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The Nixie Clock VII, GPS module driven with new firmware and several improvements to pc board design. Time base of 1PPS or hertz.
13 backers pledged $2,855 to help bring this project to life.

About

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$2,855

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What is a prototype?

A prototype is a preliminary model of something. Projects that offer physical products need to show backers documentation of a working prototype. This gallery features photos, videos, and other visual documentation that will give backers a sense of what’s been accomplished so far and what’s left to do. Though the development process can vary for each project, these are the stages we typically see:

Proof of Concept

Explorations that test ideas and functionality.

Functional Prototype

Demonstrates the functionality of the final product, but looks different.

Appearance Prototype

Looks like the final product, but is not functional.

Design Prototype

Appearance and function match the final product, but is made with different manufacturing methods.

Production Prototype

Appearance, function, and manufacturing methods match the final product.

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Prototype Gallery

These photos and videos provide a detailed look at this project’s development.

Nixie6.7 - the Nixie clock VII with GPS module prototype.
Nixie6.7 - the Nixie clock VII with GPS module prototype.

The Nixie clock VII is another improvement on the original design for side view nixie tubes like the IN-14 and similar nixie tubes, designed originally by my wife and myself. We have a standard version for IN-14, IN-8-2, ZM570 and similar side view nixie tubes, as well as a large version designed for the IN-18 nixies. Here is a video of an early prototype, which used an external antenna. We have improved this design again by adding a GPS module for automatic time & date set and integrating the module & small internal antenna, and also the option of a one pulse per second timebase. RGB leds make possible multiple user selected colors for the lighting under the tubes. There is an option to build with either the line supply (standard AC cord) or a switching power supply (wall wart), that makes this version more flexible. We designed the nixie clock to be aesthetically pleasing and sturdily built as well as long lasting. One of the features that sets it apart from other nixie clocks is the unique homemade enclosure. I fashion these out of a 1/4" plexiglass base and a thermo-formed 1/8" plexiglass shroud or dust cover.

The led underlighting can be selected in different colors.
The led underlighting can be selected in different colors.

Another unique feature is the circuitry design; it is built using entirely replaceable/repairable parts, including the GPS module, which is designed to be a "plug in" component. The components are all standard sized and selected to be large enough to easily handle the wattage generated. Also, the two layer design gives the clock a more solid form than other designs. The power supply is integrated in the bottom layer pc board, and is optional to build as either a standard line driven supply, or switching power supply to make it lighter. The top layer board contains the micro controller running my original firmware and decoder as well as digit driver circuitry and the nixie tubes. Altogether, this makes the Nixie clock very unique and attractive, as well as durable and easy to maintain.

The clock uses two integrated circuits or "chips", one is the 18f26k20 microcontroller which is programmed with my original firmware and the other is a high voltage decoder similar to a 74141. My firmware at present includes a calendar which can be enabled to display MM/DD/YY every minute on seconds count 50 - 53. It also includes a rudimentary alarm using a piezo buzzer which can be set for any hour and will buzz 9 times with seconds count. The toggle button will turn the display (nixies only) on/off manually, and the clock can also be programmed by the user to turn the display on/off at preselected times twice per 24 hr period. Another feature is selectable 12 or 24 hour mode. The led color button will change the color of the RGB leds from many selections. This is in addition to the GPS module input which allows auto set of the time & date. 

Close up detail of the GPS module I settled on for the standard clock.
Close up detail of the GPS module I settled on for the standard clock.

 

One of the most attractive aesthetic features is the RGB led underlighting. I have designed the boards to maximize the affect and the RGB leds remain lit when the nixies are off. Another neat effect is the "fading" of numbers when changing. This is accomplished programmatically thanks to the wondrous microcontroller. When the number displayed changes, instead of just flipping straight from one number to the next, the number that is changing gradually fades while the next number gradually phases in, making the numbers appear to melt together or "morph".

The kit for the Nixie clock VII includes the two pc boards, transformer, components to populate the board, and preprogrammed microcontroller & decoder/driver chips. This is a relatively difficult project as there is some skill required to build this clock, i.e. the nixie tubes must be set carefully and the RGB leds must be set up and soldered very carefully in order to obtain the full effect as the clock is shown in the photos. This is a challenging build but will also be very rewarding to the builder who invests the time and care to build it.

Top down view showing the prototype GPS module installed on the top board of the prototype, with integrated antenna
Top down view showing the prototype GPS module installed on the top board of the prototype, with integrated antenna

 

The clock without the shroud (dust cover).
The clock without the shroud (dust cover).

 

A side view detail of the GPS module as installed on the top board, standard production.
A side view detail of the GPS module as installed on the top board, standard production.

 

The Super Deluxe IN-18 version with GPS module (highest reward)
The Super Deluxe IN-18 version with GPS module (highest reward)

 

The component view of the Nixie6.7 board, top layer.
The component view of the Nixie6.7 board, top layer.

 

Nixie6.7 bottom layer.
Nixie6.7 bottom layer.

 

Risks and challenges

One of the challenges in creating this type of clock is to design the circuitry to withstand the wattage generated. Although nixie tubes are relatively low current devices (typically ~3ma), they operate at relatively high voltages (~160VDC) so using components that are too small to handle the wattage or heat generated (current x voltage = wattage) would mean eventual failure. This is one reason I chose to use components that are physically large enough to handle the heat created by wattage. The nixie tubes themselves are cold - cathode which means they have no heater or filament as vacuum tubes typically do, so they generate little if any heat themselves. The larger sized components (as opposed to smt or surface mount) are also much easier to replace if necessary, and the chips are socketed which means they won't be damaged by being soldered, and of course they are also easily replaced.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $45 or more About $45

    PC Boards Reward

    The first reward, includes the two standard Nixie6.7 boards and the preprogrammed microcontroller. Using the parts list and directions, a skilled and experienced electronic kit builder could build the driver boards & assemble the boards & tubes and install it in their own enclosure and add their own GPS module.

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    Pledge $155 or more About $155

    Nixie clock VII kit

    Build the clock yourself ! The Nixie clock kit includes the Nixie6.7 standard pc boards, transformer and components to populate the board. Supply your own GPS module and create your own enclosure. Works well with IN-14 or IN-8-2 or Z570 Nixie tubes and other similar tubes. This is a relatively difficult project as there is some skill required to build this clock, i.e. the tubes must be set carefully and the RGB leds must be set up and soldered very carefully in order to obtain the full effect as the clock is shown in the photos. This is a challenging build but will also be very rewarding to the builder who invests the time and care to build it. Backer will have the option of the kit with switching power supply & AC adapter cord or with pc board transformer & standard supply.

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    Pledge $205 or more About $205

    Kit w/ enclosure

    The Nixie6.7 standard Nixie clock kit with enclosure & GPS module includes the homemade enclosure as shown, the GPS module, the pc boards, transformer and components to populate the board, including the preprogrammed microcontroller as shown in the pictures and the clear plexiglass enclosure shown. The enclosure is a bottom piece of 1/4" plexiglass with pre-drilled holes, and the shroud or dust cover. Backer will have the option of the kit with switching power supply & AC adapter cord or with pc board transformer & standard power supply.

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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $285 or more About $285

    Nixie clock VII assembled

    The standard Nixie6.7 Nixie clock, with GPS module and with battery backup using a nine volt battery as pictured with the IN-14 Nixie tubes lit by RGB leds and including the homemade plexiglass enclosure shown. Backer will have the option of the switching power supply & AC adapter cord or pc board transformer & standard power supply.

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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $355 or more About $355

    Nixie clock VII deluxe

    Deluxe edition of the Nixie6.7 standard nixie clock, with GPS module & battery backup, choice of IN-14 nixies or IN-8-2 or ZM570s, choice of blue tinted shroud (plexiglass) or clear, blue pc board solder mask with yellow silkscreen or green solder mask with white silkscreen and gold pin sockets for the chips. Backer will have the option of the switching power supply & AC adapter cord or pc board transformer & standard power supply.

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    Pledge $700 or more About $700

    Super Deluxe Nixie VII using IN-18 tubes

    Super special deluxe edition of the completely assembled & tested Nixie VII version with IN-18 nixie tubes (pictured below), using gold pin sockets for the ICs and NOS IN-18 nixies and with the GPS module, and of course with the user selected led colors. Battery backup is included using a nine volt battery. Ready to use, and can be set for 120VAC (U.S.) or 240VAC (other countries).

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Funding period

- (30 days)