Vacuum Chamber Gets Automation

[Nick Poole] does a lot of custom work with vacuum tubes — so much so that he builds his own vacuum tubes of various shapes, sizes, and functions right on his own workbench. While the theory of vacuum tubes is pretty straightforward, at least to those of us who haven’t only been exposed to semiconductors, producing them requires some specialized equipment. A simple vacuum won’t get you all the way there, and the complexity of the setup that’s needed certainly calls for some automation.

The vacuum system that [Nick] uses involves three sections separated by high-vacuum valves in order to achieve the pressures required for vacuum tube construction. There’s a rough vacuum section driven by one pump, a high vacuum section driven by a second pump, and a third section called the evac port where the tube is connected. Each second must be prepared properly before the next section can be engaged or disengaged. An Arduino Pro is tasked with all of this, chosen for its large amount of ADC inputs for the instrumentation monitoring the pressures in each section, as well as the digital I/O to control the valves and switches on the system.

The control system is built into a 19-inch equipment rack with custom faceplates which outline the operation of the vacuum system. A set of addressable LEDs provide the status of the various parts of the system, and mechanical keyboard switches are used to control everything, including one which functions as an emergency stop. The automation provided by the Arduino reduces the chances for any mistakes to be caused by human error, allows the human operator to focus on other tasks like forming the glass, and can also react much faster to any potentially damaging situations such as the high-pressure pump being exposed to atmospheric pressure.

As you can probably tell, [Nick] is pretty passionate about this stuff — last year he gave a talk at the Hackaday Supercon that went over all the intricacies of building one’s own vacuum tubes.

Thanks to [M] for the tip!

18 thoughts on “Vacuum Chamber Gets Automation

      1. Ted was a schizo.

        It’s a bitch of a disease. Costs you about 1 IQ point per episode, why it’s so important it be controlled.

        Ted remembered being smart, but was fully _stupid_ by the time he ranted his manifesto.

        If you read the manifesto and think he was smart, you are easily fooled by someone who can sound smart. He had crystalized knowledge of how mathematicians write. But working mathematicians don’t use white space as a macro for ‘then a miracle occurs’.

        Seriously the unibomber’s manifesto is a collection of fallacies, bold assertions and romantic notions of primitive life without logic of any kind.
        It starts with the claim that modern humans have no control of their life, but primitive humans did. Everything else in his delusional world view hung on that obvious fallacy. But reporters are stupid, so Ted was a ‘genius’.

        1. This sounds an awful lot like the cope people do when they encounter a smart person with an opinion they don’t like. Sure he was a romantic, but you can’t say that some of his critiques of industrial society weren’t accurate. His manifesto just had the common academic problem of being good at identifying problems but bad at coming up with solutions.

          1. Did you actually read it? He was not smart. He was once smart. Unmedicated schizophrenia for decades will do that to anyone. It’s a medical fact. Don’t take my word on it, look it up. Schizophrenic episodes kill brain cells, lots of them. About 1 IQ point per.

            He kept his crystalized knowledge though, sounding smart was enough to fool reporters.

            I mean ‘the industrial revolution was a disaster for humanity’? Clueless.
            Yeah all that survival sucked, stoop work was great, life was wonderful when war was easily profitable.

            His critique of modern society hung on people are stupidly compensating (by doing things a hermit didn’t like) for lack of control in the modern world. As if they had control in primitive life. Ted didn’t control his life in his hermit cabin to the standard he demanded when criticizing modern life. But he couldn’t see that, his construct was strong, his brain was mush.

          2. @Haha

            Of course I’ve read it, and I disagree. He was obviously intelligent throughout his whole life, as evidenced by his later prison letters. I don’t even think he was schizophrenic; that being said, schizophrenia does not disqualify you from being intelligent (for example, Terry Davis).

            Like I said earlier, you don’t have to agree with his solutions; I don’t either. He himself said that technological regression would be circular because you’d eventually end up with progress again. The point is that it’s fairly obvious that modern living is disempowering at the individual level and that technological abstraction comes with the downside of creating an utterly confusing and unnatural way of life. The takeaway should be to find some solution that empowers the individual without yielding that power to nature (i.e. primitivism) and without creating a cycle of disempowerment via uncontrolled collapse and reconstruction.

            Or you could just post “dumb schizo take your meds lol”, I guess.

    1. It was a joke about how it looked like I was making a pipe bomb. I thought it went without saying, but I’m happy to say it anyway: I think the Unabomber was a piece of shit. His manifesto is superficially appealing to green anarchist types, but his views were fundamentally regressive, anti-left, racist, and sexist. I can’t believe I have to formally disavow Teddy K.

  1. Not sure why he needs all this fancy stuff to make tubes. Just use a rotary vane pump and burn out any gases with a titanium getter. Ez pz. Hundred bucks at harbor freight.

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