Addressable 7-Segment Displays Simplify Project Wiring

Consider the 7-segment displays (or 8 if you count the decimal) that you may use in projects. While capable of displaying numbers by…

Jeremy S. Cook
a year ago

Consider the 7-segment displays (or 8 if you count the decimal) that you may use in projects. While capable of displaying numbers by simply lighting up each segment’s LED, I/O requirements for these devices can soon get out of hand since each requires eight pins to fully light up. Once you’re past a digit or two, you’ll need to deal with multiplexing and/or a jumble of wires.

On the other hand, addressable LED strips allow you to power literally thousands of discreet three-LED packages with a single data line. So why can’t you do the same thing with the humble 7-segment display? As it just so happens, you can do just that, as maker/YouTuber Sean Hodgins illustrates in the video below.

In his design, WS2811 chips are employed to control three segments each. Instead of R, G, and B lighting components, each is wired to a single segment, meaning three chips are needed per digit. Each unit attaches together with a trio of header pins, making wiring very easy. Programming is now done via Adafruit’s NeoPixel library, though he’s looking for someone to develop a standalone library to facilitate programming.

Hodgins is pre-selling these displays on his website, and the design is open source, with files available on GitHub. He’s also put the build up on Hackster if you’d like to check it out there.

Jeremy S. Cook
Engineer, maker of random contraptions, love learning about tech. Write for various publications, including Hackster!
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