Archive for March 2011
According to the ArduiNIX website, the “ArduiNIX shield is a user programmable platform for driving multiplexed Nixie tube or other high voltage displays.” I bought the ArduiNIX shield after I read about Nixie tubes and wanted to try them out. Nixie tubes are old-school tube based character displays that require voltages in the range of 150-200V to run. The ArduiNIX board has an on-board SMPS power supply that generates these voltages and it has the correct interface to drive Nixie tubes from a Arduino board. However, in my case I’m using a Netduino board to do the driving.
The ArduiNIX is open source – the CAD layout files for the board and parts list are available on the site. In addition, there is a forum where users can ask questions and discuss issues.
Once you consider the cost of acquiring all the parts and putting them together, the prices in their store are reasonable. You can buy a complete kit for $45 including shipping. The kit doesn’t include the NIXIE tubes. This seems reasonable because a user may want to use a different type of tube than the one they supply. You can get a fully assembled board for $94. Based on the ease of assembly, I think that purchasing a fully assembled board is not worth the price.
Assembling the board took me about 2 hours and is straightforward. They have a excellent step-by-step tutorial on their site. All the parts are through-hole and are marked clearly on the PCB. Since there are many different value resistors, double check the resistances and be careful when soldering them into the board because it is easy to get them confused.
Using the board is straightforward. You write your code, plug it into your Arduino or Netduino, and apply power.
Looking at the layout of the ArduiNIX I see some definite areas for improvement. Based on the Nixie supply design and analysis posted on Nick Smith’s website, the ground plane is run under the switching supply inductor which causes energy loss. In addition, the ArduiNIX design uses very small traces. This does not provide the necessary low impedance paths between components. Despite these drawbacks, the ArduiNIX works well and is able to adequately power the IN-17 nixie tubes for which it was designed.