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issue: October 2008 APPLIANCE Magazine

Electronics Report
Displays Made Easy


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LCD modules with touch screens allow engineers to quickly integrate displays into appliance designs.

The ezLCD+ 103-EDK is the latest module available from the company. The 3.5-in. color TFT LCD programmable module features integrated LUA scripting language capabilities to provide increased programming flexibility.

To help manufacturers speed development time for new product designs requiring displays, EarthLCD (San Juan Capistrano, CA, U.S.; www.earthlcd.com) introduced the ezLCD series of programmable color TFT LCD modules with touch screens. The modules incorporate all the necessary components for a graphical user interface (GUI)—an LCD, touch and drive electronics, and a USB or SD card programmable firmware environment. Software tools allow engineers to customize firmware, graphical objects, and interfaces. “Other than a graphics editor, there is nothing left to purchase,” Randy Schafer, CEO, tells APPLIANCE.

With the bulk of the electronics housed in a virtually turnkey module, designers can focus on their application specifics instead of on graphical hardware and software. Eliminating the graphics controller during production means less component sourcing time.

The firmware takes advantage of system on chip (SoC) integrated circuits (ICs). “Complete control of the source code for our project allows us to expand and maintain it without being dependent on the whims of outside suppliers or the complexities of Windows or Linux,”  Schafer explains. “This gives us a small code footprint and higher reliability as a result.”

To keep power consumption low, the module’s SoC IC is based on an Amtel AVR-32 microcontroller and has LED backlights with pulse-width modulation (PWM) dimming. Color capabilities and a variety of module sizes are also available.

Although suitable for any application in need of a display, Schafer says the LCD solution would be a good fit for high-end washing machines. “It could replace all the mechanical knobs and buttons on the machine, making for a more reliable and easier-to-use machine,” he says. “The use of a touch screen supports more combinations of settings and can communicate in color features like water temperature and graphically show a small, medium, or large load setting by showing the tub in a graphic image filled to the level of the load size setting.”

Integrating the LCD modules is simple and only leaves three major tasks—designing the user interface, mechanical integration, and input/output (I/O) interfacing. Even these, Schafer says, are easy to address: “The user interface can be built rapidly using our ezWidget library. The mechanical integration is usually just designing mounting to standoffs and a bezel interface. I/O interfacing can be as simple as hooking the ezLCD+ to an existing microcontroller using an RS-232 interface via a cable or piggyback board.”

 

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