Today we will be creating circuits using the Silhouette Portrait. While this may not be all that practical, it is an excellent introduction to circuit-board layout. Sort of a "My First PCB" if you will.
- Silhouette Portrait plotter
- Foil tape (available at any auto-parts or hardware store)
- Electrical components to populate your circuit
- Non-conductive substrate (aka foam or cardboard)
Step 1: Step One: Design Your Circuit
We started by sketching out a circuit by hand. To keep things simple, we chose a basic LED circuit, with a battery, LED, and a current-limiting resistor.
We then laid out a path for the Silhouette to cut. We chose to use CAD software, although it would have been easier to do it in msPaint. The silhouette software has a very good edge-tracing algorithm which will create the paths from your shapes.
The important part to remember is to leave gaps in the circuit where you want your components to go. The battery symbol has a built in gap, and we added small gaps in the LED and resistor symbols too.
Step 2: Step 2: Cut!
We had to experiment with the cut depth and trace (conductive path) width, but the Silhouette was happy to cut through the foil for us. We even dialed it in so that the cut didn't slice all the way through the backing material so we could peel it up easily.
Step 3: Assemble!
First, transfer your foil paths to the substrate (styrofoam). A layer of masking tape overtop the cut-out pieces (similar to transferring decals) would help for complex designs, but ours was simple enough to transfer by hand one piece at a time.
After that, stab the legs of the components through the foil tape into the foam, and voila! the circuit is complete! After just a bit of jiggling our circuit worked too!
Of course, there is plenty of room for improvement:
- Conductive glue for a more solid component-tape connection.
- With thicker tape, you could even solder parts on.
- Adding a narrow section for built-in fuses (though perhaps not on flammable substrate)
- Multi-level circuit boards could be built by sandwiching layers!
- Practically, this would be very useful in creating on-glass antennas.