The Lixies arrived in a couple of weeks which was pretty good to get them all the way to the UK. I had them up and running in no time with an ESP8266 - although I needed to step up the data voltage to 5V with a logic level converter which I got from Sparkfun. One had arrived damaged but Connor was happy to send me a replacement after I'd sent back the original (and he kindly included a Wemos D1 Mini too).
Now I have all six working, they look absolutely fantastic.
As other reviewers have mentioned, they are quite delicate so I am keen to make some sort of case to protect; and that's going to be the only hard bit!
THIS REVIEW WAS FOR THE ORIGINAL LIXIE, NOT THE "NEW LIXIE II" I have no idea why the title was changed to LixieII.
I ordered 6 of these and will probably use them to build a clock. They arrived here (USA) in 8 days, which I consider decent for something that's probably built to order. They were packaged quite well and were not damaged in transit.
Build quality is great. I didn't have any of the quality issues that some earlier reviewers experienced. The units are inherently somewhat fragile but nothing was falling apart or misaligned or anything. All acrylic parts are clean and clear, no film remnants at all, no finger prints, no dust.
I got all 6 hooked up to an Uno and running some test routines in less than 30 minutes. Couldn't be any simpler: daisy chain power and ground to all units, run the data line into the first one, then chain Data Out (DO) to next unit's Data In (DI) all down the line. Load up some code in the Uno and everything just works. Others have reported problems with certain color LEDs not lighting on some digits, I had no such problems. All LEDs on all digits of all units look healthy.
The library documentation is pretty minimal and leaves you to make assumptions. I've already had to go into the source a couple times for clarification on how things work, which might make non-programmers rather unhappy. For example, filling the display with zeroes ("000000") doesn't work the way you might think it would.
I will nitpick one small thing: some of the nuts on the machine screws that hold the displays together were loose out of the box. Probably vibrated loose in transit. It's not a big deal to tighten them back up but this could have been avoided by putting star washers under the nuts at a cost of about $0.10 per display.
PS - it forced me to rate Communication even though I've had no need to communicate with the seller. So I don't know if he deserves the 5 stars I gave him or not.
There's a reason these Lixies are are often sold out...because they bring a cool, unique element to any project. So when they came back in stock, I jumped at my chance. Connor shipped my order very quickly, unfortunately the USPS lost the package in transit. When the tracking number showed the package had stalled out, communication was a bit of a challenge to attempt to resolve the issue. However, once both Connor and myself were on the same page, we both sought a resolution which would satisfy both parties. In the end, Connor shipped me four new Lixies for my project and they arrived without problems and well packaged.
There are several versions of edge lit acrylic numbers on the market, but Connor's Lixie, I felt, was the best executed for my purpose. It provides such a wide opportunity to customize what information they display and the Lixies don't limit you to ONLY timekeeping. For those consumer's who believe the Lixies are "too expensive" consider the research, development, time, testing, programming, etc that Connor has been through to bring this working, ready-made product to market. While he has made these items "open source", he's earned the patronage you give him by purchasing a Lixie. Additionally, he has continued to try to produce them less expensive. If you've picked up on his post, Connor was able to optimize the toolpaths used to create the Lixie parts which costs less to make without sacrificing quality...and has passed the savings on to the customer. That's not just marketing, that's commitment to the product and customer.
I haven't been able to set up the Lixies in my project yet to confirm they all work but based on the videos posted on Youtube, these will bring a cool factor that I couldn't have achieved elsewhere. Overall, once Connor and I synced up on the shipping issue, we drove to a satisfactory resolution and I have been very pleased with the transaction. My Lixies are patiently waiting for me to build them a base and if/when I'm ever in the market for a Lixie again, I won't hesitate to purchase from Connor again.
I've purchased eight displays for two four-digit clocks. Two of the eight don't pass a signal out of the display, and of those some digits only light one LED instead of two. On another display one LED for the "2" doesn't show green or blue, only the red works. I disassembled the worst-performing display and managed to get it working again by re-heating a few solder joints. It was a chore to get it re-assembled, Connor must have some sort of jig to make it easy.
I've ordered another display as a replacement in case my repair doesn't hold up. I do like the looks of the displays. My clocks came out beautifully.
The replacement arrived. One LED on the "9" doesn't show green, only the red and blue work.
As a big fan of Nixie tubes, Connor's Lixie tubes are a wonderful replacement - and they can do so much more! They are significantly easier to use and incorporate into your DIY projects - and look so unique.
I've used mine to create a 6-digit clock display, but plan on more projects soon. I've used a NodeMCU ESP8266 microcontroller connected directly to the Lixie displays without a 3.3V to 5V level shifter. The Lixies are still powered over the 5V rail and I have not encountered any problems so far. Connor's Lixie software library is straightforward to use and provides a whole bunch of features and transitions to make your displays look very pretty (pictures and videos don't really do it justice) . I've added a few of my own effects for my clock display, if anybody is interested have a look at https://github.com/naushir/Lixie-arduino.
Shipment was straightforward - I got my panels around 2 weeks after ordering (international delivery). So thanks for the great service and wonderful product!
I really like my Lixie displays! I had a bit of a time getting them working with the Particle Photon, but that was to be expected as there isn't official support for them in the Particle ecosystem, and the version of FastLED that is available in the Particle IDE is a bit older than the one the Lixie library is built against. If anyone is interested in using their Lixies with the Photon, you can reference what I had to do to get them working here: https://community.particle.io/t/lixie-arduino-library-build-problems/41162/23
I noticed that all four of my displays had some residue on the 7's. A small microfiber cloth intended for cleaning glasses did the trick. It was thin enough to fit in between the panels without me having to take anything apart. Other than that there were no issues.
None of my displays came with capacitors, however the board has a spot for them. I assume they are optional (perhaps for setups larger than 4) because mine are working just fine, but I wasn't able to find anything in the getting started guide that explicitly states whether or not they should be there on arrival. Perhaps this is something that could be added?
I love the look they provide, it's unlike any other type of digital display and I've already gotten lots of comments on them. I intend to spend the weekend building a base for them out of LEGO. This would probably be cost prohibitive for most people looking for base building options, but I have plenty of raw material at my disposal. Ha.
Big shoutout to Connor for making such an awesome product. Thanks!!
I'm glad you love them James! Sorry about the 7's, the protective sheet on the acrylic before cutting this time left a slight film on that digit. I've let the supplier know about this. The C1 1000uF capacitors stopped being included on each board during the switch to black MDF wood in February, as having 6000uF in a 6 digit chain (clocks, for example) is a little overkill. ;)
However, I do still include a single 1000uF capacitor in one of the sub-cartons of each order. If you did not receive one or have misplaced it, I'd be happy to mail another. It doesn't effect the usage of the displays, just helps protect it from dips in the power supply, potentially extending it's lifespan.
DigiKey sells the C1 capacitor for $0.30 in single quantity, and they're quite fast in case you wanted one super quick. :) https://www.digikey.com/product-detail/en/nichicon/UVR0J102MPD1TA/493-5895-1-ND/3438456
These displays really are amazing. They look like big Nixie digits but at a fraction of the cost. The pictures and videos don't do them justice. You have to see the real thing to know how impressive they are. The build quality is good. They are somewhat fragile and prone to showing fingerprints, but so are Nixie tubes.
They are quite easy to use, but you need an Arduino or a similar microcontroller to run them. You also need a way to attach wires to the 3-pin male headers on the Lixie circuit boards. I made some short 3-wire cables terminated with standard 3-pin female .1" pitch header connectors.
I got the last three Lixies from a recent batch. I have a really neat multi-color counter running, but I need six to make a clock. I am currently waiting for the next batch to be available so I can order three more.
A way to pre-order for the next production run would be nice.
Update December 14, 2017:
I got the other three Lixies I needed to make a clock. I missed getting them from the batch following my first order but managed to order fast enough to get them from the next batch. I have the clock running with the Lixies mounted on a wooden base I made using an African hardwood called padauk. Here's the URL for a Photobucket album with some pictures: http://s1294.photobucket.com/user/mitchmarkin/library/Lixie%20Clock It's not quite finished. The microcontroller and some switches are still mounted on a prototype board. And, yes, Lixies are difficult to photograph!
Making Lixies look good isn't very hard. They look good on their own. But as Connor said, they are parts of a project, not the finished product. They need some sort of base to mount them on and a microcontroller to drive them. You don't need to be an electronics genius to use Lixies. A bit of electronics experience is helpful, though, at least knowing how to plug jumpers onto connectors on circuit boards. You should also know a bit about loading programs onto an Arduino or an ESP8266 module. These are the "brains" of any project you want to make with Lixies.
The code for several projects, including an NTP clock, is supplied in the Software link near the bottom of the Description page. So is the C++ Lixie Library that makes displaying numbers easy in any color you like. You don't need to have much coding experience to make these projects work, but the more you know about programming an Arduino or writing C language code, the better.
The minimum parts needed for a six-digit clock are: six Lixie displays, an Arduino or similar microcontroller, a 5 volt power supply rated at 1 amp, six jumper cables with female 3-pin header connectors at each end and some sort of base to mount everything on.
I'm using an Adafruit Huzzah board for the microcontroller for my clock. It's an ESP8266 board that's Arduino compatible and has built-in WiFi to get the time from Internet servers. I have also successfully used an Arduino Uno, an ESP8266 ESP-12E board and even a little generic ESP8266 ESP-01 module. The ESP-12E board is often used for NodeMCU but it can run Arduino code, too. It has a built-in USB port so it's easier to upload programs than the Huzzah or the ESP-01, which both need a separate USB module. All can be programmed from the Arduino IDE with a suitable boards manager installed. Any Arduino can run Lixies, but the ESP8266 boards have built-in WiFi that makes it easy to display numbers from the Internet.
I modified Connor's clock code so the color of the Lixies can be varied with a potentiometer or it can gradually cycle through 256 colors on its own. This was easy using one of the functions from the Lixie Library. I also added code to display the date for a few seconds each minute and read four switches. The switches set 12 or 24-hour mode, 4 or 6 digit mode (sometimes it's distracting to see the seconds ticking by), the time zone, and Daylight Saving Time.
There is no provision to set the time and date manually since this happens automatically shortly after power up when the clock connects to the WiFi network.
Update February 20, 2018:
My Lixie clock is finally finished! I added a bunch of assembly pictures as well as a couple of the finished product to my Lixie album on Photobucket.
I ended up using an ESP8266 ESP-12E board (the Lolin one) for the microcontroller. I like it because it has a built-in USB interface for programming. It can run Arduino code but the pin numbers are totally different from Arduinos.
I had trouble with the ESP8266 boards, though, because of their 3.3-volt data levels. The WS2812b LED's that Lixies use like to see 5-volt data. They sort of work with 3.3-volt data, but I had a lot of reliability issues. Lixies not turning on, wrong numbers displayed, wrong colors, multiple numbers displayed, etc. All due to bad data.
I tried using one of the bi-directional 3.3 to 5-volt converter modules that use MOSFET transistors. It didn't work. Not fast enough for the data rate. I was about to try a dedicated level shifter IC like a 74LVC245, but I ended up just using a 1N4148 diode in series with the data line followed by a 4.7 K resistor to pull the line up to 5 volts. This is working flawlessly. However, the data line running from the ESP-12E to the first Lixie is really short.
(The diode's cathode connects to the ESP-12E. The anode connects to the 4.7K and Lixie 1's DIN. The other end of the 4.7K connects to +5 volts.)
Good to see Connor has plans to ramp up Lixie production. They are impressive displays!
Thanks, Mitchell! It really is difficult to photograph the Lixies to match their awesome real-world look - lots of playing with ISO and shutter speeds for sure. As for pre-ordering, it's not currently possible through Tindie. They used to offer a "backorder" service a few years ago, but I'm not sure what happened to it.
In the future, I might be moving to an independent shop site for Lixies where users can order digits that are available, or pre-order if stock is currently out, with a live ETA based on current paid orders and cancellation at any time. Keeping inventory from multiple sources and countries in as a one-man operation has been really tough with the demand, so a made-to-order system might be the best option for ordering in the future. Enjoy your displays! :)