LM3915: Dot Bar Display Driver
The LM3915 is a monolithic integrated circuit that senses analog voltage levels and drives ten LEDs, LCDs or vacuum fluorescent displays, providing a logarithmic 3 dB/step analog display. 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 1 dB.
The LM3915's 3 dB/step display is suited for signals with wide dynamic range, such as audio level, power, light intensity or vibration. Audio applications include average or peak level indicators, power meters and RF signal strength 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 LM3915 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 LM3915 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 with a range of 60 or 90 dB. LM3915s can also be cascaded with LM3914s for a linear/log display or with LM3916s for an extended-range VU meter.
The simplified LM3915 block diagram is included to give the general idea of the circuit's operation. A high input impedance buffer operates with signals from ground to 12V, and is protected against reverse and overvoltage signals. The signal is then applied to a series of 10 comparators; each of which is biased to a different comparison level by the resistor string.
In the example illustrated, the resistor string is connected to the internal 1.25V reference voltage. In this case, for each 3 dB that the input signal increases, a comparator will switch on another indicating LED. This resistor divider can be connected between any 2 voltages, providing that they are at least 1.5V below V+ and no lower than V−.