Love them or hate them, Nixies are here to stay. Their enduring appeal is due in no small part to the fact that they’re hardly plug-and-play; generating the high-voltage needed to drive the retro displays is part of their charm. But most Nixie power supplies seem to want 9 volts or more on the input side, which can make integrating them into the typical USB-powered microcontroller project difficult.
Fixing that problem is the idea behind [Mark Smith]’s 5-volt Nixie power supply. The overall goal is simple: 5 volts in, 170 volts out at 20 mA. But [Mark] paid special care to minimize the EMI output of the boost converter through careful design, and he managed to pack everything into a compact 14-cm² PCB. He subjected his initial design to a lot of careful experimentation to verify that he had met his design goals, and then embarked on a little tweaking mission in KiCad to trim the PCB’s footprint down by 27%. The three separate blog posts are well worth a read by anyone interested in learning about electronics design.
A few years ago, while managing the power management product line at work, I started an initiative with the development team to optimize new products by achieving ESE. ESE stands for Equations = Simulations = Experimentation. The idea is centered on the engineering goal of product design to verify that the systems design equations match the simulation results and ultimately the experimental results.
When these three items match, not only do you understand a system, but you have the best chance to optimize a better solution. I’ll have to say that in today’s mad dash to get new products out the door, achieving ESE is not always possible. But to break through the ordinary and have a chance for the extraordinary, I would say this is a requirement. Since this power supply is just a fun design for an upcoming nixie tube clock project of mine, I have the time to achieve ESE.
The updated schematic, BOM, Kicad Layout, and design files are located at Github:
surfncircuits has shared the board on OSH Park:
Here is a quick video showing six IN-4 Nixie tubes being powered by a 5v iPhone charger: