The MM58348/342/341/ 248/242/241 Directly Drive Vacuum Fluorescent (VF) Displays

The MM58348/342/341/ 248/242/241 Directly Drive Vacuum Fluorescent (VF) Displays
National Semiconductor
Application Note 371
David Stewart
August 1984
National has produced a family of high voltage display drivers which is specially designed for use with vacuum fluorescent (VF) displays. These circuits are fabricated using a
standard metal gate CMOS process which has been extended to allow a maximum operating voltage of 60V, thus
enabling the design of bright multiplexed displays. In this
way, the advantages of CMOS are retained (low power),
while the range of applications for this technology is increased. Many of today’s high voltage MOS display drivers
require the use of one external resistor per display output,
and this leads to a considerable increase in component
count and board area. National’s display drivers, however,
incorporate an on-board pull-down resistor structure which
removes these disadvantages.
This application note is intended to demonstrate several
ways in which these display drivers can be configured to
drive and control a wide range of VF displays. Although particular attention will be given to one specific display, a 32character alphanumeric display, the design is presented in
such a way as to enable easy extrapolation to the system
designer’s specific applications.
The MM58348/248 devices use a two control line data input
format (data in and clock) which enables the 40-pin part to
have 35 display outputs. To load data into the controller, a
start bit precedes the 35 data bits. The start bit is a logical
‘‘1’’ clocked into the IC by the first clock pulse. Next, 35
data bits are clocked into these parts. The start and data
bits are shifted in on the rising edge of the clock. As the
data is clocked into the IC, the start bit is shifted down the
35-bit register. On the rising edge of the 36th clock pulse,
data is transferred to the display register and the start bit is
shifted into the control latch. On the negative edge of the
clock, the shift register is cleared. The display register feeds
the level shifters that translate 5V CMOS levels to the 35V –
60V required by the display. The MM58348/248 devices are
not cascadable. Typically, these devices would perform the
segment refresh drive in a multiplexed multi-digit system. A
functional block diagram is shown in Figure 2 .
The MM58341/241/342/242 devices use a three control
line data input format (data in, clock and enable) and have
either 32 or 20 display outputs, as given by Figure 1 . This
configuration sacrifices some outputs to enable cascading,
enhance control signal flexibility, and provide brightness
control. Here again, data is shifted into the shift register on
the rising edge of clock, but no start bit is needed. Instead,
the enable signal is taken high to input data to the chip.
When the enable is taken low, the contents of the shift register are loaded into the display register. Again, the display
register feeds the level translator and display driver outputs.
Each of the MM58241/341 and MM58242/342 devices has
a serial data output pin which is connected directly to the
last stage’s output of the shift register. By connecting data
out from one device to the data in pin of another device, and
by holding each circuit’s enable constantly high, the display
drivers can be cascaded. The result is a shift register with a
variable number of bits, depending on the mix of circuits
The MM58341/241/342/242 devices also have a blanking
control input. A logic high on this pin turns all outputs off,
while still retaining the display data. If a logic ‘‘0’’ is then
applied, the display data will return unchanged. Consequently, the brightness of the display is proportional to the
duty cycle of this blank signal. A functional block diagram of
these devices is shown in Figure 3 .
There are six circuits in this new family of high voltage VF
drivers and they can be sub-divided according to maximum
operating voltage, number of display outputs, data interfacing requirements and ability to be cascaded. Each of the
three circuit configurations is available with maximum operating voltages of 35V (MM583XX) or 60V (MM582XX). Due
to the nature of the output stage required to attain high voltage operation of CMOS devices, the drive capabilities of the
display output decrease as maximum operating voltage increases. Therefore, to maintain the option of trading off display voltage against drive current, each circuit has a high
voltage (reduced drive) version and a low voltage (high
drive) version. The three circuit configurations can be identified by the number of display outputs they contain (e.g., 20,
32 or 35 outputs). In all cases, data is entered serially into a
5V internal CMOS shift register. This data is latched to the
output either by an external enable control signal
(MM58241/341/242/342) or automatically by a leading
start bit in the data stream (MM58248/348). Figure 1 shows
how the 6 device numbers correspond to the different circuit
configurations and operating voltages.
Operating Voltage
20 and 32 output drivers use envelope enable
data format and may be cascaded.
35 output (5 x 7 dot matrix) drivers use start bit
data format.
FIGURE 1. The Complete VF Display Driver Family
COPSTM and NSC800TM are trademarks of National Semiconductor Corporation.
C1995 National Semiconductor Corporation
RRD-B30M105/Printed in U. S. A.
The MM58348/342/341/248/242/241 Directly Drive Vacuum Fluorescent (VF) Displays AN-371
The MM58348/342/341/
248/242/241 Directly Drive
Vacuum Fluorescent (VF)
TL/F/7394 – 1
FIGURE 2. MM58348/248
TL/F/7394 – 2
FIGURE 3. MM58341/241* and MM58342/242 ²
displayed. Using these techniques necessitates that the display be continually refreshed with each digit of data, even
when that data has not changed.
Referring to the functional block diagrams shown in Figures
2 and 3 , it is clear that all the internal logic is implemented in
standard 5V CMOS. Such signals do not possess sufficient
drive for the high voltage output stage, so the data passes
through a bank of 15V level shifters to the output section. A
schematic of the output stage is shown in Figure 4 . It can be
seen that all these display drivers use a two-stage high voltage structure with active pull-up transistors and passive pulldown resistors to the display voltage. Because resistor pulldowns are used, it is the output switching ‘‘off’’ time which is
critical for the system design, and this is typically 20 ms for a
rail-to-rail voltage swing.
To see the advantage of multiplexing, if a 32 character 5 x 7
dot matrix display is used, a total of 1120 segments is available. For this reason, the display is multiplexed and has 32
grid inputs and 35 segment inputs. The required refreshing
task must be accomplished without the detection of flickering by the human eye, i.e., at a rate greater than 50 Hz.
(Refresh timing is discussed later.)
Given the aforementioned display pinout and control logic, it
is desirable in multiplexed displays to use the MM58341 to
control the display grids (digits) and one MM58348 to control the display anodes (segments).
3.2 The Display-Driver Interface
When using the MM58XXX series, no buffering is required
between the driver output pins and the VF display. It is necessary only that the driver charge and discharge the display
in such a time that the refresh rate outlined in the previous
section can be achieved. All the CF drivers have LSTTL
compatible inputs, and, as the data source is generally a
microprocessor, no special interface requirements exist.
TL/F/7394 – 3
3.3 The Microprocessor-Driver Interface
Typically, the system utilizing these display drivers will have
some sort of microprocessor or single chip computer controlling the display. Thus, this processor will control one or
more of the display drivers. The drivers have relatively little
intelligence, therefore the host processor will be in charge
of updating the display drivers and generating refresh timing
if needed. The advantage of having minimal intelligence on
the drivers themselves is flexibility. Virtually any display size
or type can be used with equal ease, from small 7-segment,
to British flag types, to larger 5 x 7, 7 x 9 or 5 x 12 displays.
The drivers can be directly interfaced to the microcontroller,
COPSTM 4XX, or 80C48/9. This would normally be accomplished by connecting the driver’s data and clock lines to
control ports on the microprocessor. The MM58248/348 series is capable of accepting clock rates up to 1 MHz, and the
MM58241/341 800 kHz. This is far faster than the control
port bit manipulation rates for these controllers and will ensure compatibility with most low end microprocessors.
1 MHz input clock rates will also ensure that the desired
display refreshing rate is attained.
In higher end systems using NSC800TM or 6800 8-bit microprocessors, the 1 MHz clock rate, coupled with a 300 ns
minimum pulse width, simplified direct interfacing of these
drivers to a mP bus. In the simple case, some logic for address decoding would set aside an I/O port for communiction to each driver, then several bits of the data bus could
be gated to create the clock, data and enable signals.
FIGURE 4. High Voltage Output Structure
3.1 The VF Display Configuration
The operation of a VF display is merely an extension of the
valve principle, i.e., it is a voltage controlled device. An AC
waveform is applied across the filament of the display, and
this excitation causes electrons to be emitted. If both the
grid and the anode are at a high positive voltage with respect to the cathode, the electrons reach the anode area,
which is coated with a fluorescent material. When bombarded by electrons, this material emits light, hence one segment of the display is turned on.
This particular family of display drivers can drive a wide
range of VF displays. The simplest case is where each display segment can be directly driven by wiring each output to
the display anode. This normally occurs on displays with a
small number of digits and segments (e.g., 4 characters of 7
segments) and this can be driven by cascading the drivers
until sufficient data bits are available. This display configuration has the advantage of not requiring any refresh (which
would be required if a multiplexed configuration were used)
but has the disadvantage of needing one wire per segment.
As the size of the display increases, the number of available
segments also rises, thus a multiplexing scheme which will
reduce the number of display connections is desirable. This
is normally achieved by hard wiring all the segments (anodes) of each digit together, then using the grids to select
each digit in turn. The correct segment data can then be
4.2 A 32-Digit 5 x 7 Dot Matrix Application
4.1 Simple Direct Drive Application
In this application, the obvious choice is to implement some
sort of multiplexing scheme to drive the display with fewer
lines. This application usually requires that a dedicated controller be used to generate all the timing signals.
General multiplex timing of a VF display is usually similar to
LED multiplexing. First, the segment data for one character
is output to the display. Next, the digit strobe for that digit is
raised, enabling the character. Then the digit strobe is
brought low while the segment data is changed to the next
character on the display. The next character is enabled by
raising the digit strobe. This action continues until each
character is turned on sequentially. Figure 6 shows the basic timing for a simple display.
Figure 5 illustrates a simple cascaded direct drive application where MM58241s are cascaded to drive a 7-segment
(plus decimal point) display. The MM58241s were chosen
because of the ease with which they can be cascaded. The
MM58248s can also be used and provide a few more outputs per package, but cannot be cascaded.
In this application, the controlling mP need only update the
display whenever the data changes. When updating the display, the data is assembled, enable is raised, and the data is
clocked serially to the driver. Once all the data is loaded into
the shift registers, the enable is taken low. This action updates the display.
TL/F/7394 – 4
FIGURE 5. Typical Direct Drive System with mP
TL/F/7394 – 5
FIGURE 6. Simplified Timing for Multiplexed VF Display
4.2 A 32-Digit 5 x 7 Dot Matrix Application (Continued)
4.3 Multiplexed Display Refresh Timing: The Controllers
In this design, it is logical to use one MM58341 to control
the display’s digits. As will be seen, this driver can be easily
used to shift a single high level bit which will be used to
sequentially enable each character. One MM58348 can be
used to drive the segments. A 5 x 7 matrix has 35 segments,
which is ideal for the MM58348. Therefore, this configuration has a total of 6 connecting lines to interface the microprocessor to the display drivers. The connection diagram is
shown in Figure 7 . Because both of the drivers accept data
only when the clock is active, it would be possible to couple
both data lines together. However, although this saves one
interface line, there is a disproportionate increase in the
software burden.
The choice of which driver to use for segments and which
for digits is dependent only on which configuration is the
simplest to implement in hardware or software. The
MM58241/242/248 devices are all equally capable of driving the digits or segments of a display.
Considering first the digit driver (MM58341), it is clear that
the digits must be enabled sequentially and that this process must be continuous, even when the display data has
not changed. To this end, the data for the MM58341 is simply a one followed by 31 zeroes, where the one is shifted
along the internal register. As each digit is enabled, the corresponding segment data is displayed. To ensure that no
ghosting effects are seen during the transition between digits, the blank signal is activated for a short time before and
after the segment data is changed. Figure 8 shows the microprocessor waveforms and the resultant display waveforms for the 32-character design. Thus, one can see how
the blank is used to mask the display while the digit enable
signal goes low and the segment data is latched.
TL/F/7394 – 6
FIGURE 7a. Typical Architecture for Higher End System Utilizing Dedicated Display mP
TL/F/7394 – 7
FIGURE 7b. Detail of Typical Dot Matrix Digit
Thus, the minimum total digit time per digit is:
4.4 Multiplexed Display Refresh Timing:
Display Brightness (Continued)
The refresh rate of the display is defined as the frequency at
which each digit is enabled (i.e., the reciprocal of the time
taken to display all digits). It is generally accepted that in
order to avoid visible flickering, a refresh rate in excess of
50 Hz is required. Typically, VF manufacturers recommend
100 Hz – 200 Hz. Some sample calculations follow and assume a refresh rate of 100 Hz. Therefore, the time given to
display all digits is 1/(100 Hz) e 10 ms, and is 10 ms/number of digits) for any one digit. For this example, 10 ms/32
e 312.5 ms. This is defined as the total digit multiplex time
and will be made up of a digit ‘‘on’’ time and an inter-digit
blanking time. The inter-digit blanking is required to prevent
display ghosting when digit information changes.
In general, then, the total digit time (tD) is the inverse of the
refresh rate (fr) divided by the number of digits in the display
(nd), i.e.,
tD e 1/(fr x nd) seconds.
tD e 35 ms, a 20 ms e 55 ms.
At a refresh rate of 10 ms, 10 ms/55 ms equals the theoretical maximum number of digits that can be multiplexed, or
about 180 35-segment characters. This is unrealizable since
current display ‘‘on’’ times must be greater than 35 ms, and
total digit duty cycles (or percent brightness) must be much
percent brightness e
25 ms
c 100 e 0.25%
55 ms c 180
For the 32-digit case, the percent brightness is more realistic:
0.29 ms
c 100 e 2.9%
percent brightness e
0.31 ms c 32
These times are the limits of the drivers. If the time required
to load them is limited by the speed of the controlling processor, the update times are calculated from the clock rates
of the controlling mP. However, as one can see, the limitations are more likely due to the display.
Since each digit time is composed of the ‘‘on’’ time, tDON
and the blanking time, tDOFF, the total digit time is:
tD e tDON a tDOFF (seconds).
A useful measure of the brightness of a multiplexed display
can be obtained by comparing it to the direct drive (100%
brightness) case. In the direct drive application each digit is
‘‘on’’ permanently, while in the multiplexed mode each digit
is ‘‘on’’ only for a portion of the time taken to refresh the
display. Therefore, the measure of multiplexed brightness is
given by the ratio of an individual digit ‘‘on’’ time to the total
refresh time. Noting that the refresh time is a function of the
total digit time (tD) and the number of display digits (nd), a
percentage figure for the brightness compared to the direct
drive case can easily be calculated.
4.5 VF Display Brightness Control
Generally, to control or vary the brightness of a display, one
can either vary the display drive voltage or vary the ‘‘on’’
time duty cycle by applying a signal to the blanking control.
The duty cycle of the blanking signal will determine the
brightness. This latter technique is preferred since more
predictable behavior results.
In the simple direct drive case the MM58241/341/242/342
must be used. A periodic waveform is applied to the blanking pin. Its frequency should be greater than 100 Hz –
200 Hz. As the duty cycle is varied, the percentage of time
that the digits are ‘‘on’’ is changed and the perceived brightness changes.
In a multiplexed application, the brightness can be altered
by merely modifying the relative length of the inter-digit
blanking signal. This is easily accomplished in the software
of the controlling mP by adding a delay while the blanking
signal is active and subtracting the same delay from the
time the blanking signal is inactive.
The relative brightness is the percentage of time that any
one character is ‘‘on’’ divided by the sum of the character’s
‘‘on’’ and ‘‘off’’ times. The latter term was previously defined
as the total digit time. Thus:
relative brightness e tDON/tD.
c 100
tD c nd
c 100
percent muxed brightness e
(tDON a tDOFF)nd
percent muxed brightness e
Thus, regardless of the display logic’s refresh speed, the
display brightness will obviously depend on the amount of
multiplexing and the amount of inter-digit blanking time. This
is one constraint limiting the multiplexing scheme, and display manufacturers’ data sheets should be consulted to determine a display’s limits. This will, to a large degree, determine whether a design should use 32-digit multiplexing or
perhaps two separate 16-digit multiplexed displays.
There are also limitations on the refresh rate based on the
speeds of the hardware. In this design, the ‘‘on’’ time has a
minimum value given by the time required to load the start
bit and the first 34 data bits of the MM58348/248, i.e., the
time required for 35 clock pulses of the MM58348. The
MM58348 has a maximum clock frequency of 1 MHz, so the
minimum time for 35 clock pulses is 35/(1 MHz) e 35 ms.
The digit ‘‘off’’ time is constrained by the time required to
clock the digit driver and to load the final segment data bit,
or the time for the display outputs to switch off then on,
whichever is greater. The MM58341 has a maximum clock
frequency of 800 kHz, so the minimum digit ‘‘off’’ time due
to driver limitations is related to 1/(800 kHz) a 1/(1 MHz)
e 2.25 ms. The blanking signal must be active during this
time. Also, though the display outputs take typically 20 ms to
switch, the display itself limits the minimum digit ‘‘off’’ time
and is actually 20 ms.
Due to hardware refresh update speed limitations, 100%
and 0% brightness cannot be achieved and also maintain
proper refreshing, although 0% can be achieved just by
stopping refresh and blanking continuously. (Note that this
percentage is relative to the theoretical minimum and maximum brightness for a given multiplexed display, not the
brightness relative to a direct drive display as was done
In the above 32-digit example, the maximum brightness is
(assuming 10 ms refresh rate and 20 ms minimum inter-digit
max. percent brightness e (0.29 ms/0.31 ms) c 100
e 93.6%.
The minimum brightness, assuming 35 ms minimum ‘‘on’’
time is:
min. percent brightness e (0.035 ms/0.31 ms) c 100
e 11.2%.
lete, etc. The general flowchart for this routine is shown in
Figure 9 . When the character is collected from the keyboard
buffer it must first be established that it is a valid ASCII
code; if not, it is ignored and the present data will continue
to be displayed. The next thing to check is whether it is a
control code. If it is a control code, the function represented
must be executed on the existing data and the resulting
data displayed. Assuming the ASCII code is not identified as
a control code, it must correspond to a display character,
and hence will be entered at the start of the display data
buffer. Following this, the 32 characters denoted by the contents of the display data buffer are displayed, and after the
last digit is enabled the keyboard buffer is checked for new
data. As the display refresh rate far exceeds the speed of
the human typist, each set of data is displayed several times
before it changes.
Looking at the routine for displaying the 32 digits in more
detail, a flowchart can be drawn up, as shown in Figure 10 .
Clearly there is a large range of available display brightness
levels which are easily software controllable by altering the
duty cycle of the blanking signal.
Again, the above analysis assumes that the microprocessor
unit is interfacing with the display drivers at their maximum
data rates. If this is not the case, some part of the brightness range will be lost.
Refer to Appendix for general system considerations.
Having outlined the general method by which the data can
be displayed, it now remains to demonstrate how this can
be achieved at the microprocessor level. It was thought best
to use a familiar microprocessor for this task, so the implementation will use a 6502 and 6522 VIA circuit. The procedure which will be described is merely one example of how
these display drivers can be applied, and it is hoped that by
concentrating on the arranging and loading of the data, a
more general benefit will be gained.
The application to be described here is that of an alpha-numeric display where characters are entered from a keyboard onto a VF display, feeding in from the left. The program will also accept control codes such as line feed, de-
TL/F/7394 – 8
FIGURE 9. General IC Flowchart
TL/F/7394 – 9
FIGURE 10. Display Data Subroutine Flowchart
5.0 THE SOFTWARE (Continued)
The contents of each location are loaded into port A via the
accumulator, starting with the highest memory address. This
is achieved by indexing the lowest memory address by the
contents of the Y register (starting as 06) and decrementing
this register as every 5 bits are loaded. The least significant
bit of port A is used for the segment data (PA0) and the 5
data bits are loaded by storing the code to port A, logically
shifting it to the right, and storing it to port A again. This
procedure is repeated 5 times for each memory location.
The code given in Figure 11 is for the brightest case, i.e.,
where the blank signal is disabled, as soon as the data has
been latched to the display outputs. Clearly, the brightness
can be altered by delaying this action.
The data is held in memory in the form of 7 locations of 5
bits each. This format was chosen because each location
can be equated to one row of 5 x 7 dot matrix, where the
lowest memory location corresponds to the bottom row. For
example, if it is desired that a ‘‘5’’ be displayed in the form
shown in Figure 12 , then the 36-bit data stream is as demonstrated. Assuming that the data is stored at the 7 locations starting at address 2120, then the location contents
are as denoted in Figure 13 .
After first setting up and clearing the port lines and both the
display drivers, a routine is performed for each of the 32
display characters. The ASCII code is collected and decoded to reveal memory locations where the corresponding 35
segment bits are stored. The start bit and first 34 data bits
are loaded into the MM58348. Then the MM58341 blank
signal is activated while the relevant digit is enabled and the
final segment is loaded. After blank is removed, the next
ASCII code is collected and decoded, etc. When the last
digit has been loaded, control returns to the main program
for the updating of the display data.
The machine code routine for the setting up of each digit of
display data is shown in Figure 11 . The relevant addresses
of ports and digit codes are included in Figure 12 to make
the program comprehensible. The address of the segment
data is stored in locations 00E2 and 00E3, and it is assumed
that this is updated outside the display subroutine. The ports
can be addressed as 8-bit memory locations or as individual
lines. When considered as individual bits, the fifth address
bit either sets or clears that bit, i.e., STA 0915 sets PA5 and
090B clears PB3.
The segment data for each character is stored as 7 consecutive memory locations, each containing 5 data bits.
STA 0910
STA 0918
STA 0908
STA 0900
STA 0920
STA 0918
STA 0909
STA 091B
STA 0919
STA 0909
STA 091C
T Load start bit.
T Load 30 segment
T bits, 5 at a time
T Load lowest addr.
STA 090B
STA 0920
STA 0918
STA 0908
STA 090C
LDA (I), Y E2
STA 0920
STA 0918
STA 0908
T Load 4 seg. bits.
T Enable high.
T Digit select clock.
T Blank high
FIGURE 11. Display Data Load Subroutine
Port AÐAddress 0920
T Enable low.
T Load 35th segment
T bit.
T Blank low.
T Ret. to main prog.
T Load mem. contents.
T Count for 5 bits.
T Push data to port A.
T Segment clock high.
T Segment clock low.
T Shift seg. data
T and dec. bit count.
T Set up address of
T next 5 seg. bits.
T Return to display
T subroutine.
Port BÐAddress 0921
Port Bit
Port Bit
Data 8
Not Used
Not Used
Not Used
Not Used
Not Used
Not Used
Not Used
Clock 8
Clock 1
Data 1
Not Used
Not Used
Not Used
Lowest memory address giving location of segment display data: stored in locations 00E2 and 00E3.
FIGURE 12. Port and Relevant Memory Addresses
5.0 THE SOFTWARE (Continued)
Desired Display Character (Numeric 5)
Desired Data Stream
01110000010000111110100001000011111 l 1 l
direction of data entry
row 1
row 2
row 3
row 4
row 5
row 6
row 7
Memory Contents (Assuming Lowest Address e 2120)
row 7
row 6
row 5
row 4
row 3
row 2
row 1
FIGURE 13. Example of Segment Data Arrangement
An alternative using 5 locations of 7-segment data bits is
possible, where the software would be faster but the data
formatting more difficult. There are many trade-offs to be
found with so versatile a series of circuits.
The code used to demonstrate this example is that of the
6502 microprocessor, and it would be a simple task to convert the instructions for another device (e.g., National’s
CMOS NSC800). The versatility of display formats available
is a major feature, and the fact that these display drivers are
CMOS devices guarantees their low power consumption. In
addition, the outputs incorporate internal pull-down resistors
which greatly reduce the external component count. This
cuts the required board area; consequently a considerable
saving in system cost can be made.
This design example is merely one of the many possible
applications for the MM58348/341/248/241 family of high
voltage display drivers. For other applications it should be
noted that the other 2 circuits in this series, namely the
MM58342 and the MM58242, can provide a much wider
range of possible connections. For example, larger displays
such as the 2-line by 40-digit 5 x 7 dot matrix formats can be
driven with two MM58348s and two MM58342s cascaded to
form a 40-bit shift register.
The method by which the segment data is shown to be
stored and accessed in memory in convenient in the above
example, although again it is only one of the many methods.
And the brightest case is where blank is low only for the
time required to latch the segment data and enable the digit.
The purpose of the following text is to show how a designer
can make decisions on displays he can drive or ranges of
brightness he can achieve with a given system. Alternatively, it can be used as a method of designing a system to
meet a desired display specification.
Bd (max) e (nc b ncOFF)/nc
e 1 b [(ncOFF)/nc]
The range of available brightness level, Br, is:
Br e Bd (max)/Bd (min)
e [(nc b ncOFF)/nc]/(1/nc)
e nc b ncOFF
It should be noted that this is the minimum range of available brightness levels because tD was minimized to maximize fr. If the system clock were fast enough to allow the
maximum refresh rate to be in excess of the desired fr, then
tD could be increased from its minimum value. This would, in
turn, produce a wider range of brightness levels.
It should also be noted that most manufacturers quote a
minimum duty cycle for each digit. The system designer
should ensure that neither end of the brightness specification exceeds this value.
1. System Decisions
System Constraints:
a. Refresh rate (fr)
b. Number of display digits (nd)
c. Rate at which drivers are clocked by system (fCLK)
Associated Parameters:
a. Total time available to diplay all digits (tr)
b. Total time allocated to each digit (tD)
c. Total time each digit is on (tDON)
d. Total time each digit is off (tDOFF)
e. Number of display segments (ns)
f. Number of system clocks required to display one digit
g. Number of system clocks required to load segment bits
h. Number of system clocks required to latch both segment
and digit data (ncOFF)
From the above definitions, the following equations can be
e 1/fr (seconds)
For the purposes of doing some sample calculations using
the above theory, we will assume use of the system previously described, i.e., the driving of a 32-digit 5 x 7 dot matrix
display by one MM58341/241 and one MM58348/248.
1. System Decisions
The number of display digits is fixed, i.e., nd e 32 (ncON e
35 and ncOFF e 2, so nc e 37 system clocks). Assume
system has a 125 kHz clock rate.
Therefore, the resulting refresh rate is:
fr e fCLK/(nc c nd)
e 125000/(37 c 32)
e 105 Hz
Also, the system clock rate needed for a given refresh rate
can be calculated, e.g., fr e 200 Hz.
fCLKe nc c fr c nd
e 37 c 32 c 200
e 237 kHz
e approximately 250 kHz
There are many other examples of how this theory can be
used to evaluate the possibilities for VF systems.
2. Brightness Variation Considerations
We can now calculate range of brightness intensities available with the above system, i.e., where fCLK e 125 kHz,
fr e 105 Hz.
Bd (min) e 1/nc
e 1/37
Bd (max) e 1 b (ncOFF/nc)
e 1 b (2/37)
e 35/37
e Bd (max)/Bd (min)
e 35
So the brightness can vary from its lowest value to its maximum value, which is 35 times the minimum level.
Also note that the minimum duty cycle for this display is
given as 1/40 (manufacturer’s specification), so there is no
problem in this application.
e tr/nd e 1/(fr c nd) (seconds)
tDON e time to load segment bits for next digit
e ns system clocks
e ncON system clocks
e ncON/fCLK (seconds)
tDOFF e time to latch segment bits and to enable relevant digit
e ncOFF system clocks
e ncOFF/fCLK (seconds)
e tDON a tDOFF
e (ncON/fCLK) a (ncOFF/fCLK)
e (ncON a ncOFF)/fCLK
e nc/fCLK (seconds)
fCLK e nc/tD
e nc c fr, c nd (Hertz)
2. Brightness Variation Considerations
The brightness of the display is proportional to the duty cycle of the blank signal, and the range of intensities available
depends on the size of tDON and ultimately the refresh rate,
Bd e brightness of the display
e duty cycle of blank signal
e tDON/tD
In the above example, the least bright case is where the
blank signal is low for only one system clock per digit.
Bd (min) e 1/nc
But, remembering that Bd (min) must be less than the stated
duty cycle (1/40):
Let us now take the example of driving the same display
with a system where fCLK e 500 kHz, at a desired refresh
rate of 200 Hz.
Bd (min)
Bd (max)
1 b (ncOFF/nc)
1 b (2/78)
Bd (max)/Bd (min)
So, we can see that by manipulation of the system constraints, a wider range of brightness levels can be attained,
although this is ultimately limited by the stated duty cycle of
the display.
nc e fCLK/(fr c nd)
e 500000/(200 c 32)
ncOFF is 2 as before, and although we require only 35
clocks to load the segment data,
ncON e nc b ncOFF
e 78 b 2
e 76 system clocks
In general, the higher the system clock rate, the wider the
brightness control range.
Bd (min) e 1/nc
e 1/78
AN-371 The MM58348/342/341/248/242/241 Directly Drive Vacuum Fluorescent (VF) Displays
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into the body, or (b) support or sustain life, and whose
failure to perform, when properly used in accordance
with instructions for use provided in the labeling, can
be reasonably expected to result in a significant injury
to the user.
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