Nixie tube and dekatron driver PCB

by hansj66, published

Nixie tube and dekatron driver PCB by hansj66 May 23, 2012


The design files for this thing have been removed as a protest against Stratasys after their decision to file a patent infringement lawsuit against Microboards Technology. Their decision is extremely destructive and also underlines that the patent system is obsolete as it no longer serves any purpose for the betterment of society. Its main role is as a blunt weapon used by incumbents to hamper innovation. I see absolutely no reason to continue indirectly supporting Stratasys by providing free content to Thingiverse.
This is the schematic and PCB layout for a driver board capable of supporting up to 6 Nixie tubes and an OG-4 dekatron.

The example firmware illustrates how you can control the clock via the UART. The example demonstrates a clock and a generic display mode.

If you want, you can plug a BlueSMiRF Bluetooth modem directly into the board for wireless control of the clock.

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PS. if you are planning to drive dekatrons, you may want to buy a few spare OG-4s. I remember reading that dekatrons had very high failure rates. An indication of a faulty tube may be no glow, or problems making the ionized area jump between pins.

I have used a similar supply with this board. Just be sure to include an anode resistor if the supply isn't current limited (otherwise, you will most likely fry the PS)

Just use a common ground for the board and the HV. The +170/+450 from the supply goes to the anode connection for the tube via a current limiting resistor.

Ah yes! I see, sorry about that.

Quick question about the high voltage power supply... I've bought a dual mode (170V/450V) to power this board, how does the HV connect to the control board?

Sorry for my ignorance.

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This is a project I finished a couple of years ago after a Nixie tube buying spree on eBay. I ended up constructing a single clock before moving on to the next project.

Since I haven't seen too many Nixie clock PCBs here, I hope that someone might find the schematic useful. It can at least serve as a demonstrator on how to control dekatrons and nixie displays via a microcontroller.

Description of the files:

- NixieClock.T3001 is a Target 3001 project file with schematic and routed PCB layout
- NixieClock.SCR is an Eagle export of the Target 3001 project
- Gerber.zip contains milling/drilling files for PCB production.
- The PDF contains a parts list, board pinout and the command set which is implemented in the example firmware.
- firmware_example.c is an example on how to drive the clock. (It is newbie AVR C-style code, so I suggest you mabye write your own firmware for it ;))

Suggestions for improvements for anyone who wants to hack this:
1) Battery stand by
2) Sleep mode with display and driver IC enable/disable function.
3) Rip out the microcontroller and re-create it as an Arduino shield.

You will need an external high voltage power source to drive the tubes. You can usually get these from ebay pretty cheap.If you are feeling brave, you can of course try to modify thingiverse.com/thing:19687 to get the voltages you need for driving the tubes. (If I remember correctly, the dekatron requires 450V and the generic Nixie tubes approximately 170V)

You should never use a non-isolated power supply for powering something like this. (I vapourized a PCB in an early attempt to drive these tubes with a non-isolated power supply. Fortunatley, the main circuit breaker in my house triggered before something caught fire...)

PS. There is no source files / model for the casing. It was cast in concrete in a hand crafted mold. If you are interested, you can find more pictures of the clock on my blog: timeexpander.com/wordpress/archives/2540


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makerswamp on May 24, 2012 said:

Any chance you could try exporting the T3001 files as eagle files?

There's a guide here:


If that's not possible could you post a pdf of the schematic?


hansj66 on May 24, 2012 said:

I have exported the project as Eagle script and uploaded the file as NixieClock.SCR. Please let me know if it imports ok into Eagle or not.

sofiadragon1979 on May 24, 2012 said:

We need more things on here for Nixie tubes, I love them

hansj66 on May 24, 2012 said:

I agree. Nixies are fascinating beasts. A printable clock would be nice, but I am not sure how fire-safe an ABS/PLA enclosure would be for something that involves these voltages and also might be left unattended for a while.