Instructables

Etched Copper Board Valentine's Day art w/LEDs

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Picture of Etched Copper Board Valentine's Day art w/LEDs
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While learning how to etch circuit boards it occurred to me that copper clad board would make a great artistic medium. The copper boards are cheap, easily available, durable, and look amazing.

If you're anything like me, you probably have a zillion projects all over the house, driving your spouse/girlfriend/monkey handler crazy. If so, I highly recommend using your geeky skills to make something nice for them every once in a while. The reasons being: it's a nice thing to do; it shows that your weird hobbies can have benefits for them too and not just make a mess of the house; and, it gets them off your back for a little while you try to get a workshop space set up elsewhere.

So, with that in mind, I'm going to show you how to use your electronics skills to make an incredibly cool and romantical Valentine's Day gift for your sweetie. It's inexpensive, looks great, and will make a great impression on your girlfriend/boyfriend/wife/husband.


 
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Step 1: Supplies

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To make this project, you will need:

An old glossy magazine
Laser printer
Graphics software (I used Adobe Illustrator)
6" x 6" copper clad board (single sided)
Extra fine sand paper - 220 grit
Rubbing alcohol
Clean lint-free cloth or rag (like an old cotton t-shirt)
Clothes iron
8.5" x 11" sheet of plain bond paper
Ferric chloride etching fluid (mixed from powder form)
Glass jar (to mix and store the etching fluid)
A decent weight plastic bag, like a zip-lock bag 
A wooden chopstick or other disposable stick (to stir the etching fluid)
9" x 9" or larger pyrex baking dish
Dish scrubbing sponge
Fine point artist's paint brush
A tube of artist's acrylic paint (any color)
Rotary tool and tiny PCB drill bits
(10) Red LEDs
(1) 10-Position connector/right angle cable mount
(1) 10-conductor ribbon cable, about 5" long
(2) Male header pins - 5 pins each (cut long strip of pins in half)
Soldering iron and flux-core solder
Diagonal wire cutters
Clear spray acrylic or enamel (gloss or semi-gloss)
Arduino controller (I used the super-tiny RBBB kit from moderndevice.com)
Rubber gloves
Protective eyewear
doriancin3 years ago
HI!, I like the idea but do you have any video ?? I would like it working :D
st_indigo (author)  doriancin3 years ago
Yes! I'm going to plug it in later tonight and see if I can get a video clip uploaded.
st_indigo (author)  st_indigo3 years ago
okay.. video is up!
bookaroo made it!5 months ago

Great project, my wife enjoys it a lot, I will add sensors, a motion detector and light detector so that it's not ON all the time.

Heart.jpg
jeff-o3 years ago
Will any old acrylic paint work? I've been using nail polish up till now, but it's not pleasant to use. Effective, though...
st_indigo (author)  jeff-o3 years ago
Any paint should work, as long as it sticks to the copper. I liked the way the acrylic worked - it stuck enough to mask the board, but came off easily afterwards.

I can't stand the smell of acetone, so I wouldn't even have thought to use nail polish. :-)
A Sharpie works just as well for this too.
Awesome concept! I just finished mine, but tweaked it a little. I got rid of the Arduino and exchanged the red LED's with slow color change RGB LED's, and changed the image a little. I also put it in an enclosure and backed it with some aluminum foil to reflect more light towards the center of the heart. Thanks for the great Valentines day gift idea!
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You said you used the super tiny RBBB kit instead of the Arduino controller. Could you show a picture of that instead of that???
dds903 years ago
Hi,
Great idea!
But can you share the Black & white version of the project?

Thanks,
King regards!
st_indigo (author)  dds903 years ago
Thanks for the comment. I did upload a black & white version, but it showed up as a reduced size image instead of as the full resolution .TIF file it was supposed to be.

I ZIP'd the file and uploaded it. Should be there now under Step 2.
dds90 st_indigo3 years ago
Thanks.

This is my heart:
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kikiorg dds903 years ago
I really love this one too! Could you tell us a little bit more about what you did? Does it still require the Arduino, or are the LEDs just wired in to glow. (A nice simpler version.) I'd love to see the back, if you don't have to take it apart.

I'm hoping to do this project with a first time Young Maker friend of mine so she gains soldering experience. (And so do I!)

Kiki
jgueydan3 years ago
That is, by far, the most geekishly cool Valentine's I've ever seen! Great job!
My son shares my absurd craziness for electronics (especially anything with an led), so I HAVE to make him one of these! Ya got my vote ;-)
st_indigo (author)  jgueydan3 years ago
Thanks so much! I appreciate the comments, and your vote in the contest!
Very cool idea, love the LED concept!
st_indigo (author)  Leather Hides3 years ago
Thanks. The idea is that the LEDs pulse like a heartbeat.

Have a look at the video clip I just uploaded and you'll see what I mean.
Gorgeous!
st_indigo (author)  halfwaythere3 years ago
Thank you!
Gorgeous work, thanks for sharing it.
blumeanie3 years ago
I love this design andwant to try this as a gift just curious what is the total cost of all the matts
st_indigo (author)  blumeanie3 years ago
prices are approximate:

$10 for the LEDs, pin headers, connector, and ribbon cable
$15 for the RBBB Arduino clone
$10 for the copper clad board & ferric chloride powder
$2 each for the little drill bits (i broke 3 on this project)
$7 for a can of spray acrylic
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all told, about $40 or so

Hopefully you already have a Dremel, clothes iron, soldering iron and a glass dish, and access to a laser copier or printer. If not, your costs might be significantly higher!
Euphy3 years ago
Beautiful design and nice instructable. Do you seal the copper traces with something to stop them going dull? Spray lacquer or something, I'd guess? All my bits of stripboard go dull quickly, especially where there's finger prints.
st_indigo (author)  Euphy3 years ago
Yes, I cleaned and gave the copper a couple coats of clear acrylic after the components were soldered in (at the end of Step 7 here).
very cool! I signed up and voted for yoU! Laser cutters rock btw!
dbarron013 years ago
i love it! amazing, just like you !
This is AMAZING! I love it! I hope you win! xoxo Mishka
arayadiaz3 years ago
Best Valentine's day gift ever! So clever!
eye.gee3 years ago
Great instructable. I'm not techie so I'd be inclined to try it without the LEDs. Just etching the copper would be enough for me. Good luck with the contest!
st_indigo (author)  eye.gee3 years ago
the LEDs and pins on this project are pretty easy to solder. you should definitely give it a try! maybe practice with plain wire on a solderable perf board until you feel comfortable.

i've been working with electronics for only about a year now, and this is one of the earliest soldering jobs i did. the quality of my soldering on this project was less than stellar, but it worked. :-)
chiffarobes3 years ago
I live in the bay area and would LOVE having a hacker space close to home. where are u planning to set up this space? I would want to join
st_indigo (author)  chiffarobes3 years ago
We checked out a space that looks like it's gonna work for us in South Berkeley, near the Ashby BART station. Where do you live? TechShop is opening new locations around the bay area, and NoiseBridge in SF is an established hackerspace, so maybe one of those would work for you in the meantime.
thanks a lot!. im not.... all that familar with that part of town.
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