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Tutorial – Arduino and the MAX7219 LED Display Driver IC

Sooner or later Arduino enthusiasts and beginners alike will come across the MAX7219 IC. And for good reason, it’s a simple and somewhat inexpensive method of controlling 64 LEDs in either matrix or numeric display form. Furthermore they can be chained together to control two or more units for even more LEDs. Overall – they’re a lot of fun and can also be quite useful, so let’s get started.

Here’s an example of a MAX7219 and another IC which is a functional equivalent, the AS1107 from Austria Microsystems. You might not see the AS1107 around much, but it can be cheaper – so don’t be afraid to use that instead:

MAX7219 LED driver IC from PMD Way

 At first glance you may think that it takes a lot of real estate, but it saves some as well. As mentioned earlier, the MAX7219 can completely control 64 individual LEDs – including maintaining equal brightness, and allowing you to adjust the brightness of the LEDs either with hardware or software (or both). It can refresh the LEDs at around 800 Hz, so no more flickering, uneven LED displays.

You can even switch the display off for power saving mode, and still send it data while it is off. And another good thing – when powered up, it keeps the LEDs off, so no wacky displays for the first seconds of operation. For more technical information, here is the data sheet: MAX7219.pdf. Now to put it to work for us – we’ll demonstrate using one or more 8 x 8 LED matrix displays, as well as 8 digits of 7-segment LED numbers.

Before continuing, download and install the LedControl Arduino library as it is essential for using the MAX7219.

Controlling LED matrix displays with the MAX7219

First of all, let’s examine the hardware side of things. Here is the pinout diagram for the MAX7219:

MAX7219 LED driver IC from PMD Way

The MAX7219 drives eight LEDs at a time, and by rapidly switching banks of eight your eyes don’t see the changes. Wiring up a matrix is very simple – if you have a common matrix with the following schematic:

MAX7219 LED driver IC from PMD Way


connect the MAX7219 pins labelled DP, A~F to the row pins respectively, and the MAX7219 pins labelled DIG0~7 to the column pins respectively. A total example circuit with the above matrix  is as follows:

MAX7219 LED driver IC from PMD Way

The circuit is quite straight forward, except we have a resistor between 5V and MAX7219 pin 18. The MAX7219 is a constant-current LED driver, and the value of the resistor is used to set the current flow to the LEDs. Have a look at table eleven on page eleven of the data sheet:

MAX7219 LED driver IC from PMD Way

You’ll need to know the voltage and forward current for your LED matrix or numeric display, then match the value on the table. E.g. if you have a 2V 20 mA LED, your resistor value will be 28kΩ (the values are in kΩ). Finally, the MAX7219 serial in, load and clock pins will go to Arduino digital pins which are specified in the sketch. We’ll get to that in the moment, but before that let’s return to the matrix modules.

In the last few months there has been a proliferation of inexpensive kits that contain a MAX7219 or equivalent, and an LED matrix. These are great for experimenting with and can save you a lot of work – some examples of which are shown below:

MAX7219 LED driver IC from PMD Way

Now for the sketch. You need the following two lines at the beginning of the sketch:

#include "LedControl.h" 
LedControl lc=LedControl(12,11,10,1);

The first pulls in the library, and the second line sets up an instance to control. The four parameters are as follows:

  1. the digital pin connected to pin 1 of the MAX7219 (“data in”)
  2. the digital pin connected to pin 13 of the MAX7219 (“CLK or clock”)
  3. the digital pin connected to pin 12 of the MAX7219 (“LOAD”)
  4. The number of MAX7219s connected.

If you have more than one MAX7219, connect the DOUT (“data out”) pin of the first MAX7219 to pin 1 of the second, and so on. However the CLK and LOAD pins are all connected in parallel and then back to the Arduino.

Next, two more vital functions that you’d normally put in void setup():

lc.shutdown(0,false);
lc.setIntensity(0,8);

The first line above turns the LEDs connected to the MAX7219 on. If you set TRUE, you can send data to the MAX7219 but the LEDs will stay off. The second line adjusts the brightness of the LEDs in sixteen stages. For both of those functions (and all others from the LedControl) the first parameter is the number of the MAX7219 connected. If you have one, the parameter is zero… for two MAX7219s, it’s 1 and so on.

Finally, to turn an individual LED in the matrix on or off, use:

lc.setLed(0,col,row,true);

which turns on an LED positioned at col, row connected to MAX7219 #1. Change TRUE to FALSE to turn it off. These functions are demonstrated in the following sketch:

#include "LedControl.h" //  need the library
LedControl lc=LedControl(12,11,10,1); // 

// pin 12 is connected to the MAX7219 pin 1
// pin 11 is connected to the CLK pin 13
// pin 10 is connected to LOAD pin 12
// 1 as we are only using 1 MAX7219

void setup()
{
  // the zero refers to the MAX7219 number, it is zero for 1 chip
  lc.shutdown(0,false);// turn off power saving, enables display
  lc.setIntensity(0,8);// sets brightness (0~15 possible values)
  lc.clearDisplay(0);// clear screen
}
void loop()
{
  for (int row=0; row<8; row++)
  {
    for (int col=0; col<8; col++)
    {
      lc.setLed(0,col,row,true); // turns on LED at col, row
      delay(25);
    }
  }

  for (int row=0; row<8; row++)
  {
    for (int col=0; col<8; col++)
    {
      lc.setLed(0,col,row,false); // turns off LED at col, row
      delay(25);
    }
  }
}

And a quick video of the results:

How about controlling two MAX7219s? Or more? The hardware modifications are easy – connect the serial data out pin from your first MAX7219 to the data in pin on the second (and so on), and the LOAD and CLOCK pins from the first MAX7219 connect to the second (and so on). You will of course still need the 5V, GND, resistor, capacitors etc. for the second and subsequent MAX7219.

You will also need to make a few changes in your sketch. The first is to tell it how many MAX7219s you’re using in the following line:

LedControl lc=LedControl(12,11,10,X);

by replacing X with the quantity. Then whenever you’re using  a MAX7219 function, replace the (previously used) zero with the number of the MAX7219 you wish to address. They are numbered from zero upwards, with the MAX7219 directly connected to the Arduino as unit zero, then one etc. To demonstrate this, we replicate the previous example but with two MAX7219s:

#include "LedControl.h" //  need the library
LedControl lc=LedControl(12,11,10,2); // 

// pin 12 is connected to the MAX7219 pin 1
// pin 11 is connected to the CLK pin 13
// pin 10 is connected to LOAD pin 12
// 1 as we are only using 1 MAX7219

void setup()
{
  lc.shutdown(0,false);// turn off power saving, enables display
  lc.setIntensity(0,8);// sets brightness (0~15 possible values)
  lc.clearDisplay(0);// clear screen

  lc.shutdown(1,false);// turn off power saving, enables display
  lc.setIntensity(1,8);// sets brightness (0~15 possible values)
  lc.clearDisplay(1);// clear screen
}

void loop()
{
  for (int row=0; row<8; row++)
  {
    for (int col=0; col<8; col++)
    {
      lc.setLed(0,col,row,true); // turns on LED at col, row
      lc.setLed(1,col,row,false); // turns on LED at col, row
      delay(25);
    }
  }

  for (int row=0; row<8; row++)
  {
    for (int col=0; col<8; col++)
    {
      lc.setLed(0,col,row,false); // turns off LED at col, row
      lc.setLed(1,col,row,true); // turns on LED at col, row      
      delay(25);
    }
  }
}

And again, a quick demonstration:

Another fun use of the MAX7219 and LED matrices is to display scrolling text. For the case of simplicity we’ll use the LedControl library and the two LED matrix modules from the previous examples.

First our example sketch – it is quite long however most of this is due to defining the characters for each letter of the alphabet and so on. We’ll explain it at the other end!

// based on an orginal sketch by Arduino forum member "danigom"
// http://forum.arduino.cc/index.php?action=profile;u=188950

#include <avr/pgmspace.h>
#include <LedControl.h>

const int numDevices = 2;      // number of MAX7219s used
const long scrollDelay = 75;   // adjust scrolling speed

unsigned long bufferLong [14] = {0}; 

LedControl lc=LedControl(12,11,10,numDevices);

prog_uchar scrollText[] PROGMEM ={
    "  THE QUICK BROWN FOX JUMPED OVER THE LAZY DOG 1234567890 the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog   "};

void setup(){
    for (int x=0; x<numDevices; x++){
        lc.shutdown(x,false);       //The MAX72XX is in power-saving mode on startup
        lc.setIntensity(x,8);       // Set the brightness to default value
        lc.clearDisplay(x);         // and clear the display
    }
}

void loop(){ 
    scrollMessage(scrollText);
    scrollFont();
}

///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

prog_uchar font5x7 [] PROGMEM = {      //Numeric Font Matrix (Arranged as 7x font data + 1x kerning data)
    B00000000,	//Space (Char 0x20)
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    6,

    B10000000,	//!
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B10000000,
    2,

    B10100000,	//"
    B10100000,
    B10100000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    4,

    B01010000,	//#
    B01010000,
    B11111000,
    B01010000,
    B11111000,
    B01010000,
    B01010000,
    6,

    B00100000,	//$
    B01111000,
    B10100000,
    B01110000,
    B00101000,
    B11110000,
    B00100000,
    6,

    B11000000,	//%
    B11001000,
    B00010000,
    B00100000,
    B01000000,
    B10011000,
    B00011000,
    6,

    B01100000,	//&
    B10010000,
    B10100000,
    B01000000,
    B10101000,
    B10010000,
    B01101000,
    6,

    B11000000,	//'
    B01000000,
    B10000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    3,

    B00100000,	//(
    B01000000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B01000000,
    B00100000,
    4,

    B10000000,	//)
    B01000000,
    B00100000,
    B00100000,
    B00100000,
    B01000000,
    B10000000,
    4,

    B00000000,	//*
    B00100000,
    B10101000,
    B01110000,
    B10101000,
    B00100000,
    B00000000,
    6,

    B00000000,	//+
    B00100000,
    B00100000,
    B11111000,
    B00100000,
    B00100000,
    B00000000,
    6,

    B00000000,	//,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B11000000,
    B01000000,
    B10000000,
    3,

    B00000000,	//-
    B00000000,
    B11111000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    6,

    B00000000,	//.
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B11000000,
    B11000000,
    3,

    B00000000,	///
    B00001000,
    B00010000,
    B00100000,
    B01000000,
    B10000000,
    B00000000,
    6,

    B01110000,	//0
    B10001000,
    B10011000,
    B10101000,
    B11001000,
    B10001000,
    B01110000,
    6,

    B01000000,	//1
    B11000000,
    B01000000,
    B01000000,
    B01000000,
    B01000000,
    B11100000,
    4,

    B01110000,	//2
    B10001000,
    B00001000,
    B00010000,
    B00100000,
    B01000000,
    B11111000,
    6,

    B11111000,	//3
    B00010000,
    B00100000,
    B00010000,
    B00001000,
    B10001000,
    B01110000,
    6,

    B00010000,	//4
    B00110000,
    B01010000,
    B10010000,
    B11111000,
    B00010000,
    B00010000,
    6,

    B11111000,	//5
    B10000000,
    B11110000,
    B00001000,
    B00001000,
    B10001000,
    B01110000,
    6,

    B00110000,	//6
    B01000000,
    B10000000,
    B11110000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B01110000,
    6,

    B11111000,	//7
    B10001000,
    B00001000,
    B00010000,
    B00100000,
    B00100000,
    B00100000,
    6,

    B01110000,	//8
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B01110000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B01110000,
    6,

    B01110000,	//9
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B01111000,
    B00001000,
    B00010000,
    B01100000,
    6,

    B00000000,	//:
    B11000000,
    B11000000,
    B00000000,
    B11000000,
    B11000000,
    B00000000,
    3,

    B00000000,	//;
    B11000000,
    B11000000,
    B00000000,
    B11000000,
    B01000000,
    B10000000,
    3,

    B00010000,	//<
    B00100000,
    B01000000,
    B10000000,
    B01000000,
    B00100000,
    B00010000,
    5,

    B00000000,	//=
    B00000000,
    B11111000,
    B00000000,
    B11111000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    6,

    B10000000,	//>
    B01000000,
    B00100000,
    B00010000,
    B00100000,
    B01000000,
    B10000000,
    5,

    B01110000,	//?
    B10001000,
    B00001000,
    B00010000,
    B00100000,
    B00000000,
    B00100000,
    6,

    B01110000,	//@
    B10001000,
    B00001000,
    B01101000,
    B10101000,
    B10101000,
    B01110000,
    6,

    B01110000,	//A
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B11111000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    6,

    B11110000,	//B
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B11110000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B11110000,
    6,

    B01110000,	//C
    B10001000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B10001000,
    B01110000,
    6,

    B11100000,	//D
    B10010000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10010000,
    B11100000,
    6,

    B11111000,	//E
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B11110000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B11111000,
    6,

    B11111000,	//F
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B11110000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    6,

    B01110000,	//G
    B10001000,
    B10000000,
    B10111000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B01111000,
    6,

    B10001000,	//H
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B11111000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    6,

    B11100000,	//I
    B01000000,
    B01000000,
    B01000000,
    B01000000,
    B01000000,
    B11100000,
    4,

    B00111000,	//J
    B00010000,
    B00010000,
    B00010000,
    B00010000,
    B10010000,
    B01100000,
    6,

    B10001000,	//K
    B10010000,
    B10100000,
    B11000000,
    B10100000,
    B10010000,
    B10001000,
    6,

    B10000000,	//L
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B11111000,
    6,

    B10001000,	//M
    B11011000,
    B10101000,
    B10101000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    6,

    B10001000,	//N
    B10001000,
    B11001000,
    B10101000,
    B10011000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    6,

    B01110000,	//O
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B01110000,
    6,

    B11110000,	//P
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B11110000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    6,

    B01110000,	//Q
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10101000,
    B10010000,
    B01101000,
    6,

    B11110000,	//R
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B11110000,
    B10100000,
    B10010000,
    B10001000,
    6,

    B01111000,	//S
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B01110000,
    B00001000,
    B00001000,
    B11110000,
    6,

    B11111000,	//T
    B00100000,
    B00100000,
    B00100000,
    B00100000,
    B00100000,
    B00100000,
    6,

    B10001000,	//U
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B01110000,
    6,

    B10001000,	//V
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B01010000,
    B00100000,
    6,

    B10001000,	//W
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10101000,
    B10101000,
    B10101000,
    B01010000,
    6,

    B10001000,	//X
    B10001000,
    B01010000,
    B00100000,
    B01010000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    6,

    B10001000,	//Y
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B01010000,
    B00100000,
    B00100000,
    B00100000,
    6,

    B11111000,	//Z
    B00001000,
    B00010000,
    B00100000,
    B01000000,
    B10000000,
    B11111000,
    6,

    B11100000,	//[
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B11100000,
    4,

    B00000000,	//(Backward Slash)
    B10000000,
    B01000000,
    B00100000,
    B00010000,
    B00001000,
    B00000000,
    6,

    B11100000,	//]
    B00100000,
    B00100000,
    B00100000,
    B00100000,
    B00100000,
    B11100000,
    4,

    B00100000,	//^
    B01010000,
    B10001000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    6,

    B00000000,	//_
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B11111000,
    6,

    B10000000,	//`
    B01000000,
    B00100000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    4,

    B00000000,	//a
    B00000000,
    B01110000,
    B00001000,
    B01111000,
    B10001000,
    B01111000,
    6,

    B10000000,	//b
    B10000000,
    B10110000,
    B11001000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B11110000,
    6,

    B00000000,	//c
    B00000000,
    B01110000,
    B10001000,
    B10000000,
    B10001000,
    B01110000,
    6,

    B00001000,	//d
    B00001000,
    B01101000,
    B10011000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B01111000,
    6,

    B00000000,	//e
    B00000000,
    B01110000,
    B10001000,
    B11111000,
    B10000000,
    B01110000,
    6,

    B00110000,	//f
    B01001000,
    B01000000,
    B11100000,
    B01000000,
    B01000000,
    B01000000,
    6,

    B00000000,	//g
    B01111000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B01111000,
    B00001000,
    B01110000,
    6,

    B10000000,	//h
    B10000000,
    B10110000,
    B11001000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    6,

    B01000000,	//i
    B00000000,
    B11000000,
    B01000000,
    B01000000,
    B01000000,
    B11100000,
    4,

    B00010000,	//j
    B00000000,
    B00110000,
    B00010000,
    B00010000,
    B10010000,
    B01100000,
    5,

    B10000000,	//k
    B10000000,
    B10010000,
    B10100000,
    B11000000,
    B10100000,
    B10010000,
    5,

    B11000000,	//l
    B01000000,
    B01000000,
    B01000000,
    B01000000,
    B01000000,
    B11100000,
    4,

    B00000000,	//m
    B00000000,
    B11010000,
    B10101000,
    B10101000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    6,

    B00000000,	//n
    B00000000,
    B10110000,
    B11001000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    6,

    B00000000,	//o
    B00000000,
    B01110000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B01110000,
    6,

    B00000000,	//p
    B00000000,
    B11110000,
    B10001000,
    B11110000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    6,

    B00000000,	//q
    B00000000,
    B01101000,
    B10011000,
    B01111000,
    B00001000,
    B00001000,
    6,

    B00000000,	//r
    B00000000,
    B10110000,
    B11001000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    6,

    B00000000,	//s
    B00000000,
    B01110000,
    B10000000,
    B01110000,
    B00001000,
    B11110000,
    6,

    B01000000,	//t
    B01000000,
    B11100000,
    B01000000,
    B01000000,
    B01001000,
    B00110000,
    6,

    B00000000,	//u
    B00000000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10011000,
    B01101000,
    6,

    B00000000,	//v
    B00000000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B01010000,
    B00100000,
    6,

    B00000000,	//w
    B00000000,
    B10001000,
    B10101000,
    B10101000,
    B10101000,
    B01010000,
    6,

    B00000000,	//x
    B00000000,
    B10001000,
    B01010000,
    B00100000,
    B01010000,
    B10001000,
    6,

    B00000000,	//y
    B00000000,
    B10001000,
    B10001000,
    B01111000,
    B00001000,
    B01110000,
    6,

    B00000000,	//z
    B00000000,
    B11111000,
    B00010000,
    B00100000,
    B01000000,
    B11111000,
    6,

    B00100000,	//{
    B01000000,
    B01000000,
    B10000000,
    B01000000,
    B01000000,
    B00100000,
    4,

    B10000000,	//|
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    B10000000,
    2,

    B10000000,	//}
    B01000000,
    B01000000,
    B00100000,
    B01000000,
    B01000000,
    B10000000,
    4,

    B00000000,	//~
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B01101000,
    B10010000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    6,

    B01100000,	// (Char 0x7F)
    B10010000,
    B10010000,
    B01100000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    B00000000,
    5
};

void scrollFont() {
    for (int counter=0x20;counter<0x80;counter++){
        loadBufferLong(counter);
        delay(500);
    }
}

// Scroll Message
void scrollMessage(prog_uchar * messageString) {
    int counter = 0;
    int myChar=0;
    do {
        // read back a char 
        myChar =  pgm_read_byte_near(messageString + counter); 
        if (myChar != 0){
            loadBufferLong(myChar);
        }
        counter++;
    } 
    while (myChar != 0);
}
// Load character into scroll buffer
void loadBufferLong(int ascii){
    if (ascii >= 0x20 && ascii <=0x7f){
        for (int a=0;a<7;a++){                      // Loop 7 times for a 5x7 font
            unsigned long c = pgm_read_byte_near(font5x7 + ((ascii - 0x20) * 8) + a);     // Index into character table to get row data
            unsigned long x = bufferLong [a*2];     // Load current scroll buffer
            x = x | c;                              // OR the new character onto end of current
            bufferLong [a*2] = x;                   // Store in buffer
        }
        byte count = pgm_read_byte_near(font5x7 +((ascii - 0x20) * 8) + 7);     // Index into character table for kerning data
        for (byte x=0; x<count;x++){
            rotateBufferLong();
            printBufferLong();
            delay(scrollDelay);
        }
    }
}
// Rotate the buffer
void rotateBufferLong(){
    for (int a=0;a<7;a++){                      // Loop 7 times for a 5x7 font
        unsigned long x = bufferLong [a*2];     // Get low buffer entry
        byte b = bitRead(x,31);                 // Copy high order bit that gets lost in rotation
        x = x<<1;                               // Rotate left one bit
        bufferLong [a*2] = x;                   // Store new low buffer
        x = bufferLong [a*2+1];                 // Get high buffer entry
        x = x<<1;                               // Rotate left one bit
        bitWrite(x,0,b);                        // Store saved bit
        bufferLong [a*2+1] = x;                 // Store new high buffer
    }
}  
// Display Buffer on LED matrix
void printBufferLong(){
  for (int a=0;a<7;a++){                    // Loop 7 times for a 5x7 font
    unsigned long x = bufferLong [a*2+1];   // Get high buffer entry
    byte y = x;                             // Mask off first character
    lc.setRow(3,a,y);                       // Send row to relevent MAX7219 chip
    x = bufferLong [a*2];                   // Get low buffer entry
    y = (x>>24);                            // Mask off second character
    lc.setRow(2,a,y);                       // Send row to relevent MAX7219 chip
    y = (x>>16);                            // Mask off third character
    lc.setRow(1,a,y);                       // Send row to relevent MAX7219 chip
    y = (x>>8);                             // Mask off forth character
    lc.setRow(0,a,y);                       // Send row to relevent MAX7219 chip
  }
}

The pertinent parts are at the top of the sketch – the following line sets the number of MAX7219s in the hardware:

const int numDevices = 2;

The following can be adjusted to change the speed of text scrolling:

const long scrollDelay = 75;

… then place the text to scroll in the following (for example):

prog_uchar scrollText[] PROGMEM ={
    "  THE QUICK BROWN FOX JUMPED OVER THE LAZY DOG 1234567890 the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog   "};

Finally – to scroll the text on demand, use the following:

scrollMessage(scrollText);

You can then incorporate the code into your own sketches. And a video of the example sketch in action:

Although we used the LedControl library, there are many others out there for scrolling text. One interesting example is Parola  – which is incredibly customisable.

Controlling LED numeric displays with the MAX7219

Using the MAX7219 and the LedControl library you can also drive numeric LED displays – up to eight digits from the one MAX7219. This gives you the ability to make various numeric displays that are clear to read and easy to control. When shopping around for numeric LED displays, make sure you have the common-cathode type.

Connecting numeric displays is quite simple, consider the following schematic which should appear familiar by now:

MAX7219 LED driver IC from PMD Way

The schematic shows the connections for modules or groups of up to eight digits. Each digit’s A~F and dp (decimal point) anodes connect together to the MAX7219, and each digit’s cathode connects in order as well. The MAX7219 will display each digit in turn by using one cathode at a time. Of course if you want more than eight digits, connect another MAX7219 just as we did with the LED matrices previously.

The required code in the sketch is identical to the LED matrix code, however to display individual digits we use:

lc.setDigit(A, B, C, D);

where A is the MAX7219 we’re using, B is the digit to use (from a possible 0 to 7), C is the digit to display (0~9… if you use 10~15 it will display A~F respectively) and D is false/true (digit on or off). You can also send basic characters such as a dash “-” with the following:

lc.setChar(A, B,'-',false);

Now let’s put together an example of eight digits:

#include "LedControl.h" //  need the library
LedControl lc=LedControl(12,11,10,1); // lc is our object
// pin 12 is connected to the MAX7219 pin 1
// pin 11 is connected to the CLK pin 13
// pin 10 is connected to LOAD pin 12
// 1 as we are only using 1 MAX7219
void setup()
{
  // the zero refers to the MAX7219 number, it is zero for 1 chip
  lc.shutdown(0,false);// turn off power saving, enables display
  lc.setIntensity(0,8);// sets brightness (0~15 possible values)
  lc.clearDisplay(0);// clear screen
}
void loop()
{
  for (int a=0; a<8; a++)
  {
    lc.setDigit(0,a,a,true);
    delay(100);
  }
  for (int a=0; a<8; a++)
  {
    lc.setDigit(0,a,8,1);
    delay(100);
  }
  for (int a=0; a<8; a++)
  {
    lc.setDigit(0,a,0,false);
    delay(100);
  }
  for (int a=0; a<8; a++)
  {
    lc.setChar(0,a,' ',false);
    delay(100);
  }
  for (int a=0; a<8; a++)
  {
    lc.setChar(0,a,'-',false);
    delay(100);
  }
  for (int a=0; a<8; a++)
  {
    lc.setChar(0,a,' ',false);
    delay(100);
  }
}

and the sketch in action:

Conclusion

We have only scratched the surface of what is possible with the MAX7219 and compatible parts. They’re loads of fun and quite useful as well.

This post brought to you by pmdway.com – everything for makers and electronics enthusiasts, with free delivery worldwide.

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Tutorial – Arduino and PCF8591 ADC DAC IC

Have you ever wanted more analogue input pins on your Arduino project, but not wanted to fork out for a Mega? Or would you like to generate analogue signals? Then check out the subject of our tutorial – the NXP PCF8591 IC.

It solves both these problems as it has a single DAC (digital to analogue) converter as well as four ADCs (analogue to digital converters) – all accessible via the I2C bus. If the I2C bus is new to you, please familiarise yourself with the readings here before moving forward.

The PCF8591 is available in DIP, surface mount and module form, which makes it easy to experiment with:

PCF8591 from PMD Way

Before moving on, download the data sheet. The PCF8591 can operate on both 5V and 3.3V so if you’re using an Arduino Due, Raspberry Pi or other 3.3 V development board you’re fine. Now we’ll first explain the DAC, then the ADCs.

Using the DAC (digital-to-analogue converter)

The DAC on the PCF8591 has a resolution of 8-bits – so it can generate a theoretical signal of between zero volts and the reference voltage (Vref) in 255 steps. For demonstration purposes we’ll use a Vref of 5V, and you can use a lower Vref such as 3.3V or whatever you wish the maximum value to be … however it must be less than the supply voltage.

Note that when there is a load on the analogue output (a real-world situation), the maximum output voltage will drop – the data sheet (which you downloaded) shows a 10% drop for a 10kΩ load. Now for our demonstration circuit:

PCF8591 from PMD Way

Note the use of 10kΩ pull-up resistors on the I2C bus, and the 10μF capacitor between 5V and GND. The I2C bus address is set by a combination of pins A0~A2, and with them all to GND the address is 0x90. The analogue output can be taken from pin 15 (and there’s a seperate analogue GND on pin 13. Also, connect pin 13 to GND, and circuit GND to Arduino GND.

To control the DAC we need to send two bytes of data. The first is the control byte, which simply activates the DAC and is 1000000 (or 0x40) and the next byte is the value between 0 and 255 (the output level). This is demonstrated in the following sketch:

// Example 52.1 PCF8591 DAC demo
// https://tronixstuff.com/tutorials Chapter 52
// John Boxall June 2013
#include "Wire.h"
#define PCF8591 (0x90 >> 1) // I2C bus address
void setup()
{
 Wire.begin();
}
void loop()
{
 for (int i=0; i<256; i++)
 {
 Wire.beginTransmission(PCF8591); // wake up PCF8591
 Wire.write(0x40); // control byte - turn on DAC (binary 1000000)
 Wire.write(i); // value to send to DAC
 Wire.endTransmission(); // end tranmission
 }

 for (int i=255; i>=0; --i)
 {
 Wire.beginTransmission(PCF8591); // wake up PCF8591
 Wire.write(0x40); // control byte - turn on DAC (binary 1000000)
 Wire.write(i); // value to send to DAC
 Wire.endTransmission(); // end tranmission
 }
}

Did you notice the bit shift of the bus address in the #define statement? Arduino sends 7-bit addresses but the PCF8591 wants an 8-bit, so we shift the byte over by one bit. 

The results of the sketch are shown below, we’ve connected the Vref to 5V and the oscilloscope probe and GND to the analogue output and GND respectively:

PCF8591 from PMD Way

If you like curves you can generate sine waves with the sketch below. It uses a lookup table in an array which contains the necessary pre-calculated data points:

// Example 52.2 PCF8591 DAC demo - sine wave
// https://tronixstuff.com/tutorials Chapter 52
// John Boxall June 2013

#include "Wire.h"
#define PCF8591 (0x90 >> 1) // I2C bus address

uint8_t sine_wave[256] = {
 0x80, 0x83, 0x86, 0x89, 0x8C, 0x90, 0x93, 0x96,
 0x99, 0x9C, 0x9F, 0xA2, 0xA5, 0xA8, 0xAB, 0xAE,
 0xB1, 0xB3, 0xB6, 0xB9, 0xBC, 0xBF, 0xC1, 0xC4,
 0xC7, 0xC9, 0xCC, 0xCE, 0xD1, 0xD3, 0xD5, 0xD8,
 0xDA, 0xDC, 0xDE, 0xE0, 0xE2, 0xE4, 0xE6, 0xE8,
 0xEA, 0xEB, 0xED, 0xEF, 0xF0, 0xF1, 0xF3, 0xF4,
 0xF5, 0xF6, 0xF8, 0xF9, 0xFA, 0xFA, 0xFB, 0xFC,
 0xFD, 0xFD, 0xFE, 0xFE, 0xFE, 0xFF, 0xFF, 0xFF,
 0xFF, 0xFF, 0xFF, 0xFF, 0xFE, 0xFE, 0xFE, 0xFD,
 0xFD, 0xFC, 0xFB, 0xFA, 0xFA, 0xF9, 0xF8, 0xF6,
 0xF5, 0xF4, 0xF3, 0xF1, 0xF0, 0xEF, 0xED, 0xEB,
 0xEA, 0xE8, 0xE6, 0xE4, 0xE2, 0xE0, 0xDE, 0xDC,
 0xDA, 0xD8, 0xD5, 0xD3, 0xD1, 0xCE, 0xCC, 0xC9,
 0xC7, 0xC4, 0xC1, 0xBF, 0xBC, 0xB9, 0xB6, 0xB3,
 0xB1, 0xAE, 0xAB, 0xA8, 0xA5, 0xA2, 0x9F, 0x9C,
 0x99, 0x96, 0x93, 0x90, 0x8C, 0x89, 0x86, 0x83,
 0x80, 0x7D, 0x7A, 0x77, 0x74, 0x70, 0x6D, 0x6A,
 0x67, 0x64, 0x61, 0x5E, 0x5B, 0x58, 0x55, 0x52,
 0x4F, 0x4D, 0x4A, 0x47, 0x44, 0x41, 0x3F, 0x3C,
 0x39, 0x37, 0x34, 0x32, 0x2F, 0x2D, 0x2B, 0x28,
 0x26, 0x24, 0x22, 0x20, 0x1E, 0x1C, 0x1A, 0x18,
 0x16, 0x15, 0x13, 0x11, 0x10, 0x0F, 0x0D, 0x0C,
 0x0B, 0x0A, 0x08, 0x07, 0x06, 0x06, 0x05, 0x04,
 0x03, 0x03, 0x02, 0x02, 0x02, 0x01, 0x01, 0x01,
 0x01, 0x01, 0x01, 0x01, 0x02, 0x02, 0x02, 0x03,
 0x03, 0x04, 0x05, 0x06, 0x06, 0x07, 0x08, 0x0A,
 0x0B, 0x0C, 0x0D, 0x0F, 0x10, 0x11, 0x13, 0x15,
 0x16, 0x18, 0x1A, 0x1C, 0x1E, 0x20, 0x22, 0x24,
 0x26, 0x28, 0x2B, 0x2D, 0x2F, 0x32, 0x34, 0x37,
 0x39, 0x3C, 0x3F, 0x41, 0x44, 0x47, 0x4A, 0x4D,
 0x4F, 0x52, 0x55, 0x58, 0x5B, 0x5E, 0x61, 0x64,
 0x67, 0x6A, 0x6D, 0x70, 0x74, 0x77, 0x7A, 0x7D
};
void setup()
{
 Wire.begin();
}
void loop()
{
 for (int i=0; i<256; i++)
 {
 Wire.beginTransmission(PCF8591); // wake up PCF8591
 Wire.write(0x40); // control byte - turn on DAC (binary 1000000)
 Wire.write(sine_wave[i]); // value to send to DAC
 Wire.endTransmission(); // end tranmission
 }
}

And the results:

PCF8591 from PMD Way

For the following DSO image dump, we changed the Vref to 3.3V – note the change in the maxima on the sine wave:

PCF8591 from PMD Way

Now you can experiment with the DAC to make sound effects, signals or control other analogue circuits.

Using the ADCs (analogue-to-digital converters)

If you’ve used the analogRead() function on your Arduino (way back in Chapter One) then you’re already familiar with an ADC. With out PCF8591 we can read a voltage between zero and the Vref and it will return a value of between zero and 255 which is directly proportional to zero and the Vref.

For example, measuring 3.3V should return 168. The resolution (8-bit) of the ADC is lower than the onboard Arduino (10-bit) however the PCF8591 can do something the Arduino’s ADC cannot. But we’ll get to that in a moment.

First, to simply read the values of each ADC pin we send a control byte to tell the PCF8591 which ADC we want to read. For ADCs zero to three the control byte is 0x00, 0x01, ox02 and 0x03 respectively. Then we ask for two bytes of data back from the ADC, and store the second byte for use.

Why two bytes? The PCF8591 returns the previously measured value first – then the current byte. (See Figure 8 in the data sheet). Finally, if you’re not using all the ADC pins, connect the unused ones to GND.

The following example sketch simply retrieves values from each ADC pin one at a time, then displays them in the serial monitor:

// Example 52.3 PCF8591 ADC demo
// https://tronixstuff.com/tutorials Chapter 52
// John Boxall June 2013
#include "Wire.h"
#define PCF8591 (0x90 >> 1) // I2C bus address
#define ADC0 0x00 // control bytes for reading individual ADCs
#define ADC1 0x01
#define ADC2 0x02
#define ADC3 0x03
byte value0, value1, value2, value3;
void setup()
{
 Wire.begin();
 Serial.begin(9600);
}
void loop()
{
 Wire.beginTransmission(PCF8591); // wake up PCF8591
 Wire.write(ADC0); // control byte - read ADC0
 Wire.endTransmission(); // end tranmission
 Wire.requestFrom(PCF8591, 2);
 value0=Wire.read();
 value0=Wire.read();
 Wire.beginTransmission(PCF8591); // wake up PCF8591
 Wire.write(ADC1); // control byte - read ADC1
 Wire.endTransmission(); // end tranmission
 Wire.requestFrom(PCF8591, 2);
 value1=Wire.read();
 value1=Wire.read();
 Wire.beginTransmission(PCF8591); // wake up PCF8591
 Wire.write(ADC2); // control byte - read ADC2
 Wire.endTransmission(); // end tranmission
 Wire.requestFrom(PCF8591, 2);
 value2=Wire.read();
 value2=Wire.read();
 Wire.beginTransmission(PCF8591); // wake up PCF8591
 Wire.write(ADC3); // control byte - read ADC3
 Wire.endTransmission(); // end tranmission
 Wire.requestFrom(PCF8591, 2);
 value3=Wire.read();
 value3=Wire.read();
 Serial.print(value0); Serial.print(" ");
 Serial.print(value1); Serial.print(" ");
 Serial.print(value2); Serial.print(" ");
 Serial.print(value3); Serial.print(" ");
 Serial.println();
}

Upon running the sketch you’ll be presented with the values of each ADC in the serial monitor. Although it was a simple demonstration to show you how to individually read each ADC, it is a cumbersome method of getting more than one byte at a time from a particular ADC.

To do this, change the control byte to request auto-increment, which is done by setting bit 2 of the control byte to 1. So to start from ADC0 we use a new control byte of binary 00000100 or hexadecimal 0x04. Then request five bytes of data (once again we ignore the first byte) which will cause the PCF8591 to return all values in one chain of bytes. This process is demonstrated in the following sketch:

// Example 52.4 PCF8591 ADC demo
// https://tronixstuff.com/tutorials Chapter 52
// John Boxall June 2013
#include "Wire.h"
#define PCF8591 (0x90 >> 1) // I2C bus address
byte value0, value1, value2, value3;
void setup()
{
 Wire.begin();
 Serial.begin(9600);
}
void loop()
{
 Wire.beginTransmission(PCF8591); // wake up PCF8591
 Wire.write(0x04); // control byte - read ADC0 then auto-increment
 Wire.endTransmission(); // end tranmission
 Wire.requestFrom(PCF8591, 5);
 value0=Wire.read();
 value0=Wire.read();
 value1=Wire.read();
 value2=Wire.read();
 value3=Wire.read();
 Serial.print(value0); Serial.print(" ");
 Serial.print(value1); Serial.print(" ");
 Serial.print(value2); Serial.print(" ");
 Serial.print(value3); Serial.print(" ");
 Serial.println();
}

Previously we mentioned that the PCF8591 can do something that the Arduino’s ADC cannot, and this is offer a differential ADC. As opposed to the Arduino’s single-ended (i.e. it returns the difference between the positive signal voltage and GND, the differential ADC accepts two signals (that don’t necessarily have to be referenced to ground), and returns the difference between the two signals. This can be convenient for measuring small changes in voltages for load cells and so on.

Setting up the PCF8591 for differential ADC is a simple matter of changing the control byte. If you turn to page seven of the data sheet, then consider the different types of analogue input programming. Previously we used mode ’00’ for four inputs, however you can select the others which are clearly illustrated, for example:

PCF8591 from PMD Way

So to set the control byte for two differential inputs, use binary 00110000 or 0x30. Then it’s a simple matter of requesting the bytes of data and working with them. As you can see there’s also combination single/differential and a complex three-differential input. However we’ll leave them for the time being.

Conclusion

Hopefully you found this of interest, whether adding a DAC to your experiments or learning a bit more about ADCs. Please consider ordering your PCF8591 from PMD Way.

This post brought to you by pmdway.com – everything for makers and electronics enthusiasts, with free delivery worldwide.

To keep up to date with new posts at tronixstuff.com, please subscribe to the mailing list in the box on the right, or follow us on twitter @tronixstuff.

Learn to solder with eevblog’s David L. Jones!

Hello Readers

How is your soldering? Have you always wanted to improve your soldering skills, or never heated an iron in your life and didn’t know where to start? No matter your level of skill you could do a lot worse than review the following video blogs in this article by David L. Jones.

Who? 

[David] shares some of his 20 years experience in the electronics design industry in his unique non-scripted naturally overly enthusiastic and passionate style.
Bullsh!t and political correctness don’t get a look-in.

Dave started out in hobby electronics over 30 years ago and since then has worked in such diverse areas as design engineering, production engineering, test engineering, electro-mechanical engineering, that wacky ISO quality stuff, field service, concept design, underwater acoustics, ceramic sensors, military sonar systems, red tape, endless paperwork trails, environmental testing, embedded firmware and software application design, PCB design (he’s CID certified), power distribution systems, ultra low noise and low power design, high speed digital design, telemetry systems, and too much other stuff he usually doesn’t talk about.

He has been published in various magazines including: Electronic Today International, Electronics Australia, Silicon Chip, Elektor, Everyday Practical Electronics (EPE), Make, and ReNew.

Few people know Dave is also a world renowned expert and author on Internet Dating, a qualified fitness instructor, geocacher, canyoner, and environmentalist.

Regular readers of this website would know that I rarely publish outside material – however the depth and quality of the tutorials make them a must-see for beginners and experienced people alike. Furthermore, if you have the bandwidth they can be viewed in 1080p. And as a fellow Australian I’m proud to support Dave and his efforts. So I hope you can view, enjoy and possibly learn from the following videos:

The first covers the variety of tools you would use:

And the second covers through-hole PCB soldering:

The third covers surface-mount soldering:

Finally, watch the procedure for soldering a tiny SMD IC using the ‘dead bug’ method:

And for something completely different:

If you enjoyed those videos then don’t forget to check out what’s new on Dave’s eevblog website and forum. Videos shown are (C) David L. Jones 2011 and embedded with permission.

As always, thank you for reading and I look forward to your comments and so on. Furthermore, don’t be shy in pointing out errors or places that could use improvement. Please subscribe using one of the methods at the top-right of this web page to receive updates on new posts, follow on twitterfacebook, or join our Google Group.

Update – Upcoming Electronics Industry Documentary

Hello readers

Today I am going to introduce something quite different, yet hopefully interesting to you out there. The renowned director and cinematographer Karl von Moller has just released the roll-call trailer for his upcoming documentary titled “State of Electronics” – a discussion on the Electronics Industry in Australia. Although the focus is on the Australian electronics scene, much of the content and discourse within the documentary can be related to by those from many other countries.

However, Karl can explain it better:

After several months of researching, interviewing and filming, I’m excited to present the first public Trailer to my new Documentary “State of Electronics” – A discussion on the Electronics Industry in Australia. Even though the documentary is focused on Australian Electronics Design and Manufacture, much of it applies to all countries from around the world.

The discussion is focused initially on the world of Hobby Electronics and how it’s decline could affect the Electronics Industry in the future. The Documentary then discusses many issues that face industry including the issue of “Repair and Recycle”, “Education”, “Surface Mount Technology”, “Globalisation”, “Opportunities” and many many more off the cuff & candid comments from Industry professionals.

The Documentary features interviews with famous Australians and Industry professionals including Dick Smith, Dave L Jones, Doug Ford, Leo Simpson, Grant Petty, Matthew Pryor, Jonathan Oxer, Andy Gelme, Andrew Griffiths, Eugene Ruffolo & Bill Petreski. In the future, I am planning to interview just a few more before the final release of the Documentary soon.

Shot completely on the Canon 5DMK2, using the Zoom H4N Audio recorder. Directed, Edited and shot by Karl von Moller, this version of the trailer is largely ungraded and only has an FCP sound mix applied. Music track is composed by Karl von Moller also. Enjoy!

Please visit karlvonmoller.com for more on the progress and information on “State of Electronics”

Here is the new roll-call trailer:

… and the original trailer for those unfamiliar with the project:

This will surely be a fascinating and insightful documentary that we are all looking forward to. Nice one Karl!

This post brought to you by pmdway.com – offering everything for makers and electronics enthusiasts, with free delivery worldwide.

To keep up to date with new posts at tronixstuff.com, please subscribe to the mailing list in the box on the right, or follow us on twitter @tronixstuff.