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Michael Niggel



Michael Niggel

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Finally finished my 15-month-long Nixie clock build.

The build begins with the ArduiNix, a nixie power supply and driver kit for the Arduino. That literally sits on top of an Arduino Uno R3. The tubes are salvaged Soviet IN-14 displays and five IN-3 neon bulbs. The display is switchable between time, date, and countdown timer. There’s a DS1307 RTC keeping time/date when the unit is otherwise powered off.

I used example code from ArduiNix to start with, but modified it heavily. They didn't have the exact setup I wanted for the display, and the code assumed you weren't doing anything else with your Arduino except running the display off its internal timer (which isn't super accurate). I made lots of nice additions like blinking the current digits while setting, and a cathode poisoning prevention mode that can be activated on startup. Perhaps most importantly, I've added a very easy method to change modes and set time. I used a rotary encoder and a standard button; just push in and dial up/down each of seconds/minutes/hours.

I’m pretty inexperienced with this kind of build, so it took me about 15 months to complete. One of my big stumbling blocks was in getting the IN-3 bulbs to light. The tube driver chips leak too much current to reliably switch them on and off. After exploring a number of avenues, I finally settled on using an output expander over I2C: an MCP23008. I set one Arduinix anode to always on, then set up transistors on the outputs of the MCP23008 to switch the voltage. That problem alone cost me a couple months.

The case is custom designed/built from oak, constructed in roughly one hour chunks once a week in my parents' basement workshop. A piece of perforated sheet metal is bent to an arc forming the window. I found a piece with a hex-pattern that matches the shielding internal to these tubes.

I’m really happy with how it all came out.
Artur Ludvig's profile photoMatthew Dipaolo's profile photoJason Ludwig's profile photoMichael Niggel's profile photo

Nick Beno mirrored the code there. Unfortunately, no schematic exists; I didn't create anything formal during the build and my sketches are not very helpful in this regard. There are some comments in the code, so hopefully that helps.
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