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 Post subject: Digital Steampunk Commander Life Counter
AgePosted: 2017-Dec-09 6:52 am 

Joined: 2012-Oct-14 7:51 pm
Age: Wyvern
We're making three of these to keep my Master Woodworker friend Pat from going starkers while his arm heals from surgery.

The displays are nixie tubes. Much of the stuff can be had at Michaels'.

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[imghttps://od.lk/s/125406493_rOvIe/nn3%20small.png][/img]
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We've got the 'power on' light and some trim to finish, and they will be done.

Here is the display as it looks when turned on.

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And here it is, in context with a play mat and Magic cards (the abacus life counter is mine)

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Let us know what you think!

Cent13


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 Post subject: Re: Digital Steampunk Commander Life Counter
AgePosted: 2017-Dec-09 12:19 pm 

Joined: 2014-Sep-13 7:28 am
Age: Elder Dragon
That's awesome! I can't imagine moving it around though


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 Post subject: Re: Digital Steampunk Commander Life Counter
AgePosted: 2017-Dec-09 1:22 pm 

Joined: 2012-Oct-14 7:51 pm
Age: Wyvern
It's pretty easy, actually. Depends on whether you cart your stuff around in a backpack (as my son does). My son prefers the small abacus-style because it can be tossed into the backpack with his other stuff.

Me, I have a dedicated wood box with a handle to protect everything. I upgrade everything as time goes on - foil out my deck little by little, invest in smaller, easier-to-use tokens, etc. It's all about increasing the pleasure of the format during that one day of the week I get to play.

As you can see, it's not that big and there is nothing fragile to get broken off on the outside.

I guess it all depends on what you want from the game!


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 Post subject: Re: Digital Steampunk Commander Life Counter
AgePosted: 2017-Dec-10 1:30 pm 
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Joined: 2010-Jan-25 4:50 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Looks awesome! How much space is there inside? Could you cut a panel out to store dice?

_________________
Kuro, Pitlord (Life gain)
Derevi (Manlands)
Marchesa (Modular)
Tajic (Indestructible)
Retired:
Animar (Morph)
Karona the False God (Lets Play a Quick Game)
Jenara, Asura of War (Lands Matter)
Krenko, Mob Boss (Goblins)
Zedruu the Christmas Goat (group hug)
Ramses Overdark (Assassin Deck)


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 Post subject: Re: Digital Steampunk Commander Life Counter
AgePosted: 2017-Dec-10 1:58 pm 

Joined: 2012-Oct-14 7:51 pm
Age: Wyvern
Well, there really isn't that much room inside, to be honest.

You've got three rotary switches, a 3x AA battery pack, a small circuitboard that takes 4.5v and turns it into the 170v you need to drive the nixies, and an on/off pushbutton switch.

The walls of this box are 1/4"" thick! It leaves 4.25" x 2.125" x 2" inside.

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Sorry, no room for dice! It was all I could do to purchase a stock $3 box from Michaels and work from there. If we custom-built the base box (as we did with the rest of it), we'd certainly be able to have room for something - but as it stands, I am happy we can get off-the-shelf items to fit nicely.


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 Post subject: Re: Digital Steampunk Commander Life Counter
AgePosted: 2017-Dec-11 2:17 am 
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Joined: 2010-Jan-25 4:50 pm
Age: Elder Dragon
Ahh I see, I forgot to consider the battery pack when i was imagining the inside. Very impressive, i like the hood you added to shade the numbers, lots of good small details along with the main function.

_________________
Kuro, Pitlord (Life gain)
Derevi (Manlands)
Marchesa (Modular)
Tajic (Indestructible)
Retired:
Animar (Morph)
Karona the False God (Lets Play a Quick Game)
Jenara, Asura of War (Lands Matter)
Krenko, Mob Boss (Goblins)
Zedruu the Christmas Goat (group hug)
Ramses Overdark (Assassin Deck)


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 Post subject: Re: Digital Steampunk Commander Life Counter
AgePosted: 2017-Dec-11 2:50 am 

Joined: 2012-Oct-14 7:51 pm
Age: Wyvern
Bruticus wrote:
Ahh I see, I forgot to consider the battery pack when i was imagining the inside. Very impressive, i like the hood you added to shade the numbers, lots of good small details along with the main function.


Thank you. Yes, the battery pack. We went with 2x AA (3 volts) until it was clear that there wasn't enough current available to drive three Nixie tubes at a reasonable brightness. That little voltage converter circuit turns current into voltage - turning 3 volts into 170 volts takes quite a bit of current.

So we jumped to a 4x AA pack, but 6 volts was too much. If you overdrive the Nixies, they get what is called 'cathode poisoning'. We put a blank in to replace an AA battery (made from a piece of balsa the length of an AA battery, wrapped in aluminum foil) and cut it down to 4.5v. It worked well, but the pack was still kind of bulky.

Now we're using a 3x AA pack. Yes, using AAA batteries would have saved space, but they don't provide enough current. The ideal supply is two C-cell batteries - 3 volts, but about eight times the current capacity of an AAA battery, and four times that of an AA battery. Too bad there just isn't room.

You're maybe not going to believe this, but the leather hood is something I literally dreamed up, after we had done just about everything we planned to do. Woke up in the middle of the night, thought of the glare from the overhead lights on the nixie tubes, and it just kinda went from there.

I gotta say, Michaels is one of the best places for getting parts for projects of this kind. Sure, I had to order some stuff online. But I can get gears and everything here. Hobby Lobby is even better, because it's essentially a Michaels and a local hobby shop combined, only it's the size of a K-Mart.


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 Post subject: Re: Digital Steampunk Commander Life Counter
AgePosted: 2017-Dec-12 1:45 pm 

Joined: 2012-Oct-14 7:51 pm
Age: Wyvern
And the first unit is done! Final coated, batteries inserted. No idea how long they will last.

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 Post subject: Re: Digital Steampunk Commander Life Counter
AgePosted: 2017-Dec-16 6:31 am 

Joined: 2012-Oct-14 7:51 pm
Age: Wyvern
For those of you who would like to see a video of this device:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1YzCQ8xz90

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkuyZxM_EyE

Thanks for watching!


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 Post subject: Re: Digital Steampunk Commander Life Counter
AgePosted: 2017-Dec-25 4:06 am 
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Joined: 2013-Oct-26 9:21 am
Age: Dragon
Location: Xenia, OH, USA
You had me at nixie tubes.


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 Post subject: Re: Digital Steampunk Commander Life Counter
AgePosted: 2017-Dec-25 8:23 am 

Joined: 2012-Oct-14 7:51 pm
Age: Wyvern
tgambitg wrote:
You had me at nixie tubes.


:lol:

Yeah, me too.

You know, it's not as easy to use nixie tubes as I thought. Simply connecting them to a 180 volt source is not enough. They consume too much current and eat the batteries in about an hour and a half.

We've designed a strobe circuit that will flicker the tubes on and off about 70 times a second. That will reduce the power consumption by quite a bit!

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This project has demonstrated how much I relied on the local Radio Shack for support on these types of projects. I miss them very much.


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 Post subject: Re: Digital Steampunk Commander Life Counter
AgePosted: 2017-Dec-30 7:02 pm 

Joined: 2012-Oct-14 7:51 pm
Age: Wyvern
Well, our strobing circuit worked well. We made some changes to the values of the resistors, added a diode and got a cycling rate where the display is only on 30% of the time, at 70 cycles per second.

The battery pack was bumped up to 6 volts and the unit now runs for 6+ hours!

I have completed the other two strobe circuits and tomorrow I install all the electronics in the other two units. I will have to change the current limiting resistor for the 'power on' LED, though. It is too bright as it is, right now.


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 Post subject: Re: Digital Steampunk Commander Life Counter
AgePosted: 2018-Jan-06 4:51 pm 

Joined: 2012-Oct-14 7:51 pm
Age: Wyvern
One more note to add...

I purchased two different 'Nixie Tube Driver' voltage converter circuits from Ebay.

The first voltage converter was tiny, with everything packed together. It was hard to solder the wires onto the pads provided: because the components were so close together, I accidentally connected the pad I was working on, to the large SMD capacitor next to it!

After fixing that, I installed the unit. It operates on a voltage range of 2.5 volts to 5.5 volts, with a maximum of 15 volts. I am using a 6 volt battery pack, so that's fine.

The second type of circuit board was just a bit larger, but was a lot easier to solder with the tip I was using. However, this one works on a range of 4.5 volts to 12 volts. Still not a problem.

However... the unit using the second, more solder-friendly voltage converter started to fail after about five hours of use. The display would slowly flash on and off.

We finally figured that the 6 volt battery supply, after five hours, was dropping below the 4.5 volt limit. I put in fresh batteries, but would really like to switch the power supplies out (I have a spare tiny version). I will check with my buddy, but he doesn't seem to have any problem with just replacing the batteries when they drop that low.

Edit: also added a 10k ohm resistor in series with each tube to prevent their drawing too much current and burning out prematurely. I updated the schematic for the strobing circuit to reflect this.

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