I've got my 16 seg library about done now, but I wasn't able to do very well with displaying A-Z on 7 segments. I went looking around and realized I could be using 16 segment LED characters and those would work much better. So off to the usual haunts (dx, ebay, ali) and surprised to find nothing no the cheap. The 7 segment 8 character module i have now cost $9. The best module deal I found was on ebay, http://www.ebay.com/itm/130916360184, four times the cost, half the digits, depressing!
I found individual character modules for sale (funny no one sells modules with 2 or 4 characters in 16 segments?) but the modules themselves are just under $2 each, which still seems rather high for raw parts. I did find 595 SOP and DIP on the cheap by the hundred however, (6-9 cents per) and will probably get those for good measure, but I'm still on the hunt for a better deal on the LEDs. I would prefer to find a module similar to that on the ebay listing, but in 8 characters, and certainly for cheaper.
I don't understand the difference in markup on those ebay modules. There can't be more than a $2 difference in materials cost, it doesn't justify the quadrupling in price. Someone must have a strong patent? And why aren't reasonable reroductions showing up on mic, dx, or ali?
Along this line, is there a better driver IC for these modules, that manages the multiplexing? So I can just SPI shift out the complete individual character string to display, and the module manages the mutiplexing so my sketch doesn't have to?