I think it might be interesting to write down all the info about my participation in the When Prague Meets Shanghai contest as it eventually became one of the milestones in my fight for resurrecting the nixie tubes manufacture.
Do You count yourself as a nixie tube enthusiast?
Would You like to become a part of nixie tube’s rebirth?
I worked really really hard past two years, on full time basis, putting a small scale nixie tube manufacture together and I am almost ready now.. I designed first nixie clock with tubes made by myself and the only thing I need now is a handful of customers, crazy enough to rush in and help me with testing!
You are going to get:
– An amazing single-tube clock controlled via amplifier-like rotary knob, with geeky 3D printed case. The nixie tube has 50mm tall numbers and is made using the latest technologies (in nixie tube manufacture), incorporating helium leak testing for 100% vacuum tight seals, high vacuum pumping, pure gases, getter, a mercury dispenser for long-life. I put many hours of handwork into each tube.
– The electronics itself based on AVR AtMega328 mcu with Arduino, uses high quality parts for long life and efficience. It uses a highly precise DS3231 RTC chip for timekeeping. The clock will be delivered as a kit with a comprehensive manual, You will enjoy a lot of fun with assembling the case and soldering the boards!
– The funcionality is only as a clock, no alarm is present. However, the clock functionality is tuned, You can choose from various options of displaying the time (fading, flipping)..
– Each clock and tube has its own serial number, first customer gets #1, the second gets #2…
– 10 years warranty for both electronics and the nixie tube – one of the rules I based my work on is long life span, even if it means extra time and extra money spent for me.
The estimated date of shipping of that test-batch is in the middle of June 2014.
You are going to give:
– A reduced price, including economy shipping (10-20 days). Shipping via UPS Express Saver (2-3 days) would cost $15 more (only for US, CA available now). 30% to be paid now, the rest just before shipping, PayPal welcome. The prepayment is due by 31 May. Orders to be placed via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, phone +420 724 321 571, comment under the post or Facebook message.
– And your feedback of course 😉
As You can see, I present only brief information, I want to keep all the photos/details/clock name for the real product launch, once it is ready and tested by You! Isn’t that going to be a great surprise package? 😉
Soooo.. After six weeks of intensive development, I am posting first photo of finished ShanghaiTime clock. As I already wrote, I designed this clock for a glass-art contest “When Prague Meets Shanghai” arranged by a czech company producing high-end glass chandeliers called Preciosa. I plan to write more, attach some photos of the innards, electronics etc., this blogpost is just about to share my excitement from how great it turned out to be on a photo!
The ShanghaiTime clock, photo: janskrasek.com
I am working hard on a clocks for a contest called “When Prague Meets Shanghai” (more about contest here: WPMS). This is a first oportunity how to present working tubes in a real product.
I experienced big success today. I sealed first really working nixie tube (or nixie retort ;-). I surprisingly didn’t forget to do any individual step in the making process and ended up with a tube that by far exceeded my expectations.
I tested the tube carefully on the helium leak detector several times, I also checked all the vacuum system, gass filling manifold and gas connectors. I found one small leak on the teflon washer on one of the needle valves (for neon filling) – repaired – and one on the connector to neon bottle – placed a new o-ring. I pumped down all the vacuum system for several hours, gass filling manifold included. I then rinsed both gas branches with gases to get rid of remaining air, closed both needle valves and made a overpressure in those branches so that no air would get in. It turned up that this step was critical for gas purity.
The tube was baked out to 410C (then it broke down, should go to 480C) and then it was filled with neon and argon (5×10-2 torr of argon accorging to thermocouple – very inaccurate value).
Number “0” is not working as the wire sticking out of the tube broke off 🙁 Also the stainless steel assembly inside is attacked by something that made it “rust” 🙁 I don’t know what.. The tube has so strange shape because I didnt have a tubing of so large diameter, so I had to blow it from smaller one..
The most important thing is that I achieved values of striking voltage that are almost like industry made tubes! That is the most important thing for me!
1 – 139V
2 – 136V
3 – 141V
4 – 140V
5 – 131V
6 – 149V
7 – 126V
8 – 124V
9 – 136V
I made some minor changes is the last nixie tube design and decided to get it etched from brass. It would be better to have it made from stainless steel, but the company I use for etching experience some problems with photo resist, so I decided to use a brass, only for this test. Brass is nice material, it is unfortunately impossible to use it in vacuum tubes. It relieves a zinc into vacuum during a bake out phase, the zinc then condensates on the colder glass envelope.. It is also too soft and numbers made from brass would sputter heavily.
This assembly should be fully working, the numbers are insulated by ceramic beads and the wire inside them is insulated by thin glass tube. There are no shorts. I plan to put it into vacuum chamber to test its behaviour, glow evenness, brightness, breakdown voltage and so..
The mica sheets were cut by scissors, I plan to make a circular cutting knife and use a press to produce nice and even circle..
Hi all, the frequency of posting updates decreased significantly, but don’t be afraid, I am still working hard to produce real nixie tubes. I am building a garden shed now, I collected so many crazy stuff that I need more room again. I will post some photos of the garden shed later 😉
I am developing a layout for etching all the metal parts necessary for assembling a nixie tube, such as digits, anode grid and so. My plan is to make Z568M reproductions as I consider these tubes the most beatiful ones! I found that using a 0.1 mm thick stainless steel for all the parts is quite tricky, it is too thin and especially the anode tends to twist.. I will have to find a supplier of 0.3mm stainless steel sheet and I now this will be pretty hard here in Czech Republic.
There are some photos of the test assembly.. It turned out that I used wrong line thickness for the anode grid so it was etched out 🙁 There are also some other minor problems that will be fixed in next layout. The enclosure is pretty creased because I fold it in hand, I plan to use some bending tool for real production to achieve right angles and perfectly flat areas.
I would like to thank to etching company Etchworks.cz for their patience with me!
It has been some time since my last blog post, don’t be afraid, I am still working on nixie tube project! Around 2-3 hours a day in average. I am building a shed on the garden where I will place all the workshop. I hope it will be finished in one month.
I am also parallely working on the last parts of the whole nixie tube project. One of the most important things are the inner metal parts, I originally planned to etch them myself, but that project became so complicated that I try to outsource as many processes as I can (as I can afford 😉 ). So I found a great local company making etched parts for model makers, we agreed on a test etching and there are the results: