It was only a matter of time before we saw Nixie modules for the Arduino

The Nixie tube, a neon-filled tube with a series of 10 cathodes shaped like numerals, is a classic display for any build wanting a unique, vintage, or steampunk aesthetic. We shouldn’t be surprised a factory in China is now turning out Arduino-compatable Nixie modules (English translation, but don’t get your hopes up), but there it is.

The modules are based on the QS30-1 Nixie tube capable of displaying the digits 0 through 9, and include an RGB LED behind the tube for some nice additional illumination. According to the manual, the modules themselves are based on a pair of 74HC595 shift registers, and are ‘stackable.’ By applying 12 volts to a pair of pins and connecting another 5 wires to an Arduino, it’s possible to drive as many of these Nixie modules as you’d like.

[Paul Craven] got his hands on a quartet of these modules and is planning on building a steampunk style alarm clock as a personal project. [Paul] was able to get the modules up and running fairly quickly, as seen after the break.

While they’re most certainly not the cheapest option, if you’re planning a build with Nixies, this probably is the easiest way to get a vintagey, steampunkey numerical display.

Comments

  1. Zee says:

    I don’t quite understand where we can buy these. That website is extremely cryptic.

  2. Mark Smith says:

    My first thought was a time/date clock:
    XX|XX|XX < date, with diffuser over the dots to make a dividing line.
    XX:XX:XX: < time, with last column of dots being AM/PM

    then, 6 RGB LEDs to work with for things like weather, email, alarm set, etc. etc.

  3. voelker says:

    you can buy these from http://www.dfrobot.com but at 34$ i find it a bit expensive (102$ for a 4 digit clock …).

  4. dashroom says:

    I AM BUYING SOME OF THESE !!!!!!

  5. CB4 says:

    $34.50 seems a bit steep, but it is a smooth package with nothing left to figure out.

  6. Denbo says:

    Love the Google translation:

    “Perhaps we always display her unique and unforgettable, but let her glow with the eye-catching color, the focus lies in the application.”

  7. CB4 says:
  8. n0lkk says:

    While I took only the time to look at one supplier of NOS Nixie tubes, it could take only one far out project that many want to duplicate to deplete their stock of some the tubes. Expensive/inexpensive is relative, but for what it is $44 each in lots of four really isn’t that expensive. I would describe it as a module for those who don’t have the training, experience, or are simply uncomfortable with working with ~170 VDC. Limor Fried stated she designed one of her projects in the matter she did because she was uncomfortable working with 120 VAC.

  9. M4CGYV3R says:

    Don’t nixie tubes require serious power to drive them? How is that provided by the Arduino?

    • n0lkk says:

      Appears the module provides the necessary power. and the Arduino provides the control to have the Nixie display what’s desired. Not any different that an arduino controlling the H bridges that control the electric motors in a robot.

  10. The Nixie Shield is worth checking out, too – http://www.arduinix.com/

  11. matseng says:

    I’m not too sure that the word “nice” in regards of an RGB led is compatible with neither Nixie, Aesthetics nor Steampunk.

    Why destroy a perfectly good retro orange glow with some horrible blue or purple led backlight? It’s almost like putting undercar led lights on a classic 70’s muscle car.

  12. aguegu says:

    Hi, guys. Very happy to see discussion here. I am the library designer for this QS30-1 nixie tube for arduino. matseng said the background led is awful. However, it can be fully controlled by the logic chip, which means it could be truned off as you wish. Nobody would see it because it is hided in the tube basement. Welcome to check my library on github. http://aguegu.github.com/nixie-tube/

    • matseng says:

      Hi aguegu. The led-with-nixie comment was not in particular directed to your design – which in general seems like a good design.

      It was more a general complaint to all the designers of Nixie clocks. They spend a lot of time to design a beautiful box/cabinet for the clock using hardwood, brass, chromed steel, properly cut/polished acrylics to host the expensive tubes that glows with a pretty orange color to get this quality retro look. And then they put goddamned blue leds under the classic IN-18 tubes. Why? It’s like taking a working Apple Cube and spray paint it yellow because it looks cool.

      Don’t get me wrong here – I like flashing colorful leds as much as any other geek. But sometimes less is more…

    • Thanks for the work you did aguegu. I appreciate the library work you did. I see DFRobot is out of stock, hope they are popular enough more are made.

      I’ll update my blog once I’ve finished the clock.

  13. GaryG says:

    Aren’t nixie tubes more dieselpunk than steampunk? ;)

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