I need to light up 19 RGB LED strips, which it seems would require 19*3=57 PWM outs and 57 transistors. The transistors aren't an issue, but of course the 57 PWM's is. Most micro controllers simply don't have that many.

How can I do this more simply? Is there some kind of device I can get that would let me just pass data to it, perhaps over I2C, and it would control many PWMs? Is there another solution I haven't considered? Maybe whatever is used to control those 8x8 RGB LED dot matrixes?

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  • \$\begingroup\$ Serial in, parallel out shift registers with SPI? \$\endgroup\$
    – copper.hat
    Feb 9, 2015 at 1:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is this a commercial job? ie: you will spend money to save time, and reliability is important? Or is it a home experiment? Do you have a preferred MCU (AVR, PIC, ARM, etc)? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 9, 2015 at 7:22

3 Answers 3


Daisy chain 3 of these ICs (datasheet) and control them via SPI. They are designed for driving LEDs.

Adafruit has dev kits if you want to play with it:


  • \$\begingroup\$ NXP has a lot of these as well, but with I2C interfaces instead. Also very easy to use. \$\endgroup\$
    – justing
    Feb 9, 2015 at 3:43
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This is probably your fastest in terms of getting something up and running right away. The devices themselves aren't terribly cheap but they're not bad either. Thanks for sharing this! \$\endgroup\$
    – akohlsmith
    Feb 9, 2015 at 19:39

Pretty much any FPGA with a high enough pin count, basic PWM's are very simple in terms of logic design and usage. Add in a soft CPU and you should be able to fit the whole thing into a Xilinx XC6SLX9 in a QFP144 package, i.e. easily hand-solderable.


Actually Cypress PSoC is well suited for this. This PSoC Sensei blog post describes how to achieve 52 hardware 8-bit PWM outputs with a single PSoC3 or PSoC5. The additional ones could be achieved with a $1 PSoC4 acting as a slave over SPI or I2C.

If you haven't heard of PSoC before you might want to take a look; they're 8051 or ARM Cortex M0/M3 cores with some programmable logic beside them. There's also a variant with BLE radio built in.

Not affiliated with Cypress, just a pretty happy customer with their PSoC4 and 5LP devices.


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