Making unique, hand made cards are always a great way to make someone feel special. This year we made several holiday cards using special LED Stickers from Chibitronics. The following Instructable takes you through the entire process of making your one-of-a-kind, LED enabled card.
A big thank you to Decatur Makers (http://decaturmakers.com) for hosting our Instructables build night, and of course to Instructables and Chibitronics for generously providing enough batteries, stickers and copper tape to make this possible. In the process of making this Instructable, we had 8 kids, and 6 adults make their own cards to send to their friends and family.
Step 1: Gather Materials & Get Ready
To complete this Instructable, you'll need some items that most people will have lying around the house.
- Chibitronics LED Starter Kit
- Medium weight paper
- Pencil Crayons / Markers
- Scrap Cardboard
Also if you haven't familiarized yourself with Chibitronics, you should probably watch some of the videos on their website so that you understand what you're doing.
Step 2: Card Preparation and Planning
Decide what you want you want your card design to include. For best results choose something that makes sense to “light up.” We chose to do a Christmas Tree, but you can make it anything you want to light up using Chibitronics LED Stickers. Some other good ideas included Rudolph, snowflakes, star above a manger scene, and candles on a Menorah.
Once you have chosen your card design, start by fold a piece of medium weight sketch paper in half (hamburger style), and then in half again (again, hamburger style). This should result in an easy to fold "quartered" card. [photo of card folded in each of the positions]
Now that you have your card ready, start planning how your design will work on your card. The Chibitronics circuit will be placed on the inside of the paper (completely unfolded) with your design over top. When lighted, the LED’s will glow through your design creating the appearance of the lights being on. In our case we chose to light up individual ornaments, but you could light up any part of the design; Rudolph’s nose, or the candles atop the Menorah.
Using a pencil, lightly mark where where the inside and outside of the card need to go. Then mark where your Chibitronics circuit will go (underneath the inside of the card in our case, though you could also light the outside of the card if you chose).
With the card in the open position (still folded hamburger one time) lightly sketch your design on the appropriate inside quadrant. In the next step, you will lay out your Chibitronics circuit “underneath” the design. Do NOT complete your design at this time because it is a lot easier to adjust your design elements to fit the Chibitronics than to try to align your Chibitronics perfectly.
Step 3: Plan the Chibitronics Circuit
The next step is to plan the Chibitronics circuit. Start by transferring the position of the "lit" elements (in this case our tree ornaments) from the previously sketched design to the part of the page that will hold your Chibitronics circuit.
Next, determine the battery placement. To do this, fold one corner of your paper over the 3V coin cell battery. Make sure that you fold enough to cover the entire battery, but not a whole lot more. Once you have your corner fold, place the battery about ¼ inch from the crease and trace around the battery so that you know where to terminate your circuit.
Be sure to note the polarity. Mark the inside of the battery placement with a “+” so that you remember to put the battery “positive side down”. Placing the battery upside down will result in your LED(s) not turning on.
If you're using an effects sticker, be sure to create a space for it before laying out any copper tape, as it will impact how the remainder of the circuit is designed. Placing the effect sticker close to the battery is recommended. Be sure to mark each corner of the effects sticker properly as it makes drawing the remaining circuit more challenging. If you are not familiar with how the effects stickers work, please familiarise yourself with the correct use by visiting the the tutorials on the Chibitronics website.
If you are using an effects sticker or sensor, start by marking the path from the battery, to the effects sticker or sensor. The wiring to and from the sensors and effects stickers is critical, so be sure that you check and double check your work before laying out the rest of the circuit.
Once you have your battery and LED (and effects sticker if applicable) placements you can design the rest of your circuit. Remember that the Chibitronics conductive tape is about ⅛ of an inch (3mm) thick and that you'll want to leave ⅛ inch (3mm) between the positive and negative part of your circuit.
Using a pencil, lightly mark the path for “inside” of the circuit. It helps to start at the battery, and work your way from the closest LED to the furthest. It may require some trial and error to find a path for your circuit that will accommodate for all of your LED’s. Next mark the “outside” path. Again, starting at the battery, mark the path for the “outside” of the circuit.
Step 4: Lay Conductive Tape
Starting at the battery, apply the conductive tape that will carry electricity to the LED stickers (and effects sticker, if applicable). Remember that the positive and neutral "sides" of the circuit should not touch or overlap.
Remember that the paper will "fold" over the battery to complete the circuit. Remember the polarity of the battery when creating the circuit. You will need to know which side of the circuit is the negative and the positive when applying the LED stickers in step 4.
Note: You should not attempt to "join" the conductive tape. If your tape breaks, remove it and start over. Attempting to join the tape will lead to unreliable conductivity and may mean an inoperable circuit.
Step 5: Adding LED Stickers and Effects Sticker (if Applicable)
Using Tweezers, place each LED sticker to the conductive tape. Firmly press the stickers to the paper ensuring good contact between the conductive tape and the copper conductors on the LED stickers.
If you plan to use an effects sticker, attach it now; if not, skip to the next step.
Attach the effect sticker to the conductive tape. Firmly press the sticker to the paper ensuring good contact between the conductive and the copper conductors on the effect sticker.
Step 6: Test the Circuit
Once your LED stickers and effect sticker (if applicable) are in place, check that the circuit is working by inserting your battery and attaching the binder clip. The LED(s) should turn on. Congratulations, you're done with the wiring and can skip to the next step to complete your card.
If the LED's do not turn on, follow the steps below to debug common problems.
If none of the LED(s) turn on:
Check the Battery polarity - make sure that the positive side of the battery is touching the positive side of your circuit. LED's will not work if the battery is inserted backwards.
If using an effect sticker, be sure that the effect sticker is firmly pressed onto the conductive tape and that the polarity is correct.
If one or more LED(s) works but others don't:
Check the non-working LED(s) - be sure that the LED stickers are firmly pressed onto the conductive tape.
Check the polarity of the non-working LED(s) - remember that LED's don't work if the polarity is reversed.
Step 7: Completing the Design
Now that your Chibitronics circuit is complete, re-fold the paper so that the the design covers the Chibitronics circuit. You can find the exact placement of the LED(s) underneath by gently pressing your finger on the card. Each LED will feel like a small bump. Trace the exact location of each LED onto the design side of your card.
Once you have marked each LED, unfold the card completely and color in the design. Start by lightly coloring the area that will cover the LED's. To see how the LED's interact with your design, insert the battery to turn on the circuit and re-fold the card so that the design once again covers your Chibitronics. The more you color over the LED areas, the less light will come through. Remember that you can’t remove crayon as easily as you can add it so start with very light colors.
Step 8: Preparing and Sending Your Card
Before sending your card, remove the battery so that it doesn’t die in the mail (and to avoid suspicion at the post office).
Cut a piece of cardboard that is slightly larger than your card, but that will fit inside the envelope. This will protect the card from bending or tearing while in the mail. Include instructions so that the card recipient will know how to insert the battery and attach the binder clip to “turn on” the card.
Be sure to write the address on the envelope before inserting your card, to avoid damaging the circuit. Label the envelope as FRAGILE then insert your card and the protective cardboard. Seal the envelope and put it in the mailbox. Remember to use an extra stamp due to the extra weight.