Assembling Time Circuit Display PCBs

The time is finally here! After a short hiatus to work on the McCree Hammershot project, I’m back to building my time circuits. The display circuit boards have arrived and it’s time to get them assembled and running!

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Programming the Time Circuit Display

With the LED characters in-hand, the next step is to write an embedded program to display integers and strings on the time circuit displays. The goal is to be able to set the characters for each display group based on simple variables, so doing something like displaying the time returned from a real-time clock (RTC) becomes trivial.

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Time Circuit Display: LED Characters

Before the time circuits can display the time, step one is figuring out what the “proper” LED characters actually are. There is in fact no standard set of characters for segmented LEDs, and the Back to the Future series takes some liberties with the alphanumeric segments. Still, I can do my best to reproduce them as faithfully as I can.

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Controlling an LED Matrix with the HT16K33

Now that all of the time circuit display electronics are in the mail it’s time to talk about programming the display. This starts with learning how to control LEDs with the Holtek HT16K33 integrated circuit (IC), which I’m using as the display’s matrix driver.

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Time Circuit Display: LED Standoffs

The time circuit display is a mix of three LED types: alphanumeric displays, seven-segment displays, and standalone 3 mm LEDs. Each one has a different height off of the circuit board and a different distance to the faceplate. I need to offset the components so all of the parts mate with the faceplate correctly, which requires sourcing LED standoffs and designing my own custom ones.

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Making a Time Circuit Display Schematic

I’ve chosen the LED displays, found a matrix driver, and determined the final positions for each LED display on the faceplate. The next step in the time circuits project is to build a dedicated circuit board for each display. This process starts with creating an electrical schematic.

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