Brian Lough

TinyPICO Matrix Shield

I think these RGB LED matrix are one of the coolest displays you can use with an Arduino project. My TinyPICO Matrix Shield boards make them really easy to use!

The TinyPICO Matrix is a shield for the TinyPICO ESP32 Development board for connecting into RGB LED panels. It's a much quicker and tidier way of connecting up these displays.

NOTE: At time of writing this guide, you are required to install a modified version of the PxMatrix library, see "Using the display" section for more details

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Additional Parts Required

As well as the TinyPICO Matrix Shield, you will need the following items.

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What's a TinyPICO?

A TinyPICO is an ESP32 development board developed by the Unexpected Maker. As you can see from the below picture, it is TINY! It is currently undergoing a Crowd Supply campaign where you can back the project!

Board Assembly

To assemble the boards, place the parts on the PCB as indicated by the markings on the PCB. All parts are places on the top of the PCB other than the connector marked "Pin" (As seen in the photos above). Pay attention to the polarity of the capacitor and the diode when assembling.

The green screw terminal and the P-out connector are quite close together, but they should fit in.

Place the jumper block on the right two pins of JP1 (Read below for more details on this)

Connecting the shield to the RGB LED Matrix

To connect the shield, insert the "Pin" connector of the TinyPICO Matrix shield into the "Input" connector of the panel (make sure the arrows on the shield match up with the ones on the display)

Insert the ribbon cable that came with the display into the "Pout" connector on the shield, insert the other end into the "Output" connector of the panel

Plug the power wire that came with the display into the power pins of the panel. Attach the power wires to the Green screw terminals on the shield (Pay close attention to the polarity!)

There is a section on the Tindie listing about important measurements that is worth reading before buying to ensure the PCB will fit the display

Configuring the Dip Switches

Some displays do not use all the pins that are connected to the TinyPICO. These optional pins are marked below as C, D and E. You can test if your display uses these pins by checking if they have continuity with ground.

The pins you need to check on the TinyPICO are 15 (E), 5 (D) and 18(C).

Powering the TinyPICO Matrix Shield

These displays require a 5V power supply capable of doing roughly 4A of current

My recommended way of powering this board is using the 2.1mm DC jack (center positive), but you can also use the optional screw terminals (Red and black in the above photo) instead if you choose.

The jumper block at "JP1" is controlling power going to the TinyPICO:

  • Occupying the two pins on the right (as shown in the photo above), the TinyPICO will receive 5V power from the panels power supply, but the TinyPICO will not power the display as it is going through a diode. This is the one to use if you are not sure what to do!
  • Occupying the two pins on the left (marked "Diode bypass"), will bypass the diode so the display will now receive power from the TinyPICO's 5v pin. In theory, if your are only illuminating a limited number of LEDs at a time you could power the display from the TinyPICO's Micro USB port, but I do not recommend this!
  • Removing the block separates the TinyPICO's power supply from the matrix panel, I'm not sure the use case where you would want to do this but it is available if needed!

Using the display

To use the display you will need to install the following libraries

Adafruit GFX library from the Arduino library manager.

PXMatrix by 2Dom. At time of writing, you currently will need to install the Github version of the PxMatrix library as it has changes specifically made to support the TinyPICO which have yet to be released to the library manager.

Example sketch of using the board can be found here, it is the WiFi Tetris clock as seen below