Introduction: How to Make an Affordable 'Vein Finder', for Use During Venipuncture

Picture of How to Make an Affordable 'Vein Finder', for Use During Venipuncture
One of the hardest parts of taking blood can be finding a suitable vein. Some patients are 'difficult sticks'; their veins are either very small, and/or deep, preventing health professionals from finding a site easily and quickly. Repetitive needle sticks are painful for the patient and may also lower their confidence in the ability of the phlebotomist performing the stick.

Many companies now market 'Vein Finder' products, but these products can cost over $5,000 (depending on quality and utility). That price tag is often outside the means of smaller clinics or facilities. This is a guide intended for hobbyists and DIY problem solvers -- not staff of a large hospital looking for high-end tech to aid in routine venipuncture. 

This tool works by using near-infrared wavelength LEDs to illuminate the flesh at the site. The veins will appear as dark bands because they are more absorbent of this spectrum of light than the surrounding tissue. It is similar in principle to holding your hand over a flashlight (something we all did as kids).

Estimated Time to Complete: 3-6 hours (depending on your plastic cutting and soldering ability)
Estimated Cost: ~15-50$ depending on shipping/availability of free samples/if you need to buy solder, spare wiring, misc.

Below is a quick video of it working, moving it up and down my forearm. It's hard to document how clearly the veins appear because of my camera's minimum focal distance, but this ought to give you an idea (imagine no blur!):

Step 1: Required Materials and Tools

Picture of Required Materials and Tools

Soldering Iron
Rotary tool, with attachments suitable for cutting through plastic
Safety Goggles
Respirator/dust mask
Needle Nose Pliers x2 (I found these useful)

Blank Circuit board
Rocker Switch, On/Off (I used)
Resistors, 56 OHM, 250mW, 1% (I used) x30
LED 3mm, 20mA, 1.9V, λ 628nm (I used) x30
Plastic Enclosure with battery contacts and PCB screw holes (I used OKW enclosures' Part# A9072129, with Part#s A9190002 and A0304031)
Friendly Plastic, Black/Black (I bought mine here)
Wire (less than 1' needed)
AA batteries x2

Step 2: Cutting Your PCB and Enclosure

Picture of Cutting Your PCB and Enclosure

Measure your enclosure and cut your PCB to a size that will fit so that you know what kind of area you are working with. When cutting the PCB be sure to wear breathing protection as the fine dust from these boards may be harmful (with sufficient, prolonged exposure).

Cut an opening on the side of the enclosure, to fit the switch.

Cut an opening on the top of the enclosure, and then again on the bottom of the enclosure. The bottom hole should be wider, so as to allow the LEDs to peek out, while leaving the middle open.

Cut the PCB board into a 'U' shape (almost like a tuning fork), so that the opening will align with the other two openings you made on the top and bottom of the enclosure.

If necessary, cut away some of the PCB to make room for the switch on the side.

Step 3: The Wiring and Soldering

Picture of The Wiring and Soldering

The specifics of wiring will vary from project to project, but I found that staggering the LEDS by one hole per row allows them to be packed more densely.  Your wiring should resemble what I've drawn above. We see the several sets of resistor-LED pairs in parallel with each other. You need not use all 30 that I advised you to purchase -- they are just so inexpensive that it makes sense to buy extra just in case.

I've also made the mistake of not including adequate room for PCB mounting screws in my illustration. It's very important that you DO account for these before beginning to solder.

This may sound dumb, but it's important to be careful which side you are attaching the components to -- that the side you've cut out for the switch actually line up. For example, in the drawing, although I've shown the components as if you could see them, they are in fact facing INTO the page, and their wiring facing you, out of the page. See the other photo of the real device to see what I mean.

Step 4: Assembly and Friendly Plastics

Picture of Assembly and Friendly Plastics

Once you've soldered all the parts to the cut board, screw the board into the enclosure, attach the wiring to the switch and solder, and attach the wiring to the battery contacts and solder them as well. Screw the enclosure closed, and pop in some batteries. Let there be light!

But it's not ready to use yet.

If you try it on yourself, you'll notice that the sides of the LEDs emit too much light to clearly see the veins -- regardless of how narrow the LEDs' viewing angle. This is where the miracle of Friendly Plastics come in.

You can read more about how to use them on other sites, or on the manufacture's page but the method that I used was to cut small strips and then heat them in near-boiling water. The strips, although 'hot', have very low thermal conductivity so they will not burn your fingers. This allows you to shape the plastics around the edges of the LEDs, so that they do not emit light into the viewing hole -- only down, into the skin.

Step 5: Test It Out

Picture of Test It Out


Now try it on the underside of your forearm; press it into your skin rather than merely hover over it. You should be able to clearly see veins as you pass by them, some you may not have known were there.

Unfortunately it is very hard for my camera to capture the exact effect (intense, bright lighting, coming from a small area to focus on), but I've attached a blurry image which hopefully shows some of the results -- I've drawn thin green lines through the veins I was able to see very clearly with the tool.


danbemp (author)2016-04-02


Very glad to have given you inspiration to take this idea and improve on it. Yours look great! I ask that you please post the OBJ/STL files for free download so that others may build it at home too. This way, they can learn, play, and maybe improve on your design as well. Please note the license is creative commons by-nc-sa.

Keep up the great work,


AlexS154 (author)danbemp2016-04-02

i wouldn't want to do with legal license, especially from large firms like veinlite whose business depends on these. not that i'm rude , i've posted the details of my devices , but like i said . i do not want to get into any problems with the owners of these firms

keerthyraja (author)AlexS1542016-04-07

hello sir i need help how can i contact you..

danbemp (author)2013-04-06

Very excited to have this project be featured as a finalist in the UP! contest. Thank you everyone for your continued support and feedback on this project -- It was fun to build, and I hope to keep writing instructables that give others even better ideas.


BuiJ (author)2017-11-12

I'm very suprised that having someone out there can make a vein finder by completely themself. I just know about it from Veinlite or Philips - big company in this field. It's difinitely a big inspiration. Keep up your work!

edor omoweroe (author)2017-11-02

i want to read through for more details please.

edor omoweroe (author)2017-11-02

Hi, please can you grant me access to the pdf material?

Js75231 (author)2016-06-22

I want to make one, has anybody found a flashlight or... that they can buy to use as the structure or base of the devive. Sorry not sure if i used the exact wording there but i think yall get what im trying to say. Anyways, a flashlight or... that u can buy and then just revisr or edit certain parts. Like just replace the LED's or diodes with the correct ones? Have u tried using 2 or 3 different wavelengths in there at the same time and maybe even having a switch to use all 3 wavelengths at the same time or just 1 at a time? Would this work if i took a led flashlight and replaced with neccesary gear, i guess im asking do i have to have the viewing slot? Or would i be able to see the viens from just the glow from around the outside of the flashlight? Also there is square flat led flashilights that they make, pretty much sae size and style of urs except without the viewing hole. Could that work? Can u have led's actually touching the skin or do u have to have plastic inbetween led and skin? Or do u just need a slight space between skin and led? I've been a Game Technician for over five years, working on games that u would see at Dave and Buster's or Six Flags or any major theme park. We haf a million dollars worth of games that i was in charge of. and have the knowledge to build one of these. Just not the expertise in led wavelengths

bb.itworks6203 (author)Js752312017-07-19

hey I had some of the same questions you did. Were you ever able to get answers?

Js75231 (author)2016-06-22

And in buildings these. I dont have a rotary or that many specialty tools except for a nice solderi g iron. So i would like to start of with a base design that i could then just make my own instead of builing it from scratch. So has anybody found something that i could buy. Sorry for all the mistakes, wrote on small phone where i cant see the screen of what i am typing and the keyboard at the same time, also its like 4 hrs past my bedtime, ive been trolling the internet. I plan on buildi g one of these or something similar if u or anybody else has a newer/updated building specs or another cheaper, easier build will u please email me a copy to I would gteatly appreciate it. Thank u very mucj.

AlexS154 made it! (author)2016-04-30

i've uploaded my files together with a new instructables because the design requires some build instructions
Edit: forgot to put the link

E-ALMALIK (author)2016-04-28

Very interesting idea, i could definitely use tgis device where i live. Because other methods are jjst unaffordable. I have one question though, the wavelength you used doesn't that fall under red light wavelength?

kiwimedic (author)2016-01-04

Alex, how many have you made?

AlexS154 (author)kiwimedic2016-01-14

about 10 that use batteries AA , 8 that use rechargeable battery pack , that recharge to a nokia charger without the need to open the device , and 15 that look similar to flashlight for small children ( they have small arms and the leds are too far off

albertog51 (author)AlexS1542016-04-21

hello and very than you for all the device you made i would love to have the images that you have before please your device seems very easy i m nurse en mexico in pediatric oncology hospital they dont have a devide like this(politcs) and woul love you could help me please my mail is

sarakenobi613 made it! (author)AlexS1542016-01-24

Thanks first of all the wonderful idea. I was wondering if you could help me out I am made the vein finder so I can enter a high school science competition however I have a problem. It works and I bought the same exact material as you except mine cannot locate any veins. Like when I project it on an arm there are no black lines or anything!! Can you please suggest how I can fix it!!!

kiwimedic (author)AlexS1542016-01-14

Would you be able to email me please?

kiwimedic (author)kiwimedic2016-01-14

Could you email me please,

danbemp (author)2016-04-13

Hi again Alex, not sure where my last comment went but to restate: I'm blown away by your adaption of this product -- yours look great. However I really urge that you post the 3D OBJ/STL file so that others can learn and improve as you have done. This instructable is under creative commons by-nc-sa which means that you're encouraged to take it and use it for whatever you like, so long as whatever you make with it is also shared openly and not for personal profit. Thanks and keep up the great work!

HariP52 (author)2016-04-13

Alex can you send me the 3d print image file of the device. I am planing to make one.

keerthyraja (author)2016-04-07

hello sir i need help how can i contact you

rmjgoncalves (author)2016-02-02

Hey, Alex. Again: really nice job. I'm trying to achieve similar results for a school project. Could you send me the case 3d model? I'm struggling to "build" it.... It would be really helpfull if you do.... Thanks!!! (

sarakenobi613 (author)2016-01-31

Thanks a bunch!!!!!!

sarakenobi613 made it! (author)2016-01-26

I need help I have made one for a science competition and it hasn't worked can you please give me a solution!

sarakenobi613 (author)2016-01-26

I need some help i made it but it isn't working help!!!!! AlexS154

sarakenobi613 made it! (author)2016-01-24

Dear Alex,

Thanks first of all the wonderful idea. I was wondering if you could help me out I am made the vein finder so I can enter a high school science competition however I have a problem. It works and I bought the same exact material as you except mine cannot locate any veins. Like when I project it on an arm there are no black lines or anything!! Can you please suggest how I can fix it!!!

rmjgoncalves (author)2016-01-14

Nice job! Where did you buy leds with these specifications?

AlexS154 (author)rmjgoncalves2016-01-14 i prefer now leds that have 3000mcd ( units of brightness ) any brighter and it annoys the eyes , lower and it wont be too effective

craftyrn1959 (author)2016-01-06

Alex would you consider making me one for reimbursement?

AlexS154 (author)craftyrn19592016-01-14

i could , but i cannot ship outside european union ( very high taxes )

TheThinker (author)2016-01-07

Well done! Thanks for sharing. Going to make one for my wife since she has difficulty with her veins rolling.

arnrbme (author)2015-12-14

alex ur very gud.plz send ur address and mail is I am A.R.Narender bio medical engineer. My mail id arnrbme

arnrbme (author)2015-12-14

alex ur very gud.plz send ur address and mail is I am A.R.Narender bio medical engineer. My mail id arnrbme

arnrbme (author)2015-12-14

alex ur very gud.plz send ur address and mail is I am A.R.Narender bio medical engineer. My mail id arnrbme

AcaDorcol (author)2015-11-27

Can You guide us little closely, chematics, which LED goes where, montage order of elements, etc....

Thanks in advance!

AlexS154 (author)AcaDorcol2015-11-29

you can use to calculate your resistors ( use what battery you have available and what LEDs you want , i used LEDs above 625 nm for the reason because that's the wavelength that can penetrate skin but under 700nm because that is not visible for human eye

AcaDorcol (author)AlexS1542015-11-29


Thanks for you for reply and advice about LED`s wavelength. Like your case design!

AlexS154 (author)AcaDorcol2015-11-29

the leds go round around the lower part which has a groove . and the scheme for connecting the leds , i used it from here . the only difference is that i used leds of different wavelengths ( for different skin tones ) and i used a costum-made case. use for LED's , the cost , including case , is about 35-40$ with shipments of parts

AcaDorcol (author)AlexS1542015-11-29

Many thanks for your reply! Can you explain to us, what is your mounting order of led`s by wawe lenth. What type of lead`s goes frst, starting from the one end of (circle gap). Example: first 3 x 625 nm LED than 2x 520nm LED, then 5x 625nm, then 3x 625nm LED the other end of circle.....

AlexS154 (author)AcaDorcol2015-11-29

also , 520 nm won't penetrate the skin that good.

AlexS154 (author)AcaDorcol2015-11-29

it does not matter how you arrange them ( functionally ) , i just put them random ( mine all looked the same , transparent bulb ) , be careful to match + and - because LED's won't light up if they aren't properly connected .

ruchijain (author)2015-10-10

hii.....i want to build a gadget which can find a missing object using infrared light...

please guide me on this

pbra (author)2015-09-05

hi guys
you can use super led - 1w.3w.5w - 620 nm(red) . 650 nm . 730 nm(deep red) - and use pcb for each led .
i use 3 super led - 1w - 620 nm - 350 ma - 2.2 v - and it just show my hand veins very well so i want use 650 nm and 730 nm -3w .5w
if you have some idea or you can help my or i can help you please Contact me .
mail :

SunnS (author)pbra2015-09-26

Hello , I really need help I want to make one so I will contact you and I wish you could help me .. thank you

pbra (author)SunnS2015-09-29


who i can help ?

SunnS (author)pbra2015-09-26

Hi tried to contact you but there is a problem in the server so plz contact me :

akshay.d21 (author)2015-07-08

Hi danbemp !

I tried making this but it does not work it seems. I used a normal Red LED for it and powered them on a 9V battery. I used ledcalc to use 82 Ohm resistance. RED LED's are 1.5v Forward Voltage and 20 mA.

Thanks. :)

Kind regards from India.

Cajamarcawarrior (author)2015-06-26

Great work danbemp!

Before deciding the the wavelength of the LEDs, did you consider the transmission, absorption and reflection properties of the different skin layers? Is 628nm based on a real study or estimation? I just want to be able to chose the right LEDs before I order them :)

kassius.marcelo.5 (author)2015-05-24

clarify the weld layout of resistors and LEDs

ToddR1 (author)2015-03-15

I was trying to build this with a 920nm infrared from radioshack. I have learned that the LEDs I bought from radioshack probably have a wide beam and hence you need to enclose them in black goop on the sides. All I see is a blur on an IR camera. There are places online where you can purchase narrow beam LEDs of 10-20 degrees to focus the light. I intend to pursue that.

About This Instructable




Bio: Med student and DIY'er
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