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reTIL

Modern take on TIL311 and reimagination of #PICTIL optimized for easier production and lower part count

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As my previous #PICTIL project this takes a new spin on TI's TIL311 hexadecimal LED displays. This is can be seen as successor of #PICTIL, because some years are gone and some collected improvements are implement. also the MCU got changed to a even cheaper STM8s. The lack of a PIC MCU is also one reason of the new name.

Overview

  • Replica of TI's TIL311 one digit hexadecimal display
  • Discrete 0402 LEDs
  • Cheap STM8S Micro controller
  • This MCU is 5V compatible - this is nice to maybe get it as drop-in replacement for TIL311
  • Compared to TIL311 much lower supply current - around 1.6mA @5V measured see also this log /li>

Hardware

Options for Pins:

  • Mill-max 4965 - used on resin prototype 1. Expensive but quit near original
  • Pins from 1.27mm Pinheader - used on resin prototype 2. Unlike TIL311 square, but similar enough and much cheaper than the Mill-max
  • Normal Pinheader  - Do work, but do not look good
  • On Twitter Taki suggested these Round LED-Strip connection pins you can find on Aliexexpress
  • Also on Twitter @Drew Fustini  suggested the Flip-Pins from @Philip which you can get here. They are not similar to the original TIL311 pins, because they do look more like the pins of a DIP IC, but they are also a nice option and should fit.

Building

How I made the resin Version

Casting the resin Version starts with a printed mold

This mold is designed to fit an original TIL311

Using a original TIL311 as start point for casting give me the exactly same dimension, without the need to measure anything. And most measurements on these TIL311s are odd numbers in metric. In this mold I cast silicone to get my final mold for the resin casting:

Demolded the silicone looks like this: everything than looks like this:

Now I need a soldered PCB with PINs. Testing the PCB before resin casting is also a good idea. So far I used cheap resin colored with some red an black alcohol ink to get the right color. For both prototypes I applied a little bit resin on the LED-side before putting t in the mold to prevent trapped air under the PCB. Getting as much air out of it is important. For the second prototype I used a little vacuum chamber to suck out more air. Sadly there are no picture of the resin Process itself, it is quite difficult to handle resin and taking photos at the same time.

  • Packaing Prototype

    Alex02/20/2021 at 00:30 3 comments

    As part of preparation of a mass produced non resin Version. I thought a little bit about packaging. So far I like this combination of matchbox and little 3D-printed tray. Labelling and manual-card are still missing

  • reTIL needs a testing socket!

    Alex02/07/2021 at 02:07 0 comments

    Of course you could just use a standard Textool dip test socket, but this is boring and brings the risk of rotating it 180°. So I measured the top plate of a Textool socket to print a new customized top plate on a SLA Printer. Not needed contact are removed and holes are nicer fit for the round pins.

    The extra hole is for the a extra test pin, This need for rev2 PCBs, but ore on that soon.

  • Power consumption​

    Alex02/06/2021 at 12:13 0 comments

    Power consumption of the original TIL311 is quite high and also sometimes the main problem with them. reTil uses much less power due to modern components. The power consumption is low around 1.6mA with a 5V supply. It changes a little bit with the number of active LEDs. Brightness is higher than original TIL311, but I could get it brighter, but than more power also.

  • Little Video of resin Prototype 2 running

    Alex02/02/2021 at 22:18 0 comments

    Running test-code to show 0...F without input control

  • Second try with resin - now also working!

    Alex01/31/2021 at 20:57 0 comments

  • Version without resin

    Alex01/23/2021 at 21:34 0 comments

    Beside the resin Version there is also a more basic Version. This Version uses only a PCB. It is much easier to get produce. You may also buy get this Version at some point in the future.

    With this Version I also got the LEDs running now. LED-Part of the Firmware is ready. I just need to add the Inputs, so far it is counting up on its own, which is quite useful for demonstration and testing

View all 6 project logs

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Discussions

Ian Dunn wrote 02/19/2021 at 17:19 point

This is awesome! I wanted to recommend that you figure out a way to mass produce these and do a crowdfunding campaign to get it off the ground. I think there's got to be a good market out there for these things!

  Are you sure? yes | no

Alex wrote 02/19/2021 at 23:56 point

Thanks. At least a production run of a non-Resin Variant is in preparation. So far I do not see a possibility for a mass production of the resin Variant...but I will improve the process further and maybe sell a limited quantity at some point.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Ian Dunn wrote 02/20/2021 at 20:20 point

I just wanted to add that I'm working on a 7 segment VFD clock that I intend to Kickstart. It's going to be somewhat modular, you'll be able to choose the top layer that you want for the type of FVD tubes that you have. This way, it will work with just about any VFD tube. It seemed like a no brainier to also offer a layer that works with a seven segment LED display. Your display would be ABSOLUTELY THE PERFECT LED display to go along with it. I'd highly encourage you to Kickstart it on your own first, but however you went about it, I think there's a very good chance that I would like to buy several hundred to a thousand of these from you in the near future. You may also consider digging around Alibaba.com for an overseas manufacturer that could pot them in resin for you. I think you'll be surprised how easy it is to find Chinese manufactures for this sort of thing.

I'll be looking forward to hearing how this progresses!

Ian

  Are you sure? yes | no

Alex wrote 02/21/2021 at 23:39 point

First I will try a small run of non-resin ones. After that I will maybe take a look at mass-produced resin ones. There are two minor problems so far: 1) price: There are still much old TIL311 on the market, 2) time: I am doing this as fun/hobby project beside an normal full time job.

One thought about your VFD idea: Are there Layers on Top of the VFD/LED? If so this would also work perfectly with non potted LEDs. And for a Clock background: I already did some test in cad to but 4digit plus dots on a single PCB. This could also fit your idea.

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Marty wrote 02/17/2021 at 18:13 point

Awesome! Nice work also! Looks great!

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Alex wrote 02/19/2021 at 23:57 point

Thanks!

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Andrew Wasson wrote 02/17/2021 at 17:44 point

These are super cool Alex. I was impressed with the PICTIL. These are even better. Nice work!

  Are you sure? yes | no

Alex wrote 02/19/2021 at 23:57 point

Thanks!

  Are you sure? yes | no

bobu wrote 02/13/2021 at 00:44 point

That's cool.  Want to buy actual TIL311 with 7941 date code?
  I've transported 4 pieces through space and time.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Alex wrote 02/19/2021 at 23:59 point

Thanks. I do have three original with 90's date code. Are these older ones the one with square and non round pins like mine? If yes I would be interested.

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Mike Szczys wrote 02/10/2021 at 17:05 point

Turned out great, congrats on the success!

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Alex wrote 02/19/2021 at 23:59 point

Thanks!

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John Lonergan wrote 02/08/2021 at 22:18 point

Love this - they look great!

How about a variant with the pins running across the narrows ends like 0.56" 7 Seg displays. Thinking they would fit nicely in a breadboard in "portrait" orientation.

I wonder if you could commission some firm to make these and what volumes you'd need to make it reasonably priced? 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Alex wrote 02/20/2021 at 00:03 point

I was actually working on such a variant also. A first image can be found here: https://twitter.com/tinyledmatrix/status/1317964656691023872?s=20. Something like this would be quite easy to produce in volume, because it is just a populated PCB. Well also work on this in the future. I was not yet satisfied with the increased LED-spacing of the prototype.

  Are you sure? yes | no

indigoredster wrote 02/08/2021 at 20:40 point

I remember holding onto 6 of these for ages for just the right project. I think they are around here somewhere. This is awesome. They used to be so expensive!

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Yann Guidon / YGDES wrote 02/08/2021 at 19:48 point

Oh my !!!

I thought #PICTIL was awesome and you made it even better !

  Are you sure? yes | no

Alex wrote 02/20/2021 at 00:03 point

Thanks

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Andy Geppert wrote 02/05/2021 at 13:23 point

This is a fantastic project! These have the potential to be a “must have” for a whole lot of people. I want some!

  Are you sure? yes | no

Alex wrote 02/20/2021 at 00:05 point

Thanks. I am working on preparation for a mass-produced non-resin variant. The resin-variant will be always expensive and only with limited availability. But I may made some more and put them on Tindie or Etsy. What would you see as an reasonable price?

  Are you sure? yes | no

Andy Geppert wrote 02/21/2021 at 04:27 point

It depends on how you want to offer them, which could provide some cost flexibility. Just the populated board + loose headers, or with headers installed, or BYO headers. If I saw 8 of these for $10, I'd buy 'em. Maybe 20 for $20? In small quantities, I'd be willing to solder in the headers myself. I think people would tend to use these in small quantities, so soldering on your own headers would be reasonable. I'd also solder them so the pins are flush with the board and only have tiny little bumps of solder. Then I could place a diffuser layer across the entire string of these to mimic the translucent resin look without needing them to each be cast in resin. The diffuser layer could rest against the top of the LEDS/MCU without concern of it getting scratched up by the pins.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Alex wrote 02/21/2021 at 23:28 point

Thanks for your reply. I am not yet so far to think about prices, but I will consider your feedback as soon I am at that point. It is always good to have some opinion in advance. Also I did not consider BYO headers before...which would also simplify it for me due to different pin-options

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Dave Ruske wrote 4 days ago point

I'd pay a few bucks a piece to get drop-in TIL-311 replacements that didn't draw several times more power than the device I'd mount them in. It's not so much scarcity of TIL-311s that make this project attractive, it's the lower power consumption and heat. It's worth more than a real TIL-311 for many purposes.

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steven.feinsmith wrote 01/31/2021 at 06:10 point

I am interested in your project to replace expensive and hard to get TIL311 nowadays. My several projects need the TIL311, but I got 60% defective by China sellers. They were professional rip-off artists. I forward to get your design in the coming future. Thank you!

  Are you sure? yes | no

Alex wrote 02/01/2021 at 18:15 point

Thanks. I am currently working to get a non resin version manufactured. So it could be available soon. At some point I will probably also publish files so you could make your own

  Are you sure? yes | no

O. Alan Jones wrote 01/21/2021 at 13:34 point

Yes, this is a cool project! I wish you 100% success and let us know your progress.

  Are you sure? yes | no

Dirk cl wrote 01/19/2021 at 10:49 point

This looks super cool! I'd love to read how you made these. Greetings from belgium

  Are you sure? yes | no

Alex wrote 01/23/2021 at 13:33 point

Thanks! I will add details/updates over time! But it will be slow due to limited time.

  Are you sure? yes | no

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