Adafruit Arduino LCD Shield Kit: First Impressions

February 2, 2014 — Leave a comment

A few weeks ago, I received my Arduino Blue & White LCD Shield Kit from Adafruit Industries and fired up my soldering iron. Here are my first impressions.

This product as packaged actually comes in two pieces:
1. The shield kit, which contains the PCB, buttons and IC to drive the display. (The part that attaches directly to your Arduino.)
2. The LCD display, which contains the LCD and a potentiometer (if you were going to use the LCD independent of the RGB shield).
Combining these two parts into one package allows Adafruit to easily customize the shield kit with several different positive/negative color variations of LCD displays.

I had originally toyed with the idea of using female headers on the shield kit to allow for easily switching out the LCD display types but after having the product in hand I decided against it.  Adding female headers between the boards would have added additional height to the shield and left the LCD display board unsupported underneath and therefore more fragile and prone to breaking.  Given the $20 price point, I decided I’d rather just buy another RGB shield kit for a different LCD type than risk breaking this one.

I thought it was very clever that the product packaging was labeled with a URL which directed you to the product’s website complete with installation instructions and tutorials to get started.  This was especially important since it does not come shipped with any installation instructions.  I eventually visited the installation instructions (which were nicely written in detail!) to determine which resistors went where and determine why I had less pins on my LCD display board than there were holes on the RGB shield PCB. Turns out the PCB is designed to handle all types of LCDs that Adafruit sells and the RGB types require two more pins.

Before purchasing this kit, I spent some time researching what additional parts I might need to complete the build the way I wanted it.  Ultimately, I wanted both the capability to use the display and access to the female headers for prototyping with a breadboard.  As designed, this is not possible with the LCD shield because it actually mounts on top of the headers of the Arduino even if the pins aren’t used.  I had assumed I would be able to mount stacking female headers on the RGB shield to access unused pins but I had concerns about actually being able to do this given the pictures of the completed build.  I was uncertain if there would be enough clearance between the RGB shield and the LCD after it was mounted on top.  I could not find any documentation proving this was doable aside from a single post on the support forums saying it would be difficult (or something to that effect).  After loosely fitting all the parts together before permanently soldering them, it became obvious that stacking headers on top of the shield (for the digital pins anyway) was out of the question.

photo 3While I hope that Adafruit would eventually redesign their RGB Shield to accommodate stacking female headers, I’ve already determined how I’ll work around it in the meantime.  (More on this in a future post.)  However, should you wish to use the LCD shield and still get access to unused pins for other components, you’ll have to go with the Wingshield Kit or some similar product from another manufacturer.

Finally, Adafruit has done all the hard work of writing or assembling all the libraries you’ll need to drive your new LCD display — for which I am most thankful as it’s been a very long time since I was proficient at C++.

Overall, I’m quite pleased with the quality of this product and happy to purchase from a small business who makes many of the products they sell right here in the good ‘ole USA.  And most importantly, for a competitive price too!

Aaron Melton


No Comments

Be the first to start the conversation.

Leave a Reply

Text formatting is available via select HTML.

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>