A clock made with LED filaments inside clear plastic tubes

LED Filaments Make A Retro Clock Without Any Retro Parts

We love clock projects here at Hackaday, and we’ve seen many beautiful designs based on a wide variety of display technologies. There are various types of glass tubes like Nixies, Numitrons and classic VFD displays, all of which have that warm “retro” glow to them. Then there’s LEDs, which are useful for making cool pixel-based timepieces and easy to drive with low-voltage electronics. So how about combining the best of both worlds, by using LEDs to make a Numitron-like display? That’s exactly what [Jay Hamlin] did when he built a digital clock based on LED filaments.

The heart of the project consists of orange LED filaments similar to the ones used in vintage-style LED light bulbs. [Jay] bought a bunch of them online and tried various ways of combining them into seven-segment displays, eventually settling on a small PCB with a black finish to give good contrast between the LEDs and the background. To make the displays look like they’re encased in glass, [Jay] bought a set of plastic test tubes and cut them to size.

The base of the clock is formed by a slick black PCB that holds an ESP32. The segments are driven through a set of 74LV595 shift registers to keep the required number of GPIOs to a minimum. There are no buttons: thanks to a WiFi connection and the Network Time Protocol the ESP32 automatically keeps the correct time.

The end result looks remarkably like a Numitron display at first glance, and remains a beautifully-made clock even if you notice that there’s no glass to be found. If you’re into LED filament clocks (and who isn’t?), check out this analog wall clock, or this spiderweb-like digital clock.

Continue reading “LED Filaments Make A Retro Clock Without Any Retro Parts”

Big 3D-Printed Lamp Tries Some New Features

In lamp design, bulbs are usually given generous clearances because they get hot during use. LED bulbs however give off comparatively little heat, which opens a few new doors. [Mark Rehorst] created this huge 3D printed lamp, made with his custom 3D printer and a hefty 1 mm diameter nozzle, and the resulting device not only looks great, but shows off a few neat design features.

The LED filament bulb doesn’t give off much heat, so a PETG partial shade mounted directly to the bulb works fine.

[Mark] printed a partial shade in PETG that is made to sit directly on the bulb itself. The back of the shade is open, allowing light to spill out from behind while the front of the bulb is shielded, making it easier on the eyes. The result is pretty nifty, as you can see here. It sits in the center of the 600 mm tall lamp, which takes up most of the build volume of his self-made CoreXY-based printer, the UMMD.

The LED filament strands in this style of bulb are pretty neat in their own way, and some of you may remember that when they first became available as separate components, no time was lost in finding out what made them tick.

A Custom Clock With LED Filament Hands

LEDs have become so ubiquitous in our projects that just hearing that term probably conjures images of tiny illuminated domes in an array of single-spectrum colors. It’s easy to forget that these efficient sources of light come in a variety of form factors, including the retro-tacular filaments that [bitborked] used to make his beautiful analog LED wall clock.

Aside from its aesthetics, this timepiece features some great design. A custom PCB acts as a hub for all the LED filament spokes. The onboard brains come in the form of an ESP32, which means it can keep extremely accurate time via NTP. WS2811 LED controllers, which we’re so accustomed to seeing alongside RGB LEDs that they almost feel strange to see here, provide the 12 volts required for each filament and make individual addressing a breeze.

[bitborked] takes advantage of that addressability to display other animations in addition to the standard clock face. They also plan to implement MQTT for eventual alerts from other home automation devices. When it comes to just telling time, you can discern the individual “hands” by differences in their brightness, which sadly does not show up as well in video as it does in real life.

We would certainly be happy to have this clock on our walls, and we hope to eventually see more of its PCB designs. In the meantime, though, we can drool over a more digital take on the LED filament clock. Although, filaments are certainly not required to make a beautiful LED timekeeper.

Pocket High Voltage Generator Becomes Great Test Tool

[The LED Artist] often found a need for a relatively high voltage (100 to 200 Volt) but low current DC power supply, and it turns out that a small HV generator that uses a single AA cell only took about an hour to make. The device ended up being a pretty handy tool for testing things like LED filaments (which have a forward voltage of over 60 V), or even neon and nixie tubes.

The device’s low current means that nixie and neon elements won’t light up very brightly, but they will light up enough to verify function and operation. [The LED Artist] reports that touching the output terminals of the generator only causes a slight tingling sensation.

Open-circuit voltage generated from a single AA cell is about 200 V, but that voltage drops rapidly under any kind of load. Even regular LEDs can be safely lit with the circuit, with less than a milliamp being supplied at the two to three volts at which most regular LEDs operate.

[The LED Artist] fit the device into a two-AA battery holder, with a single AA cell on one side and the circuit in the other, and says it’s one of the more useful tools they’ve ever made. LED filaments are fairly common nowadays, but if they intrigue you, don’t forget that [Mike Harrison] covered everything you need to know about experimenting with them.