And now there's two of them!
Manga Screen is a small LCD screen with capacitive touch. It uses standard interfaces (USB and HDMI) for showing the picture and grabbing the data from the touch panel. That makes it compatible with just about every single board computer out there, like Raspberry Pi, Odroid, and BeagleBone Black.
The LCD panel itself is made for a smartphone, so that you get the latest in innovation at a low cost. That means high resolution (1080p for the big one and 720p for the small one) and very good contrast in a very low profile package. Both panels are made by Sharp, one of the leading manufacturers of LCD panels.
The capacitive touch panel is very high quality and supports 10 touch points. As with modern cell phones, the touch panel is glued on to the LCD using an Optically Clear Adhesive (OCA) so the optical bonding between the touch panel and the screen is perfect! The touch chip is made from the leading manufacturer of touch chips, Synaptics. It's really difficult to get that into a product, that's why you only see it used in high volume products, but we've found a way!
Since the first Manga Screen came out, there has been a great deal of similar screens being sold. In one way that is great, giving makers diversity, but the resolution and contrast is often years behind what you see in modern day cell phones.
If you go on e-bay and search for cell phone replacement screens, you will find super high quality screens at a low price in single volumes. The problem is that most of them use DSI as an interface. Unless you are making a cell phone, that is not something you want to be concerned with. Instead, you want a standard, like the one used by the HDMI connector. A standardized plug that tells the host computer what resolutions and frame rates it supports.
Using parts originally designed for cell phones, that are sold at a pretty low cost is the big innovation. Combined with high end bonding and a glass touch panel makes this product unique. The price pr pixel and pixels pr inch is superb compared to any other screen out there!
Peeqo is a project by Abhishek Singh, using the old Manga Screen. Here is a GIF of the robot showing GIFs.
Here is a video we made for a Karma-button, to help with making coffee around the office. It was also used as a trailer for this campaign.
The idea for the first Manga Screen was started back in 2013, when the BeagleBone Black came out, because it had an HDMI port. We had been using a stackable 3.5" LCD for the 3D-printer interface, but it was difficult to place, small, terrible view angle, and resistive touch.
The hope was to finally be able to use all the small HDMI screens that were available for Raspberry Pi. As it turned out, there weren't any! Some were floating around with composite or VGA input, but that was not suited for the BBB! So Elias started researching the option of making a PCB that connected to a cell phone screen and used HDMI or DVI as input. In the summer of 2013, the first working version was born and immediately became big on Hackaday!
In early 2015, the Kickstarter for the first Manga Screen went live, and in the fall, a second batch was made. It was incredibly popular, but unfortunately, the LCD went out of production, so we could not make any more.
Emails kept coming in asking when it would be back in stock, so we decided to make a new version, only this time using the more modern DSI interface that all the current cell phone screens are using. The first schematic and layout was finished early in 2016, but work was halted in favor of the then ongoing work with Replicape Rev B. Work started up again in October, with the first PCB assembled in November.
It might seem like things are moving really slowly, but the firmware development has been incredibly hard! We are talking tears of both joy and despair! That is perhaps also why there’s no similar product yet? Only in January the first image appeared on the screen, months after development began. It was really nice to see all those theories and concerns culminating in something that actually worked!
Shorty after, the touch panels were specified and prototypes made to order, and we actually got them working the same day they arrived. That was in May, and now we are here, ready to make a bunch of these!
There are two screens being Kickstarted, the large screen has been the development model all along, but there is a big demand for a smaller screen as well. Therefore, delivery of the larger screen will happen first, with the smaller screen being delivered an estimated two months after the big screen, in December.
The big screen is working, but still needs some love in the firmware department. Tear line needs to be set correctly and there are some issues with shutting down and starting up based on the input signal.
The small screen still needs a PCB, but it is very much based on the work done for the large screen, so development should be quick.
See picture above for the short version. Here is the long version:
- July: Kickstarter goes live. As soon as the KS is funded, manufacturers are contacted and asked to prepare.
- August: Kickstarter is successful, but the funds are not transferred until about 2 weeks later which takes us to...
- September: Funds are transferred to the manufacturers and production begins. Typical production time for the PCB and touch panels are 4-6 weeks. They say 4, but they always use 6. Packaging is ordered.
- October: By the end of that month boards are tested and if found functional, will be shipped to a warehouse in Michigan, from where shipping will begin.
There are three manufacturers and one supplier working together. A quick rundown of the manufacturing goes like this: LCD panels are shipped to the touch panel manufacturer, which in turn test the LCDs and bonds the touch panels with the LCDs. When they are ready, they are shipped to the PCB manufacturer. The injection molded part is also made close by and shipped to the PCB factory, which also does final assembly, testing, and packaging. When inspected and found to be working, everything is shipped to a warehouse in Michigan and customer shipping begins.
It's been a great pleasure to work with a company that has solid control of the PCB market for this Kickstarter as well, and know how to solve minor and major issues with the PCBs.
There are a lot of things that can go wrong with a Kickstarter, but the PCBs will not be one of them with Elmatica onboard!
A thousand million thank you's to Koka Nikoladze for filming, editing and composing music for the video for this campaign!
Please check out his other videos, he makes incredible and quirky musical instruments!
Also a big shout out to all the creative and smart people at Bitraf Makerspace for helping with everything from discussions on firmware, electronics, injection molding, and design to acting, writing, picture taking and good discussions! Yoshi, Martin, and Christine, Maria and Øyvind in particular for all the help.
The beards are still strong with these handsome gentlemen, the guys behind Intelligent Agent AS, a Norwegian company making electronics and software for 3D-printers. When the campaign is over, the Manga Screen 2 along with our other product, the Replicape will be available for sale from our web shop thing-printer.com. Elias is the main driver behind the company, so get in touch with him for questions about bulk orders!
This is our third Kickstarter, and we still love the thrill of it!
Risks and challenges
The biggest risks are associated with the PCB for the small screen. The actual driver chip is different, so it might require an additional voltage domain of 1.8V for the IO signals to the LCD panel. The current design relies on the use of 3.3V signal levels for IO, but if that does not work, it will require a redesign adding a couple of weeks extra delays. It should still be within the time limits though.
Second is the programming of the Synaptics touch chip. The chip now works with up to 10 fingers being reported as it should, both for Windows and Linux, but the reporting frequency is lower than ideal. Also, the reported area is capped 20 pixels from the sides. Having traversed the datasheet a few times, the exact registers to fix this has not yet been found and the data sheet is big! Without luck, that could add a week of development time.
Third is the injection molded part. An offer has been collected from a well known Chinese manufacturer, but this is the first time dealing with injection molded parts. We have resources at our disposal for helping out with this, and it is a fairly simple part, so it is not our biggest concern.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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