Custom Multi-Segment E-Ink Displays From Design To Driving

With multi-segment displays, what you see available online is pretty much what you get. LEDs, LCDs, VFDs; if you want to keep your BOM at a reasonable price, you’ve pretty much got to settle for whatever some designer thinks looks good. And if the manufacturer’s aesthetic doesn’t match yours, it’s tough luck for you.

Maybe not though. [upir] has a thing for custom displays, leading him to explore custom-made e-ink displays. The displays are made by a company called Ynvisible, and while they’re not exactly giving away the unique-looking flexible displays, they seem pretty reasonably priced. Since the displays are made with a screen printing process, most of the video below concerns getting [upir]’s preferred design into files suitable for printing. He uses Adobe Illustrator for that job, turning multi-segment design ideas by YouTuber [Posy] into chunky displays. There are some design restrictions, of course, chief of which is spacing between segments. [upir] shows off some Illustrator-fu that helps automate that process, as well as a host of general vector graphics design tips and tricks.

After sending off the design files to Ynvisible and getting the flexible displays back, [upir] walks us through the details of driving them. It’s not as simple as you’d think, at least in the Arduino world; the segments need +1.5 volts with reference to the common connection to turn on, and -1.5 volts to turn off. His clever solution is to use an Arduino Uno R4 and take advantage of the onboard DAC. To turn on a segment, he connects a segment to a GPIO pin set high while sending 3.5 volts out of the DAC output into the display’s common connection. The difference between the two pins is 1.5 volts, turning the segment on. To turn it off, he drops the DAC output to 1.5 volts and drives the common GPIO pin low. Pretty clever, and no extra circuitry is required.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen [upir] trying to jazz things up in the display department. He’s played with masking LED matrix displays with SMD stencils before, and figured out how to send custom fonts to 16×2 displays too.

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I’ll See Your Seven-Segment Mechanical Display And Raise You To 16 Segments

Mechanical multi-segment displays have become quite a thing lately, and we couldn’t be more pleased about it. The degree of mechanical ingenuity needed to make these things not only work but look good while doing it never ceases to amaze us, especially as the number of segments increases. So we submit this over-the-top 16-segment mechanical display (Nitter) for your approval.

The original tweet by [Kango Suzuki] doesn’t have a lot of detail, especially if you can’t read Japanese, but we did a little digging and found the video shown below. It shows a lot more detail on how this mechanism works, as well as some of the challenges that cropped up while developing it. Everything is 3D printed, and flipping the state of each of the 16 segments is accomplished with a rack-and-pinion mechanism, with the pinions printed right into each two-sided cylindrical segment. The racks are connected to pushrods that hit a punch card inserted into a slot in the rear of the display. The card has holes corresponding to the pattern to be displayed; when it’s pushed home, the card activates a mechanism that slides all the racks that line up with holes and flips their segments.

This isn’t the first multi-segment mechanical masterpiece from [Kango Suzuki] that we’ve featured, of course. This wooden seven-segment display works with cams rather than punch cards, but you can clearly see the hoe the earlier mechanism developed into the current work. Both are great, and we’re looking forward to the next segment count escalation in the mechanical display wars.

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