Open-Source Board for VFD/Nixie Alarm Clock

Hello - I am working on a design for an open-source hardware project to produce an Alarm Clock kit that could drive VFD (Vacuum-Fluorescent) displays or Nixie tubes.

There has been a great deal of activity in recent years with individual developers making clocks that drive Nixie or VFD tubes, with an amazing variety of designs and tube types.

Case in point: http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&q=vfd+nixie+clock

Products such as the Arduinix Shield ( http://arduinix.com/ ) fill a need for developers who want to drive exotic displays from an Arduino.

Would anyone here be interested in an all-in-one kit that had all of the required components to support a variety of clock designs with a variety of hardware requirements?

Here is a wish list of requirements. I am currently working on a schematic. Let me know what you think:

Basic requirements: ? Based on ATMega168 (Possibly Arduino bootloader) ? Programmable by ISP or USB ? Accurate clock circuit based on DS1307 http://www.maxim-ic.com/quick_view2.cfm/qv_pk/2688 ? On-board Piezo when no external alarm is used ? Can drive a variety of both Vacuum-Fluorescent or Nixie Tubes (may want a separate module for VFD/Nixie support)

PSU: ? 12v input ? 5 VDC for uC ? adjustable 6-12 VDC for electromechanical alarm actuator (solenoid) ? adjustable 1-5 VAC for VFD filament (required to drive larger VFDs may need filament driver chip) ? adjustable 15-180 VDC for VFD or Nixie grid/anodes ? 8 user interface inputs: buttons, sensors, rotary encoder, etc...

I/O: ? 2 user interface outputs (LED indicators, alarm, etc...) ? 0-12v external alarm output (to drive solenoid, etc) ? 40 High-Voltage display outputs: (can be multiplexed to drive up to 200 elements in a 20x20 configuration)

Nice to have / Future incarnations: ? 12v Battery backup for up to 24hrs - includes charging circuit and auto switching in event of power failure ? Motion (or proximity) sensor to control fade-in / fade out of display to save power ? GPS interface for automatic time (and time zone) setting ? Ethernet / WiFi interface ? Automatically download alerts (E-mail, Twitter, facebook, Google Calendar, etc...) ? iPod support ? 120V switchable outlet (turn a light on instead of alarm)

Sounds like an interesting project.

DS107?

Motion (or proximity) sensor to control fade-in / fade out of display to save power

The nice thing about the VFDs is their high visibility: you can see them from meters. You may not want to dim them when you are away from them.

GPS interface for automatic time (and time zone) setting

May not work inside the dwelling.

? adjustable 15-180 VDC for VFD or Nixie grid/anodes

that sounds like a significant challenge. Also, don't the drivers tend to be different? (Nixies tend to be common anode with high voltage (100+V) OC drivers to ground (7441), and I thought VFDs tended to be common cathodes driven by a moderate voltage (20-60V) current source...)

Yeah I am not sure if it will be so easy to make one board that supports VFD+Nixies, as they both have different voltage requirements, and they tend to use different driver chips.

Apparently the arduinix http://arduinix.com can do this somehow. They use the SN74141 driver which is typically for VFDs but they describe an option to increase the value of a capacitor to lower the voltage for using with VFDs. I haven't seen any examples of their kit with VFDs tho.

It might be better to have two versions of the board - one for VFDs and one for Nixies.

DS107?

That was a typo - sorry - it's the DS1307 RTC chip I was talking about:

http://www.maxim-ic.com/quick_view2.cfm/qv_pk/2688

The nice thing about the VFDs is their high visibility: you can see them from meters. You may not want to dim them when you are away from them.

True - The idea is to have a board that can support a variety of inputs an outputs so people can customize and use their own enclosure and components... For a bedside alarm clock, I would love to have a clock that did not glare in my face at night, and I could just wave my hand to see the time.