This guide updates the Nixe tube from steam-punk to cyber-punk with LEDs and acrylic sheets. From Make:
The working principle of the Nixie replica is simple, but effective: Ten transparent plates made out of extruded acrylic sheet (polymethyl methacrylate or PMMA, also known as Lucite, perspex, or plexiglass) are engraved with the numerals 0 to 9. Stacked on top of one another, each plate is illuminated from the edge using multicolor LEDs. Due to the internal refraction of light within the acrylic plate, only the numeral that’s selected will actually light up, while the plates’ surfaces, and all the other numerals in the stack, will remain transparent and colorless.
We didn’t come up with this idea — we’ve seen it demonstrated at Maker Faires in the U.S. and Europe. Connor Nishijima, a maker in Utah, coined the name “Lixie” for his projects, inspiring many other makers.
Building an LED Nixie
The light from the LEDs on the circuit board shines into the tabs on the acrylic plate, which is engraved with a numeral. The foam mask on the board prevents the light from radiating sideways and straying into adjacent plates.
Because the light enters the acrylic from the edge, total internal reflection occurs, and the acrylic behaves like a light pipe. The light’s path is broken only at the engraved lines (and at the edges of the plate) so that only these spots light up — and the digit shines.
We are angry, frustrated, and in pain because of the violence and murder of Black people by the police because of racism. We are in the fight AGAINST RACISM. George Floyd was murdered, his life stolen. The Adafruit teams have specific actions we’ve done, are doing, and will do together as a company and culture. We are asking the Adafruit community to get involved and share what you are doing. The Adafruit teams will not settle for a hash tag, a Tweet, or an icon change. We will work on real change, and that requires real action and real work together. That is what we will do each day, each month, each year – we will hold ourselves accountable and publish our collective efforts, partnerships, activism, donations, openly and publicly. Updates to this page will happen frequently. Our blog and social media platforms will be utilized in actionable ways. Specific actions each week noted and shared as part of our all-company “State of the Fruit” notes and all-company meeting. Join us and the anti-racist efforts working to end police brutality, reform the criminal justice system, and dismantle the many other forms of systemic racism at work in this country adafruit.com/blacklivesmatter
Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.