Nocrotec
Futura VFD Tube Clock

Designed by Dieter Wächter
last update and finished: November-02-2009

Watch the video about that clock:




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This clock-project bases on the VFD-tubes technology.

What are VFD-Tubes?
A vacuum fluorescent display (VFD) tube is a type of tube which consists of a hot cathode (filaments), anodes (phosphor) under a high vacuum condition in a glass envelope.
This clock uses tube types
DT-1704A, DT-1704C, DT-1705D or DT-1705E made by Tung-Sol in the early seventies. The cathode is made up of fine tungsten wires, coated by alkaline earth metal oxides, which emit electrons when heated by an electric current. If electrons impinge on the phosphor-coated plates, they fluoresce, emitting light to indicate the 7-segments used in this tubes. Electrons can only reach (and "illuminate") a given plate element if the plate is at a positive potential with respect to the cathode. They have no grid compared to other VFD displays.

Here, at my VFD-tube page you can find lots of pictures and descriptions of VFD tubes.

Here an example of the DT-1704B tubes:

Here you can find the details of that great looking tubes:

Bilder/
Pictures
Röhrentyp/
Tube Type
Hersteller/
Brand
Zeichen/
Symbols
ZH
mm
Sockel/
Base
Hinweise/
Remarks
DT-1704B Tung-Sol 7 Segment 14.5 B9A "Digivac" - Same as DT-1704C but without mica sheet
DT-1704C Tung-Sol 7 Segment 14.5 B9A "Digivac" - Same as DT-1704B but with mica sheet
DT-1705E Tung-Sol 7 Segment, PR 14.5 B9A++ "Digivac" - Same as DT-1704C but with right hand decimal point

You'll find all technical data about that tubes here at my Nixie Tube Data Archive.


Step 1: Designing the schematic

After studying the datasheets and some tests on the display I made some test circuits and finally came to this schematic:

As you can see a very simple design.
HV5812WG drivers, a step-down converter for the 1.5V power supply (filaments) and a step-up converter for the 27V anode supply.
Atmega, and finally the Dallas RTC (DS1337C ) which has an on-board crystal (I like that all-in-one chips)
I think there is nothing to explain in this schematic.


Step 2: Designing the board

Here the production steps:

ROUTING


TOP COPPER FINISH


BOTTOM COPPER FINISH


DRILLING


MASKING


ETCHING


PRINTING


HOT AIR LEVELLING




The board measures: 180x67mm


Step 3: Assembling the board

There were no difficulties with the schematic.
Everything worked fine, although it was the first prototype.

SMD-SOLDERING

THT SOLDERING



Step 4: Assembling the board with the tubes.

TUBES OFF


FIRST TESTRUN


Step 5: Designing the case

I made some designs and came to this one (3D-animation only)
It is the same as I used for my X2000 clock.

Here you see the result of the finished housing:



The clock at night:


Step 6: The coding

The features I put in:

  • 12/24h mode
  • Date in configuration DD.MM.YY or MM.DD.YY
  • Leading zero suppression: The leading zero can be blanked or shown
  • Cross fading: different modes to fade the digits from one number to the next
  • Alarm clock
  • Power Down Mode: tubes and supply can be totally switched off for a user programmed period in order to save energy and increase life expectancy of the tubes
  • Time is battery buffered when no line power is available; battery will last for more than 10 years
  • User settings are always stored

Watch the video about that clock:


Here you can download the user manual:
Manual Futura (English, German)

Interested in buying a Nocrotec Futura Clock?
click here!!


This Project is finished
Thanks for reading.


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