Introduction: Arduino Powered Nixie Tubes: ArduiNIX Nixie Driver Shield Assembly

About: I am a 13 year veteran of the video game industry. In my spare time, I make nixie clocks and sell nixie clock kits, and build lightsabers and props in my garage. My main site has links to my video game art p… presents: ArduiNIX Nixie driver shield assembly

The ArduiNIX shield is a user programmable platform for driving multiplexed Nixie tube or other high voltage displays**. The ArduiNIX is open source hardware

Welcome to the assembly portion of the site. Here we will take you step by step through the build process of your ArduiNIX kit. First, make sure you have your parts all accounted for!

Included in your driver shield kit should be the following parts. This is the most current, up to date parts list for the ArduiNIX.
  • (1X) ANX_Board 
  • (1X) Damper Diode 1.0 Amp 400 Volt BYT01-400 511-BYT01-400 @ D1
  • (1X) 100uH 1 Amp RFI Suppression Coil 434-11-101M @ L1
  • (1X) 25 Volt 470 uF Capacitor 647-UVZ1E471MPD @ C2
  • (1X) 350 Volt 1 uF Capacitor 647-UVR2V010MED @ C1
  • (1X) 500V 5.6 pF NPO Capacitor 140-500N2-5R6D-RC @ C3
  • (1X) 500V 47pF SL Capacitor 140-500S5-470K-RC @ C4
  • (1X) IRF730 400V 5.5 Amp Single-Gate MOSFET  844-IRF730APBF @ Q10
  • (1X) 1/4" Squ 1K 10% Single Turn Trimmer 858-25PR1KLF @ R19
  • (1X) 6X6 FLAT 4.3mm BTN Tactile Switch 653-B3F-1000 @ S1
  • (1X) General Purp Single NE555N Timer IC 511-NE555N @ IC1
  • (5X) 1/4watt 33Kohms 5% Metal Film Resistors 71-CCF07-J-33K @ R1-R5
  • (4X) 1/4watt 100Kohms 5% Metal Film Resistors 71-CCF07-J-100K @ R6-R9
  • (4X) 1/4W 470K ohm 1% Metal Film Resistors 660-MF1/4DCT52R4703F @ R10-R13
  • (2X) 1/4watt 1Kohms 5% Metal Film Resistors 71-CCF07-J-1K @ R14, R15
  • (1X) 1/4watt 10Kohms 5% Metal Film Resistors 71-CCF07-J-10K @ R16
  • (1X) 1/4watt 220Kohms 5% Metal Film Resistor 71-CCF07-J-220K @ R17
  • (1X) 1/4watt 470ohms 5% Metal Film Resistor 71-CCF07-J-470 @ R18
  • (4X) PNP MPSA92 Small Signal Transistor 512-MPSA92 @ Q6-Q9
  • (5X) NPN MPSA42 Small Signal Transistor 512-MPSA42 @ Q1-Q5
  • (2X) Nixie Driver IC - SN74141 *OR* Equivalent   @ IC2, IC3
  • (1X) 40P .100" Pin Strip Headers 517-6111TG Pinrails

Step 1: Lay Out Your Parts

Lets lay out your parts in an easily accessable and organized manner. We don't supply the solder station, but it would be very handy if you had something similar to assemble your kit with.  My solder station is a large metal plate with a panavise and third hand alligator clip helper bolted to it.  One end of my third hand helper is modded to hold my solder reel.

Step 2: 1.0 Amp 600 Volt Fast Recovery Rectifier Diode @ Position D1

D1 is the Fast Recovery Rectifier Diode. Make sure it goes in correctly, it may only be installed one direction. The band on one end shows you which side is the positive side.

The diode we supply may either be a 400 or 600 volt diode. Either will work.

Use something handy to pull the diode up snug to the board, preferably so your hands are free to solder the leads in.

This is how D1 should look once it's installed correctly.

Step 3: 100uH 1A Coil @ Position L1

This little fellow is going to be helping us pick the correct parts to place on each step. Here he is holding up the 100uH Coil.

The coil is one of the main components that allows us to take 9 volts up to 180. It can be installed either direction, so don't worry about polarity.

How nice, the diode and coil are going to be best friends.

Step 4: 25Volt 470uF Capacitor @ Position C2

Thanks robot buddy. That's the large Capacitor we need next. C2 is a polarized 25Volt 470 uF Capacitor. The stripe on the side with the "-" signs in a row show you the negative side. This one has to be installed the proper way!

Make sure the negative side of C2 is not inserted into the positive hole on the board.

It should look like this when it's installed correctly.

Step 5: 350 Volt 1 UF Capacitor @ Position C1

Yessir, C1 is the smaller of the two polarized capacitors. C1 is a 350 Volt 1 uF Cap.

Like C2, C1 must be oriented the correct way on the board.

Step 6: 500V 5.6 PF NPO Capacitor @ Position C3

Now we move on to C3. C3 is a component which varies from kit to kit. This capacitor controls the voltage range on your unit. The cap we supply may vary from the photo. 

Again, C3 is a component which varies from kit to kit. This capacitor controls the voltage range on your unit. The cap we supply may vary from the photo above. As we make slight modifications and improvements to the kit, this component stands to vary the most, so don't worry if your cap doesn't look exactly like this.

The current rev of this part is a 500V 5.6 pF NPO Capacitor.

Step 7: 500V 47pF SL Capacitor @ Position C4

Now we have C4. This cap works with C3 to control the voltage range. C4 is a 500volt 47pF capacitor.

C4 may be installed either direction, polarity is not important with C3 and C4.

Step 8: IRF730 400V 5.5 Amp Single-Gate MOSFET @ Position Q10

Hey fellow, you're a swell guy for showing the folks the IRF 730 MOSFET Transistor!

This power transistor must be installed correctly, with the metal tab aligned over the solid white stripe at position Q10 on the board.

Using a third hand to tug slightly up on the leads while soldering makes for a great installation.

Step 9: 1/4" Squ 1K 10% Single Turn Trimmer @ Position R19

This little fellow is lives at R19, he is the 1K Trim pot, which will allow us to tune our output anode voltage to the desired range for the Nixie tubes we want to use.

R19 will only insert into the board one way, the three pins on the back will align with the three holes in the board.

R19 will be soldered in here, at the edge of the board near the tall capacitors.

Step 10: 6X6 FLAT 4.3mm BTN Tactile Switch @ Position S1

This little tactile switch tells the Arduino to reset the entire unit.

Howdy, S1. Welcome to the board.

Step 11: General Purp Single NE555N Timer IC @ Position IC1

Robo buddy here is showing you the NE555N Timer IC. It is the ticker that controls oscillation to the power end of the ArduiNIX.

The timer IC, like all other ICs must be aligned properly! Take note of the notch on the IC and align it with the notch on the diagram on the board.

Make very sure that the timer IC is oriented properly. The image on the board shows which way to point the cutout, or dish that is on one end of all timer ICs.

Step 12: Test Your Resistors!

PROTIP: Use your multimeter to test your resistors to make sure they are installed in the right spots.  Set the multimeter to resistance, then measure each set to make sure they are placed correctly.

Step 13: 1/4watt 33Kohms 5% Metal Film Resistors @ Positions R1 Through R5

Carefully bend the leads on the resistors like this, so they fit on the board vertically.

R1 - R4 are in a row, R5 is over by the Timer IC.

Step 14: 1/4watt 100Kohms 5% Metal Film Resistors @ Positions R6 Through R9

R6 - R9 are in a row similar to R1 - R4.

Step 15: 1/4W 470K Ohm 1% Metal Film Resistors @ Positions R10 Through R13

Pump that iron, robot! These are the 1/4 watt 470K resistors.

Step 16: 1/4watt 1Kohms 5% Metal Film Resistors @ Positions R14, R15

All resistors are vertically installed, making sure that markings are aligned for identification later if need be.

Step 17: 1/4watt 10Kohms 5% Metal Film Resistor @ Position R16

Step 18: 1/4watt 220Kohms 5% Metal Film Resistor @ Position R17

Step 19: 1/4watt 470ohms 5% Metal Film Resistor @ Position R18

Step 20: PNP MPSA92 Small Signal Transistors @ Positions Q6 Through Q9

Woohoo! now for something completely different. MPSA92 Hi voltage transistors!

Watch the orientation on these, make sure they match the diagram.  If the leads aren't bent to fit already, Bend leads like this, so they fit the holes in the board.

Installed in proper location and orientation, should look like this.

Step 21: NPN MPSA42 Small Signal Transistors @ Positions Q1 Through Q5

Make sure you read the labels correctly on all transistors, don't mix them up!

Also bend the leads on these transistors so they fit their holes on the board.

Step 22: Nixie Driver IC - SN74141 *OR* Equivalent @ Positions IC2, IC3

Your kit will come supplied with Texas Instruments 74141 Driver chips or the Russian K155NA1 equivalent..

We highly recommend socketing your driver chips, as they are the most delicate part of the ArduiNIX. These are no longer made, and are only available on eBay if you short one or burn one out. TAKE CARE with these.

Make sure the notches on the chip line up with the notches on the diagram. Again, we highly recommend socketing your driver chips, we don't include sockets in the kits to keep the costs down.

Step 23: 40P .100" Pin Strip Headers

The Pin headers we supply will be used to connect the ArduiNIX Shield to the top of the Arduino Board..Use the Arduino as a guide for placement and orientation to get the rails in straight.

The ArduiNIX board has a spot for connector rails between the 9V connector and the Cathode2 Connector on the bottom of the board. These may be left unconnected if you prefer to run a cable to the Arduino connections under these terminals to use those pins as inputs for setting the clock, advancing the numbers, etc.

Step 24: Anode and Cathode Connectors

The ArduiNIX kit does not include connector rails for the Cathodes. The way you connect your ArduiNIX Shield to your tubes is up to you. We prefer IDE Ribbon cable and angled pin rails, you may prefer hardwiring.

The ArduiNIX connects to your nixie tubes through these terminals. The cathodes connect to the numeral plates 0 through 9, and the anode terminals connect to the anode pin of your nixie tube. ALWAYS use a resistor between the anode terminal and the anode pin of your nixie tube. This is required. The value of the resister varies depending on your tubes, but 10K works well to start with.

Step 25: Check Your Work!

Assemble the ArduiNIX Shield to the Arduino board, and check your work, solder welds, alignment and orientation of components. Now doublecheck. It's important to have everything in the proper place and orientation for the first bootup so you don't fry out any components. We claim NO RESPONSIBILITY if your board starts sizzling due to bad assembly.

Use a 9Volt DC wallwart power supply with the ArduiNIX (Not included) Once plugged in, certain portions of the ArduiNIX will become charged with high voltage. Do not touch the anode pins, or test points, or any exposed solder points while the unit is charged.

To drive VFD Tubes in the 30 to 40 voltage range, the timing capacitors in steps 6 and 7 must be changed to higher value capacitors.

Once your unit is powered properly, and you have nixie tubes to connect, download the code, and send to the arduino!

Thanks for looking!
Later, we'll cover assembling the tube boards.

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