What’s better than a single LED? Lots of LEDs! A fun way to make a small display is to use an 8×8 matrix or a 4-digit 7-segment display. Matrices like these are ‘multiplexed’ – so to control all the seven-segment LEDs you need 14 pins. That’s a lot of pins, and there are driver chips that can control a matrix for you but there’s a lot of wiring to set up and they take up a ton of space. Adafruit feels your pain! After all, wouldn’t it be awesome if you could control a matrix without tons of wiring? That’s where these adorable LED matrix backpacks come in. They work perfectly with Adafruit matrices and make adding a bright little display trivial.
The matrices use a driver chip that does all the heavy lifting for you: They have a built in clock so they multiplex the display. They use constant-current drivers for ultra-bright, consistent color (the images above are photographed at the dimmest setting to avoid overloading the cameras!), 1/16 step display dimming, all via a simple I2C interface. The backpacks come with address-selection jumpers so you can connect up to four mini 8×8’s or eight 7-segments (or a combination, such as four mini 8×8’s and four 7-segments, etc) on a single I2C bus.
The product kit comes with:
- A fully tested and assembled LED backpack
- Ultra-bright 4-digit 0.56″ tall red seven-segment display
- 4-pin header
A bit of soldering is required to attach the matrix onto the backpack but its very easy to do and only takes about 5 minutes.
Of course, in classic Adafruit fashion, they also have a detailed tutorial showing you how to solder, wire and control the display. We even wrote a very nice library for the backpacks so you can get running in under half an hour, displaying images on the matrix or numbers on the 7-segment. If you’ve been eyeing matrix displays but hesitated because of the complexity, this is the solution you’ve been looking for!
This board/chip uses I2C 7-bit address between 0x70-0x77, selectable with jumpers
- Backpack Dimensions: 27mm x 50mm x 4mm / 1.1″ x 2″ x 0.16″
- Backpack Weight: 5.3g
- 7-Segment Display Dimensions: 19mm x 50mm x 14mm / 0.75″ x 2″ x 0.56″
- 7-Segment Display Weight: 8.4g