Instructables

How to Attach (or Reattach) EL Tape (Electroluminescent Tape)

Picture of 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).
 
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Step 1: Step 1: Cut Tape and Peel Back Plastic Layer

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of Step 3: Solder Copper Tape to Lead Wire
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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

Picture of Step 4: Wrap Heat Shrink Tubing Around Connection
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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

Picture of 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!
What is the trade mark of the EL tape you are using in this specific tutorial? I tried to follow these steps with the one made by ADRAFRUIT ELETRONICS and did not work..
febert9 months ago
I am using EL Tape for the first time and wonder if I doing things right. I have pulled back a clear layer of plastic from the end of the tape. But underneath that is anoter very tough layer of plastic. Is that something I also have to peal back? Putting copper tape on that layer does not activate the light. But it appears so thick that I doubt it would curl back like it appears in your photo. Have I got an oddballtype of tape? Who manufactured yours? I go mine from Adafruit that referred me to your page.
rcroft1 year ago
Does it matter which lead you solder to? Is one positive and the other negative or does it just matter that you have solid connections on both?
badideasrus rcroft10 months ago
technicaly no it shouldnt matter. el wire/tape works by forceing electricity to move from one wire to another through a phosoresent material that glows when energiezed. it's not polarized, electricity will go either way. however, while i dont know about el tape, el wire uses a thick wire core as a positive and then wraps a very thin wire around the outside for the negative. i do not htink it would be wise to run the power backwards in this case.

it probably depends some on the el tape you have and how it's constructed
vanwerneck1 year ago
Hello, my name is Vanderlei, I'm from Brazil and first want to give you the "CONGRATULATIONS" the explanations you posted.
Now I want to ask, is it possible for you to publish, how to JOIN TWO OR THREE, DIFFERENT SIZES OF EL TAPE.
Example, if I apply the FITA in a closet, I have several clippings, HOWTO, all these clippings have POWER and finish in one wire to connect.

I wonder it takes only REMOVE the layer and protective plastic and apply COPPER TAPE? longer be able to light up all the clippings?
Could you please help me?

Best Regards


VANDERLEI WERNECK
vanwerneck@hotmail.com
joining two pieces of el tape SHOULD be as simple as connecting the two tape's positives and negatives together. positive to positive and negative to negative. in effect this just makes a longer piece of el tape. so, do what the instructable suggests, but instead of soldering one end to a connection plug, solder it to another piece of el tape

(i'm going on theory here. i've never used el tape but it's simple stuff)
Laia_bee2 years ago
Hi! I just made a video making small parts thanks to what I read of this tutorial. It is made in spanish but has subs in english.

http://youtu.be/gSyb7TVdtQo

: )
nonoe2 years ago
I have white EL tape with a 50/50 split, but there is no green or gray layer. It is black throughout. Might be a lead coating? But, anyways, would 24-gauge copper wire be enough to connect two EL tape pieces together? Or do I need absolutely copper tape?
ElectricFeel (author)  nonoe2 years ago
I like using copper tape, but it's not the easiest thing to come by. If you use wire, it should work just the same. All you need is something that will run the current through.
fangelini2 years ago
Hi, if i need cut in small parts el tape is possible soldering ?

ElectricFeel (author)  fangelini2 years ago
It is possible to make very small pieces of tape glow, however it all comes down to how much labor you want to do. Each connection (for me at least) probably takes about 5 minutes.
akolafa2 years ago
How would you recommend making the attachment if you only have sections that are from the middle of strips? I Have a few strips of orange tape that only have a 90/10 split and I am afraid the copper will be too big or the solder will melt the outside tape layer.
ElectricFeel (author)  akolafa2 years ago
If you have a circuit pen, it makes it the easiest to stick to the tape's surface. The copper tape sometimes has a tough time sticking to the charged surface. As such, you may opt to use a circuit pen which sticks a bit better.