Reverse Engineering Saves Weller With A Wonky LCD From The Trash Pile

There’s nothing more satisfying than finding a broken piece of gear in the trash and bringing it back to life. Satisfying, but also potentially more time-consuming — someone tossed it for a reason, after all. Figuring out what that reason is and finding a way to back it better is where the fun — and the peril — are.

Luckily, some pieces of equipment have a relatively short list of well-known failure modes, a fact that [Lauri Pirttiaho] relied on for this fix of an old Weller WD1 soldering station. The unit, sporting the familiar light blue Weller livery and more than a few scratches and dings, had an LCD that was DOA. Typically it’s the driver that’s the problem here, but [Lauri]’s diagnosis revealed it was the LCD module itself that was bad.

With OEM replacements being basically unobtainium at this point, the fix was to intercept the data heading from the driver to the old LCD and send it to a new, easily sourced 16×2 character LCD display. This began with an inspection of the display controller’s datasheet, and a bit of probing of the old display to find out which segments and backplanes map to which pins. A little bit of case modding allowed the new display to fit, the old controller chip was removed, and a PIC16 went into its place, in a tidy nest of Kapton tape and bodge wires. The PIC does the job of translating the original display, which had a fair number of custom icons and symbols, into sensible text-based equivalents and sending them to the 16×2 via I2C. The video below shows the hack in action; it honestly looks like it could have come from the factory like that.

The nice thing here is that [Lauri]’s fix applies to a whole range of Weller stations, so if you find one in the trash, you might be able to resuscitate it. Failing that, you could always roll your own Weller from (more-or-less) scratch.

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