I've already built a few test prototype for a large(ish) 16-segment display board. I want to use a Arduino of ESP8266 to run it, with external power, and ICs for the Characters.
So far, I've been able to make 2 rows, with 8 characters each using a MAX6954 IC chip for each row. I've found 8 characters isn't enough, so I want 12-14. I could just double up and do 16 characters per row, with 2 MAX6954 per row. I want a total of 10 rows. The problem is MAX6954 for me cost almost 30 dollars each. Making the project $600 in IC chips alone, the rest of the parts are <100 dollars.
I've looked into doing a TLC5940 16-channel LED driver per character (about a 1.50 each). However it looks like you can only chain 40 together The following equation calculates the minimum frequency required: f(GSCLK) = 4096 ´ f(update). I don't know if it would be possible to drive 4 sets of 40 with an arduino, or would I need to chain Arduino?
The AS1130 chip says it can run 132 LEDs (wow) for under 10 dollars. But there is very little documentation for it. I've only been able to find a single library, that is optimized for dotmatrix displays, so I'm not sure if it would work in this use case.
any suggestions appreciated!