Laser-cut Nixie Tube Geiger Counter

An amazing result from the Ponoko + Ogi Lumen + Bildr competition

Late last year Ponoko and Ogi Lumen sponsored a design competition for the wonderful community. The prize was a set of nixie tubes and a Personal Factory voucher for laser-cutting.

Instructables user moustachenator won the prize and put it to good use, building this exquisite Gieger counter. He’s documented the build process with loving detail so you too can build your own retro-futuristic radiation detector just in time for the apocalypse.


Up-valuing the disused and the discarded

Recently, I had a stall at a local market, where I was selling my jewellery.  The day was long, the crowds were small, and there was lots of time to kill.  Of course, I got chatting to my stallholder neighbour Dael who makes carry bags and purses from used plastic bread bags.  Appropriately, her stall is titled “breadbags”.  The idea is amazing!  She collects plastic bread bags from various brands of bread, cuts them into sheets and fuses them together in four layers to create a durable multi-coloured surface.  These are then sewn to make practical and long-lasting carry bags of various sizes.  I’m kicking myself for not taking photos of these.

Interestingly, Dael called her popular bags “recycled”, which I believe, completely undermines her design intent.  Recycling is essentially downcycling, in most cases.  It is taking something that had value and fabricating it into something of lesser value, using a lot of energy in the process.  Recycling implies devaluing.  “Breadbags” have more value than “bread bags”, so they are upcycled products.

The lifespan of a bread bag is negligible.  It’s a short trip from the bakery to the landfill, via the supermarket and your pantry.  I reuse bread bags for carrying lunches, etc, until they get grubby and find themselves in confines of a rubbish bin next to all the fragrant chicken skins, filthy clingwrap and all the other torn up, squashed packaging that cannot be recycled.  Ok, so in my house the life of a bread bag is a few weeks instead of a few days. It hardly makes a difference.


Follow This!

The Story of twitter-follower-counter Twixie

Recently we wrote about a nixie tube + laser cutting competition that came about from a fascinating design project by Adam Meyer of bildr.  Now you get to find out about the designer and his quest to create a nixie-tube twitter-follower-counter for his electronics DIY site.

As a keen DIY electronics user, Adam had been purchasing from SparkFun for about two year before he came across a link to Ponoko on SparkFun blog.  The thought of combining electronics with laser cut parts gave Adam an idea for a design competition that would draw more followers to his site tweets.


What Would You Do with Laser Cutting and Nixie Tubes?

design competition from

Ponoko and Ogi Lumen are sponsoring Bildr’s latest competition. The challenge is to design something with nixie tubes and laser cutting.

Don’t know what a nixie tube is? Here’s a little background from Bildr:

“For those who do not know, the nixie tube (pictured above) was a precursor to the 7-segment LED display. But instead of simplifying things and making all numbers come from a series of seven lines, its creators wanted real typography, and not the stuff you could get with 2.5 volts, the kind that only a 170 volt neon tube could bring you. This is the nixie tube, a 170 volt neon tube where each number has its own cathode, which are all stacked on top of each other. So, 11 connections. You connect two, and the number 3 lights up, another two, and it lights up the number 9.”

And for those who aren’t familiar with Bildr, they’re a new online community “for artists, designers, makers, builders, or anyone interested in the world of electronics and code.” They opened their virtual doors just last month and are running a few promotions to spread the word about the new site.

Entries are open until 22 November, and the person with the best idea will get:

Two (2) Ogi Lumen Nixie Duo and Nixie Driver Kits (tubes, controller boards, everything you need to connect to the Arduino (assembly required))
One (1) nixie power supply
$50 to Ponoko for materials and laser cutting

“If you have an idea, send us an email at, and let us know what it is. Also, let us know that you know how to make it happen and are comfortable working with a high power system. 170v isn’t a joke, and we want this to go to someone who will actually be able to put it together.Also, note that Ponoko is not available in all areas, and shipping is really expensive to some places, so location may play a small part in our decision.”

To get an idea of what you can make using nixie tubes, take a look at Bildr’s twixie — a wonderful little twitter  follower counter. (And interact with it yourself by following Bildr!)

Click HERE for complete details on the competition.