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Frequently Asked Questions2019-10-30T13:14:58-07:00

Frequently Asked Questions

In our 25+ years helping customers develop products, we have collected and responded to many common questions. If you’re stuck, or not sure what to do next, give our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) a look. We may have already addressed your problem.

SLCD Controllers

How many volts can the SLCD43 reset line take? We want to hold the reset line at 5 volts high, and set it low to reset, but weren’t sure if the board could handle it.2019-10-24T11:03:49-07:00

The RESET input is driven high (to 3.3v) by the onboard reset controller. You can drive it low through an open-collector circuit to reset the board, but you should not drive it high. If you need to, use the voltage present on J1 pin 1.

What is the typical, worst case, and surge current requirements for the SLCD43 Module (Part Number 51-0105-01)?2019-10-24T10:42:03-07:00

The typical, room temperature current is as follows, measured at 5V DC input:

  • CASE 1 –  Full bright “xbb 255”, blank screen: 238mA
  • CASE 2 – Full bright “xbb 255”, checkerboard screen: 243mA (the checkerboard pattern alternating white and black pixels is worst-case panel power)

These are typical numbers. We quote the absolute worst case (400mA) on the datasheet; it is very unlikely that all parts of any particular module will be the worst case.

See the inrush power on the application of power to the module in the image below.

This surge charges the tantalum capacitors on the board. The module contains a supervisor reset chip MCP809T that has a minimum delay of 150mS from power. So as long as the caps are charged in 100mS, all will be well. You could easily limit the inrush current to 400mA and be okay.

How can I reduce the power consumption in sleep mode?2019-10-24T10:41:48-07:00

One option is to define a macro the application can use when needed. A macro can turn the display off with the “v off” command. First define a special hotspot over the entire screen, then assign this hotspot to another macro. When the user touches any location on the touch screen, the assigned macro is run. The ‘wake-up’ macro could remove the hotspot and turn the display back on with the “v on” command.  A screen touch can notify the application with either a standard “x” notification from the SLCD or with a custom message from the ‘wake-up’ macro.  See the example macros in the file PowerSaveExampleMacros.txt.

How can I make SD cards larger than 2 GB work with the SLCD5 or SLCD5+ controllers?2019-10-24T13:28:33-07:00

The firmware in our SLCD5/SLCD5+ display modules does not support SDHC cards (those over 2 GB capacity). This is because the low-level SD card protocol changed, so even if you partition the SDHC card and create a FAT16 file system, the underlying protocol is incompatible. You will need to use a standard SD card with a capacity of 2 GB or less.

Why is the resolution of the 5.7″ display worse than that of the 4.3″ display? Do you have a 5.7″ display that has a resolution as good as or better than the 4.3″?2019-10-24T13:32:18-07:00

The 5.7″ QVGA (320×240) is an older standard than the 4.3″ display, and that’s why the 5.7″ has lower resolution. In general, the lower the resolution, the higher the brightness, so the 5.7″ does have one redeeming feature. We favor “standard” sizes and resolutions as much as possible for long life availability. There are no standard bodies for small TFT displays, only form factors and resolutions that get adopted by multiple vendors.

You have several options for higher resolution. These are all powered by our SLCD5 controller. All of these options are very similar in resolution (dots per inch (dpi) or pixel pitch).

Reference 4.3″ dot pitch 0.198mm = 128dpi

Options:

  • 5.7″ VGA (640×480) dot pitch 0.180mm = 141dpi (tighter than the 4.3″)
  • 6.4″ VGA (640×480) dot pitch 0.204mm = 124dpi
  • 7″ WVGA (800×480) dot pitch 0.190mm = 134dpi

All of the above are available from multiple panel vendors.

Can I change from a landscape to portrait-orientation?2019-11-14T13:15:36-08:00

Under “Touchscreen Display Modules” choose the product you are using. Under the “Downloads” tab, choose Portrait Firmware to download the .UPG file. Use the BMPload program to change the firmware.

Note: SLCD5/SLCD5+ products display landscape orientation only, and cannot do portrait-orientation.

Some JPEG files load correctly on the SLCD5+E, but files of the same image in a Progressive format, do not load.2019-10-24T13:49:06-07:00

The Progressive format of JPEG files can use a large amount of RAM, which, with large images, can easily exceed the RAM available in the display module. The fix is to not use the Progressive format and to stick with the Baseline format. More details can be found here: http://kb.tourwriter.com/baseline-jpeg-vs-progressive-jpeg

How do I display a message on the LCD screen when the serial communication link to the controlling host has failed?2019-10-24T13:48:42-07:00

There is a command to tell the controller to execute a macro when there has been no activity on the serial port to the host. The command “*comwdt” can be used to enable the detection of communication timeout events and execute a macro in response. Please refer to Communications Watchdog Timer Documentation for complete details.

The display flashes (comes on and then goes dark) when power is applied and I can’t communicate with it.2019-10-24T13:50:02-07:00

All SLCD controllers have a reset circuit triggered when the voltage supplied to the board drops below a particular threshold. Sometimes called brown-out protection, this trigger ensures the controller’s processor does not incorrectly execute and possibly change its internal programming when it loses power. This reset happens when the input voltage to the controller sags (dips down below 10% of nominal).

The display backlight draws a lot of power, and when it turns on, the controller input voltage can sag and cause the controller to reset and turn off the backlight. This can make it look like the display is flashing since it turns on the backlight and then resets, and keeps doing this as long as power is applied. The solution is to shorten the cable between the power source and the controller or use larger cable wires. Long thin power cables have inductance which can cause voltage sags when there is a change in current. To see the problem, put an oscilloscope on the controller power input and set the trigger at 10% less than the nominal input voltage.

I did a screen capture of an image and displayed it on the SLCD6 or SLCD43 (in high color mode) and see color banding that was not in the original. What do I do to get rid of this?2019-10-24T13:50:28-07:00

Natural images (pictures) display quite well using 16-bit color. However, some computer-generated artwork images contain continuously varying color gradients that look banded when converted to 16-bit color. The way to resolve this is to use error diffusion (dithering) is to smooth out the banding. Look in the GIMP documentation or glossary for information on dithering support.

When I download STEP files from your web page, they are in the wrong format and SolidWorks can’t read them.2019-10-24T13:51:30-07:00

Make sure that Windows isn’t renaming the file for you. Some web browsers insist on renaming the file from .STEP to .txt. To work around this, you can either do a right-click on the link, then select Save as…, or you can rename the file to a .STEP file.

How can I reset the baud rate so that I can continue working?2019-10-24T13:52:38-07:00

Question:

I have programmed the baud rate at 230400 in the power-on macro. Now I can’t communicate via my embedded system, BMPload, or Hyperterminal. How can I reset the baud rate so that I can continue working?

Answer:

The SLCD controller family has an “auto-switch” feature that allows it to change the active serial port. You need to connect to an alternate serial port, perform the auto switch, and then disable the power-on macro.

Using the development kit:

  • Connect to the AUX port on the PowerCom4 triangle board using a PC serial port at 115200 baud.
  • Using Hyperterminal or RealTerm or TeraTerm, send 4 “enter” or characters, and you should get a ‘>’ prompt.
  • Issue the command:
*PONMAC 0

  • Power cycle. The main port should now be 115200 baud. If not, to see what it is set at, repeat and issue the command:
baud0

  • On the SLCD43, you can connect to the USB port and do the same as the above.
My 8.4″ display is flickering. What should I do?2019-10-24T13:59:45-07:00

Check the external inverter. If it is an ERG 8maD3407F model, you need to have the following line:

pwmIsEnable = 0

in the config.ini file you use to initialize the system.

Is there an if/else construct in the SLCD modules?2019-10-24T14:01:31-07:00

There is no formal “if/else” construct. However, you can approximate it with the macro label feature. For example, let’s say you can present the user with four different menus depending on some sort of state variable. You could implement this with a couple of macros and an integer variable. The variable i0 would hold the state, 0-3.

Your code would set i0 to the desired value, then call macro select_menu. Macro select_menu turns i0 into a label with an ‘m’ pre-pended, and this is used in the call to display_menu.

#define select_menu
m display_menu:m`i0`
#end

#define display_menu
:m0
// display items suitable for menu 0
t "Menu 0" 100 100
:m1
// display items suitable for menu 1
t "Menu 1" 100 100
:m2
// display items suitable for menu 2
t "Menu 2" 100 100
:m3
// display items suitable for menu 3
t "Menu 3" 100 100
:default
// display or report parameter error t "!! Invalid parameter !!" 100 100
#end

 

You could also setup select_menu to accept a parameter which is the desired menu, and it would look like the following (barely different than above). Note that `0` is used instead of `i0`.

#define select_menu2 
m display_menu:m`0`
 #end
I don’t have a serial port on my computer. Can you recommend a USB-serial converter?2019-12-05T08:13:35-08:00
Why does my application run slower over USB than when I used it from the RS232 serial port?2019-10-24T14:02:13-07:00

In general, users will not see any difference when switching from a PC serial port to a USB Virtual Com Port (VCP). However, there are significant differences in the configuration of a serial port and a USB port. A serial port can send data on a byte-per-byte basis whereas the USB sends data in packets. If the application is sending one byte at a time, it is very inefficient for USB as it waits for the buffer to fill up and complete a full packet or waits for a timeout to send a short packet.

The USB-serial chip on our board (FTDI) allows for configuration of these timeouts so the speed should be at least the equivalent of the legacy serial port if not better.

To reduce the time to receive (chip to PC) smaller chunks of data the latency timer can be reduced to 2ms (default 16ms) and the InTransferSize can be reduced to 64 bytes (default 4096) by modifying the FTDIPORT.INF file found in the driver folder. A similar mechanism exists for writing (PC to chip) data called buffered writes. Find more information in the AN_107 Advanced Driver Options application note.

Is there an incompatibility with Microsoft Vista and BMPload?2019-10-24T14:02:40-07:00

If you are using older versions than SCLD5 BMPload Version 2.1.4 or SLCDx BMPload Version 1.8.2, you may experience Vista OS related problems (error messages, corrupt device downloads, etc.). Download a newer version at BMPload.

Do you have a Drag-n-Drop GUI builder tool?2019-11-14T13:15:36-08:00

We don’t have a GUI builder tool for SLCD products but do recommend the use of standard bit-mapped image development and manipulation tools to create images and then our Screen Layout Utilities for graphic placement. The standard tools include programs such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, or the free program called GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program).

Once you have your bitmap images defined, you can use our free Screen Layout Utilities (a plug-in for GIMP) to design your screen layout and to generate a macro that will display on your LCD. We have tutorials for using GIMP to create bitmaps, and for using the Screen Layout Utilities within GIMP.  Both tutorials are online in our video library.

G2 products do have a drag-n-drop tool.

Can your display be programmed with Bluetooth, WiFi, IR, or some other wireless interface?2019-11-14T13:15:36-08:00

Our SLCD display modules do not support any wireless interface directly. There are “bridge” chips available that operate as Serial RS232 to (Bluetooth, WiFi, IR, etc.) adapters. If you are willing to design your own adapter board, our display modules may meet your needs. It’s a matter of your intended application and the size/cost/performance constraints you are facing. Alternatively, our newer G2 modules do support WiFi interfaces.

I am looking for a complete 4.3-inch touch Panel PC that runs WinCE 5.0. I need RS485 and wireless. Your LCD looks great but it needs a PC controller. Do you have any recommendations?2019-10-24T14:30:59-07:00

SLCD43 does not support WinCE 5.0 running on this display controller. Our SLCD43 does support RS485 via an external RS232 to RS485 converter. This type of adapter automatically enables the RS485 transmitter when the RS232 transmit data is active. It supports either half-duplex or full-duplex RS485. Our SLCD43 can be controlled by a PC or a microprocessor using a physical serial connection to support CMOS/TTL logic levels. We also have the ability to load macros so applications can reside on the device with minimal external control (via commands). Under the “Touchscreen Display Modules” find your unit, then look in the “Documents” tab to download our software and hardware manuals for further information.

Is there a “bitmap flash” command that flashes the bitmap just like the “text flash” command does?2019-10-24T14:31:44-07:00

The “text flash” command is actually implemented via the animation engine. See the “ani” commands. These allow you to create animations like a flashing LED, or animation like a fluttering butterfly. Example:

// bitmap 10 and 11 are "indicator off" and "indicator on" respectively 
// this sets up the animation script, script # is 0 
ani 0 xi 10 0 0 // display indicator on 
ani 0 y 1000 // yield for 1000ms (1 second) 
ani 0 xi 11 0 0 // display indicator off 
ani 0 y 1000 // yield for 1000ms (1 second) 


// enable script 0 
anie 0
Do you have a unit that talks with a SPI or IIC/I2C interface?2019-11-14T13:15:36-08:00

Unfortunately, our SLCD modules don’t support SPI or I2C interface to our display controllers. We do support I2C in some of G2 modules.

Does Windows Vista have compatibility issues with serial communications applications?2019-11-22T12:51:27-08:00

The Windows Vista OS has been known to have compatibility issues when running serial communications programs on multicore processors. This is because it allows multiple cores to work on the same program which can cause synchronization issues. To solve this, use the “Set Affinity” to 1 core. There are various ways to do this (Google “Windows Vista Affinity”). One way to change that setting when the program is running is to right-click the application from within the Task Manager and then set the affinity.

When I opened the .ZIP file I found an .ELF file, but expected the firmware to be in a .BIN format. Do I need special loader for SLCD5 products?2019-10-24T14:40:28-07:00

You don’t need a special loader. Just copy the .ELF file to your SD card (root) and reset or power cycle the board. The card needs to be 2 GB or less in size, and it has to be FAT16 formatted. Hook a terminal emulator to Main/COM0 at 115200, and you will see the update progress.

The SLCD5 based units’ LCD takes time to display after power-on. Can this be changed?2019-10-24T14:41:11-07:00

The SLCD5  (7″, 8.4″ and 10.4″) firmware loads bitmaps and macros from serial data on Flash into RAM memory before it displays anything on the screen. This way, the screen does not come up blank. However, this loading can take time, especially if there are a lot of bitmaps. There are two ways to speed things up:

  1. If the splash screen is set to bitmap 1 (e.g. command “*SPL 1”), this bitmap is loaded and displayed first before all the others are loaded. This can reduce the on-time delay.
  2. A special inverter cable, P/N 23-0121-12, can be used with ERG 8MAD series inverters. This cable enables the inverter as soon as power is turned on, so the screen goes white right away. Then once the controller is initialized and there are bitmaps are loaded, the screen will display normally. The downside of this solution is that the inverter always runs at full brightness.
Do you support Graphical VFD?2019-10-24T14:41:29-07:00

We do not support VFDs.

How can I get a screen capture of what is displaying on the LCD?2019-10-24T14:42:11-07:00

SLCD+/SLCD6/SLCD43 Modules

Start BMPload. You will see a box called “Screen Snapshot” with a button called “GetScreen.” Make sure your Port Settings are correct, then click GetScreen. Browse to the desired file location, name the file, then click Save.

SLCD5/SLCD5+/SLCD5+N Modules

Use a terminal emulator, insert an SD card into the display module, then send the command “*getScreenAsBMPFile”. This will copy the current screen to a file on the SD card.

How can I recover macros and bitmaps from a .bin file?2019-10-24T14:43:45-07:00

Question:

We had a consultant generate our bitmaps and macros, and then left us only with the .bin file? Now you need to make a change, and can’t get the consultant to do it in time because of other commitments, vacations, etc.

Answer:

Here’s a way to capture those macros and bitmaps:

  1. Use BMPLoad.exe to load the .bin file from your PC and then connect to your SLCD. Click the “Store into SLCD” button. Now your bitmaps and macros are in the SLCD. You can use a terminal program to coax the SLCD into telling you what’s there.
  2. Connect a terminal program (TeraTerm works well) and set it up to capture text into a file.
  3. Issue the command “lsmac” and the SLCD will list out all of its macros, and you will have captured them into a file, which you can then edit and use as your new macros.txt file.
  4. Set the text capture feature of your terminal program to save new text into another text file.
  5. Issue the command “lsbmp” and the SLCD will list out details for all your bitmaps, and you will have captured them into another file (bitmap_info.txt), which you’ll want for future reference (most importantly, for the dimensions of each bitmap).
  6. Now you can disable the text capture feature of your terminal program. Now it’s going to get a little tedious.
  7. What you’ll need to do from here on out is display a bitmap on the SLCD display and then use the “GetScreen” feature of BMPLoad to capture a bitmap of the display.  The resulting bitmap file can then be edited to cut out the background and keep just the desired bitmap data (referring to the bitmap_info.txt file for the index of each bitmap and its corresponding Width and Height.  For example:
    1. Connect your terminal program to the SLCD.
    2. Issue the “z” command to clear the SLCD display.
    3. Issue the command “xi 1 0 0” to display bitmap number 1 in the upper left corner of the display (0,0).
    4. Disconnect your terminal program from the SLCD and connect the BMPLoad program to the SLCD.
    5. Click on GetScreen and specify a file to save the screen to (Warning: It will be about 150K and will take a couple of minutes); in this case, I’d suggest naming the file “disp_bm_1.bmp”.
    6. Disconnect the BMPLoad program.
    7. Repeat 7.1 through 7.6 for bitmaps 2 — N, where N is the index of the last bitmap in the bitmap_info.txt file.
    8. You now have a collection of display sized bitmap files, which you can now edit with your favorite .bmp editor, keeping only the actual bitmap and discarding the background.
  8. Now that you’ve captured your macros and bitmaps, archive them. Create a new folder and copy the archived files into it, and then you can make changes. When you’re done, you can use BMPload to put your new macros and bitmaps into your SLCD and move ahead.  Be sure to contact that consultant, though, and get the original macros and bitmaps, just in case.
How can I create a button that will respond differently to being pressed normally and held down for a long time?2019-10-24T14:44:29-07:00

Here are some simple macros you can install and test; they use bitmaps 1 and 2 from the standard demos.

#define init_test 
s 0 1 
z 
f 13B 
// std round button from demo 
bdc 29 200 100 1 "Test" 1 2 
xmq 29 button_down release_after_short_press 
#end

#define button_down 
w 1000 
xmq 29 button_down release_after_long_press 
#end

#define release_after_short_press 
out "down < 1 sec (short press)\r" 
// reset release macro so we can test again: 
xmq 29 button_down release_after_short_press 
#end

#define release_after_long_press 
out "down > 1 sec (longer press)\r" 
// reset release macro so we can test again: 
xmq 29 button_down release_after_short_press 
#end
How do I embed foreign language text in a macro?2019-10-24T14:45:00-07:00

The SLCD controller family uses UTF-8 encoding for non-ASCII characters. To incorporate UTF-8 characters into a macro file, you need to use an editor that supports UTF-8 encoding. Windows Notepad can do this. First, make sure you have a Unicode font installed (Arial Unicode MS comes with Microsoft Office) on your desktop so you can see the Unicode characters. Then start Notepad and set Format->Font to a Unicode font. Then select File->Save (or Save As…), and at the bottom of the pop-up box, you will see Encoding: ANSII. Click on the drop-down box and select UTF-8. Then save to set the encoding. Then, copy the following into the editor:

#define test 
m test2 "Нажмите здесь" 
#end
#define test2 
// display text argument somewhere 
t "`0`" 10 20 
#end

If you don’t see the Russian text, the font or encoding is wrong. Then, save the file as “testMacro”.txt or similar, download this macro file and a Unicode font (get font files) to the SLCD, select the font and run the macro. You should see the Russian for “Press here” (or “Click”) on the screen. See Fonts for Embedded Touch Screen Development for a comprehensive explanation of working with fonts.

What terminal emulator do you recommend for Windows 7 (64-bit)?2019-10-24T14:45:33-07:00

We recommend using a free program TeraTerm. To configure TeraTerm for use with any SLCD development kit:

Start the program, then choose:

Setup -> Serial Port…, then set “Baud rate” 115200 (all other defaults are OK).
Setup -> Terminal… -> Newline, the set “Receive” to CR+LF, and then check “Local echo”.

In the main window, hit Enter and you should see the “>” prompt.

Does your controller board support a SCREEN WIPE option (a command or API that temporarily disables the touch sensitivity and allows the user to clean the screen)?2019-10-24T14:46:24-07:00

There are several ways to do this – all touch can be disabled, but it would be easier for the host to blank the screen, make the entire screen a hotspot (touch-sensitive region) and display a countdown number that gets reset when the unit is touched. When cleaning is finished, the screen will no longer be touched, and the host can resume normal operation.

Is the touch screen calibration done by your controller board?2019-10-24T14:46:57-07:00

Yes. The “tc” command starts a calibration cycle, with on-screen prompts.

Is a terminal emulator recommended? Which one?2019-10-24T14:47:18-07:00

We recommend using a free program TeraTerm. To configure TeraTerm for use with any SLCD development kit:

Start the program, then choose:

Setup -> Serial Port…, then set “Baud rate” 115200 (all other defaults are OK).
Setup -> Terminal… -> Newline, the set “Receive” to CR+LF, and then check “Local echo”.

In the main window, hit Enter and you should see the “>” prompt.

I’m trying to establish communication with the board SLCD5 connector J7 pin 4 and pin 10 ( RX TX CMOS ). When I connect pins 5 and 6 (RS232) the communication is normal. What should I do?2019-10-24T14:47:41-07:00

Connector J7 pin 10 may need a pull-up resistor to your host 3.3V supply and avoid a problem of the SLCD5’s 3.3V supply and your host 3.3V supply being different.

How do I write centered text on the display?2019-10-24T14:47:58-07:00

The “SET TEXT ALIGNMENT” command can be used to control how the “TEXT DISPLAY” command places text on the screen. The following commands draw a rectangle, set the text alignment to centered horizontally and vertically, and draw a string centered in the box:

r 100 100 300 150

ta CC

t “Centered!” 200 125

Note: The horizontal alignment setting reverts to “L” after the text is written.

How do I measure the angle values for a meter?2019-10-25T07:58:22-07:00

You can use the Measure Tool in GIMP to get this information. Open your meter image with GIMP, and select the Measure Tool (it looks like a drawing compass) or select Tools->Measure. Click-and-hold the left mouse button on the pivot point and make a measurement straight down by the length of the needle. Release the click and get the needle’s zero point (angle). Now go back to the pivot point, hold the Shift key then click-and-hold the left mouse button again, and move the pointer to the desired needle location. The Measure Tool will display the measured angle. Note: It will tend to keep the angle measurements less than 180 degrees, so for larger angles, you will need to do the math.

GIMP documentation for the Measure Tool

See our video tutorial called “Design a Needle for the Meter Define Command.”

Can my application store data files on the SD card?2019-11-14T13:15:36-08:00

There are no provisions for storing application files on the SD card, except for saving screenshots, using the screenshot command for customer product documentation. The SD card is used for system updates since this is much faster than using the RS232 port. Otherwise, our modules are intended to be human interface devices only.

What is the method for programming content in the field without using BMPload (application)?2019-10-25T08:06:08-07:00

We recommend using the approach described in our In-System-Programming Application Note.

I want to invoke a macro when a button is released as well as when it is pushed. How do I do this?2019-10-25T08:07:02-07:00

See the “xset” command in the Software Manual (find the manual for your module from the Touchscreen Display Modules menu, in the Documents tab) for information on adding touch characteristics to a button or hotspot.

Full-screen bitmap colors are wrong. What’s happening and how do I get around this?2019-10-25T08:26:36-07:00

What is happening when drawing a full-screen bitmap (.BMP) and using hotspots within it for control is the hotspots invoke macros. The macros redraw the screen. The colors being wrong is a side effect of how normal hotspots work. A standard hotspot defined by the “x” command specifies a touch-active area. When the area is touched, the screen is reverse imaged (foreground becomes background and vice versa) to provide visual feedback of the touch. When the button invokes a macro that redraws the screen, the screen is drawn while the button is pushed and the foreground/background colors are reversed. Then when the button is released, the hotspot is reversed even though the underlying image has changed. The solution is to use the “xs” command that does not change the screen when the defined hotspot is touched. Either the new screen will provide visual feedback, or the macro can do its own reverse imaging.

How do I make a set of buttons act like radio buttons?2019-10-25T08:26:57-07:00

The macros in the “macros_radio_button_ex.txt” file define a set of six buttons that act like radio buttons. Each button press calls an associated macro that sets the proper state for the button that was pressed and clears the state of the other buttons. The user would add application-specific commands to these macros.

Is there a limit on the number of characters I can have in a button?2019-10-25T08:27:15-07:00

Button text is limited to no more than 19 characters for button numbers less than 118 and 49 characters for button numbers 118 and up (SLCD+ is always limited to 19 characters).

How does color mapping work on the SLCD board?2019-10-25T08:27:48-07:00

The SLCD board has an 80KB frame buffer. This provides for 8-bit per-pixel color at 320 x 240 resolution. In order to support a consistent color image with multiple on-screen bitmaps, a constant color palette is used. The palette maps the 8-bit pixel index to the 12-bit color value sent to the panel.

The palette provides 16 grayscales (including black and white) and 6 color values for each of red, green, and blue. This totals 6*6*6*16 = 231 colors (actually only 230 because of black redundancy).

In 24-bit RGB terms, the colors supported are as follows:

R, G, B = independently either 0x00, 0x33, 0x66, 0x99, 0xCC or 0xFF (six colors)

R=G=B = 0x00, 0x11, 0x22, …0xEE, 0xFF (16 grays).

A file ps8666.act is provided that contains the Adobe Photoshop palette corresponding to this color mapping.

Do you have screen shots of ‘typical’ touch screen control panels or user examples?2019-10-25T09:02:42-07:00

Video

See 29 touch screen control panel interface designs using Reach modules in this 1:34 minute video.

Screen Shot Examples

Here are some still screen shots of touch screen control panel customer examples.

Chetco Digital uses 5.7″ QVGA touch screen control panels to create the display below.  See several other screenshots. Chetco Digital makes an analog to digital instrumentation hub, enabling a touch screen gauge interface, remote switching, engine data logging, and SeaSmart.NET NMEA 2000 compatible wireless networking for marine, automotive, and industrial applications.

Touch Screen Control Panel

Industrial Ventialcaiton, Inc. makes Centurion, a stand-alone control unit that easily and precisely manages storage climates by controlling fans, evaporative coolers, heaters, refrigeration, humidification, Co2, and fresh air. It uses a Reach 5.7″ display module.

Industrial Touch Screen Control Panel

Sciton uses an 8.4″ display module in JOULE which offers an unprecedented array of laser and light wavelengths through any of its three distinct delivery modes: arm, fiber, and broadband light. As a result, JOULE allows practitioners the maximum versatility to provide the widest range of aesthetic and surgical procedures available from a single platform.

How many bitmaps can I store in the on-board flash memory?2019-10-25T09:03:46-07:00

Bitmaps are RLE compressed for storage. To see the effect of compression on a particular image, download the BMPload program and run it. Ignore the initial error (no SLCD attached) and add a bitmap. Then click on the bitmap name, and the information on the right-hand side will show the compressed size.

Note: If the bitmap is palletized using the SLCD palette, the 768 bytes of palette data does not need to be stored in the flash memory.

I am trying to display a number that changes frequently. Sometimes it flashes or tears as it changes. How can I make it look smoother?2019-10-25T09:04:46-07:00

To display a changing number, use a monospace font and always write the same number of characters. So, if it is a 4-digit number, and the value is 1, send ”  1″ (three spaces and a 1) and if it is 123, send one space and the three numbers. The monospace font ensures that each number takes the same horizontal space, so they don’t shift left and right as they change. Finally, you may want to add a “wvr” command (find the manual for your display module in the Documents tab for your specific product) to ensure that the number changes while the display is not being refreshed on that part of the screen. Note that wvr does not work in portrait mode due to the way the LCD is built. See also our video tutorial called “Simple Output Formatting to Manage Fixed-Width Fields.”

What software architectural design strategies are useful for improving display controller performance?2019-10-25T09:05:53-07:00

Here are some suggestions to improve performance:

  1. Only send changed data: The host computer on boot can send all data. Afterward, the host computer should only send that data that has changed (compare with the last data sent).
  2. Reduce host computer data transmitting frequency: Reduce the rate of the data sent from the host computer to the SLCDx display controller to reduce flicker that occurs when writing data.
  3. Avoid refreshing the entire screen: If you have a large bitmap, try to avoid re-displaying the bitmap since the process of re-writing the bitmap can be relatively slow.
  4. Move Reach commands to macros: Commands executed within a macro are stored in the device memory. These commands execute faster than commands sent serially.
  5. Uncompressed images display quickest: If you are compressing images, keep in mind that uncompressed versions are displayed quicker. If the default is to compress all images, include the “.unc.” in the filename of images which are large (display more slowly).
How many times can the flash memory containing the bitmaps (.BMP) and macros be rewritten?2019-10-25T09:06:23-07:00

The Flash memory has 25-year (!) data retention and 1,000,000 write and erase cycle durability.

How can I speed up the display of a stored bitmap (.BMP)?2019-10-25T09:06:59-07:00

Bitmaps can be compressed in our SLCD based products to save Flash memory space. The disadvantage is compressed bitmaps display more slowly. To balance performance and Flash display storage, it is best to use the “Enable Bitmap Compression” checkbox in the BMPload application. For bitmaps that are large (for example cover entire screen), or are re-drawn often, compression can be disabled by using inserting the string “.unc” into the file name, e.g. “01_MyBitmap.unc.bmp”. This tells the BMPload program not to compress this file’s image. Background bitmaps for slider objects and meter objects and sliding graphics (“xio” command) need to be uncompressed as well.

How is a 24-bit palletized image displayed on the SLCD/SLCD6/SLCD43?2019-10-25T09:10:25-07:00

The SLCDx controllers can run either 8-bit color or high-color firmware (the original SLCD is 8-bit only, for high-color use the SLCD+). In 8-bit color firmware, when a 24-bit “exact” palletized image is displayed, the bitmap routine maps the 24-bit color to the closest available in the fixed SLCD palette. In high-color firmware, the BMPload program converts 24-bit color bitmaps to 16-bit color (RGB565 format) before they are stored on the controller board.

Can I add a touch screen to my existing product without redesigning my PCB?2019-11-14T13:15:36-08:00

With Reach products, you do not need to redesign your PCB assuming it will be the “Host Computer” and provided it has a serial bus (USB, RS232 UART, CMOS/TTL UART depending upon product).

I want to place a bitmap over screen content, like a transparent GIF. That is, I’d like a non-rectangular bitmap. How can I do this?2019-10-25T09:12:25-07:00

Use a transparent bitmap. This feature is only available with high-color versions of firmware; the “vers” command will show the version you are using. To use transparency, create a 24-bit color bitmap with a fixed color for the transparent (non-displayed) pixels. Let’s say you used pure red. In 24-bit terms, this color is hex FF0000 (RRGGBB format). The high color firmware uses RGB565, that is, 5 bits of red, 6 of green, and 5 of blue. So you need to convert the 24-bit color value to 16-bit. In this example, it would be hex F800. Then add the string “.trf800” to the name of the bitmap, and it becomes a transparent bitmap. (The transparency value has to be put in the filename because the .BMP format cannot specify a transparent color value). To get the 565RGB value corresponding to a 24-bit RRGGBB color, use the ‘S’ command to set the fg/bg color in RRGGBB format; the command will respond and show the RRGGBB values and their corresponding RGB565 values.  See the manual section “Working With Bitmaps” for more detail. You can download the manual by locating your module in the Touchscreen Display Module menu, then go to the Documents tab.

Why does the BMPload program display the full path and file name?2019-10-25T09:12:57-07:00

To load files in different directories the BMPload program displays the full path and file name. It makes the display hard to read, but it positively identifies the location of each bitmap file.

How can we use the USB port for production programming, if new SLCD43 connected re-installs itself on a new COM port?2019-10-25T09:15:26-07:00

This is a feature of Windows, it tries to keep USB ports unique, so when you plug in a particular device, it holds the same COM port number it was first assigned. There is a way around this. Our board uses an FT232R chip, and the chip manufacturer has an application note to tell Windows to use the same COM port. See Application Note, Section 7.1, Ignore Hardware Serial Number.

In a nutshell, you have to edit the registry and add a key with a value of “01”:HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\UsbFlags\IgnoreHWSerNum04036001

Please heed the application note warning about editing the Windows Registry.

What do the LEDs on the back of the displays represent?2019-10-25T09:15:57-07:00

Depending on the model, there are two or three LEDs on the controller board. One LED is a “controller good indicator” that comes on when the controller firmware has powered up and is running. This LED shows the unit has power. The second is a “controller busy indicator” that lights up during command processing or upgrades/downloads. Some boards have a third LED, which indicates activity on the USB port.

Is there a way to stop the splash screen from automatically executing, as the system appears to run the macro and then the splash screen?2019-10-25T09:20:45-07:00

To clear a power-on macro, use the BMPload program, check the “Set Power On Macro” and set the Power On Macro to 0. This will turn the power-on macro feature off. This can also be done via the serial port using the command:

*PONMAC 0

The command:

*PONMAC 0 0

will also restore the copyright message usually suppressed when there is a power-on macro assigned.

Similarly, check the “Set Splash Screen” and set Bitmap Number to 0. This will disable the splash screen. The splash screen and power-on macro are typically not set together.

What program do I use to create or edit graphics (bitmaps) for my application?2019-12-04T09:33:55-08:00

The free Open Source program GIMP is helpful. See video tutorials for more information.

Where can I get bitmaps (BMP) of buttons and other controls to use in my interface?2019-12-04T09:36:58-08:00

Although we do not have a canned graphics library, you can get bitmaps of buttons and other controls to use in your interface from iStockphoto. There you will find good quality graphics, for a low cost. Do a search on “buttons” to see a sample. Some other options: Free SVG or find other image galleries.  You can use Inkscape to convert a .SVG to a .BMP. You might also consider using a tool like GIMP. See Reach Technology video tutorials for making graphic elements. You might also consider working with an interface design firm like GUIFX.

Do modules come with software that allows display of standard image files .JPG, .TIF, .BMP)?2019-11-14T13:15:36-08:00

Currently, SLCD products only support BMP file formats. However, many image applications (Microsoft Paint, Adobe Photoshop, etc.) allow conversion from non-BMP to BMP file formats. Watch tutorial videos for more details.

Is PSOC embedded in your module or can it be used with your module?2019-12-04T08:47:45-08:00

We have no Programmable System On Chip silicon on our SLCD controller boards.

Is there an editor available with macro syntax highlighting?2019-12-04T09:19:53-08:00

Thanks to one of our customers, there is a way to edit your SLCD macro files and have syntax highlighting. The TextPad shareware editor can do the custom highlighting. Download this ReachMacros.syn file and follow these instructions.  You should now see macro highlighting in TextPad. Please note that Reach Technology is not responsible for supporting this file.

Do you have any spill resistant, waterproof or dust-proof displays?2019-10-24T10:49:32-07:00

Spill resistance is a function of the case, not the display. The gaskets in our enclosed units are intended to provide an effective waterproof seal and dustproof seal, but only when mounted in a suitable enclosure. While our Enclosed Units currently do not have NEMA or IP ratings, we have several customers using these units in dusty and wet environments. Search for “enclosed” on this site for more information.

Do you have any suggestions for reducing EMI emissions?2019-10-24T10:50:20-07:00

If there are problems with EMI emissions on the 5.7″ or 7″ modules, you can try using a ferrite core on the flat flex cable.

Do you have EMC/EMI test reports or CE Self-Certifications?2019-11-22T12:53:16-08:00

We have not done a full EMC/EMI report since modules are not finished products. Likewise, self CE certification has to be done on a finished product and our modules are sub-assemblies. We have had many customers pass CE and FCC testing with varying enclosures. We do have an EMC “prescan” of the SLCD43 (currently shipping model, 40 pin 400 nit) with an FCC Class A limit line taken while the display was showing a “checkerboard” pattern, which is the worst case for display EMI. We use a spread spectrum oscillator for the display and that helps spread emissions. See the report.

Do you have any design suggestions for enhancing ESD immunity?2019-11-14T13:15:51-08:00

To provide added ESD protection to the SLCD43 display modules, we use 3M 1170 conductive tape to connect the metal frame of the LCD panel to the digital ground (equals ESD or chassis ground) on the SLCD43 controller board. The controller board has grounded mounting holes that need a solid connection to chassis/Earth/ ESD ground. This approach provides approximately 4KV ESD protection. However, from a regulatory point of view, ESD testing has to be done with the display module in the customer’s enclosure with a system ground. If you are trying for high ESD immunity, the bezel “should” be metal or metalized plastic, although it may be OK with just plain plastic. Our suggestions are:

  1. If using a plastic bezel, add a metalization coating to the plastic bezel, and ensure good contact between it and the front panel.
  2. Use a flexible conductive gasket to ground the metal frame of the LCD panel to the front panel metal. These are sold as EMI shields, but they work well for ESD. See example.
  3. Use a metal bezel. With a metal bezel, the SLCD43 can pass 16KV ESD testing without issues.
Have you done EMC testing on your enclosed units?2019-10-24T10:51:26-07:00

We have tested the 5.7″ Standard Enclosed Unit.  It successfully passed the EMC tests. For detailed information, please see the test report.

How does your solution compare with Maple Systems?2019-10-24T10:52:34-07:00

Maple Systems touch screens are highly feature-rich, regarding speed and connectivity; hence, they’re more complicated to use (and more costly). If you don’t need 3D animations, the ability to play video or music, or Ethernet connectivity, you will find our SLCD solution more than adequate and much simpler to use. If you need some of those features, check out our G2 display modules. Since our SLCD interface to your system is a Command Line Interface implemented over a serial port, any microcontroller with a UART and enough speed and memory to handle your application will do just fine. If you want to discuss your application requirements and which of our products will best meet your needs, please contact our technical support team.

Note: If you do need 3D animations, video, or Ethernet, be sure to look at our G2 modules which use an industry-standard IDE (Qt Creator), programming language (QML), and operating system (Linux).

Do you offer an analog VGA interface?2019-10-24T10:53:00-07:00

You would be better served using one of the following vendors to get an LCD controller with analog VGA interface:

Digital View: Look in the Products, LCD Controllers section.

Spectrah Dynamics

How do I move my QML code to the display module?2019-12-04T08:38:14-08:00

To move QML code to the display module, follow the instructions below based on your user type.

Windows Users

Reach has developed a Qt application called G2Link. It has a “Publish and Run” button that copies files to the display module, then restarts the QML Viewer. Visit G2Link to download the software and learn how to use this simple tool.

Linux Users

See Linux Deploy.

Network Connection

For information about connecting the module to your network, see Networking.

With utf8 off, I am able to display a bullet character with the command: t “\xb7” 100 100. Is there a way for me to display that same character when I have utf8 on?2019-10-24T10:53:14-07:00

You need to use the UTF-8 format of the character. For conversion between Unicode and UTF-8, see http://www.utf8-chartable.de/. In your case, the bullet character 0xB7 is c2 b7 so that the text command would be:

utf8 on
t “\xc2\xb7” 100 100

Here’s a handy online conversion utility: http://www.ltg.ed.ac.uk/~richard/utf-8.cgi?input=b7&mode=hex

There are probably formulas to work these out in your application as well. Here is more detail than you might want: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UTF-8

What are the licensing arrangements for the various fonts?2019-10-24T10:53:26-07:00

A font file such as a .TTF that contains details about how to render a font in different sizes is subject to licensing. However, when fonts are rendered in a particular size and attribute (bold, italic, etc.), such as in our .SIF files, it is no longer copyrightable and needs no license to be used.

We need to use some special characters (i.e. space (20 hex) through z (7A hex) including punctuation to work). How do we make them work?2019-10-24T10:53:43-07:00

Here is an example of printing the special characters “, \, and % in ‘C’ strings using our API.

void demoSpecialChars(void)
{
char buf[120];

sprintf(buf,”f 24″); // set font size 24
sendToSerialPort(buf);
sprintf(buf,”s 0 1″); // set black on white
sendToSerialPort(buf);
sprintf(buf,”z”); // clear screen
sendToSerialPort(buf);

sprintf(buf,”t \”%s\”\r”,”Backslash: \\\\“); // backslash in string
sendToSerialPort(buf);
sendToSerialPort(“t \”\n\”\r”); // newline

// backslash as character
sprintf(buf,”t \”%s%c%c\”\r”,”Backslash: “,’\\’,’\\’);
sendToSerialPort(buf);
sendToSerialPort(“t \”\n\”\r”); // newline

sprintf(buf,”t \”%s\”\r”,”Percent: %”); // Percent
sendToSerialPort(buf);
sendToSerialPort(“t \”\n\”\r”); // newline

sprintf(buf,”t \”Percent: %%\”\r”); // Percent
sendToSerialPort(buf);
sendToSerialPort(“t \”\n\”\r”); // newline

// Quote (need 2 to get one for SLCD, and one more to allow ” in string)
sprintf(buf,”t \”%s\”\r”,”Quote: \\\“”);
sendToSerialPort(buf);
sendToSerialPort(“t \”\n\”\r”); // newline

// Quote as character
sprintf(buf,”t \”%s%c%c\”\r”,”Quote: “,’\\’,’“‘);
sendToSerialPort(buf);
sendToSerialPort(“t \”\n\”\r”); // newline
}

See Fonts for Embedded Touch Screen Development for a comprehensive explanation of working with fonts.
I am currently using the font files Arial18.sif, Arial24.sif and Arial12.sif for the English version of my application. How would I get Russian fonts of a similar size?2019-10-24T10:53:55-07:00

We have font files on our web page that should work for you. Look in the Arial Unicode Fonts Folder for the Unicode fonts in the size you need. The Cyrillic fonts are in the ranges 0x0400-0x04FF and 0x0500-0x05FF.  Another useful font site lets you see the characters and display codes for many different fonts.

How do I handle fonts in India with multiple languages?2019-10-24T10:54:10-07:00

For fonts, we need the Windows font name, size in pixels or points, and Unicode range required. Per Wikipedia: ISCII uses an 8-bit code which is an extension of the 7-bit ASCII code containing the basic alphabet necessary for the ten Indian scripts which have originated from the Brahmi script. There are 15 officially recognized languages in India. Apart from Perso-Arabic scripts, all the other ten scripts used for Indian languages have evolved from ancient Brahmi and have a similar phonetic structure, making a common character set possible. The ISCII code table is a superset of all the characters required in the Brahmi based Indian scripts. For convenience, we use the alphabet of the official script Devanagari we can provide downloadable fonts accessed as 8-bit characters if you can provide a font with ISCII characters.

See Fonts for Embedded Touch Screen Development for a comprehensive explanation of working with fonts.

How can I match Windows font sizes and SLCD font sizes for downloadable fonts?2019-10-24T10:54:25-07:00

Use Photoshop or the open-source equivalent GIMP to design a user interface screen on a PC. It can be hard to match the embedded fonts on the SLCD family of controllers with Windows fonts. If you need an exact match you must do two things:

  1. Set image scaling in the Windows design program to 96 dpi (establish the size/scale), and;
  2. Use a Reach Technology generated a downloadable font of the same font name and point size. Find fonts.

If you need fonts not shown, please contact the technical support team and specify the Windows font name, the size in points, and the character set (either ISO 8859-1 or a Unicode subset). See the Fonts for Embedded Touch Screen Development for a comprehensive explanation of working with fonts.

What types of fonts can be loaded using BMPload?2019-10-24T10:54:37-07:00

Downloadable fonts are rendered from True Type or Open Type Windows fonts and then stored in .SIF files. One file for each font type, size, attribute (i.e. italic, bold), and character subset included. If you want a standard character set (extended ASCII like ISO 8859-X), then please specify. ISO sets defined. If we do not offer the characters you need, please contact us and specify the Unicode subset you need.

We support UTF-8 encoding. Find UTF-8 for a given Unicode. For Unicode, the subset size determines the size of the .SIF font. The full Unicode set of a font like SimSun at 16 pixels high (not 16-point) is 946KB and has over 20,000 characters. See Fonts for Embedded Touch Screen Development for a comprehensive explanation of working with fonts.

Do you have LabVIEW support for your display modules?2019-10-24T10:54:54-07:00

We have several customers running LabVIEW applications that use our display modules in their products. LabVIEW communicates with our modules using ASCII strings to receive commands and to send replies. We do not offer LabVIEW drivers for our display modules, but National Instruments has a driver that works with some of our modules.  The LabVIEW driver was written by National Instruments, so you need to contact them to get more information or answers to questions.  Some of the bitmaps in the LabVIEW application are incorrect. Bitmaps 15 thru 18 are in the wrong format. You will need to convert them to 24-bit for use on some Reach Display Modules.

What size screw is affixing the panel (8.4″ NEC with SLCD5) to the Reach mounting panel #4 screw?2019-10-24T11:00:19-07:00

The (4-40) – it is a tight fit.

What is a GOIT?2019-10-24T11:01:08-07:00

You may hear our enclosed units referred to as, GOITs which stands for Graphics Operator Interface Terminal.

What is the difference between the horizontal mount and the vertical mount?2019-10-24T11:03:05-07:00

The “Vertical Mount” display module has mounting tabs that are on the long sides of the display module, with the tabs aligned vertically when the module is in landscape orientation.

The “Horizontal Mount” display module has these tabs on the short sides, with the tabs aligned horizontally when the module is in landscape orientation. The two options allow customers to fit a module into either a narrow space or in a short space.

In both cases, the default orientation is landscape, with the long sides horizontal, but they may also be used in portrait mode with an alternate firmware load.

How can I balance bitmap display performance and storage use?2019-11-22T12:53:48-08:00

Compressing bitmaps in our SLCD products allows you to save Flash memory space. The disadvantage is that compressed bitmaps display more slowly. To balance performance and Flash display storage, it is best to use the “Enable Bitmap Compression” checkbox in the BMPload application. For bitmaps that are large (i.e. cover entire screen), or are re-drawn often, disable compression by inserting the string “.unc” into the file name (e.g. “01_MyBitmap.unc.bmp”). This string tells the BMPload program not to compress this image. Background bitmaps for slider objects and meter objects and sliding graphics (“xio” command) need to be uncompressed as well. Using the strategy above should keep your application visually responsive while conserving Flash memory for future additional bitmaps.

Can you provide a responsiveness speed guarantee for time sensitive applications (i.e. time for a button press to be detected and sent to the RS232 port)?2019-11-14T13:15:37-08:00

Detection time depends on touch parameters which are user-adjustable. With the factory settings, touches are recognized in around 20ms. If there are no commands being executed, the corresponding serial response is sent immediately. However, since the screen could be performing some command when the unit is touched, there is no guarantee. The evaluation kit unit has a keyboard demo that is very responsive. However, the ultimate response time is a function of how the unit is used.

I do not have touch screen programming experience. Do you offer these services or is programming relatively simple?2020-04-24T14:06:18-07:00

If you are an engineer or have any programming experience, you can get one of our SLCD touchscreen modules up-and-running. See the example code in the Software Reference Manuallock

You might also benefit from watching this touch screen programming video and other tutorial videos on our site.

We do have partner consultants who have worked with our products. Customers have also had good luck using Guifx for graphics development.

Will your module support parallel data transfer?2019-10-24T10:45:26-07:00

No, we only support serial data transfer. We do not support parallel data transfer.

On which serial bus does our product work? UART, SPI, or I2C?2019-10-24T10:45:51-07:00

UART is the only serial bus we support: RS232, TTL/CMOS, and on some modules USB. We also support an RS485 like addressed protocol over the UART.

Will your products work on UART485 communication with Modbus RTU as protocol?2019-10-24T10:46:05-07:00

We do not support Modbus RTU Protocol (software).

Do your displays interface with J1939 protocols?2019-10-24T10:46:59-07:00

Our display controllers do not directly support this vehicle communications standard. If you found a host computer (ex. microprocessor board) that does use J1939, it may be possible to use the data from this protocol with our display controllers. The host computer needs either RS232, TTL, or USB (depending on module) to receive the data using our command set.

Where can I get custom cables to connect my microcontroller board to the SLCD display module board?2019-10-24T10:47:13-07:00

SLCD controller boards use PicoBlade connectors. They are made by Molex and are miniature (1.25mm pitch) which makes them hard to make by hand. International Component Technology can make these cables for you to use to connect to your microcontroller board.

Embedded Touchscreens Made Easy:
Up in Days, Smoothly to Production. Get started with a Development Kit.

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