Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Multi-plexing LEDs for word clock

Having failed miserably at debugging our charlie-plexed LED array we've decided to stick to the simpler approach of using multi-plexing.

There's a subtle difference, but since we're already getting down and dirty with multi-plexing for inputs on a board game it made sense to use this same approach for outputs/LEDs. The main difference is that we'll be using a pin for each row and a pin for each column (10 rows x 9 columns = 10+9 = 19 pins).
If we move away from the 16F628A (with 18 pins) and go far a larger chip, with more i/o pins, then multi-plexing gives us a simpler, easier-to-debug solution.

With this in mind, we set about creating a new PCB to use multi-plexing.
So far we've just put a load of LEDs into a grid formation - the actual controller board will be a separate PCB mounted onto the back:

Uln2803a Driven LED array

Here's a photo of the completed board, populated with LEDs, ready for testing.

Unlike last time, testing LEDs is quite straight-forward; and already we've found some potential problems; a lot of the LEDs are re-used from the old board and by connecting a 3v coin-cell battery straight across the anode and cathode of each LED, we've found about half-a-dozen that refuse to light up.

Whether these were damaged during removal, or never actually worked on the original board, we'll never know. But at least we've an explanation as to why the charlie-plexed board didn't work. Sort of.

Anyway, we're going to pop out those duds and test each individual LED on this board before even considering wiring it up to the rest of the project!