Using Nixie Tubes As Robot Eyes

[radmeck] on the forums came up with a great use for Nixie tubes. Instead of using Nixies for clocks, or indicating values, he used them as robot eyes.

He used the arduNIX Arduino-powered Nixie tube driver to power the tubes. [radmeck] was very impressed with the arduNIX kit. The kit is able to drive eight Nixies or eighty neon bulbs, but there’s no word from [radmeck] on additional Nixies or neons in his build. The eventual goal of the project is to rebuild the Omnibot while adding more servos and motors. The EZ-B robot controller will be used to control the robot, something we’ve seen before.

[radmeck]’s Omnibot looks a lot better after the retr0bright bath, and with Nixie eyes its even more adorable. While the Omnibot didn’t live up to the original promise of impressing your girlfriend, Nixie tube eyes will give you some blog cred.

Check out the video of the much-improved Omnibot after the break.


16 thoughts on “Using Nixie Tubes As Robot Eyes

    1. Typically, you can use the SN74141. These can be hard to find, but their Russian equivalents are on eBay all the time. Failing that option, you can use a handful of MPSA42 transistors with the proper support components.

  1. MPSA42s work, but the pinout is reversed i.e. EBC not CBE

    I tried mounting them in a circle with the collectors hooked up to the pins, grounded the emitters then just drove the bases 0.6V high and anode to +90V to turn the associated segment on.

    Also have some SMD MPSA42’s here which is a better option as the board can be mounted neatly with the appropriate HV generator IC underneath.

    I had some success with the MC34063 and a simple step-up transformer.. maybe someone can recycle the trigger xformers from old disposable cameras.
    Or wind your own with a ferrite core saved from a disused flat panel power supply.

  2. Holy cow – someone should let a brother know when he’s on Hack a Day!

    Not bad but you forgot to mention the 7 LED light pipes and corresponding WiFi antennas that make up his brain (and make him a roaming access point)!

    Hack on…

  3. Just upgraded the eyes from standard-size IN-4 Nixies to the larger and quite rare National Electric NL-7153 Super Nixies. Digit height is now 20.5 mm vs 17 mm for the IN-4’s.

    Also added a BlinkM MinM I2C Controlled RGB LED to each eye for dynamic back-lighting.

    Check out the latest video! Nixie Eye Upgrades!

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