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Nixie tubes. Steampunk. Levitation.

Presenting the world's first - and only - gravity-defying nixie clock.
Nixie tubes. Steampunk. Levitation.

Presenting the world's first - and only - gravity-defying nixie clock.
Nixie tubes. Steampunk. Levitation. Presenting the world's first - and only - gravity-defying nixie clock.
146 backers pledged £46,889 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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Time Flies: Levitating Nixie Clock

£46,889

146

From an early age we are aware of the laws of physics and their effect on how the world around us behaves. 

If we pick up an object, it has weight. If we place it on another object, such as a table, shelf or the floor, it will rest upon it. If we drop it, it will fall.

 

  We become so used to this behaviour that any exception is a surprise and delight. 

Remember the first time you saw a helium filled balloon, straining to escape, fighting the ties of gravity?.

 

Even though levitated objects have become increasingly common, there is still the air of magic about them. 

When the levitated object is radiating energy you know it cannot be generating in itself, the illusion of magic is complete.

 

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May we present the world's first and only levitated nixie clocks. Once set up correctly it will hover above the base for as long as it is powered, displaying the time and date on digits of glowing metal and glass. 

Needing no batteries, the nixie clock is powered from the base without wires and will operate without interruption for months or years. No charging is required, it just floats and works.

With over 5 years of experience powering various devices wirelessy we carefully designed custom wound coils to efficiently transfer about 10 times the power of other designs. Enough to supply the demanding requirements of a complete nixie clock at full brightness.

 

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The trick of course is in the repulsion of strong rare earth magnets, balanced with delicate stabilising electromagnets and power coupled to the levitated object by an air transformer formed by copper coils in the base and object.

Four lights set 90 degrees apart around the magnet indicate how well balanced the suspended object is. These make initial floating of the clock much easier than you've probably found with other levitation devices.

 

Two touch sensitive switches, one either side of the base, can be used to set the clock and select various display modes. 

Alternatively full control is possible via Bluetooth through an Android app currently under development.

 

Control and time data are transmitted to the floating display section by an Infra-red LED under the IR-transparent plastic lid. 

A carefully designed and optimised coil transfers power to the display for as long as mains power is connected. 

 

 

Developed in the 1950s to provide an accurate method of display in an increasingly digital world, manufacturing ceased in the West after the early 1970s when the much easier to use LED and then LC displays became common. 

They continued to be made and used by the former Soviet countries until just after the breakup of the USSR and production ended around 1993. These provide the majority of the tubes now being used in nixie clocks. 

Our single digit clock is a little different. It uses a modern nixie tube - the first to be made anywhere commercially in almost a quarter of a century. Painstakingly reconstructed with many years of research and development to rediscover lost arts and processes, by Dalibor Farný, you can read more about these amazing handmade tubes here:

  http://www.daliborfarny.com/r-z568m-nixie-tube/

 With a digit height of 50mm, it's probably the largest nixie tube you'll find anywhere today.

 

 

I've added our 'Doom' button as a small 'thank you' pledge amount. It's an IN-1 nixie tube operated as a plasma ball which will detect when it's touched and operate a relay for a second which can be used to control some other device such as a PC power button.

Hovering just above the ground, the Beacon floats in defiance of gravity, suspended by unseen forces. 

 An orange glow begins to form around delicately crafted wires, surrounded by rarefied neon, inside the giant single glass tube that forms the main part of its' structure as it prepares to transmit another sequence of apparently random numbers. 

The sheer scale of the internal electrode structure implies this was intended to be seen clearly over vast distances, possibly even the other side of a large room. Again it signals to an unknown observer. 

'01:08 am'

I currently have the 'Beacon' prototype on a chest of drawers in my bedroom. Every time I open a drawer the base moves slightly, causing the display to bob and dance for a few seconds. 

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Each clock is made up of multiple sections, all of which will be handmade and assembled here in our workshop, not by low-paid workers on a production line. Each is individual and will have slight differences in the finish of the case.

The clock is solidly engineered to last and is not a 'toy'. You're buying a piece that if looked after will operate constantly for many years without problems. The downside is that building them in the UK costs more than having them manufactured in China and directly shipped to buyers.

If you can't quite stretch to the ready-built reward but know how to use a soldering iron (and sandpaper, polish etc.) there's now a kit of parts reward available, *excluding* the 4 numeric nixie tubes.

You'll need to buy 4x IN-14 or IN-8-2 nixies if you don't already have them, or you can modify the display PCB to accept any other similar nixies. It does include the centre 'colon' IN-19V nixie and everything else you'll need to complete your own floating clock.

 

The £40k stretch goal will be for a wireless GPS 'mouse'. This is a small receiver unit with its own power supply that can be placed on a windowsill, guaranteeing good reception, which will then relay the time data back to the clock nearby. One will be included with each clock or kit reward (it'll be supplied as a kit with kit rewards).

At £45k a movement detection sensor will be added along with the option to blank the display if no activity is detected for 10 minutes to save power.

Finally if we make it to £50k I will include 2 spare nixie tubes with each 5-digit clock - just in case you need a replacement in the future.

Last day stretch goal update: Combined with the spare nixies, if we hit the £50k stretch goal all backers pledging £20 or more will receive a 'Doom button' kit in addition to their current reward. 

5-Digit Display 'The Relay', 'Relay+'

  • Relay: 4x IN-14 and 1x IN19V ex-USSR vintage nixie tubes.
  • Relay+ 4x IN-8-2 and 1x IN-19V ex-USSR vintage nixie tubes.
  • Digit height 18mm, total height of the floating section is 70mm.
  • Case material - Phenolic laminate, Perspex, steel and brass.
  • Display mode HH:MM, MM:SS, Day/Mo, selection controlled by IR proximity switch or Bluetooth.
  • Time and alarm set by touch switches on the base or Bluetooth.
  • Option to automatically sync time to a GPS receiver
  • Display transition modes set by touch switches on the base or via Bluetooth.
  • Single alarm
  • 12/24 hour and DD:MM /MM:DD display setting
  • Display dim on/off settings
  • Individual tube brightness calibration
  • Seconds tick
  • Random seconds tick
  • Fade/ripple/plain display modes
  • Cathode cleaning routine
  • 5-tube display 'The Relay':

 

     

Single tube display 'The Beacon':

  • 1x R|Z568M Handcrafted nixie tube.
  • Digit height 50mm, total height of the floating section is 130mm.
  • Case material - Phenolic laminate, Perspex, steel and brass.
  • Display mode is HH:MM or HH:MM:SS controlled by the base via touch switch or Bluetooth.
  • Time and alarm set by touch switches on the base or Bluetooth.
  • Option to automatically sync time to a GPS receiver
  • Display transitions and speed are software controlled and selected randomly.
  • Single alarm
  • 12/24 hour and DD:MM /MM:DD display setting
  • Display dim on/off settings
  • Seconds tick
  • Random seconds tick
  • Fade/ripple/plain display modes

 

 

Command base (all models)

  • Power requirement 12V@~500mA depending on magnet stability, rising to 1.5A when first placing the floating display
  • High precision RTC which operates even on power loss
  • Control via touch switches or Bluetooth via our Android app or direct terminal control (iOS available later)
  • Solid copper baseplate for even heat dissipation plus active cooling of the levitation unit.
  • Case material - Phenolic laminate, Perspex, steel and brass with a 1.5mm solid copper baseplate.
  • Size (max.) 220x120x28mm.

Power supply

  • IEC power inlet, a mains lead isn't supplied as the plug fitting will depend on your local socket design.
  • Universal voltage 100-240V in, 12V @ 2A max. output with overload protection.
  • Hardwired to the base to prevent accidental disconnection.
  • 3 Metre connecting cable between PSU and base.
  • Internal holders for 8x 'AA' size Alkaline primary cells.
  • Built in battery level monitor and alarm buzzer.

The power supply pack contains a 120/230V to 12V adapter, battery pack and control electronics. If mains power is lost the power supply shuts down the wireless power coil, removing power to the display but the backup battery will continue to operate the levitation unit for up to 30 hours. Once mains power is restored the display will light up again, still floating. 

 While many of the images here show the clock spinning, it will not do so unless wanted. Small stabilising magnets gently push back against any rotation, slowing then stopping it in a forward facing position. 

 If the levitation system does fail for any reason and the clock drops, cushioning in the floating section and the design of the base top panel protect the nixie tubes from damage.

 

Lasermad.com - a family business

Tony Adams - Inventor, Tea-maker

Jamie Adams - Artwork, web design

Andrew Adams - Hardware construction

 

Video music 'Deliberate Thought' Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Risks and challenges

We've been designing and selling nixie products since 2011 and have experience in producing batches of nixie clocks in the hundreds at a time. We are confident that we are able to complete and deliver the promised rewards, the only risk being the length of time it may take to complete them if we have a large number of orders.

Funding:
Our minimum viable production target is 100 units of each version of our clock. The funding target we've set of £35,000 combined with approx. £15,000 of our stock and investment capital will be sufficient to begin production.

Supply of parts:
As explained earlier, nixie tubes - with one exception - haven't been made for almost a quarter of a century and supplies are becoming harder to find. We hold enough stock to complete two hundred 5-digit clocks and have sourced enough for a further three hundred with more being possible. If needed the design can be modified to use other similar nixies though we don't expect that to be needed.
For the single digit clock, approx 50 tubes per month will be available to complete as many orders as required.

Production:
Designed in Scotland, the circuit boards for the power supply, controller base and levitated clock will be manufactured by a local PCB manufacturer and assembled in-house with each completed clock and base being soak-tested for at least 5 days and monitored by myself before being packed ready for despatch by Fedex or UPS depending on the destination. I can guarantee you will receive the product we intend to supply as we have complete control over manufacturing and quality control with everything being done within local driving distance.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge £1 or more About $1.32

    Thank you!

    Really, yes. It's nice to know you found our idea interesting and want to help make it happen.

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  2. Select this reward

    Pledge £20 or more About $26

    Button of Doom

    You'll receive one of our nixie plasma touch activated switches, ready to use and including a power supply plus our thanks for supporting our project. A low voltage relay output can for example be used to replace an ATX PC power button.

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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge £250 or more About $331

    The Relay - Constructors edition

    You'll receive a complete kit of parts - excluding the 4 numeric nixie tubes - to build your own 'Relay' 5-digit clock, the levitation platform/controller and our special
    no-drop battery backup power supply.
    Soldering experience essential.

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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge £295 or more About $390

    The Relay - Experimenters edition

    You'll receive a complete kit of parts - excluding *all* of the numeric nixie tubes - to build your own 'Relay' 5-digit clock, a 'Beacon' single digit clock, the levitation platform/controller and our special no-drop battery backup power supply plus one spare 5-digit clock PCB and components. Remember you'll need to find or buy your own giant nixie tube.
    Soldering experience essential.

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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge £350 or more About $463

    The Relay - Early bird

    You'll receive one five-digit clock built using vintage Soviet nixie tubes, the levitation platform/controller and our special

    no-drop battery backup power supply. We'll do our best to have these delivered in time for Christmas 2016.

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  6. Reward no longer available

    Pledge £375 or more About $496

    The Relay+ - Early bird

    A limited version of the 'Relay' clock built using IN-8-2 nixie tubes.

    You'll receive one five-digit clock built using vintage Soviet nixie tubes, the levitation platform/controller and our special

    no-drop battery backup power supply. We'll do our best to have these delivered in time for Christmas 2016.

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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge £375 or more About $496

    The Relay+

    A limited version of the 'Relay' clock built using IN-8-2 nixie tubes.

    You'll receive one five-digit clock built using vintage Soviet nixie tubes, the levitation platform/controller and our special no-drop battery backup power supply, ready to use and delivered as they become available from the beginning of 2017.

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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge £395 or more About $522

    The Relay+, with added Doom

    A limited version of the 'Relay' clock built using IN-8-2 nixie tubes plus one Doom button.

    You'll receive one Doom button, one five-digit clock built using vintage Soviet nixie tubes, the levitation platform/controller and our special no-drop battery backup power supply, ready to use and delivered as they become available from the beginning of 2017.

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  9. Select this reward

    Pledge £399 or more About $528

    The Beacon - Early bird

    You'll receive one single digit clock built using the only modern handmade nixie tube in production, the levitation platform/controller and our special no-drop battery backup power supply.
    We'll do our best to have these delivered in time for Christmas 2016.

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    Pledge £499 or more About $660

    The Shifter

    Not sure which clock you want to be today?
    You'll receive one single digit clock, one five-digit clock, one levitation controller and our special no-drop

    battery backup power supply, ready to use and delivered as they become available from the beginning of 2017.

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  11. Select this reward

    Pledge £524 or more About $693

    The Shifter+

    Not sure which clock you want to be today?
    You'll receive one single digit clock, one five-digit clock with IN-8-2 nixie tubes, one levitation controller and our special no-drop battery backup power supply, ready to use and delivered as they become available from the beginning of 2017.

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  12. Select this reward

    Pledge £545 or more About $721

    The Relay - Experimenters Lab edition

    You'll receive a complete kit of parts - excluding *all* of the numeric nixie tubes - to build Two 'Relay' 5-digit clocks, Two 'Beacon' single digit clocks, Two levitation platform/controllers and Two special no-drop battery backup power supplies plus One spare 5-digit clock PCB and components. Remember you'll need to find or buy your own giant nixie tubes to complete the Beacons.
    Soldering experience essential.

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  13. Select this reward

    Pledge £749 or more About $991

    The Collectors' pack+

    You'll receive one single digit clock, one five-digit clock built using IN-8-2 nixie tubes, two levitation platform/controllers and two of our special no-drop battery backup power supplies, ready to use and delivered as they become available from the beginning of 2017.

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  14. Select this reward

    Pledge £769 or more About $1,017

    The Collectors' pack of Doom+

    You'll receive one Doom button, one single digit clock, one five-digit clock built using IN-8-2 nixie tubes, two levitation platform/controllers and two of our special no-drop battery backup power supplies, ready to use and delivered as they become available from the beginning of 2017.

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  15. Reward no longer available

    Pledge £775 or more About $1,025

    The Collectors' pack+

    You'll receive one single digit clock, one five-digit clock built using IN-8-2 nixie tubes, two levitation platform/controllers and two of our special no-drop battery backup power supplies, ready to use and delivered as they become available from the beginning of 2017.

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Funding period

- (30 days)