LCD Add-On Assembly Guide


Welcome

Congratulations on becoming a member of the exclusive Liquid Crystal Display Owners Group (the LC dawgs...)! After some simple assembly you'll soon enable your Arduino to communicate its innermost thoughts to the world.

If this is your first time soldering you'll probably want to check out our introductory soldering tutorial before continuing. Read through the soldering tutorial and you'll pick up some good tips to help your first soldering experience go more smoothly.

Parts

If you've purchased the LCD Add-On for AIK kit from us at SparkFun you should find the following parts in front of you (or perhaps off to the side a little...a little further...yeah, that's the parts right there):

  • 1 x 16x2 Character LCD - White on Black 5V (LCD-00709)
  • 1 x 16x1 Break Away Headers - Straight

While you can use any standard 16x2 alphanumeric LCD, the white on black display supplied with the kit looks übercool. (The photographs in this guide are of a standard black on green display so yours may look different.) The "16x2" refers to the display having two rows of sixteen characters each—other displays are available which are 8x1 or 20x4.

If you do not have the kit you will need to purchase a 40x1 header strip (e.g. PRT-00116) and break off sixteen pins.

Test Fit

I like to perform a "test fit" of parts before I get soldering. A test fit gives you a chance to double check you've got the parts you need and ensures you know how they will fit together. For this project all you need to do is put the header pins into the holes on the LCD module:

Ensure that you don't have one pin too many or too few in your header strip. Also make sure the black plastic strip of the header is positioned on the underside of the printed circuit board (PCB) so that you have plenty of pin length below the PCB to plug into your breadboard or a socket. The longest part of the pins should be below the PCB.

Soldering

It is pretty straightforward to solder the header pins to the LCD module. Ensure you keep the soldering iron in contact with the joints for no more than about three seconds as there is a small risk of the heat damaging the existing components on the board. You also need to be careful to keep the soldering iron away from the already soldered components on the board—you're probably not yet ready to do surface mount soldering repair.

Pin Header

The pin header provides connections that carry the data signals for controlling what the display...displays. They also carry power to the small microcontroller behind the black blob on the module and to the LED backlight if your display has one.

If you've done a test fit then your header should be in place.

Ensure the header is aligned as parallel as possible to the edge of the board then solder the far left or right pin into place:

Because there's not a lot of room I found it easiest to feed the solder from behind pin while the soldering iron tip is between the pins, resting on the PCB pad with the side of iron against the side of pin you're soldering.

The reason we start with just one pin is because it makes it easier to obtain the correct alignment and fix any mistakes.

If the alignment of the header isn't quite right carefully reheat the solder joint and move the header slightly. Don't move it after you've removed the heat however or you'll end up with a poor joint.

Once you're happy with the alignment of the header you can solder another pin into place—my recommendation is to solder the pin at the opposite end of the header to the first pin you soldered. The reason for this is that once the two end pins are in place the alignment won't change:

I recommend double checking the alignment is still okay and if it's not quite right you can reheat the joint and carefully move the pin.

After you've confirmed the alignment you can solder the remaining pins into place:

It will help you have a good connection if you ensure the solder covers the pad and pins like this:

And now the soldering is complete!

Completed LCD

Your display module should now look like this:

One additional detail to note is that the pin header is at the ''top'' of the display—so keep that in mind if you plan to mount it anywhere—learn from my hard won experience (sorry about that, Pete).

Now it is time to connect your LCD to your Arduino... {TODO: Add links to CIRC-guide, quickstart? and tute}

Have a suggestion for how we can improve this assembly guide? Steps missed? Instructions unclear? Please let us know. You can leave a comment below or email us spark@sparkfun.com. Also let us know if this is the most awesome assembly guide you've ever encountered and we'll stop trying to improve it.

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