Hackaday Prize Entry: Micro Matrix Charlieplexed Displays

If you need a very thin, low power display that doesn’t use a whole bunch of pins on your microcontroller, [bobricius] has just the thing for you. His entry to the Hackaday Prize this year is a Charlieplexed LED display. With this board, you can drive 110 LEDs using only 11 GPIO pins.

Charlieplexing is a bit of a dark art around these parts. That’s not to say the theory is difficult; it’s really just sourcing or sinking current from a GPIO pin and arranging LEDs unparallel to each other. The theory is one thing, implementation is another. To build a Charlieplexed LED matrix, you need to go a bit crazy with the PCB layout, and god help you if you’re doing this point-to-point on a perf board.

Somehow, [bobricius] managed to fit 110 LEDs on a PCB, all while managing to break out those signal wires to a sensible set of pads on one side of the board. Only eleven pins are required to drive all these LEDs, making this project a great foundation for some very cool wearables or other projects that require a bright, low-res display.

Since [bobricius] can put 110 LEDs on a small board, he can obviously take LEDs away from that board. That’s what he did with his cut down version designed to be a clock. Both are great little boards, and the perfect solution for tiny displays for low-pin-count micros.

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Minimalist RGB LED cube has a very short BoM


[Asher Glick] wrote in to share a project he has been working on with his friend [Kevin Baker], a 4x4x4 RGB LED cube. The pair are students at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and also members of the newly-formed Embedded Hardware Club on campus. As their first collaborative project, they decided to take on the ubiquitous LED cube, trimming down the component count to nothing more than 64 LEDs, a protoboard, some wire, and a single Arduino.

Many cubes we have seen use shift registers or decade counters to account for all the I/O required to drive so many LEDs. Their version of the cube has none of these extra components, solely relying on 16 of the Arduino’s I/O pins for control instead. You might notice something a bit different about the structure of their cube as well. Rather than using a grid of LEDs like we see in most Charlieplexed cubes, they constructed theirs using 16 LED “spires”, tucking the additional wiring underneath the board.

The result looks great, as you can see in the videos below. The cube looks pretty easy to build, and with a cost around $60 it is a reasonably cheap project as well.

Nice job, we look forward to seeing all sorts of fun projects from the Embedded Hardware Club in the future!

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