Have you ever thought that Nixie tubes are cool but too hard to control with modern electronics? And that they’re just too expensive? [david.reid] apparently thought so and decided to create his own version of a Nixie tube, and it doesn’t get much cheaper than this.
While working on a 3D printed locomotive with his son, [david.reid] used clear PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol) 3D printer filament to move light from LEDs to various parts of the locomotive. He found this was a success, but roughed up the outside of the filament to see what would happen. Lo and behold, a warm glow appeared on the surface of the tube! Like any good hacker, his next thought was of Nixie tubes, as you have seeninmanyclocks.
His basic idea is that with a little heat you can bend the filament into any shape that you like ([david.reid] uses custom molds). You then use some sandpaper to roughen up the outside wherever you’d like light to show, and add an LED at the bottom to light it up!
Wait, plexitube? Is that a typo? Surely we mean Nixie tubes!
For a Christmas project [Kurt] wanted to build some owl-inspired clocks — with bit of a retro feel. Given the complexities of finding and using actual Nixie tubes, he went with an alternative — a Plexitube.
Plexitubes look like futuristic Nixie tubes. They can have different stylized numbers. They’re crisp, they’re bright, and they are completely customizable. They’re made of edgelit acrylic! By laser etching the design onto pieces of acrylic and feeding LED light into the edge, very much like how a light-pipe works, it’s possible to have a neon-light effect — using nothing more than plastic and some LEDs.
He designed custom PCBs for the project, with SMD LEDs for the plexitubes. Making use of a laser cutter, he designed the actual owl to be made out of lightly formed wood cutouts — the entire thing looks absolutely fantastic.