VFD Tube Shield for Arduino Uno Displays Data with a Vintage Style
Previously we wrote about how you could add a retro glow to a badge using a VFD tube. (In fact, VFD projects are quite popular on Hackster!) These tubes combine the vintage look of a Soviet-era Nixie tube with the more modern 7-segment LED display.
The most common application for these tubes is a clock. With the VFD shield from Kiril Kirov, you can make your own clock or add them to any Arduino-based project that benefits from a gorgeous display of numbers.
You could view Kirov's shield as an educational kit. In line with an education project, step one is to gather the "kit's" components. The simplified circuit design and parts list contain discrete commodity components.
This choice means the circuit may not be optimal from a design perspective, but it means not having to source difficult to find parts.
Even the VFDs are, relatively, easy to locate — especially compared to Nixies. The shield makes use of IV-3, IV-3a, or IV-6 style VFD tubes.
Unlike a Nixie tube, these elements do not require 100 volts to operate. Yet, 5 volts is not enough either. They work at about 30 volts. In this design, a 12 volt supply and a CMOS 555 timer circuit generates that voltage.
Assembling the VFD shield only needs fundamental electronics tools: a small-tip soldering iron and some wire cutters. All of the components are through-hole, which is usually more comfortable for people new to soldering.
Kirov took the time to explain how to assemble the shield's PCB in the step-by-step write-up. He does recommend that you have some experience with soldering before attempting the kit.
There are also several Arduino code examples to cover a couple of use odels. In addition to displaying time with a real-time clock (RTC), there is an example of using an ESP8266 for Internet time. Another example shows how to display temperature from a 1-wire temperature display.
For the PCB, unfortunately, the Gerber files for the PCBs are only available if you have a PCBWay account. On the plus side, by hosting the files there, you can order a copy of the board directly from PCBWay.
To add the retro glow to your Arduino project, head over to the VFD Shield's Instructables page. It has the parts list, link to order the PCB, multiple Arduino code examples, CAD files for the laser cut enclosure, and very detailed assembly instructions.