Panaplex Projects

Having discovered Nixie Tubes I have now turned into a complete addict of all things Nixie.

This led to the discovery of  Panaplex displays (which are also neon filled – like Nixie tubes) and the subsequent creation of  a few projects that make use of Panaplex displays produced by the likes of Sperry, Babcock, and Beckman.

It all started with SP-101’s that I stumbled across and made a 6 digit device with. Then I found the much smaller and compact SP-151, a complete clock in a single display solution.

Subsequent research threw up an array of devices, some of which can still be obtained – and so I embarked on a mission to make clocks with them.

Multi – Segment Neon

Using similar technology to Nixie Tubes, Panaplex displays iluminate one or more segments (most commonly in a 7 segment configuration though larger 15 segment displays were produced) to display numerical information.
A series of projects based on a common (mostly) controller have been designed and are now driving vintage displays showing the time, date, temperature and pressure data.
The devices connect to WiFi from where the time is set. An external sensor measures the temperature and air pressure.

The Clocks

3 Digits

The smallest member of the familiy using a single SP-151 Panaplex display

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4 Digits

Four digits plain and simple using SP-352 or SP-356 Panaplex displays and variants.

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6 Digits

Using two SP-353 or
three SP-352 or six
SP-101 Panaplex displays 

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8 Digits

Like the six digit
version but using
SP-352 or SP-356 displays

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9 Digits

When you want to display more, using SP-353 displays for nine digits

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15 Digits

When nothing less will do, display 15 digits using SP-353 Panaplex Displays

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3 digit info

This is based on the SP-151 Panaplex display which was designed as a dedicated clock display.
It features three ‘full’ digits and a single ‘1’ digit which means it has to be used as a 12hr clock. Fear not – there are also indicators for AM and PM. 
A Wemos microcontroller drives a single HV5622 driver which in turn illumintes the required segments to show the time as well as date/temperature and pressure information.

SP-151 based 3.5 digit display clock – a 12 hour clock with AM/PM indicators

Controller board for the 3.5 and 4 digit displays featuring the NCH8200HV power supply module from Omnixie,

SP-151 driver board, not all 32 bits are needed for the SP-151 display – hence the gaps

Display board for 3.5 digits SP-151

4 digit info

This  was designed initially around a pair of SP-352 two digit displays but works equally well using a single SP-356 four digit display.
Featuring a full four digits  it works well as a 24 hour clock. A Wemos microcontroller drives a single HV5622 driver which in turn illumintes the required segments to show the time as well as date/temperature and pressure information.

A completed four digit device based on SP-352 two digit displays or a single SP-356 display.

Driver board for SP-352 x 2 devices (Note the Silk Screen Blunder!) – based on SP-151 driver but with all 32 bits utilised

Display board for four digit displays

Controller board for the 3.5 and  4 digit displays featuring the NCH8200HV power supply module from Omnixie,

6 Digit info

This time, either three  SP-352 two digit displays or two SP-353 three digit displays combine to make a 6 digit device. A larger version was designed to drive six SP-101 displays which are larger single digit devices.
Multiple PCB’s stacking behind the displays  makes the best use of the available space and keeps the view from the front as small as possible.
Featuring a full six digits it works well as a 24 hour clock. A Wemos microcontroller drives a pair of HV5622 drivers which in turn illumintes the required segments to show the time as well as date/temperature and pressure information.
The decimal point positions are used as flashing ‘colons’/ The SP-101 displays include dedicated ‘colon’ dots scharacters.
Just arrived – a clock featuring an SP-151 display plus an SP-332 display for seconds.

A pair of SP-101 6 digit display devices  –  sometimes, only two will do!

Controller board for SP-101 Displays featuring the NCH6300HV power supply module from Omnixie,

SP-101 display board – small turned pin/sockets are used to form the sockets for the SP-101’s.
The back of the display board is where all the SMD series resistors for the display segments are kept.

A completed 6 digit device based on SP-353 three digit displays. 
The SP-3XX clocks are made up of separate boards for the controller, drivers and displays.

Generic controller for the SP-352, SP-353 and SP-365 based devices featuring the NCH8200HV power supply from Omnixie

Driver board for SP-353 x 2 and SP-352 x 3 devices

Display board for SP-353 x 2 to make a 6 digit device

Display board for SP-352 x 3 to make a 6 digit device

This clock combines an SP-151 display with an SP-332 for seconds
It is housed in one of my regular green-tiny acrylic cases with 3D printed corner parts and knurled copper coloured fixings

8 Digit info

This one uses either four SP-352 two digit displays or two SP-356 four digit displays to make an 8 digit device. There is now another version which drives four SP-332 displays which results in a lower profile clock.
Featuring a full eight digits it works well as a 24 hour clock. A Wemos microcontroller drives a pair of HV5522 drivers which in turn illuminte the required segments to show the time as well as date/temperature and pressure information.
This variant displays the time as ‘HH-MM-SS’ utilising segments of the 7 segment characters as flashing ‘colons’.
Using a different board for the displays it can also drive MG-17G or MG-17F (and similar) single digit displays.
A smaller variant using four SP-332 displays will soon be available.

An 8 digit device seen here with two SP-356 displays but it can also be used with four SP-352 displays

An 8 digit device seen here with ffour SP-332 displays

Driver board for 8 digit displays

Display board for eight digit displays using SP-352 or SP-356 Panaplex

Display board for eight digit displays using individual Elfin/Rodan Panaplex tubes

Either MG-17F displays in action – these tubes have a top and bottom DP, select which one you want to drive at build time by fitting a resistor in one of two positions.

9 Digit info

This is almost identical to the eight digit version but uses three SP-353 displays to present a total of 9 digits.
It works well as a 24 hour clock. A Wemos microcontroller drives three HV5522 drivers which in turn illuminte the required segments to show the time as well as date/temperature and pressure information.
This variant displays the time as ‘HH-MM-SS’ utilising segments of the 7 segment characters as flashing ‘colons’ and leaving one digit un-used in the time display.

SP-353 based nine digit display device

Driver board for nine digit displays

Display board for nine digit displays

12 Digit Info

A 12 digit Panaplex clock based on SP-333 panaplex displays. WIth 12 digits there is much to be done with the display of dates and weather information as well as a periodic scrolling message

The SP-333 Panaplex display has a digit height of 0.333″, each display has 3 digits, the clock uses 4 displays to make up the full 12 digits. The information display can be switched between imperial and metric units.

12 Digit Full Alpha Numeric Display

This clock uses SP-252 multi segment panaplex displays with #Smart Socket’ controllers (one per digit) to produce a full alpha numeric device capable of showing the time, date, temperature, pressure, relative humidity and 10 different scrolling messages of your choice.
There is a full Web Gui which allows the configuration of various items including time zone, clock on and off times as well as the 10 user definable message strings.
An optional PIR will wake the clock from sleep any time it is activated

I have a number of SP-252 displays on hand and can offer this as a kit of parts either with or without the displays. The Smart Socket boards come with most of the components already loaded as there are a lot of them and some are very small (0603 resistors). The kit comprises of the backplane board, 12 x Smart Socket boards and 6 x display boards which hold the SP-252 displays. Each SP-252 has two 14 segment digit displays plus the decimal point.

15 Digit info

Well, 15 digits, what on earth shall we display on this?
This one was a special request and features five SP-353 three digit displays to present a total of 15 digits which could be used to display all sorts of information such as – dual time zone or time + Date. Who knows – all ideas gleefully accepted.
A total of four HV5522 shift registers take their instruction from  a Wemos microcontroller and illuminate the required segments in order to display the chosen data.
This clock is now available along with a case featuring green tint acrylic and copper coloured corner parts and matching fixings. Use the contact form to find out more.

Fifteen digit display using five SP-353’s
SP-353 displays have a digit height of 0.5″

Driver board for fifteen digit displays

Display board for fifteen digit displays

It has been said ….

Here are a few comments from people who have built these projects already

I recently received a new Panaplex clock kit from Richard Scales based on the SP-151 and SP-332 panaplex displays. It’s about 4.5 inches wide and has a nice laser cut and 3D printed case.

The clock comes with all of the parts and the code is available in .ino format for customizing. This clock features a WEMOS processor and uses either a BMP or BME280 sensor, which is auto-sensed to choose the correct display for temp, pressure and humidity (or none at all).

The format of the display is selectable for US or Metric units and the date and time follow those settings for DD/MMM/YYYY or MMM/DD/YYYY display. It supports a PIR and over-the-air programming for making easy updates.

This clock matches some of the other Panaplex clock offerings from Richard, who provides great support! The start-up routine gives you the IP Address and tells you which sensor type and unit formatting is set. It is a fairly easy build and has SMD parts that do require a little familiarity with surface mount, but nothing too crazy. Highly recommended!

Jeff W.

“Delivery was very fast. Everything was well packed and complete.
For the setup – everything is described very well in the manual. You should also strictly adhere to the described order. The various construction steps are well described and illustrated. This kit should have the appropriate knowledge, skills and tools for soldering SMD. Especially U4 and U15 have to be soldered accordingly with caution and thoroughness.
If all the indications are taken into account, the setup succeeds very well. In case of problems, Richard helps quickly and competently.
The construction of the printed circuit boards is well thought out, making it very space-saving. Richard has found and implemented good solutions. The SP353 indicators are connected to the printed circuit board via plug-in contacts. This makes it possible to easily replace the display if the display is defective.
All in all a very good kit, which leads quickly to success with appropriate skills in construction and thoroughness.
Thank you Richard for your good work !

Wolfgang T.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to offer both my compliments and thanks in regards to your new SP352 wifi clock kit. Well done, sir.
The build took me several evenings, working at my own pace. I found the quality of the boards and component selection to be top notch, and the assembly guide very comprehensive. Well above what I expected.
I was a bit apprehensive when it came to mounting the SMT components, as I don’t typically work with them, but patience and a good set of watchmaker tweezers won the day. And good flux. Good flux was a must.
At this point I have the clock up and running. I’ve made a few minor code changes for timezone, and converted data from the bmp280 sensor to imperial units, but I’ve otherwise left it as found.
I haven’t decided on a case. I’ll send you a few pictures once I’ve worked that out. I had intended to repurpose a case from a broken Heathkit GC-1107, but as luck would have it I was recently able to fix that clock.
Thank you again for your assistance and words of encouragement while I was finalizing the build. Very much appreciated.”

Paul W

“Lieferung erfolgte sehr schnell. Alles war gut verpackt und vollständig.
Zum Aufbau – in der Anleitung ist alles sehr gut beschrieben. Man sollte sich auch strikt an die beschriebene Reihenfolge halten. Die verschiedenen Aufbauschritte sind gut beschrieben und bebildert. Man sollte bei diesem Bausatz entsprechende Kenntnisse, Fertigkeiten und Werkzeuge zum Löten von SMD besitzen. Besonders U4 und U15 sind dort entsprechend mit Vorsicht und Gründlichkeit zu löten.
Bei Beachtung aller Hinweise gelingt der Aufbau sehr gut. Bei Problemen hilft Richard schnell und kompetent.
Die Konstruktion der Leiterplatten ist gut durchdacht , damit sehr platzsparend. Richard hat gute Lösungen gefunden und verwirklicht. Die Anzeigen SP353 werden über Steckkontakte mit der Leiterplatte verbunden. Damit ist ein leichter Austausch bei defekter Anzeige möglich.
Alles in allem ein sehr guter Bausatz , der bei entsprechenden Fähigkeiten im Aufbau und Gründlichkeit schnell zum Erfolg führt.
Danke Richard für deine gute Arbeit!”

Wolfgang T.

“My SP-353 (MG-17G) clock 

Soon after I got my hands on some beautiful MG-17G tubes, I began contemplating how I would get them up and running.

Alas!- Richard had exactly what I needed!
He originally designed the clock to run SP-353s, but he developed a display board compatible with MG-17F (being similar pin out to the MG-17G).

Richard aided me greatly by taking care of the SMD components, and even was happy to change the Wemos coding to my liking.

The clock is running United States’ commonly used units- Fahrenheit for Temp, Inches Hg for pressure, etc..
Overall, this experience was a real treat, and Richard is a happy soldier for working out any kinks necessary.

This clock is wonderful.
Thanks Richard for all the help!”

Stephen M.

Say Hello

Do you have some Panaplex displays that you would like to use?
Perhaps  you would like to build one of these clocks?
Are you looking for a kit?