A Lixie is an edge-lit acrylic display that’s essentially an LED-based alternative to a Nixie tube.
It’s no secret that I love retro technology in general and the Steampunk genre in particular. One of the things I really like is Nixie tube displays, such as the Steampunk-inspired implementations that were hand-crafted by Dalibor Farny for my Nixie tube clock project (see Outrageously Awesome Nixie Tube Clocks).
Sad to say, there are several problems associated with working with Nixie tubes, not least that the big, tasty ones are eye-wateringly expensive. There’s also the fact that you need to generate 170 V to power them, plus you have to be aware of weird and wonderful potential pitfalls like cathode poisoning.
Did you see my column about my chum Guido Bonelli’s Glowscenes project (see Nature Meets Technology in Light-Sculpture)? This project features layers of acrylic that have been etched with different designs. Tri-colored LEDs are used to individually illuminate the layers, which causes the etched areas to light up.
The reason I’m waffling on about this here is that Guido’s project reminded me of something called a Lixie that I saw some time ago. Created by Conner Nishijima, a Lixie is an edge-lit acrylic display that’s essentially an LED-based alternative to a Nixie tube.
These little beauties really do look rather tasty. I can imagine myself using them in all sorts of projects. Seriously, I think just having a row of them displaying random numbers would be attention-grabbing, and I know myself well enough to be confident that I wouldn’t stop at a single row.
I think that these displays are something I could have fun building for myself, but I’m wondering how one would go about etching the acrylic. In order to ensure repeatability, you’d need a small CNC mill or perhaps a CNC laser. I remember someone mentioning to me that they’d recently seen a CNC laser going for around $400, but I can’t remember who told me or anything about it. If you’ve heard of anything like this, can you post a comment below? I’d also be interested to hear whether you are as enthused by these displays as I am.