If nixies are fun, edge-lit displays are even more so. They have been developed roughly in the same time as nixies but never grew to the same amount of popularity. For some strange reason. But anyhow, I ran into them while searching the web the other day and found some nice examples amongst other cool displays over at the vintage tech association . Also there are a couple of videos here and here. So these are all nice, but I noticed one problem while looking at them and especially while reading kwartzlabs blog post on a DIY project. All of of these displays rely on the same “font” which seems to be derived from the nixies:
(pictures taken from the above mentioned blog post)
As you can clearly see it is hard to read the numerals at the very bottom due to the many inter-sections. I used that thought as a starting point and began to design my own font for these numerals. My goal was to create something nice looking with as few inter-sections as possible. What started out with some sketches in the notebook ended up with that design:
Afterwards I overlayed them into one final assembly:
So that clearly worked out to be something more clean and tidy. I gave the font to a manufacturer to get engraved plastic sheets in order to built a prototype display. Unfortunately I didn`t care too much about the dimensions of the lines of each numeral as they were rather thin in the design process (just one pixel in width). But in the real world they happened to have a real dimension. When aligning them one over the other I did my best to keep the overlay minimal. But due to that design fault it did not work out perfectly. At least I attached some SMD LEDs to a few numerals to see them glow.
If I will do a second try on this kind of display I would surely consider the real thickness of the numerals after manufacturing. Also more powerful LEDs would be helpful. In the meantime I give away the font for free under the CC-BY-SA licence. Feel free to download it here and built your own display.