Instructables

January 2014 Build Night: EL Wire Nixie Tube

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Let's call this the EL-ixie tube for short.  This is one of H3 Laboratories' entries in the January 2014 Build Night With CoolNeon.

For those that don't know, see Nixie Tube is a vacuum tube primarily used in Russia and Eastern Europe to display a digit (usually), the same purpose as a 7 segment LED display.  However, in a Nixie Tube each digit is a separate filament that emits light when current is applied.  For more info, see Nixie Tube on Wikipedia.



We're going to make a replica of a Nixie Tube using EL wire to form the digits. Specific skills involved are soldering and optionally welding (for small tacks).

Take appropriate precautions when working with heat, solder, welding, scissors, etc.
 
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Step 1: Materials & Tools

Materials:
  • (1) Arduino Uno
  • (1) CoolNeon EL Wire Shield
  • (12 to 15) feet of EL wire
  • (5 to 6) Wire coat hangers
  • (10) Female JST XH connectors
  • (20+) JST XH connector pins
  • (20) Feet 22 AWG black wire, solid core
  • (12 to 18) inches 1/4" black heat shrink tubing
  • (1) 80oz pickle jar or similar container
  • (1) 5" styrofoam cube
  • (1) 10k ohm potentiometer
  • (1) Breadboard
  • Electrical tape
  • Blue painter's tape
  • Black Duct or Gorilla Tape
  • Black Plasti-Dip
  • Fishing line (I used 4 pound test)
  • Copper tape
  • Jumper wires
Tools:
  • Soldering iron
  • Helping hands
  • Various small pliers
  • Wire stripper/cutter
  • Razor knife
  • Ruler
  • Forceps
  • Sheet metal edge crimper (optional)
  • Vise (optional)
  • (2) 6 to 10 inch pieces of 3/8" to 5/8" diameter steel rod (optional)
  • MIG welder (optional)
Software:
  • Arduino IDE
  • Blender, or similar 3D modeling program
  • Adobe Photoshop, the GIMP, or equivalent image editor
If your pickle jar is new and full of pickles, eat them.  Wash the jar thoroughly and allow it to air out; it will carry the pickle scent for a long time.

I think this is a good instructable. The video link doesn't seem to be working.

skyybaby5 months ago
is it possible to set 4 of these up off one Arduino to make a clock?
marty_vance (author)  skyybaby5 months ago

Four of these shields on one Arduino? Not stacked directly on it. Although I did come across a chip that was basically a high voltage AC 32 bit shift register, but I can't find it now. A bit pricey though at $7 a piece.

MrE marty_vance5 months ago

$7 A piece doesn't em that bad, by itself. But I can see with all the parts it could be. Great ible though. Go H3!

marty_vance (author)  MrE5 months ago

That was the price just for that chip, which is surface mount only, so you'd also need to be capable of doing that... H3 doesn't have a reflow oven just yet.

MrE marty_vance5 months ago

You know I have wanted a reflow system for quite some time and I have been experimenting with a standard hot air gun from harbor freight. These cost like 15 dollars. I went and bought one and the air flow adapter kit that comes with it. After spending roughly 24 dollars because i bought some small other items, I came and was able unsolder all sorts of sorts of smd stuff without harming them. You have to be a little diligent and watch how long you have it on the pcb. But I am no able to remove almost anything. As for reflow for attaching, I have not messed around too much; only small test things. But it is a very good and cheap alternative. I have also watched many reflow videos on youtube, the capillary action of solder is enough to work even with this simple heat gun. In fact the cheap heat gun allows much more focused work so that you don't have to worry about loosening other items. Hope this little tidbit helps. Again go H3.

waldy5 months ago
Very cool Marty and ingenious. great write up
gavargas5 months ago
Amazing write up and project, I don't think this has ever been done before.
marty_vance (author)  gavargas5 months ago

Thanks!