LM3916: Dot Bar Display Driver
The LM3916 is a monolithic integrated circuit that senses analog voltage levels and drives ten LEDs, LCDs or vacuum fluorescent displays, providing an electronic version of the popular VU meter. One pin changes the display from a bar graph to a moving dot display. LED current drive is regulated and programmable, eliminating the need for current limiting resistors. The whole display system can operate from a single supply as low as 3V or as high as 25V.
The IC contains an adjustable voltage reference and an accurate ten-step voltage divider. The high- impedance input buffer accepts signals down to ground and up to within 1.5V of the positive supply. Further, it needs no protection against inputs of ±35V. The input buffer drives 10 individual comparators referenced to the precision divider. Accuracy is typically better than 0.2 dB.
Audio applications include average or peak level indicators, and power meters. Replacing conventional meters with an LED bar graph results in a faster responding, more rugged display with high visibility that retains the ease of interpretation of an analog display.
The LM3916 is extremely easy to apply. A 1.2V full- scale meter requires only one resistor in addition to the ten LEDs. One more resistor programs the full- scale anywhere from 1.2V to 12V independent of supply voltage. LED brightness is easily controlled with a single pot.
The LM3916 is very versatile. The outputs can drive LCDs, vacuum fluorescents and incandescent bulbs as well as LEDs of any color. Multiple devices can be cascaded for a dot or bar mode display for increased range and/or resolution. Useful in other applications are the linear LM3914 and the logarithmic LM3915.
The reference is designed to be adjustable and develops a nominal 1.25V between the REF OUT (pin 7) and REF ADJ (pin 8) terminals. The reference voltage is impressed across program resistor R1 and, since the voltage is constant, a constant current I1 then flows through the output set resistor R2 giving an output voltage of:
Since the 120 μA current (max) from the adjust terminal represents an error term, the reference was designed to minimize changes of this current with V+ and load changes. For correct operation, reference load current should be between 80 μA and 5 mA. Load capacitance should be less than 0.05 μF.
A feature not completely illustrated by the block diagram is the LED brightness control. The current drawn out of the reference voltage pin (pin 7) determines LED current. Approximately 10 times this current will be drawn through each lighted LED, and this current will be relatively constant despite supply voltage and temperature changes. Current drawn by the internal 10-resistor divider, as well as by the external current and voltage-setting divider should be included in calculating LED drive current. The ability to modulate LED brightness with time, or in proportion to input voltage and other signals can lead to a number of novel displays or ways of indicating input overvoltages, alarms, etc.
The LM3916 outputs are current-limited NPN transistors as shown below. An internal feedback loop regulates the transistor drive. Output current is held at about 10 times the reference load current, independent of output voltage and processing variables, as long as the transistor is not saturated.