NanoSegment Is a Discrete 0806-Sized 7-Segment LED Display Made with Discretes

Going from a prank tweet to a usable device!

James Lewis
2 months agoLights

Every engineer loves jokes and pranks, especially when they have a seed of possibility. So building on that well-known trait, Sam Ettinger took a joke tweet and created NanoSegment, an exceptionally small discrete seven-segment LED display made of discrete LEDs!

"Think of the smallest 7-segment display you've seen. OK. Think smaller. Smaller. Smaller...." — Sam Ettinger

The idea for NanoSegment came from a tweet by Dana Sibera (@nanoraptor) with an image of SMD seven-segment displays on a circuit board. While that picture might have been meant as a joke, the idea did have some functional merit. There are cases where 0805-sized seven-segments would be useful, especially if they were serial-driven (like a NeoPixel.)

Ettinger wondered if 0201 LEDs could fit inside an 0805 "package." The initial design was a flex PCB with an array of "displays." As this video demonstrates, this six-pin concept worked. Albeit the size is closer to 0806. Since it is a flex circuit, Ettinger could easily cut individual displays into a single component.

Next, Ettinger made an ATtiny84-based board to demonstrate the NanoSegment in action. Currently, the code only counts from 0 to 1 to 2, but it is a start. However, the NanoSegment needs at least six pins and current limiting resistors to operate.

Sibera's original tweet showed a two-pin device. Ettinger is working on a more complicated flex PCB with ground and an analog voltage input. A regulator could power a WLCSP microcontroller with an ADC to measure the analog voltage. Then analog values could represent the displayed value. Work on this idea continues.

Learn more about NanoSegment on its project page. You can also visit the NanoSegment repo to download the KiCad design files.

James Lewis
Fan of making things that blink, fly, or beep. Host on element14 Presents, baldengineer.com, AddOhms, and KN6FGY.
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