The Leicester Hackspace is running another build night and this time they are offering Chibitronics kits, which are essentially neat little sticky back electronic components where you can assemble a circuit without needing a soldering iron. The result is a permanent electronics assembly, with no wires (all done with copper tape also sticky back) and all at a safe low voltage. So, my immediate thought was to make Christmas cards.
Step 1: Creating a Chibitronics Template
If you get the full get from Chibitronics, it includes a template which you can lay down on a page mark down with a pen/pencil where you want to place your components, but I was not a big fan of these. The main problem being that if you make a mistake (like not think about where your wires are going to cross), then you need to rub out all of your marks, or even worse, if you have used pen, start again from scratch. The template also does not have marking on it, so especially while I was new to Chibitronics I make lots of mistakes with the pinout of some of the more complicated control boards.
So, my solution, I designed some colour coded templates in inkscape which I printed in mass and cut out. This allow me to move bits around, and with everything being colour coded I found it easy to visually see how things should be wired up.
Step 2: Prototypes
I found a great website for SVG art called The Noun Project where I downloaded some christmasy looking pictures, which I could then resize to A6. I chose A6 because you can buy a lot of pre-made cards (with envelope) in a variety of colours, which means you will end up with a good quality overall christmas card.
For the prototype I printed out one of these images and started placing components directly on top of the image to where I though would look best (example in the image). This meant I could move everything around until I thought I had a good way of running the wires, which I then drew on with pencil.
Step 3: Inkscape for Repeatablilty
Now that I have a paper prototype, I could go ahead an stick it all onto the rough page that I did, but that would not look very neat. As I created all of the templates and the cover images as SVG's, it is very easy to the import them all in together and make cards (front and electronics) so that they match up and look nice.
While I was at it I created an additional template directly in inkscape without needing to use the paper prototype. Essentially inkscape now becomes the electronic schematic layout design tool.
Step 4: Not Assembling Myself
I could have finished this off myself, but where is the festive spirit in that. I decided that it would be more fun to let younger hackers have the fun of decorating the cards and installing the LED's! As there is no soldering involved, it was very safe, though somewhat messy...
I have included a few random pictures of the final cards designed using this method, and other random photos because I can :P