My Projects

Published 2 Apr 2018

Reusing Liquid Crystal Displays


I have lots of LCD (liquid crystal display) modules, recovered from various scrapped devices, that I wish to use in Arduino projects. They vary from one line character displays to multi line pixel displays.

Recovered LCDs

Overview

Many devices use LCD displays for status and other short messages to the user. These are often mounted on separate PCB boards as the display is remote from the main electronics, typically at the top, front of the device. This makes them useful as the whole module, with driver electronics, can be easily extracted and adapted for other uses.

One of the main difficulties with re-using them is simply having the right type of connector - many old (eg 1980's) devices had relatively large connectors with 0.1” pin spacing which was easy to solder a header to, modern devices often have tiny pin spacing and obscure/unobtainable connectors that are difficult to connect to. So it is worth extracting connecting cables and connectors at the same time as the LCD modules when recovering them from scrapped devices.

The second problem is working out the pin assignments of the connectors. Again it saves a lot of time if you examine the scrapped device as you extract the LCD module, and determine which are the power supply lines, and their voltage. If driver chips are identifiable then you can sometimes trace their pins to the edge connector to find some of the pin assignments, but often modern modules have epoxy covering the chip or the have the chip mounted directly on the LCD substrate.

Older devices are usually just straight alpha/numeric (often with choices of character set), and maybe dot addressable pixels or user definable characters. Often there will be a back-light element, either fluorescent or LED. As technology improved the trend was towards customised display elements (eg icons, and logos) as well as text, which might limit their general re-usability. Recent devices tend to have full colour pixel addressable displays giving maximum flexibility, but increasing driving complexity.

Recovered LCD modules

On the sidebar there is a list of LCD modules that I have recovered from various pieces of scrap equipment and the linked pages include pinouts and whether there is an Arduino driver for them.

LCD types

TN (Twisted Nematic) Nematic liquid crystal that twist 90º when power is applied, blocking polarised light transmission.

STN (Super Twisted Nematic) The liquid crystals are twisted by 210º to 270º and untwist when power is applied. This wider transition region allows for gray scale displays (rather than just on/off). They may use reflective lighting for viewing in sunlight. Uses less power than TN displays.

FSTN (Film Compensated Super Twisted Nematic) Uses a compensating film layer between the STN display and rear polariser to increase sharpness and contrast.

Positive displays have dark pixels on a light background. Ambient lighting or a backlight can be used, multiple background colors are possible.

Negative displays have light pixels on a dark background. A backlight must be used for this type of display, multiple background colors are possible.

Transmissive LCDs always require a backlight and provide the highest brightness display. Most suitable where viewing in direct sunlight is not required.

Reflective LCDs have no backlight, and are most suited to environments with high ambient light levels.

Transflective LCDs have both reflecting and transmitting properties and can be viewed in direct sunlight and with a backlight for low light environments.

Common LCD module pinouts

1GndGndGndGndGnd
2VddVddVddVddVdd
3V0V0V0V0RS
4RSResetRSRSR/W
5R/WRSR/WR/WE
6/ER/W/E/EDB0
7DB0EDB0DB0DB1
8DB1DB0DB1DB1DB2
9DB2DB1DB2DB2DB3
10DB3DB2DB3DB3A
11DB4DB3DB4
12DB5DB4DB5
13DB6DB5DB6
14DB7DB6DB7
15ADB7
16K

Key:
Gnd : Ground, Vdd : +3.3V or +5V, VO : Contrast, RS : Instruction/Data, R/W : Read/Write, E : Device select, DB07 : Data bus, A : Backlight +ve, K : Backlight ground

Common I2C LCD pinouts

PinLabel
1Vout
2Cap1N
3Cap1P
4Vdd
5Gnd
6SDA
7SCL
8Reset

Key:
VOUT DC/DC voltage converter. Connect a capacitor between this terminal and VIN when the built-in booster is used. , CAP1N, CAP1P For voltage booster circuit(VDD-VSS) External capacitor about 0.1u~4.7uf, VDD 3/5V, SDA and SCL - I2C bus (I2C bus is to connect a resister between SDA/SCL and the power of I2C bus ).

References and Additional Resources

Drivers

Datasheets

If any referenced page no longer exists, try looking for its URL on http://archive.org.