What do you get when you cross a normal 7-segment display with programmable LEDs (AKA NeoPixels)? That would be the Neo7Segment designed by Unexpected Maker. These devices come in the form of a normal 7-segment display, but instead of a single LED lighting up each segment, 4 programmable LEDs do the job. This allows for some very interesting effects as demonstrated below.
Each digit is really affordable, and includes the option of a kit build (you’ll need to solder all surface mount components, including the LEDs) or fully assembled. Several digits can be chained together to make a larger display. while only one data line from your microcontroller is required, a separate power supply is recommended since each of these segments can theoretically pull up to nearly 2 amps.
You can see the design process in the video below. While it’s over 35 minutes, if you’re curious as to what goes into making a custom PCB, it will serve as a nice reference.
If you’re in the market for a unique 7-segment display, you might also check out the mechanical display controller profiled here.