How it all started
One day, I had an idea to try and spruce up a project that I was working on. I was creating a text-to-speech box with a Raspberry Pi that would intake 911 call details for our Fire Department and speak out the unique call number and address. This gives the Firefighters an early alert that a call is coming through and gives them a chance to plan how they were going to get to the scene - all before actually being dispatched. It occurred to me that the call numbers were 6 digits and that displaying them on nixie tubes would add a serious cool factor - and finally gave me an excuse to build something nixie-related.
I've since designed the board and have found a lot of support from other nixie enthusiasts in making this available to the public as it's not just a nixie clock like the other kits out there - It's a fully customizable nixie display!
The specs of this project are simple: the board mates with the Raspberry Pi's GPIO pins for easy implementation; the board cascades with other boards in a way that allows for not just 6 digits, but 12, 18, or more; and I would like the board to have an integrated power supply that will also power the Raspberry Pi. The reason for the last spec is so that anyone can build a case for their nixie project and need only one power line coming out of it.
As it stands, I have the prototype made and tested (as shown in the video), and all of the specs have been met except for the on-board Raspberry Pi power supply. I have a circuit designed that I'm integrating onto the next version of the driver board that will provide enough power to a USB port on the board that you can use to power the Raspberry Pi.
As well, throughout this campaign I will be redesigning the power supply for the nixie tubes. The current one is fairly inefficient and barely has the power to run all 6 tubes. I plan on utilizing an extremely efficient power supply designed by Nick de Smith (used with permission and credit GLADLY given to him for this great design) and integrating it onto the nixie driver board.
The funding goals for this project are to hit the bulk purchase price breaks for all materials involved. I've always had a dream to start my own small electronics business, the biggest hurdle being the start-up funds. The kit isn't terribly expensive as-is, but to make it more marketable and expandable, purchasing the parts in bulk will bring the price down by nearly 50%! As well, it would make good business sense to offer the nixie tubes for sale rather than pointing customers to eBay to purchase from Russia. Again, bulk purchasing is the only way that would make sense; I'm also confident that people that want to get started with nixie tubes will find it much more preferable ordering from a closer source that can have them delivered in a few as 2 days (obviously there are geographical considerations). Please, help me reach my goal and you'll have a fun device to play with and make your own, and know that you've helped another person reach a long-time goal. Thanks for checking out my project!
Risks and challenges
The biggest challenge is to make a kit that is cheaper than the nixie clocks, but able to do more! Coming from a background in electronics all my life, the design isn't terribly complicated, however combining this with the high voltage involved in running nixie tubes presents a personal risk to myself and others. As always, use extreme caution when dealing with these high voltages.
Another challenge that may arise is tied to the fact that building these kits involves sourcing parts that are not only made, but are currently held in war-torn countries like Ukraine. While getting test parts, I haven't had any issues so far. My biggest worry is the ability to get discontinued parts from the former USSR nations, however if that problem comes to head, there are replacement parts that will work as well (I'm just a big fan of the vintage parts).
Lastly, fulfillment won't be a huge challenge, but definitely a number one priority. I have the ability and time to build and ship all orders that come through, but if there is an overwhelming demand, I have help in the form of a very supportive wife and friends.
- (30 days)