I’ve been playing with cheap OLED display breakouts for years, incorporating complete boards into my projects – an easy, but bulky solution. Now that I’ve had some practice designing circuits and PCBs, it’s time for my next challenge: soldering the display FPCs directly to my own boards.
It has been two years since my last blog post, and things have changed. The focus of my electronics hobby has shifted from collecting cheap parts and tools to designing my own PCBs with KiCad. I’m also considering turning it into something more than just a hobby, but let’s do this one step at a time.
Up until now I’ve worked exclusively with through-hole components. While they’re great for fast prototyping, it’s becoming more difficult to find DIP versions of every part I need, especially for some of the more recently released devices (USB controllers, ARM-based MCUs). You may find a DIP package here and there, but the majority is only available in various surface-mount sizes. The only way for me to keep up is to learn how to solder surface-mount packages.
Over the past few months I’ve been gathering all the tools I need to move my soldering techniques to the next level. Last week I received the final parts on my list – a high-quality soldering station, iron tips for soldering surface-mount packages and a head-mounted magnifier. With everything ready for my first surface-mount experience, I grabbed one of my I2C EEPROMs and an adapter board, and gave it a try.
Shortly after I started experimenting with electronics, I discovered my fascination with LCDs and other displays. For me, these screens are not just about providing a convenient way to display visual feedback. Any green backlit 16×2 display will probably suffice in most situations. It’s more about expanding my collection, and playing around with all the different colors, form factors and display technologies. I love having shelves full of screens, and thinking about possible projects I could embed them in. Perhaps one day I’ll have a use for them all, but for now the pile just keeps growing.
One of the first displays I bought was this 1.3″ 128×64 monochrome white OLED display from Adafruit. I was aware of the cheaper options on eBay and sites like Banggood and AliExpress, but since this was my first try at working with one of these screens, I wanted to make sure that any issues would most likely be caused by my own mistakes, and not related to product quality.
This is how it started. With a Raspberry Pi B+, a breadboard, and a handful of parts to play with.