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Need advice on how to drive a VERY large flipdot
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Need advice on how to drive a VERY large flipdot

by twizted on Wed Jun 15, 2011 8:40 pm

I came into possession of a large 4 or 5' long 112x16 flipdot display from a bus a while back and I've just kinda been eyeballing it from the other side of the room. We've had an uneasy truce as it were that I don't touch it and it does not try to crush me in my sleep. But alas, I can no longer justify it freeloading in the apartment and its time it got a job...

So, I am looking for a way to get it working... I would like to interface it to my PC probably through an arduino either wired, networked or wireless and have it so I can display like a countdown on it and messages and stuff like that. As it stands it is still together just like it came out of the bus and it requires a ODK controller to interact with the sign which I do not have so my only alternative other than trying to find one and then I would still be stuck to just having static text is to hack it with an uC. The big question is how would I interface an arduino to this with some custom electronics to control the 1792 individual dots.

I've not opened it up to see how they are arranged but the video's I've seen on youtube usually show them in a column/row config and you have to be able to switch polarity back and forth to activate/deactivate the dots....

Anyway, anyone willing to help me with some clues on this one? I could possibly even help by getting you hooked up with a display (maybe not this big) to help figure it out... ?

Thanks!

ADAFRUIT ROCKS!!!

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Re: Need advice on how to drive a VERY large flipdot

by twizted on Wed Jun 15, 2011 8:42 pm


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Re: Need advice on how to drive a VERY large flipdot

by franklin97355 on Wed Jun 15, 2011 10:17 pm

Since you have the sign I would say your first chore is to open it up and see how much of it you can decipher.

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Re: Need advice on how to drive a VERY large flipdot

by twizted on Thu Jun 16, 2011 1:23 am

ok, I will work on tearing it down later this week and take some pics... I did see that it has a RS232 9pin on the back which is intriguing...

I will post some pics and info up when I get it :)

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Re: Need advice on how to drive a VERY large flipdot

by westfw on Thu Jun 16, 2011 5:15 am

Yes, the first step is ti figure out what kinds of drivers are already present, and whether you can just use them. Maybe you can just send it serial data on the DB9 port and you're done!
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Re: Need advice on how to drive a VERY large flipdot

by twizted on Thu Jun 16, 2011 4:20 pm

OK, I got some pics of the internal boards and man its loaded with stuff...

I am going to be looking through what all is there but if you have any input or want/need a different angle on something I can take more pics. As it turned out opening it up was only 4 screws and the back panel folded down :)

Images coming... They are breaking the forums :(

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Re: Need advice on how to drive a VERY large flipdot

by twizted on Thu Jun 16, 2011 4:43 pm

I have the images including a zip file of all the images on my server here -> http://www.verngibson.com/projects/flip-dot/

Image

Image Image Image

Image Image

Image Image Image Image

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Image Image Image

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Re: Need advice on how to drive a VERY large flipdot

by chankster on Fri Jun 17, 2011 1:19 pm

It might be worth a shot calling Luminator and seeing if they can send you a service manual
http://www.luminatormasstransit.com/bus ... arket.html

Otherwise it looks like this guy has some parts
http://www.rollsigngallery.com/transitstore-esigns.html
"This is not my sig", it said. - I looked at it suspiciously; Who's sig was it, then?

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Re: Need advice on how to drive a VERY large flipdot

by zener on Fri Jun 17, 2011 1:53 pm

You probably just talk to it through the serial port and program the message you want. The 3 connectors on the left are AMP/Tyco CPC series 1.

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Re: Need advice on how to drive a VERY large flipdot

by westfw on Fri Jun 17, 2011 8:16 pm

It's beautiful! PCBs nicely modular, and LABELED, with pretty standard chips (also labeled.)
Don't lose track of which cables go where, though, especially between the display and the driver boards.
It looks like you have a 68000-based controller with a bunch of EEPROM/Flash that probably holds a bunch of pre-defined messages and interfaces to buttons/etc (maybe even a control-box near the driver?), an 8051-based module that is the lower-level flipdot controller. The dots themselves look pretty ordinary, with MIC5189 high-side drivers and ULN2801 low-side drivers.

And the company is still is business, and apparently a major player in the signage business (wikipedia says they pretty much built the first flipdot displays for buses.) I have to agree with everyone else that your first effort should be an attempt to get the official documentation...
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Re: Need advice on how to drive a VERY large flipdot

by twizted on Fri Jun 17, 2011 10:41 pm

Ok, I did get a reply but I asked for a Service Manual but they only sent me a Parts Catalog for this display...
Last edited by twizted on Tue Feb 28, 2012 2:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Need advice on how to drive a VERY large flipdot

by twizted on Mon Jun 20, 2011 11:34 am

Ok, I got some more info in the form of another PDF, this one containing quite a bit of info such as this uses RS485 serial protocol and it offers up wiring diagrams and even detailed PCB layouts...

I'm still trying to determine if using the original components is going to work or not... I'm primarily going to be using it (if I can even get it working) to display like a live countdown and possibly scrolling messages....

Anyway, here is a link to the PDF I was talking about if your interested in checking it out. -> LINK <-

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Re: Need advice on how to drive a VERY large flipdot

by gutocarioca on Mon Feb 27, 2012 8:51 am

Hi,

I just got myself a 15-character flip dot display panel by Luminator as well and am currently deciding whether to either build a control PCB from scratch or use the one that has come with it - a dilemma similar to yours. I'm quite excited about the project but am quite new to electronics so I'm still struggling with things such as how many volts I should send to its connectors to power the board, etc.

The Display sign comes with a decoder board that should connect to a controller unit to load up messages. The connection between board and controller is done by a 26 pin cable. I've studying the pcb for a while now and it seems that out of this 26 pins, 5 are connected to ground and other 5 to some voltage (again, I don't know how much). So that leaves 16 pins for the message, I think. Would you guys have any suggestions as to how go about figuring out how much voltage I should send? Both for powering the panel as well as to setting the pins to high or low? And finding out the codes the decoder board is expecting to get?

I can upload pictures later, if you guys would like to see them. Ideally, I think, I would like to get a manual similar to the one Twizted said he got, I guess.

By the way, Twizted, do you still have the pictures you uploaded? How about the manual? The links are now broken.

Regards
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Re: Need advice on how to drive a VERY large flipdot

by gutocarioca on Mon Feb 27, 2012 9:10 am

Here are some images of the whole sign, plus a close up on the decoder, back and front:

Image
Image
Image
Image

Link to the album: https://picasaweb.google.com/jabulani.challenge/LuminatorDisplay?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCPbXuuGVsoqcgAE&feat=directlink
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Re: Need advice on how to drive a VERY large flipdot

by twizted on Mon Feb 27, 2012 12:14 pm

I must have inadvertently deleted that folder at some point when I was messing about in my FTP... I will check at work later today, I should still have those images as well as the PDF's...

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