:

And the results of the sketch are shown in this video.

So now you can see how the button presses can be translated into data for use in a sketch. We’ll now repeat this demonstration with the larger keypad.

Using a 16 digit keypad

We’ll use the larger white 4×4 keypad from Futurlec, an Arduino Uno-compatible and for a change the I2C LCD from Akafugu for display purposes. (We reviewed these previously). Again, if you don’t have an LCD you could always send the text to the serial monitor instead. Wire up the LCD and then connect the keypad to the Arduino in the following manner:

  • Keypad row 1 (pin eight) to Arduino digital 5
  • Keypad row 2 (pin 1) to Arduino digital 4
  • Keypad row 3 (pin 2) to Arduino digital 3
  • Keypad row 4 (pin 4) to Arduino digital 2
  • Keypad column 1 (pin 3) to Arduino digital 9
  • Keypad column 2 (pin 5) to Arduino digital 8
  • Keypad column 3 (pin 6) to Arduino digital 7
  • Keypad column 4 (pin 7) to Arduino digital 6
Now for the sketch – take note how we have accommodated for the larger numeric keypad:
  • the extra column in the array char keys[]
  • the extra pin in the array colPins[]
  • and the byte COLS = 4.

And again you can see the results of the sketch above in this video.

And now for an example project, one which is probably the most requested use of the numeric keypad…

Example Project – PIN access system

The most-requested use for a numeric keypad seems to be a “PIN” style application, where the Arduino is instructed to do something based on a correct number being entered into the keypad. The following sketch uses the hardware described for the previous sketch and implements a six-digit PIN entry system. The actions to take place can be inserted in the functions correctPIN() and incorrectPIN(). And the PIN is set in the array char PIN[6]. With a little extra work you could create your own PIN-change function as well. 

The project is demonstrated in this video.

Conclusion

So now you have the ability to use twelve and sixteen-button keypads with your Arduino systems. I’m sure you will come up with something useful and interesting using the keypads in the near future.

tronixstuff

Stay tuned for upcoming Arduino tutorials by subscribing to the blog, RSS feed (top-right), twitter or joining our Google Group. And if you enjoyed the tutorial, or want to introduce someone else to the interesting world of Arduino – check out my book (now in a third printing!) “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

Arduino Tutorials – Chapter 22 – the AREF pin

Learn how to measure smaller voltages with greater accuracy using your Arduino.

This is chapter twenty-two of our huge Arduino tutorial seriesUpdated 12/12/2013

In this chapter we’ll look at how you can measure smaller voltages with greater accuracy using the analogue input pins on your Arduino or compatible board in conjunction with the AREF pin. However first we’ll do some revision to get you up to speed. Please read this post entirely before working with AREF the first time.

Arduino Uno AREF

Revision

You may recall from the first few chapters in our tutorial series that we used the analogRead() function to measure the voltage of an electrical current from sensors and so on using one of the analogue input pins. The value returned from analogRead() would be between zero an 1023, with zero representing zero volts and 1023 representing the operating voltage of the Arduino board in use.

And when we say the operating voltage – this is the voltage available to the Arduino after the power supply circuitry. For example, if you have a typical Arduino Uno board and run it from the USB socket – sure, there is 5V available to the board from the USB socket on your computer or hub – but the voltage is reduced slightly as the current winds around the circuit to the microcontroller – or the USB source just isn’t up to scratch.

This can easily be demonstrated by connecting an Arduino Uno to USB and putting a multimeter set to measure voltage across the 5V and GND pins. Some boards will return as low as 4.8 V, some higher but still below 5V. So if you’re gunning for accuracy, power your board from an external power supply via the DC socket or Vin pin – such as 9V DC. Then after that goes through the power regulator circuit you’ll have a nice 5V, for example:

Arduino 5V

This is important as the accuracy of any analogRead() values will be affected by not having a true 5 V. If you don’t have any option, you can use some maths in your sketch to compensate for the drop in voltage. For example, if your voltage is 4.8V – the analogRead() range of 0~1023 will relate to 0~4.8V and not 0~5V. This may sound trivial, however if you’re using a sensor that returns a value as a voltage (e.g. the TMP36 temperature sensor) – the calculated value will be wrong. So in the interests of accuracy, use an external power supply.

Why does analogRead() return a value between 0 and 1023?

This is due to the resolution of the ADC. The resolution (for this article) is the degree to which something can be represented numerically. The higher the resolution, the greater accuracy with which something can be represented. We measure resolution in the terms of the number of bits of resolution.

For example, a 1-bit resolution would only allow two (two to the power of one) values – zero and one. A 2-bit resolution would allow four (two to the power of two) values – zero, one, two and three. If we tried to measure  a five volt range with a two-bit resolution, and the measured voltage was four volts, our ADC would return a numerical value of 3 – as four volts falls between 3.75 and 5V. It is easier to imagine this with the following image:

Arduino ADC aref

 So with our example ADC with 2-bit resolution, it can only represent the voltage with four possible resulting values. If the input voltage falls between 0 and 1.25, the ADC returns numerical 0; if the voltage falls between 1.25 and 2.5, the ADC returns a numerical value of 1. And so on. With our Arduino’s ADC range of 0~1023 – we have 1024 possible values – or 2 to the power of 10. So our Arduinos have an ADC with a 10-bit resolution.

So what is AREF? 

To cut a long story short, when your Arduino takes an analogue reading, it compares the voltage measured at the analogue pin being used against what is known as the reference voltage. In normal analogRead use, the reference voltage is the operating voltage of the board. For the more popular Arduino boards such as the Uno, Mega, Duemilanove and Leonardo/Yún boards, the operating voltage of 5V. If you have an Arduino Due board, the operating voltage is 3.3V. If you have something else – check the Arduino product page or ask your board supplier.

So if you have a reference voltage of 5V, each unit returned by analogRead() is valued at 0.00488 V. (This is calculated by dividing 1024 into 5V). What if we want to measure voltages between 0 and 2, or 0 and 4.6? How would the ADC know what is 100% of our voltage range?

And therein lies the reason for the AREF pin. AREF means Analogue REFerence. It allows us to feed the Arduino a reference voltage from an external power supply. For example, if we want to measure voltages with a maximum range of 3.3V, we would feed a nice smooth 3.3V into the AREF pin – perhaps from a voltage regulator IC. Then the each step of the ADC would represent around 3.22 millivolts (divide 1024 into 3.3).

Note that the lowest reference voltage you can have is 1.1V. There are two forms of AREF – internal and external, so let’s check them out.

External AREF

An external AREF is where you supply an external reference voltage to the Arduino board. This can come from a regulated power supply, or if you need 3.3V you can get it from the Arduino’s 3.3V pin. If you are using an external power supply, be sure to connect the GND to the Arduino’s GND pin. Or if you’re using the Arduno’s 3.3V source – just run a jumper from the 3.3V pin to the AREF pin.

To activate the external AREF, use the following in void setup():

This sets the reference voltage to whatever you have connected to the AREF pin – which of course will have a voltage between 1.1V and the board’s operation voltage.

Very important note – when using an external voltage reference, you must set the analogue reference to EXTERNAL before using analogRead(). This will prevent you from shorting the active internal reference voltage and the AREF pin, which can damage the microcontroller on the board.

If necessary for your application, you can revert back to the board’s operating voltage for AREF (that is – back to normal) with the following:

Now to demonstrate external AREF at work. Using a 3.3V AREF, the following sketch measures the voltage from A0 and displays the percentage of total AREF and the calculated voltage:

The results of the sketch above are shown in the following video:

Internal AREF

The microcontrollers on our Arduino boards can also generate an internal reference voltage of 1.1V and we can use this for AREF work. Simply use the line:

For Arduino Mega boards, use:

in void setup() and you’re off. If you have an Arduino Mega there is also a 2.56V reference voltage available which is activated with:

Finally – before settling on the results from your AREF pin, always calibrate the readings against a known good multimeter.

Conclusion

The AREF function gives you more flexibility with measuring analogue signals. If you are interested in using specific ADC components, we have tutorials on the ADS1110 16-bit ADC and the NXP PCF 8591 8-bit A/D and D/A IC.

tronixstuff

Stay tuned for upcoming Arduino tutorials by subscribing to the blog, RSS feed (top-right), twitter or joining our Google Group. And if you enjoyed the tutorial, or want to introduce someone else to the interesting world of Arduino – check out my book (now in a third printing!) “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

 

Tutorial – LM3915 Logarithmic Dot/Bar Display Driver IC

Introduction

This is the second of three articles that will examine the LM391x series of LED driver ICs. The first covered the LM3914, this will cover the LM3915 and the LM3916 will follow. The goal of these is to have you using the parts in a small amount of time and experiment with your driver ICs, from which point you can research further into their theory and application.

Although these parts have been around for many years, the LM3915 isn’t used that much however for the sake of completeness we’re writing the tutorial. The LM3915 offers a simple way to display a logarithmic voltage level using one or more groups of ten LEDs with a minimum of fuss. If you’re wanting to make a VU meter, you should use the LM3916 which we will cover in the final instalment of this trilogy.

Instead of having each LED represent a voltage level as with the LM3914, each LED connected to the LM3915 represents a 3 dB (decibel) change in the power level of the signal. For more on decibels, check out Wikipedia.

To display these power level changes we’ll run through a couple of examples that you can use in your own projects and hopefully give you some ideas for the future. Originally by National Semiconductor, the LM391X series is now handled by Texas Instruments.

LM3915

Getting Started

You will need the LM3915 data sheet, so please download that and keep it as a reference. First – back to basics. The LM3915 controls ten LEDs. It controls the current through the LEDs with the use of only one resistor, and the LEDs can appear in a bar graph or single ‘dot’ when in use. The LM3915 contains a ten-stage voltage divider, each stage when reached will illuminate the matching LED (and those below it in level meter mode).

Let’s consider the most basic of examples (from page two of the data sheet) – a simple logarithmic display of voltage between 0 and 10V:

LM3915 demo board circuitAfter building the circuit you can connect a signal to measure via pin 5, and the GND to pin 2. We’ve built the circuit exactly as above on some stripboard for demonstration purposes, with the only difference being the use of an 8.2kΩ resistor for R2:

LM3915 demo board

To show this in action we use a signal of varying AC voltage – a sine wave at around 2 kHz. In the following video, you can see the comparison of the signal’s voltage against the LEDs being illuminated, and you will see the logarithmic voltage increase represented by the LEDs:

We used the bar display mode for the voltage increase, and the dot display mode for the voltage decrease. Did you notice that during the voltage decrease, the LEDs below the maximum level being displayed were dim? As the signal’s voltage was varying very quickly, the change in the LED’s location is a blur due to the speed of change. In the video below, we’ve slowed the frequency right down but kept the same maximum voltage.

Well that was a lot of fun, and gives you an idea of what is possible with the LM3915.

Displaying weaker signals

In non-theoretical situations your input signal won’t conveniently be between 0 and 10 V. For example the line level on audio equipment can vary between 1 and 3V peak to peak. For example, here’s a random DSO image from measuring the headphone output on my computer whilst playing some typical music:

audio signal LM3915 PC sound

Although it’s an AC signal we’ll treat it as DC for simplicity. So to display this random low DC voltage signal we’ll reduce the range of the display to 0~3V DC. This is done using  the same method as with the LM3914 – with maths and different resistors.

Consider the following formulae:

LM3915 reference voltage formula

As you can see the LED current (Iled) is simple, however we’ll need to solve for R1 and R2 with the first formula to get our required Vref of 3V. For our example circuit I use 2.2kΩ for R2 which gives a value of 1.8kΩ for R1. However putting those values in the ILED formula gives a pretty low current for the LEDs, about 8.3 mA. Live and learn – so spend time experimenting with values so you can match the required Vref and ILED.

Nevertheless in this video below we have the Vref of 3V and some music in from the computer as a sample source of low-voltage DC. This is not a VU meter! Wait for the LM3916 article to do that.

Again due to the rapid rate of change of the voltage, there is the blue between the maximum level at the time and 0V.

Chaining multiple LM3915s

This is covered well in the data sheet, so read it for more on using two LM3915s. Plus there are some great example circuits in the data sheet, for example the 100W audio power meter on page 26 and the vibration meter (using a piezo) on page 18.

Conclusion

As always I hope you found this useful. Don’t forget to stay tuned for the final instalment about the LM3916. And if you made it this far – check out my new book “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Arduino Tutorials – Chapter 16 – Ethernet

Learn how to connect your Arduino to the outside world via Ethernet

This is chapter sixteen of our huge Arduino tutorial seriesUpdated 06/12/2013

In this chapter we will introduce and examine the use of Ethernet networking with Arduino over local networks and the greater Internet. It will be assumed that you have a basic understanding of computer networking, such as the knowledge of how to connect computers to a hub/router with RJ45 cables, what an IP and MAC address is, and so on. Furthermore, here is a good quick rundown about Ethernet.

Getting Started

You will need an Arduino Uno or compatible board with an Ethernet shield that uses the W5100 Ethernet controller IC (pretty much all of them):

Arduino Ethernet shield

…or consider using a Freetronics EtherTen – as it has everything all on the one board, plus some extras:

Freetronics EtherTen

Furthermore you will need to power the board via the external DC socket – the W5100 IC uses more current than the USB power can supply. A 9V 1A plug pack/wall wart will suffice. Finally it does get hot – so be careful not to touch the W5100 after extended use. In case you’re not sure – this is the W5100 IC:

Wiznet W5100

Once you have your Ethernet-enabled Arduino, and have the external power connected – it’s a good idea to check it all works. Open the Arduino IDE and selectFile > Examples > Ethernet > Webserver. This loads a simple sketch which will display data gathered from the analogue inputs on a web browser. However don’t upload it yet, it needs a slight modification.

You need to specify the IP address of the Ethernet shield – which is done inside the sketch. This is simple, go to the line:

And alter it to match your own setup. For example, in my home the router’s IP address is 10.1.1.1, the printer is 10.1.1.50 and all PCs are below …50. So I will set my shield IP to 10.1.1.77 by altering the line to:


You also have the opportunity to change your MAC address. Each piece of networking equipment has a unique serial number to identify itself over a network, and this is normall hard-programmed into the equipments’ firmware. However with Arduino we can define the MAC address ourselves.

If you are running more than one Ethernet shield on your network, ensure they have different MAC addresses by altering the hexadecimal values in the line:


However if you only have one shield just leave it be. There may be the very, very, statistically rare chance of having a MAC address the same as your existing hardware, so that would be another time to change it.

Once you have made your alterations, save and upload the sketch. Now open a web browser and navigate to the IP address you entered in the sketch, and you should be presented with something similar to the following:

 Arduino webserver example sketch

What’s happening? The Arduino has been programmed to offer a simple web page with the values measured by the analogue inputs. You can refresh the browser to get updated values.

At this point – please note that the Ethernet shields use digital pins 10~13, so you can’t use those for anything else. Some Arduino Ethernet shields may also have a microSD card socket, which also uses another digital pin – so check with the documentation to find out which one.

Nevertheless, now that we can see the Ethernet shield is working we can move on to something more useful. Let’s dissect the previous example in a simple way, and see how we can distribute and display more interesting data over the network. For reference, all of the Ethernet-related functions are handled by the Ethernet Arduino library. If you examine the previous sketch we just used, the section that will be of interest is:

Hopefully this section of the sketch should be familiar – remember how we have used serial.print(); in the past when sending data to the serial monitor box? Well now we can do the same thing, but sending data from our Ethernet shield back to a web browser – on other words, a very basic type of web page.

However there is something you may or may not want to  learn in order to format the output in a readable format – HTML code. I am not a website developer (!) so will not delve into HTML too much.

However if you wish to serve up nicely formatted web pages with your Arduino and so on, here would be a good start. In the interests of simplicity, the following two functions will be the most useful:


Client.print (); allows us to send text or data back to the web page. It works in the same way as serial.print(), so nothing new there. You can also specify the data type in the same way as with serial.print(). Naturally you can also use it to send data back as well. The other useful line is:


which sends the HTML code back to the web browser telling it to start a new line. The part that actually causes the carriage return/new line is the <br /> which is an HTML code (or “tag”) for a new line. So if you are creating more elaborate web page displays, you can just insert other HTML tags in the client.print(); statement. If you want to learn more about HTML commands, here’s a good tutorial site. Finally – note that the sketch will only send the data when it has been requested, that is when it has received a request from the web browser.

Accessing your Arduino over the Internet

So far – so good. But what if you want to access your Arduino from outside the local network?

You will need a static IP address – that is, the IP address your internet service provider assigns to your connection needs to stay the same. If you don’t have a static IP, as long as you leave your modem/router permanently swiched on your IP shouldn’t change. However that isn’t an optimal solution.

If your ISP cannot offer you a static IP at all, you can still move forward with the project by using an organisation that offers a Dynamic DNS. These organisations offer you your own static IP host name (e.g. mojo.monkeynuts.com) instead of a number, keep track of your changing IP address and linking it to the new host name. From what I can gather, your modem needs to support (have an in-built client for…) these DDNS services. As an example, two companies are No-IP andDynDNS.com. Please note that I haven’t used those two, they are just offered as examples.

Now, to find your IP address… usually this can be found by logging into your router’s administration page – it is usually 192.168.0.1 but could be different. Check with your supplier or ISP if they supplied the hardware. For this example, if I enter 10.1.1.1 in a web browser, and after entering my modem administration password, the following screen is presented:

WAN IP address router

What you are looking for is your WAN IP address, as you can see in the image above. To keep the pranksters away, I have blacked out some of my address.

The next thing to do is turn on port-forwarding. This tells the router where to redirect incoming requests from the outside world. When the modem receives such a request, we want to send that request to the port number of our Ethernet shield. Using the:

function in our sketch has set the port number to 125. Each modem’s configuration screen will look different, but as an example here is one:

Arduino router port forwarding

So you can see from the line number one in the image above, the inbound port numbers have been set to 125, and the IP address of the Ethernet shield has been set to 10.1.1.77 – the same as in the sketch.

After saving the settings, we’re all set. The external address of my Ethernet shield will be the WAN:125, so to access the Arduino I will type my WAN address with :125 at the end into the browser of the remote web device, which will contact the lonely Ethernet hardware back home.

Furthermore, you may need to alter your modem’s firewall settings, to allow the port 125 to be “open” to incoming requests. Please check your modem documentation for more information on how to do this.

Now from basically any Internet connected device in the free world, I can enter my WAN and port number into the URL field and receive the results. For example, from a phone when it is connected to the Internet via LTE mobile data:

Arduino webserver example cellular

So at this stage you can now display data on a simple web page created by your Arduino and access it from anywhere with unrestricted Internet access. With your previous Arduino knowledge (well, this is chapter sixteen) you can now use data from sensors or other parts of a sketch and display it for retrieval.

Displaying sensor data on a web page

As an example of displaying sensor data on a web page, let’s use an inexpensive and popular temperature and humidity sensor – the DHT22. You will need to install the DHT22 Arduino library which can be found on this page. If this is your first time with the DHT22, experiment with the example sketch that’s included with the library so you understand how it works.

Connect the DHT22 with the data pin to Arduino D2, Vin to the 5V pin and GND to … GND:

arduino ethernet freetronics etherten dht22 humid

Now for our sketch – to display the temperature and humidity on a web page. If you’re not up on HTML you can use online services such as this to generate the code, which you can then modify to use in the sketch.

In the example below, the temperature and humidity data from the DHT22 is served in a simple web page:

It is a modification of the IDE’s webserver example sketch that we used previously – with a few modifications. First, the webpage will automatically refresh every 30 seconds – this parameter is set in the line:

… and the custom HTML for our web page starts below the line:

You can then simply insert the required HTML inside client.print() functions to create the layout you need.

Finally – here’s an example screen shot of the example sketch at work:

arduino ethernet freetronics etherten dht22 humid cellular

You now have the framework to create your own web pages that can display various data processed with your Arduino.

Remote control your Arduino from afar

We have a separate tutorial on this topic, that uses the teleduino system.

Conclusion

So there you have it, another useful way to have your Arduino interact with the outside world. Stay tuned for upcoming Arduino tutorials by subscribing to the blog, RSS feed (top-right), twitter or joining our Google Group. And if you enjoyed the tutorial, or want to introduce someone else to the interesting world of Arduino – check out my book (now in a third printing!) “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

tronixstuff

Arduino Tutorials – Chapter 30 – twitter

Learn how to tweet from your Arduino.

This is chapter thirty of our huge Arduino tutorial seriesUpdated 16/06/2014

In this article you will learn how to send messages from an Ethernet-enabled Arduino to twitter. For the uninitiated who may be thinking “what is all this twitter nonsense about?”, twitter is a form of microblogging. 

You can create a message with a maximum length of 140 characters, and broadcast this on the twitter service. For people to receive your messages (or tweets) they also need to be a member of twitter and choose to subscribe to your tweets.

Generally people will use the twitter service using one of two methods: either using a web browser, or using the twitter application on a smartphone or tablet computer. For example, here is a typical web browser view:

twitter web browser

… and here is an example of a twitter application running on an Android OS smartphone:

twitter android

The neat thing about twitter on a mobile device is that if your username is mentioned in a tweet, you will be notified pretty well immediately as long as you have mobile data access. More on that later. In some areas, you can set twitter to send tweets from a certain user to your mobile phone via SMS – however if doing so be careful to confirm possible charges to your mobile phone account.

Finally, if you are worried about privacy with regards to your tweets, you can set your account to private and only allow certain people to follow your tweets.

So let’s get started.

First of all – you will need a twitter account. If you do not have one, you can sign up for one here. If you already have a twitter account, you can always open more for other uses – such as an Arduino.

For example, my twitter account is @tronixstuff, but my demonstration machine twitter account is @tronixstuff2. Then I have set my primary account to follow my machine’s twitter account.

Now log into twitter with using the account you will have for your Arduino and visit this page and get yourself a token by following the Step One link. The process will take you through authorising the “tweet library” page to login to your twitter account – this is ok. It will then present you with a long text called a “token”, for example:

twitter oauth token

Save your token somewhere safe, as you will need to insert it into your Arduino sketch. Finally, don’t give it to others as then they will be able to post onto twitter using your account. Next, follow step two from the same page – which involves download and installation of the required Arduino library.

Now for the hardware.

You will need an Arduino Uno or compatible board with an Ethernet shield that uses the W5100 Ethernet controller IC (pretty much all of them) – or consider using a Freetronics EtherTen – as it has everything all on the one board, plus some extras:

Freetronics EtherTen

Furthermore you will need to power the board via the external DC socket – the W5100 IC uses more current than the USB power can supply. A 9V 1A plug pack/wall wart will suffice. Finally it does get hot – so be careful not to touch the W5100 after extended use. In case you’re not sure – this is the W5100 IC:

Wiznet W5100If you’re looking for an Arduino-twitter solution with WiFi, check out the Arduino Yún tutorials.

From this point it would be a good idea to check your hardware is working. To do so, please run the webserver example sketch as explained in chapter sixteen (Ethernet). While you do that, we’ll have a break…

Lop Buri Thailand

Sending your first tweet

If you want your Arduino to send a simple tweet consider the following sketch. We have a simple function tweet() which simply sends a line of text (which has a maximum length of 140 characters). Don’t forget to update your IP address, MAC address and token:

You can check the status of the tweeting via the serial monitor. For example, if the tweet was successful you will see:

arduino twitter success 2014

However if you try to send the same tweet more than once in a short period of time, or another error takes place – twitter will return an error message, for example:

arduino twitter duplicate

And finally if it works, the tweet will appear:

Arduino twitter works 2014

Previously we mentioned that you can be alerted to a tweet by your mobile device. This can be done by putting your own twitter account name in the contents of the tweet.

For example – my normal twitter account is @tronixstuff. If I put the text “@tronixstuff” in the text tweeted by my Arduino’s twitter account – the twitter app on my smartphone will let me know I have been mentioned – as shown in the following video:

You may have noticed in the video that a text message arrived as well – that service is a function of my cellular carrier (Telstra) and may not be available to others. Nevertheless this is a neat way of getting important messages from your Arduino to a smart phone or other connected device.

Sending data in a tweet

So what if you have  a sensor or other device whose data you want to know about via twitter? You can send data generated from an Arduino sketch over twitter without too much effort.

In the following example we’ll send the value from analogue pin zero (A0) in the contents of a tweet. And by adding your twitter @username you will be notified by your other twitter-capable devices:

You may have noticed a sneaky sprintf function in void loop(). This is used to insert the integer analogZero into the character array tweetText that we send with the tweet() function. And the results of the example:

Arduino Twitter Tutorial success

So you can use the previous sketch as a framework to create your own Arduino-powered data twittering machine. Send temperature alerts, tank water levels, messages from an alarm system, or just random tweets to your loved one.

Conclusion

So there you have it, another useful way to send information from your Arduino to the outside world. Stay tuned for upcoming Arduino tutorials by subscribing to the blog, RSS feed (top-right), twitter or joining our Google Group. Big thanks to @neocat for their work with the twitter  Arduino libraries.

And if you enjoyed the tutorial, or want to introduce someone else to the interesting world of Arduino – check out my book (now in a third printing!) “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

tronixstuff

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Tutorial – Send email with the Arduino Yún

Introduction

This is the third in a series of tutorials examining various uses of the Arduino Yún. In this article we’ll examine how your Arduino Yún can send email from a Google email account. Doing so gives you a neat and simple method of sending data captured by the Arduino Yún or other notifications.

Getting Started

If you haven’t already done so, ensure your Arduino Yún can connect to your network via WiFi or cable – and get a Temboo account (we run through this here). And you need (at the time of writing) IDE version 1.5.4 which can be downloaded from the Arduino website.

Finally, you will need a Google account to send email from, so if you don’t have one – sign up here. You might want to give your Arduino Yún an email address of its very own.

Arduino Yun Yún front

Testing the Arduino Yún-Gmail connection

In this first example we’ll run through the sketch provided by Temboo so you can confirm everything works as it should. This will send a simple email from your Arduino Yún to another email address. First, copy the following sketch into the IDE but don’t upload it yet:

Before uploading you need to enter five parameters – the email address to send the email with, the password for that account, the recipient’s email address, and the email’s subject line and content. These can be found in the following lines in the sketch – for example:

So enter the required data in the fields above. If you’re sending from a Google Apps account instead of a Gmail account – that’s ok, just enter in the sending email address as normal. Temboo and Google will take care of the rest.

Finally, create your header file by copying the the header file data from here (after logging to Temboo) into a text file and saving it with the name TembooAccount.h in the same folder as your sketch from above. You know this has been successful when opening the sketch, as you will see the header file in a second tab, for example:

arduino yun temboo header file

Now you can upload the sketch, and after a few moments check the recipient’s email account. If all goes well you will be informed by the IDE serial monitor as well (if your Yún is connected via USB). It’s satisfying to see an email come from your Arduino Yún, for example in this short video.

If your email is not coming through, connect your Arduino Yún via USB (if not already done so) and open the serial monitor. It will let you know if there’s a problem in relatively plain English – for example:

Error
A Step Error has occurred: “An SMTP error has occurred. Make sure that your credentials are correct and that you’ve provided a fully qualified Gmail
username (e.g., [email protected]) for the Username input. When using Google 2-Step Verification, make sure to
provide an application-specific password. If this problem persists, Google may be restricting access to your account, and you’ll need to
explicitly allow access via gmail.com.”. The error occurred in the Stop (Authentication error) step.
HTTP_CODE
500


So if this happens, check your email account details in the sketch, and try again.

Sending email with customisable subject and content data

The example sketch above is fine if you want to send a fixed message. However what if you need to send some data? That can be easily done. For our example we’ll generate some random numbers, and integrate them into the email subject line and content. This will give you the framework to add your own sensor data to emails from your Arduino Yún. Consider the following sketch:

Review the first section at the start of void loop(). We have generated two random numbers, and then appended some text and the numbers into two Strings – emailContent and emailSubject.

These are then inserted into the SendEmailChoreo.addInput lines to be the email subject and content. With a little effort you can make a neat email notification, such as shown in this video and the following image from a mobile phone:

arduino yun email demonstration

Conclusion

It’s no secret that the Yún isn’t the cheapest development board around, however the ease of use as demonstrated in this tutorial shows that the time saved in setup and application is more than worth the purchase price of the board and extra Temboo credits if required.

And if you’re interested in learning more about Arduino, or want to introduce someone else to the interesting world of Arduino – check out my book (now in a third printing!) “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

tronixstuff

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Arduino Tutorials – Chapter 15 – RFID

Learn how to use RFID readers with your Arduino. In this instalment we use an RDM630 or RDM6300 RFID reader. This is chapter fifteen of our huge Arduino tutorial seriesUpdated 19/11/2013

Introduction

RFID – radio frequency identification. Some of us have already used these things, and they have become part of everyday life. For example, with electronic vehicle tolling, door access control, public transport fare systems and so on. It sounds complex – but isn’t.

To explain RFID for the layperson, we can use a key and lock analogy. Instead of the key having a unique pattern, RFID keys hold a series of unique numbers which are read by the lock. It is up to our Arduino sketch to determine what happens when the number is read by the lock.  The key is the tag, card or other small device we carry around or have in our vehicles. We will be using a passive key, which is an integrated circuit and a small aerial. This uses power from a magnetic field associated with the lock. Here are some key or tag examples:

Arduino RFID tags

In this tutorial we’ll be using 125 kHz tags – for example. To continue with the analogy our lock is a small circuit board and a loop aerial. This has the capability to read the data on the IC of our key, and some locks can even write data to keys. Here is our reader (lock) example:

Seeedstudio RFID reader Arduino

These readers are quite small and inexpensive – however the catch is that the loop aerial is somewhat fragile. If you need something much sturdier, consider the ID20 tags used in the other RFID tutorial.

Setting up the RFID reader

This is a short exercise to check the reader works and communicates with the Arduino. You will need:

Simply insert the RFID reader main board into a solderless breadboard as shown below. Then use jumper wires to connect the second and third pins at the top-left of the RFID board to Arduino 5V and GND respectively. The RFID coil connects to the two pins on the top-right (they can go either way). Finally, connect a jumper wire from the bottom-left pin of the RFID board to Arduino digital pin 2:

Arduino RFID reader setup

Next, upload the following sketch to your Arduino and open the serial monitor window in the IDE:

If you’re wondering why we used SoftwareSerial – if you connect the data line from the RFID board to the Arduino’s RX pin – you need to remove it when updating sketches, so this is more convenient.

Now start waving RFID cards or tags over the coil. You will find that they need to be parallel over the coil, and not too far away. You can experiment with covering the coil to simulate it being installed behind protective surfaces and so on. Watch this short video which shows the resulting RFID card or tag data being displayed in the Arduino IDE serial monitor.

As you can see from the example video, the reader returns the card’s unique ID number which starts with a 2 and ends with a 3. While you have the sketch operating, read the numbers from your RFID tags and note them down, you will need them for future sketches.

To do anything with the card data, we need to create some functions to retrieve the card number when it is read and place in an array for comparison against existing card data (e.g. a list of accepted cards) so your systems will know who to accept and who to deny. Using those functions, you can then make your own access system, time-logging device and so on.

Let’s demonstrate an example of this. It will check if a card presented to the reader is on an “accepted” list, and if so light a green LED, otherwise light a red LED. Use the hardware from the previous sketch, but add a typical green and red LED with 560 ohm resistor to digital pins 13 and 12 respectively. Then upload the following sketch:

In the sketch we have a few functions that take care of reading and comparing RFID tags. Notice that the allowed tag numbers are listed at the top of the sketch, you can always add your own and more – as long as you add them to the list in the function checkmytags() which determines if the card being read is allowed or to be denied.

The function readTags() takes care of the actual reading of the tags/cards, by placing the currently-read tag number into an array which is them used in the comparison function checkmytags(). Then the LEDs are illuminated depending on the status of the tag at the reader. You can watch a quick demonstration of this example in this short video.

Conclusion

After working through this chapter you should now have a good foundation of knowledge on using the inexpensive RFID readers and how to call functions when a card is successfully read. For example, use some extra hardware (such as an N-MOSFET) to control a door strike, buzzer, etc. Now it’s up to you to use them as a form of input with various access systems, tracking the movement of people or things and much more.

And if you enjoyed the tutorial, or want to introduce someone else to the interesting world of Arduino – check out my book (now in a third printing!) “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

tronixstuff

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Book – “Arduino Workshop – A Hands-On Introduction with 65 Projects”

Over the last few years you may have noticed a few of my Arduino tutorials, and during this time many people have mentioned that I should write a book. And now thanks to the team from No Starch Press this recommendation has morphed into my book – “Arduino Workshop“:

Arduino Workshop book

Now into the third print run, “Arduino Workshop” is one of the few books on the market that can take the reader from zero knowledge to understanding the Arduino development platform, and working with a huge array of add-ons and technologies. And a huge “thank you” to all those who have purchased and supported the book so far.

Arduino Workshop” offers a professionally-edited and curated path for the beginner to learn with and have fun. It’s a hands-on introduction to Arduino with 65 projects – from simple LED use right through to RFID, Internet connection, wireless data, working with cellular communications, and much more. Plus the reader also learns about electronics, good coding and other interesting topics.

Arduino_Workshop_GPS

Each project is explained in detail, explaining how the hardware and Arduino code works together. Plus we teach you how to read and understand circuit schematics and use this clear method of describing circuits which prepares the read for further electronics learning.

Arduino Workshop piezo

The reader doesn’t need any expensive tools or workspaces, and all the parts used are available from almost any electronics retailer. Furthermore all of the projects can be finished without soldering, so it’s safe for readers of all ages.

The editing team at No Starch Press, our technical editor Marc Alexander and myself have worked hard to make the book perfect for those without any electronics or Arduino experience at all, and it makes a great gift for someone to get them started. After working through the 65 projects the reader will have gained enough knowledge and confidence to create many things – and to continue researching on their own. Or if you’ve been enjoying the results of my thousands of hours of work here at tronixstuff, you can show your appreciation by ordering a copy for yourself or as a gift. If you’re still not sure, review the table of contents, index and download a sample chapter from the Arduino Workshop website.

Arduino Workshop is available from No Starch Press in printed or DRM-free eBook (PDF, Mobi, and ePub) formats. And the eBooks are also included with the printed orders so you can get started immediately. Furthermore you can also find Arduino Workshop for sale from all the popular booksellers around the globe.

tronixstuff

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Tutorial – Google Docs and the Arduino Yún

Introduction

This is the second in a series of tutorials examining various uses of the Arduino Yún. In this article we’ll examine how your Arduino Yún can send data that it captures from the analogue and digital inputs and a real-time clock IC to an online Google Docs spreadsheet. Doing so gives you a neat and inexpensive method of capturing data in real-time and having the ability to analyse the data from almost anywhere, and export it with very little effort.

Getting Started

If you haven’t already done so, ensure your Arduino Yún can connect to your network via WiFi or cable – and get a Temboo account (we run through this here). And you need (at the time of writing) IDE version 1.5.4 which can be downloaded from the Arduino website. Finally, you will need a Google account, so if you don’t have one – sign up here.

Arduino Yun Yún front

Testing the Arduino Yún-Google Docs connection

In this first example we’ll run through the sketch provided by Temboo so you can confirm everything works as it should. First of all, create a spreadsheet in Google Docs. Call it “ArduinoData” and label the first two columns as “time” and “sensor”, as shown in the screen shot below:

Arduino Yun Google Docs Spreadsheet

Always label the required columns. You can call them whatever you need. For new Google users, the URL shown in my example will be different to yours. Next, copy the following sketch to the IDE:

Now look for the following two lines in the sketch:

This is where you put your Google account username and password. For example, if your Google account is “[email protected]” and password “RS2000Escort” the two lines will be:

Next, you need to insert the spreadsheet name in the sketch. Look for the following line:

and change your-spreadsheet-title to ArduinoData. 

Finally, create your header file by copying the the header file data from here (after logging to Temboo) into a text file and saving it with the name TembooAccount.h in the same folder as your sketch from above. You know this has been successful when opening the sketch, as you will see the header file in a second tab, for example:

Arduino Yun sketch header file

Finally, save and upload your sketch to the Arduino Yún. After a moment or two it will send values to the spreadsheet, and repeat this every sixty seconds – for example:

Arduino Yun Google Docs Spreadsheet data

If your Yún is connected via USB you can also watch the status via the serial monitor.

 One really super-cool and convenient feature of using Google Docs is that you can access it from almost anywhere. Desktop, tablet, mobile… and it updates in real-time:

Arduino Yun_ Google Docs Spreadsheet_data_mobile

So with your Yún you can capture data and view it from anywhere you can access the Internet. Now let’s do just that.

Sending your own data from the Arduino Yún to a Google Docs Spreadsheet

In this example we’ll demonstrate sending three types of data:

With these types of data you should be able to represent all manner of things. We use the RTC as the time and date from it will match when the data was captured, not when the data was written to the spreadsheet. If you don’t have a DS3232 you can also use a DS1307.

If you’re not familiar with these parts and the required code please review this tutorial. When connecting your RTC – please note that SDA (data) is D2 and SCL (clock) is D3 on the Yún.

The sketch for this example is a modified version of the previous sketch, except we have more data to send. The data is captured into variables from the line:

You can send whatever data you like, as long as it is all appended to a String by the name of rowdata. When you want to use a new column in the spreadsheet, simply append a comma “,” between the data in the string. In other words, you’re creating a string of CSV (comma-separated values) data. You can see this process happen from the line that has the comment:

in the example sketch that follows shortly. Finally, you can alter the update rate of the sketch – it’s set to every 60 seconds, however you can change this by altering the 60000 (milliseconds) in the following line:

Don’t forget that each update costs you a call and some data from your Temboo account – you only get so many for free then you have to pay for more. Check your Temboo account for more details.

So without further ado, the following sketch will write the values read from A0~A3, the status of D7 and D8 (1 for HIGH, 0 for LOW) along with the current date and time to the spreadsheet. Don’t forget to update the password, username and so on as you did for the first example sketch:

… which in our example resulted with the following:

Arduino Yun Google Docs Spreadsheet time date data

… and here is a video that shows how the spreadsheet updates in real time across multiple devices:

 Conclusion

It’s no secret that the Yún isn’t the cheapest devleopment board around, however the ease of use as demonstrated in this tutorial shows that the time saved in setup and application is more than worth the purchase price of the board and extra Temboo credits if required.

And if you’re interested in learning more about Arduino, or want to introduce someone else to the interesting world of Arduino – check out my book (now in a third printing!) “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Tutorial – twitter and the Arduino Yún

Introduction

After spending almost $100 on an Arduino Yún to see what the fuss was about, it seemed like a good idea to find and demonstrate some uses for it. So in this article we’ll examine how your Yún can send a tweet using some simple example sketches – and the first of several Arduino Yún-specific tutorials.

Getting Started

If you haven’t already done so, ensure your Arduino Yún can connect to your network via WiFi or cable – and get a Temboo account (we run through this here). And you need (at the time of writing) IDE version 1.5.4 which can be downloaded from the Arduino website. Finally, if you don’t have a twitter account – go get one.

Arduino Yun Yún front

Sending a tweet from your Yún

Thanks to Arduino and Temboo, 99% of the work is already done for you. To send a tweet requires the Arduino sketch, a header file with your Temboo account details, and also the need to register an application in the twitter development console.

Don’t panic, just follow the “Get Set Up” instructions from the following page. When you do – make sure you’re logged into the Temboo website, as it will then populate the header file with your Temboo details for you. During the twitter application stage, don’t forget to save your OAuth settings which will appear in the “OAuth Tool” tab in the twitter developer page, for example:

Arduino Yun OAuth twitter

… as they are copied into every sketch starting from the line:

When you save the sketch, make sure you place the header file with the name TembooAccount.h in the same folder as your sketch. You know this has been successful when opening the sketch, as you will see the header file in a second tab, for example:

Arduino Yun sketch header file

Finally, if you’re sharing code with others, remove your OAuth and TembooAccount.h details otherwise they can send tweets on your behalf.

OK – enough warnings. If you’ve successfully created your Temboo account, got your twitter OAuth details, fed them all into the sketch and header file, then saved (!) and uploaded your sketch to the Arduino Yún – a short tweet will appear on your timeline, for example:

Arduino Yun twiiter

If nothing appears on your twitter feed, open the serial monitor in the IDE and see what messages appear. It will feed back to you the error message from twitter, which generally indicates the problem.

Moving on, let’s examine how to send tweets with your own information. In the following example sketch we send the value resulting from analogRead(0) and text combined together in one line. Don’t forget twitter messages (tweets) have a maximum length of 140 characters. We’ve moved all the tweet-sending into one function tweet(), which you can then call from your sketch when required – upon an event and so on. The text and data to send is combined into a String in line 26:

Which results with the following example tweet:

Arduino Yun sends twitter data

With the previous example sketch you can build your own functionality around the tweet() function to send data when required. Recall that the data to send as a tweet is combined into a String at line 26.

Please note that you can’t blast out tweets like a machine, for two reasons – one, twitter doesn’t like rapid automated tweeting – and two, you only get 1000 free calls on your Temboo account per month. If you need more, the account needs to be upgraded at a cost.

Conclusion

Well the Yún gives us another way to send data out via twitter. It wasn’t the cheapest way of doing so, however it was quite simple. And thus the trade-off with the Arduino platform – simplicity vs. price. If there is demand, we’ll examine more connected functions with the Yún.

And if you’re interested in learning more about Arduino, or want to introduce someone else to the interesting world of Arduino – check out my book (now in a third printing!) “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Review – “Ardublock” graphical programming for Arduino

Introduction

After helping many people get started with the world of Arduino and electronics,  we still find a small percentage of people who are turned off by the concept of programming or have trouble breaking larger tasks into smaller ones with regards to writing algorithms for their code/sketch.

So after being introduced to a new graphical programming tool called “Ardublock“, we were excited about the possibilities wanted to share it with our readers. Ardublock provides a truly graphical and non-coding solution to controlling an Arduino, that is an open-source product and thus free to download and try for yourself.

Installation

Ardublock is a Java application that runs from inside the Arduino IDE, which can be downloaded from here. It’s only one file, that needs to be placed in a new folder in the Arduino IDE. The folder names must be the same as shown below:

ardublock installation folder

Once you’ve copied the file, simply open the Arduino IDE and select Ardublock from the Tools menu:

arduino ide tools menu ardublockFrom which point a new window appears – the Ardublock “development environment”:

ardublock development environment

 Using Ardublock

It’s quite simple – you simply select the required function from the menu on the left and drag it into the large area on the right. For a quick example where we blink the onboard LED on and off – watch the following video:

 

The following image is the screen capture of the program from the video:

ardublock LED Blink

As you can see the “blocks” just fit together, and parameters can be changed with the right mouse button. After a few moments experimenting with the Ardublock software you will have the hang of it in no time at all.

And thus you can demonstrate it to other people and show them how easy it is. And there is much more than just digital output controls, all the functions you’re used to including I2C, variables, constants, servos, tone and more are available.

The only technical thing you need to demonstrate is that the Arduino IDE needs to stay open in the background – as once you have finished creating your program, Ardublock creates the required real Arduino sketch back in the IDE and uploads it to the board.

This is also a neat function – the user can then compare their Ardublock program against the actual sketch, and hopefully after a short duration the user will have the confidence to move on with normal coding.

Conclusion

Ardublock provides a very simple method of controlling an Arduino, and makes a great starting point for teaching the coding-averse, very young people or the cognitively-challenged. It’s open source, integrates well with the official IDE and works as described – so give it a go.

And if you enjoyed this review, or want to introduce someone else to the interesting world of Arduino – check out my book (now in a third printing!) “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

tronixstuff

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Tutorial – Arduino and the TLC5940 PWM LED Driver IC

Use the Texas Instruments TLC5940 16-Channel LED Driver IC with Arduino in Chapter 57 of our Arduino Tutorials. The first chapter is here, the complete series is detailed here.

Introduction

Today we are going to examine the Texas Instruments TLC5940 16-channel LED driver IC. Our reason for doing this is to demonstrate another, easier way of driving many LEDs – and also servos.  First up, here is a few examples of the TLC5940

TLC5940

The TLC5940 is available in the DIP version above, and also surface-mount. It really is a convenient part, allowing you to adjust the brightness of sixteen individual LEDs via PWM (pulse-width modulation) – and you can also daisy-chain more than one TLC5940 to control even more.

During this tutorial we’ll explain how to control one or more TLC5940 ICs with LEDs and also look at controlling servos. At this point, please download a copy of the TLC5940_data_sheet (.pdf) as you will refer to it through this process. Furthermore, please download and install the TLC5940 Arduino library by Alex Leone which can be found here. If you’re not sure how to install a library, click here.

Build a TLC5940 demonstration circuit

The following circuit is the minimum required to control sixteen LEDs from your Arduino or compatible. You can use it to experiment with various functions and get an idea of what is possible. You will need:

  • An Arduino Uno or compatible board
  • 16 normal, everyday LEDs that can have a forward current of up to 20 mA
  • a 2 kΩ resistor (give or take 10%)
  • a 0.1uF ceramic and a 4.7uF electrolytic capacitor

Take note of the LED orientation – and remember the TLC5940 is a common-anode LED driver – so all the LED anodes are connected together and then to 5V:

TLC5940 Arduino circuit

For this particular circuit, you won’t need an external 5V power supply – however you may need one in the future. The purpose of the resistor is to control the amount of current that can flow through the LEDs. The required resistor value is calculated with the following formula:

R = 39.06 / Imax

where R (in Ohms)  is the resistor value and Imax (in Amps) is the maximum amount of current you want to flow through the LEDs. For example, if you have LEDs with a 20 mA forward current – the resistor calculation would be:

R = 39.06 / 0.02 = 1803 Ohms.

Once you have the circuit assembled – open up the Arduino IDE and upload the sketch BasicUse.pde  which is in the example folder for the TLC5940 library. You should be presented with output similar to what is shown in the following video:

Controlling the TLC5940

Now that the circuit works, how do we control the TLC5940? First, the mandatory functions – include the library at the start of the sketch with:

and then initialise the library by placing the following into void setup():

x is an optional parameter – if you want to set all the channels to a certain brightness as soon as the sketch starts, you can insert a value between 0 and 4095 for in the Tlc.init() function.

Now to turn a channel/LED on or off. Each channel is numbered from 0 to 15, and each channel’s brightness can be adjusted between 0 and 4095.

This is a two-part process…

First – use one or more of the following functions to set up the required channels and respective brightness (PWM level):

For example, if you wanted to have the first three channels on at full brightness, use:

The second part is to use the following to update the TLC5940 with the required instructions from part one:

If you want to turn off all channels at once, simply use:

You don’t need to call a TLC.update() after the clear function. The following is a quick example sketch that sets the brightness/PWM values of all the channels to different levels:

and the sketch in action:

The ability to control individual brightness for each channel/LED can also be useful when controlling RGB LEDs – you can then easily select required colours via different brightness levels for each element.

Using two or more TLC5940s

You can daisy-chain quite a few TLC5940s together to control more LEDs. First – wire up the next TLC5940 to the Arduino as shown in the demonstration circuit – except connect the SOUT pin (17) of the first TLC5940 to the SIN pin (26) of the second TLC5940 – as the data travels from the Arduino, through the first TLC5940 to the second and so on. Then repeat the process if you have a third, etc. Don’t forget the resisotr that sets the current!

Next, open the file tlc_config.h located in the TLC5940 library folder. Change the value of NUM_TLCS to the number of TLC5940s you have connected together, then save the file and also delete the file Tlc5940.o also located in the same folder. Finally restart the IDE. You can then refer to the channels of the second and further TLC5940 sequentially from the first. That is, the first is 0~15, the second is 16~29, and so on.

Controlling servos with the TLC5940

As the TLC5940 generates PWM (pulse-width modulation) output, it’s great for driving servos as well. Just like LEDs – you can control up to sixteen at once. Ideal for creating spider-like robots, strange clocks or making some noise. When choosing your servo, ensure that it doesn’t draw more than 120 mA when operating (the maximum current per channel) and also heed the “Managing current and heat” section at the end of this tutorial. And use external power with servos, don’t rely on the Arduino’s 5V line.

To connect a servo is simple – the GND line connects to GND, the 5V (or supply voltage lead) connects to your 5v (or other suitable supply) and the servo control pin connects to one of the TLC5940’s outputs. Finally – and this is important – connect a 2.2kΩ resistor between the TLC5940 output pin(s) being used and 5V.

Controlling a servo isn’t that different to an LED. You need the first two lines at the start of the sketch:

then the following in void setup():

Next, use the following function to select which servo (channel) to operate and the required angle (angle):

Just like the LEDs you can bunch a few of these together, and then execute the command with:

So let’s see all that in action. The following example sketch sweeps four servos across 90 degrees:

And the following video captures those four servos in action:

 

If you servos are not rotating to the correct angle – for example you ask for 180 degrees and they only rotate to 90 or thereabouts, a little extra work is required. You need to open the tlc_servos.h file located in the TLC5940 Arduino library folder and experiment with the values for SERVO_MIN_WIDTH and SERVO_MAX_WIDTH. For example change SERVO_MIN_WIDTH from 200 to 203 and SERVO_MAX_WIDTH from 400 to 560.

Managing current and heat 

As mentioned earlier, the TLC5940 can handle a maximum of 120 mA per channel. After some experimenting you may notice that the TLC5940 does get warm – and that’s ok. However there is a maximum limit to the amount of power that can be dissipated before destroying the part. If you are just using normal garden-variety LEDs or smaller servos, power won’t be a problem. However if you’re planning on using the TLC5940 to the max – please review the notes provided by the library authors.

Conclusion

Once again you’re on your way to controlling an incredibly useful part with your Arduino. Now with some imagination you can create all sorts of visual displays or have fun with many servos. And if you enjoyed the tutorial, or want to introduce someone else to the interesting world of Arduino – check out my book (now in a third printing!) “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

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