A Transparent 7-Segment Display

Though [Connor] labels it as a work in progress, we’re pretty impressed with how polished his transparent 7-segment display looks. It’s also deceptively simple.

The build uses a stack of seven different acrylic panes, one in front of the other, each with a different segment engraved onto its face. The assembly of panes sits on a small mount which is placed over seven rows of LEDs, with 5 LEDs per row. [Connor] left an air gap between each of the seven individual acrylic panes to clearly distinguish which was lit and to match the separation of the LED rows. To display a number, he simply illuminates the appropriate LED rows, which scatter light across the engraved part without spilling over into another pane.

You can find a brief overview and some schematics on [Connor’s] website, and stick around for the video demonstration below. We’ve featured [Connor’s] work before; if you missed his LCD data transfer hack you should check it out!

[Thanks Thomas]

40 thoughts on “A Transparent 7-Segment Display

    1. A very high polish on the edges works very well for this if he does not want to change the look.

      Polishing plastics is really easy. Supplies for polishing paint work fantastic. the hard part is to get a good straight polished edge and not a rounded one you need to build a Jig.

  1. Very nice. Another suggestion is to have the numbers a bit higher than the base so the brightness of the base is less distracting (and could be covered with something opaque on the outside).

  2. Having the bottom part of the plates covered with something opaque will increase contrast a lot. So that the scatter light from the LEDs cannot hit the other segments. I would probably dip the base in black paint to achieve this.

  3. looks like the site is down it is not responding.

    try running it on home connection.

    if you are running on home connection and your isp is blocking home servers on residential accounts then try changing the port to listen on to something like 81 or so

  4. Ah, this brings me back. I remember seeing a multi layer design on metku mods a long long time ago when I still thought case mods were cool that used the same principle. This one looks a lot cleaner though.

      1. I’m old. I’m talking the blinding blue lights, biohazard windows and that stuff from back then. I know that there are people that put a lot of effort into it and produce amazing looking stuff but those are in the minority.

        1. Totally get your post. When I found out after building a few cases that it was now called case-modding I was impressed by some of the projects.
          Somehow it went from building stuff cause it wasn’t for sale to ‘pimping’ your case with prefab circuslights and other blinky stuff.

          I really digged the watercooled and oilcooled stuff from 10 years ago. But I can imagine that the scene is overtaken by bling-bling crap.

  5. An 8-track player I had in the ’70’s (that dreadful decade!) had a similar display, but it was only 4 layers (one for each track) and used a “grain of wheat” incandescent bulb for each layer. A rotary switch linked to the track changing solenoid selected the proper light/layer (this is not meant to be construed as a “not a hack” comment”

  6. Aww, I did this some years ago. Not only with text, but also with multi-colored engraved pictures. But I engraved things by hand… his machined segments look really neat and clean. Nice job.

  7. This reminds me of an old idea I had, an IC programmer with one very large SIP socket sticking multiple layers of etched acrylic. When the programmer is set to work with a particular type of chip (or chips with the same pinouts) one of the acrylic panels would illuminate to indicate where to place the chip (I could not find the time to build it though).

  8. Looks great. I’ve been looking for a way to make low cost large seven segment displays for a while now, though I wish he had posted CAD files for the segments in base. Guess they wouldn’t be too hard to recreate though.

  9. Excellent!

    Very clean looking. I’m glad to see this type of display in the ‘real world’, as I am currently designing a 4 frame ‘cell’ with etched designs to do simple animation. I’m more excited than ever to get it finished!

  10. Since it’s too bright, replace some of the LEDs with regular diodes having similar electrical specifications.

    For the vertical segments, leave the LEDs that are below them, and take out the edge ones for the horizontal segments.

  11. Masterful craftsmanship! A couple of suggestions for viewability and inteligilibity: (1) to make the bottom segment more distinct add a buffer space between it and the base [others’ suggestions about making the latter opaque may accomplish the same thing.] (2) if you look at commercially made 7SDs the “verticals” aren’t plumb, they’re canted a few degrees to the right. The shapes of the 7S versions of the digits are compromises with the classic typography at best, and I think this slant helps the brain recognize certain digits more quickly, like the 7, the 9, and possibly the 2 especially. At first glance the plumb version of the 9, for example, tends to register as a box with a tail.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.