Sometimes the stars align and we get two somewhat similar builds hitting the Hackaday tip line at the same time. Recently, the build of note was clocks using some sort of display tube, so here we go.
First up is [Pyrofer]’s VFD network time clock (pic, above). The build started as a vacuum flourescent display tube he salvaged from an old fruit machine – whatever that is. The VFD was a 16 character, 14 segment display, all controlled via serial input.
The main control board is, of course, an Arduino with a WizNet 5100 Ethernet board. The clock connects to the Internet via DHCP so there’s no need to set an IP address. Once connected, the clock sets itself via network time and displays the current date, time, and temperature provided by a Dallas 1-wire temperature probe.
Next up is [Andrew]’s beautiful Nixie clock with enough LEDs to satiate the desires of even the most discerning technophile. The board is based on a PIC microcontroller with two switching power supplies – one for the 170VDC for the Nixies, and 5V for the rest of the board.
A battery backed DS1307 is the real-time clock for this board, and two MCP23017 I/O expanders are used to run the old-school Nixie drivers
All this is pretty standard for a Nixie clock build, if a little excessive. It wasn’t enough for [Andrew], though: he used the USB support on his PIC to throw a USB port on his board and wrote an awesome bit of software for his PC to set the time, upload new firmware, and set the color fade and speed. With this many LEDs, it’s not something you want in your bedroom with all the lights on full blast, so he implemented a ‘sleep’ mode to turn off most of the lights and all the Nixie tubes. It’s a great piece of work that could easily be successfully funded on Kickstarter.
Nixie tubes have two things going for them: they’re awesome, and they’re out of production. If you’re building a clock – by far the most popular Nixie application, you’re probably wondering what the lifespan of these tubes are. Datasheets from the manufacturers sometimes claim a lifetime as low as 1000 hours, or a month and a half if you’re using a tube for a clock. Obviously some experimentation is in order to determine the true lifetime of these tubes.
Finding an empirical value for the lifetime of Nixies means setting up an experiment and waiting a very, very long time. Luckily, the folks over at SALTechips already have a year’s worth of data.
Their experimental setup consists of an IN-13 bargraph display driven with a constant current sink. The light given off by this Nixie goes to a precision photometer to log the visual output. Logging takes place once a week, and the experiment has been running for 57 weeks so far.
All the data from this experiment is available on the project page, along with a video stream of the time elapsed and current voltage. So far, there’s nothing to report yet, but we suppose that’s a good thing.
[Bradley W. Lewis] is no stranger to Nixie clock builds, and he felt his latest commission was missing something. Instead of merely mounting the Nixie clock into a case resembling an NES console, he goes full tilt and makes it into an NES console emulator. After some work on the milling machine, a wooden box has room to squeeze in a few new components. [Bradley] originally planned to mount only an Arduino with an ArduNIX shield to handle the Nixie clock, but the emulator demands some space saving. Flipping the Arduino on its side freed up plenty of room and the shield still easily connects to the adjacent Nixie tube board.
A Raspberry Pi serves as the console emulator and was mounted close to the side of the case to allow access to its HDMI port. The other ports from both the Arduino and RasPi stick out of the back, including an extension to the Pi’s RCA video out and buttons to set both the hour and minutes of the clock. The two surplus NES buttons on the front of the case control power to the RasPi and provide a reset function for the Nixie clock.
If that isn’t enough Nixie to satisfy you, check out the WiFi Nixie counter.
[Kevin Ballard] built this Nixie counter on the company dime. Tubes like this are getting more and more difficult to find since they’re no longer being manufactured. But when the Bossman hands you a corporate credit card those kinds of concerns take a back seat to your parts-shopping impulses. Start to finished this WiFi enabled counter took six weeks to build.
Connecting the board to the internet was very easy thanks to the Electric Imp that drives it. The difficult part comes in building a driver board and sockets for the tubes. We don’t see a lot of detail on how he’s generating the high voltage. But you can get a good feel for the tube connectors from the picture. He’s using an adapter PCB from Kosbo which breaks the tube pins out to two rows of 0.1″ pitch pin headers. The acrylic base has a port for each made of pin sockets spaced by a thick chunk of acrylic. Wiring harnesses wrap around the back side of the base to mate with the driver hardware. It’s programmed to count some type of company metric (it was funded by the corporation after all). They must be fairly successful because those numbers are flying by in the demo video.
Continue reading “Building a WiFi enabled Nixie counter”
Based on his username, [Horatius.Steam], it’s not a surprise that he calls this project a “SteamPunk” style binary clock. But we think using neon glow lamps in this binary clock is more of mid-century modern proposition. Either way, the finished look is sure to make it a conversation piece for your home.
He doesn’t give all that much information on the bulbs themselves. They seem to be neon glow lamps along the lines of a Nixie tubes. It sounds like they just need mains power (based on the image annotations for the relay board). The high voltage is switched by that collection of solid state relays. The controller board includes a DCF radio whose antennae is seen just below the controller. This picks up an atomic clock signal from Frankfurt, Germany. We think it’s a nice touch that he included a mechanical relay to simulate a ticking sound. That and the bulbs themselves can be turned off using the two switches in the base of the clock.
This seems like a good time to direct your attention to an artistic take on a Nixie clock.
This week we saw an interesting animated motorcycle tail light over on Reddit. But there wasn’t really enough background to get its own feature.
The NeuroKnitting project captures brainwaves by weaving them into a scarf.
On Semiconductor is showing off an 8x8x8 LED cube which they claim as 12,000 LEDs. We can’t figure out where all those LEDs are used in the design, but maybe you can. Here’s one that we know has 4096 LEDs in its matrix.
[Jeff] used hard drive platters as the disc section of his original Enterprise desk model.
Play around with an SNES controller and Arduino by following [Damon’s] guide.
Hackaday Alum [Jeremy Cook] posted an update of his laser graffiti project. His earlier effort used camera tricks to capture the image but this time around he’s exciting phosphorescent glow material to make a persistent display visible to the human eye.
This server hides in plain sight after being wrapped in a hard cover book binding. Hopefully this won’t cause heat dissipation problems.
[Trumpkin] built his own Nixie tube wristwatch which we think has the potential to be as neat as the one [Woz] wears.
We’ve seen homemade x-ray devices and we’ve seen people making vacuum tubes at home. We’ve never seen anyone make their own x-ray tube, though, and it’s doubtful we’ll ever see the skill and craftsmanship that went into this build again.
An x-ray tube is a simple device; a cathode emits electrons that strike a tungsten anode that emits x-rays. Most x-ray tubes, though, are relatively large with low-power mammography tubes being a few inches in diameter and about 6 inches long. In his amazing 45-minute-long video, [glasslinger] shows us how to make a miniature vacuum tube, a half-inch in diameter and only about four inches long.
For those of you who love glass lathes, tiny handheld spot welders and induction heaters, but don’t want your workshop bathed in x-rays, [glasslinger] has also built a few other vacuum tubes, including a winking cat Nixie tube. This alternate cat’s eye tube was actually sealed with JB Weld, an interesting technique if you’d ever like to make a real home made tube amp.