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IV-18 VFD Tube

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Ever since I saw them a couple of years back, I've always loved Nixie Tubes. For now, because of cost and lack of experience with High Voltage - I decided to build a project based on the much more affordable, and lower voltage IV-18 tube.


Much of this project is based on Lady Ada's Ice Tube Clock with the exception of the boost circuit.


I used a MC34063 for the 30-50V boost from 5v (see here for circuit and values to use). I used some cheap inductors from Tayda Electronics, so the cost was pretty low.


The Max6921 is used for VFD control - same as the Ice Tube Clock, although I went with the SOIC version. Thanks a ton to RobG for the SMD ProtoPad which allowed me to create a simple BP which contains both the VFD boost and drive control.


For now, the code only handles display of a buffer of characters and a font table. That table defaults to "43oh.com", but can be updated via serial connection. I'm planning on adding the ability to control the clock via a serial bluetooth connection - I used the BluePack.


I'm planning on adding RTC functionality as well as alarms - those will come later. For now - here is my current code, as well as a few pictures.






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A booster would indeed be awesome. I still haven't learned Eagle, but it might be the project that finally gets me there (unless someone else wants in). I'm working on the clock code, as well as a laser-cut case hopefully. I'm looking @ Ponoko, but I also found a few Etsy sellers who do custom laser cutting for price comparison.


The tubes are definitely still available. I've actually seen auctions of 100 pieces on eBay. They all ship from Russia (most of them were made @ the Reflector factory), so if we do a Booster - we'll probably also want to do a GB for the tubes. At 5 pcs, cost is about $5 each, including shipping.


I'd love to do Ethernet as well to allow internet-based configuration or the ability to read information as well (current time, tweets, etc.), but between refreshing the display and running the RTC code, I'm not sure there'll be enough CPU time left. I'll see how things go as I develop the code.

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Regarding making this a BP - the boost circuit does require a 5V source (it would work on 3.6v, but I think it would require too much current). I'm pulling from the USB 5v and running a wire to the circuit. Seems a little messy for a booster, but it would probably be a pretty cool one.


I did get the clock working - thanks to oPossum's RTC code it was a piece of cake. I'm still working out the functionality, but it's coming along nicely. I'll probably post some updated code this weekend.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Just posted my first schematics and boards in the BP forum. I still have to check a couple of things and possibly add a feature or two, but it's almost ready to send out!


I was able to get oPossum's RTC code working as well. Once I get the boards sent out, I'll work on adding more features to the code.

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cubeberg, I've also been looking at using 5V from the Launchpad USB connection, and I think I've found a reasonably good way to do that and simultaneously support the 40 pin Launchpads (C2000, Stellaris).


If you have room, include pins for a 40 pin launchpad. One of the "new" pins (not found on a 20 pin LP) is 5V directly from the USB, at least for the C2000 Launchpad (pin 1 of J5). If someone wants to interface the boosterpack to a 40 pin launchpad, the 5V connection is made automatically, and if someone want to interface the boosterpack to a 20 pin launchpad (like the MSP430), TI was gracious enough to provide that 5V through-hole near the USB connector, so the user simply has to buy a short male/female jumper wire, cut it in half, solder the cut ends into the LP (the thru hole near the USB) and BP (pin 1 of J5), and then you have a convenient, optional 5V jumper.

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