Introduction: How to Attach (or Reattach) EL Tape (Electroluminescent Tape)
When trying to connect EL Tape, if you have worked with other electronics or EL Wire before, then this should come very easily to you. If you are familiar with most electronics but have never worked with EL Wire before, it still may come fairly easily for you as this concept is actually easier than EL Wire in most respects. Basically there are a positive and negative channel which runs the entire length of the tape. These two channels act like most electronics where you have a positive and negative and the two cannot touch. The main difference is most electronics need to have a closed loop system where the ends double back around and make a consistent flow of energy to make the electronic device work properly. For Electroluminescent products, you MUST have an open loop where the positive and negative channels (or wires) do not touch, otherwise it will short out the tape.
The following tools are recommended for this project:
1. Battery Pack (or Inverter) - Without this your tape won't glow, so it will be handy to have one available so you can test this along the way.
2. Wire Cutters/Knife/Razor Blade - Basically anything sharp will do, but a razor blade is the easiest to use.
3. Soldering Iron - A must have. Without this, your connection will be shotty and may not light up.
4. Helping Hands - This nifty little tool is a must have in any electronics grab bag.
5. EL Tape (Electroluminescent Tape) - You wouldn't be doing this project without it!
6. Heat Shrink Tubing - Colored looks cooler, but black is just fine. You can pick this stuff up at Frys, radio shack, etc.
7. Solder - Leaded or unleaded... I like the unleaded stuff just because I know lead is horrible to breathe in.
8. Oops, where's 8?? I accidentally left out a lighter (or heat gun) AND copper tape (or circuit pen).
Step 1: Step 1: Cut Tape and Peel Back Plastic Layer
Step 1: Peel back the 3M Tape layer and protective plastic coating. The green layer is a semi-non conductive layer which is what you will see as you pull back the tape layer. The easiest way to pull this back is to use a razor blade or sharp knife to dig in between the plastic seams, which will allow you to peel this back like a banana. The grayish layer is the conductive layer which is what the connection will actually be affixed to. Making a connection straight onto the conductive layer will allow you to have a continuous charge. If you make your connection on the green layer, you may notice your tape lights up, but it will most likely short out much faster. More likely than not, it probably won't even light up.
Step 2: Step 2: Attach Copper Tape to EL Tape
Step 2: Different tapes have different patterns which will run throughout. This particular tape has a 50/50 split down the middle for an easier (and more forgiving) surface area to affix your connection to. If you happen to cut the tape somewhere in the middle, you will notice rather than a 50/50 split down the middle, it is more like a 90/10 split (as seen near the top of the tape). If you have copper tape, or a circuit pen, attach the tape to each side of the gray surface, making sure you don't end up on the white portion in between. This is a non-conductive layer which separates the different charges. As copper tape is not terribly adhesive, I recommend using some super glue or other adhesive to bond the tape to the surface of the tape.
Step 3: Step 3: Solder Copper Tape to Lead Wire
Step 3: Solder the wire to the copper tape, making sure to leave a gap where the white line runs. If any part of the two are touching, the wire will short out and you won't have a cool glowing tape. We like to secure these connections with super glue to ensure a proper bond and this will make the connection quite a bit more durable, so you don't have to do this often. This is also a perfect spot to see if your connection works. If you hook your battery pack up to the tape, you will notice it lights up just like you would expect it to. If it doesn't, repeat steps 1-3 until it works. The most common problem is not securing a good bond between the copper tape and the conductive layer on the EL Tape backing. Keep trying to make a good seal until it lights up.
Step 4: Step 4: Wrap Heat Shrink Tubing Around Connection
Step 4: Wrap heat shrink tubing around the connection. When heat is applied with either a heat gun, or lighter (the low tech - but yet effective way) the tubing will shrink substantially and make a good seal around the connection. This will help bond the connection even more and make for a stronger connection. It also reduces the risk of getting dust or debris inside the connection, so it will keep your tape lasting longer.
Step 5: Step 5: Connect Battery Pack to Tape
Step 5: Lastly, hook up your battery pack and prepare to have your jaw drop as you look at your cool new nighttime toy in amazement. You should notice nearly the entire width of the tape glowing. A small (around 1mm) of gap around the edges may not light. This is normal and nearly impossible to have glow. Hope this guide helped in your quest to connect your EL Tape!
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