Addressable 7-Segment Displays May Make Multiplexing a Thing of the Past

[Sean Hodgins] has a knack for coming up with simple solutions that can make a big difference, but this is one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” things: addressable seven-segment LED displays.

[Sean]’s design is basically a merging of everyone’s favorite Neopixel RGB LED driver with the ubiquitous seven-segment display. The WS2811 addressable RGB driver chip doesn’t necessarily have to drive three different color LEDs – it can drive three segments of the same display. With three of the chips on a single board, all seven segments plus the decimal point of a display can be controlled over a single data line. No more shift registers, no more multiplexing. And as a nice touch, individual displays can be ganged together with connectors on the back of each module. [Sean] has some code to support the display but is looking for someone to build a standalone library for it, so you might want to pitch in. Yes, he plans to sell the boards in his shop, but as with all his projects, this one is open source and everything you need to build your own is up on GitHub. The brief video below shows a few daisy-chained displays in action.

Like many of [Sean]’s designs, including this Arduino rapid design board, this is a simple way to get a tedious job done, and it wrings a lot of functionality from a single IO pin.

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7 Segment Clockwork Display Made From Cardboard

We’ve seen a variety of oddball 7-segment displays in the past, but this one uses a new material: both for the display and the mechanical mechanism that drives it; cardboard. Yup, the whole thing is made from cardboard, wood and a few rubber bands. [The Q] shows how he put together in this nice video, starting from first principles that show how the segments are made: simple pieces of cardboard painted on one side with fluorescent paint. A piece of wood pushes the element out to blank it, and each element is connected to a cam wheel that pushes the wood in or out.

The really clever bit is that [The Q] mapped digits 0 – 9 onto a matrix for which of the 7 segments is “on” or “off”. He then used this information to create a stack of 7 cams on a central axle. As you rotate the axle, the cams turn, moving the wooding arms. The arms then cause the elements to flip as they count up through the digits. In essence, he engineered a physical decimal to 7 segment decoder, much like the electronic one inside the SN74LS47. The whole assembly is capped by a knob that indicates which digit is currently displayed. If mechanical displays like this are your thing, check out this one made from LEGO parts, or this awesome 3D printed creation.

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A Display Made From Shoelaces

In our time here at Hackaday, we have seen many display builds, but this one from [Brian Lough] has to be a first. He’s created a 7-segment display made from shoelaces, and it works rather well.

Before you imagine the fabric cords you’re used to with your trainers, it’s worth explaining that these aren’t shoelaces in the traditional sense, but transparent light pipe taken from commercially available light-up shoelaces. He’s created a 3D-printed frame with receptacles for each end of the light pipe sections he’s used as segments, and spaces for addressable LEDs on the rear. He makes no bones about his soldering job being less than perfect, but the result when hooked up to an Arduino is very impressive. A large 7-segment LED display that’s visible in the glare of his bench lighting and not just in subdued illumination. Future plans include replacing the messy wiring with stripboard sections for a better result.

This isn’t the first 7-segment display using a light pipe that we’ve seen here at Hackaday, a previous effort used a more novel substance. But perhaps this Nixie-inspired take on the same idea also deserves a mention.

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Seven-Segment Flip Clock Display Finally Finished

Earlier this year, we mentioned in a Hackaday Links article that [Spencer Hamblin] was in the process of building a seven-segment flip clock. Well, it’s finally finished, and it looks great!

Vintage seven segment digits make up the display. These digits work the same way that flip-dot displays work – current through each segment’s coil creates a magnetic field which causes the segment to flip over. Current in the other direction creates the opposite magnetic field and flips the segment the other way. On these digits, there are three connections on the coils. The middle one is power and the other two are used to enable and disable the segment – ie., flip it one way or the other. To save on pins on the microcontroller, [Spencer] connected all the middle coil pins together on a digit. Each coil can be powered using a single pin on the microcontroller. Similarly, the segments for each digit are connected together as well, so one pin on the micro controls the same segment on each of the digits. The microcontroller in question is the AVR ATMega48.

There are two parts of the clock face left to do: AM/PM and whether the alarm is set or not. [Spencer] used a fifth digit, slightly offset, for those – the top and middle segments are used.

For the housing of the clock, [Spencer] used layers of offsetting colored wood. The wood (sapele and ash) were CNC cut and aligned. The back plate, also made from wood, holds buttons for setting the time and alarm, as well as some LEDs for what [Spencer] calls the “daylight alarm.” A capacitive sensor on the top of the unit (inside the wooden case) is used to turn the alarm off.

The result, after sanding and shellacing, looks amazing. [Spencer] nailed the art-deco look he was going for. There are plenty of pictures and the circuit designs, schematics and code are on [Spencer]’s Hackaday.io page, and you can find the Hackaday links post here. This is a complete log of a project we mentioned earlier on Hackaday, here, but there are other mechanical flip display clock projects, such as this DIY mechanical flip seven-segment prototype, or, you could create your own (really big) clock using this Lego mechanical seven-segment display.

via Reddit.

Large Seven-Segment Clock Build Takes Time To Perfect

[Kevin Rye] built a discrete TTL based seven-segment clock, and he wasn’t too happy with the ugly insides compared to the nice enclosure he built for it. He embarked on creating another large seven-segment clock to put inside that enclosure.

Clocks, and specifically seven-segment based ones, aren’t anything new to write about. This particular project, which is still work in progress, is interesting. [Kevin] is an experienced hacker, but the problems he encountered and resolved along the way could prove useful to a fellow hacker someday.

To start with, he tried rectifying his old build. But in his own words “You can polish a turd, but it’s still a turd.” Five years later, he’d had enough. He’s built a lot of other clocks, but rather than repurposing them, he decided to start from scratch. He quickly breadboarded an Arduino, some displays and drove them using the Multiplex7seg library. That library supports only four characters, so he was back to the drawing board. With a fresh start, his design is now moving along nicely. For now, he’s designed three boards for the display, two boards for the colons between digits, the main Arduino-clone controller board and a 3D printed front frame to hold the displays. It will be nice to finally see that enclosure receive some fitting occupants and bring this build to closure.

Nixie inspired 7 segment display

The supply of Nixie tubes from east European stock piles is still enough to keep their prices down. But once those start dwindling, prices will move north. Besides, if you want to use them, you need to work with high voltage supplies and worry about not getting zapped while trying to debug a circuit. [FilleK] had some time to spare and decided to build a cheaper substitute for a real nixie tube using a regular 7 segment LED display.

We have already seen this hack before, in the Arduino-based ENIGMA replica. But [FilleK] improved on that by adding an extra LED to simulate the radiant glow typical of Nixie tubes. His project log describes the fairly straightforward process using parts that can be found easily. A piece of plastic, painted in a shade of copper and fixed around the 7 segment display, acts as a nice baffle to contain and reflect the ambient glow of the back-light LED. A nice improvement would be to add a random flicker to the background LED. Maybe add an Octal socket (the decimal point had to be nixed though!), and cap it in a proper glass tube. If you’d rather work with the real McCoy, check out our archives.

Master Clock Keeps Time for All Other Clocks

[Brett] just finished construction and long-term testing of this extremely accurate timepiece. It keeps such great time by periodically syncing with the atomic clock in Mainflingen, Germany.

The core of the project is an ATMega328 which uses the new DCF77 library for decoding the signal broadcast by an atomic clock. The libraries written by Udo Klein significantly increase the noise tolerance of the device reading the signal, but they will not work with any project that use a resonator rather than a crystal.

In the event of a complete signal loss from the atomic clock, the micro driving the clock also has a backup crystal that can keep the clock running to an accuracy of within 1 second per day. The clock can drive slave clocks as well, using pulses with various timings depending on what [Brett] needs them to do. The display is no slouch either: six seven-segment displays show the time and an LCD panel reads out data about the clock. It even has chimes for the hour and quarter hour, and is full of many other features to boot!

One of the most annoying things about timekeeping is daylight savings time corrections, and this clock handles that with a manual switch. This can truly take care of all of your timekeeping needs!