Introduction: Paperduino 2.0 With Circuit Scribe - Paper Arduino

Picture of Paperduino 2.0 With Circuit Scribe - Paper Arduino

What if making an Arduino, or wiring up an Arduino was as easy as printing one out? In this tutorial we printed our own Arduino Pro Mini board using a pen plotter and the Electroninks Circuit Scribe (a rollerball pen with highly conductive ink). Within 15 minutes we printed the board, placed components down with glue or tape, and uploaded a sketch.

Materials needed:
Circuit Scribe conductive ink pen
Silhouette SD plotter
8.5x11" glossy photo paper
Electroninks Arduino connection kit
FTDI cable
USBtinyISP bootloader or a pre-bootloaded Arduino chip
Superglue (Loctite gel) or Z-tape

EAGLE PCB (if you want to modify the board)
Arduino IDE
Silhouette Studio

Paperduino 2.0 Schematics and Layout (EAGLE)

Components list:
View BOM (ordering list) on Google Spreadsheet
2x 10 uF capacitors (1206 package)
3x 0.1 uF capacitor (1206)
2x 10 KOhm resistors (1206)
330 Ohm resistor (1206)
Red LED (1206)
Green LED (1206)
5V voltage regulator (5 pin)
8 MHz resonator
Tactile switch

Step 1: Editing the Layout in EAGLE

Picture of Editing the Layout in EAGLE

Our Paperduino design is based on the open source design for the Arduino Pro Mini. We used EAGLE PCB to design the board.

Download a schematic
The Arduino Pro Mini board schematic can be found on the Arduino website.
Our final Paperduino 2.0 EAGLE files can be found here.

Adapting the board for paper
In order to make the schematic paper-friendly, we replaced the blocks of pin headers with our own custom round pad. Through-hole components such as the pin headers are difficult to use on flexible surfaces like paper. We added the new pad design to our Electroninks component library. Since the pen plotter only prints lines, but not fill patterns, the pads were composed of overlapping concentric circles. The tool path for plotting will be shown in Step 3.

We also replaced the package for many of the small components with the 1206 package (meaning 1.2mm long x 0.6mm wide) so they would be easier to mount later on.

Designing the board layout
In the board layout, we set the top layer line width to 0.6 mm to match the width of the pen trace.

We designed the board layout so the Paperduino could be printed on one layer. In many cases, the surface mount components act as jumpers. It is important to keep components close together to minimize line resistance between them.

In EAGLE PCB, the component pads will not be filled in by the pen plotter when exported as a DXF -- only the outlines will be drawn. To solve this issue, overlay the pads with meandering line features so they will be filled by a raster pattern.

Finally, if any lines require a paper jumper (like our digital pins 1, 2, and 3), they can be created in the bottom layer (blue). After the first layer is printed, paper stickers can be place over the lines and the bottom DXF layer can be used to print over the stickers. We will publish a jumper sticker tutorial in a future Instructable.

Step 2: Exporting the Board Layout

Picture of Exporting the Board Layout

Before exporting the board as a DXF file, only have the top layer (red) selected in EAGLE. If you have more than the top layer selected you may end up drawing more on the board then you desire. If you'd like to create text, vector fonts can be printed out on the pen plotter. If you use the tnames layer to separate traces and text, then select both the top layer and tnames before exporting the DXF file.

When prompted after selecting export as DXF (file>export | DXF), deselect the wire width and fill area options and then save the file to the appropriate directory.

Step 3: Importing Layout to Silhouette Studio

Picture of Importing Layout to Silhouette Studio

Import the file
Import the DXF file into Silhouette Studio by dragging the file onto the blank page. You can see that all of the pads are composed of either raster line patterns or concentric circles.

Adjust the layout
After importing the DXF file to Silhouette Studio, it may need to be rescaled. Go back to the EAGLE board layout and measure the pattern from top to bottom. Then "select all" in Silhouette Studio and rescale the pattern to match.

Next, position the Arduino pattern on the page where desired.

Select print settings
Open up the plotting window. We aren't using a cutting mat, so that option can be deselected. A printing speed of 1 (the slowest speed) works well. Glossy photo paper can be used with a thickness level 15. Finally, make sure the "sketch pen" option is selected.

Step 4: Printing the Arduino

Picture of Printing the Arduino

Getting the plotter ready
To prepare the Circuit Scribe for plotting, wrap the pen in masking tape, then wedge it into the plotter head and lock it.

Load the plotter with glossy photo paper, which will enhance the conductivity of the ink, compared to standard paper.

Now simply hit "cut" in Silhouette Studio!

The tool path that Silhouette Studio creates tends to double over most of the lines. This is to our advantage -- drawing over the traces twice reduces their electrical resistance.

Step 5: Placing Components

Picture of Placing Components

Method 1:
Place a drop of superglue between the component pads. It's ok if glue gets on one of the traces that runs between the pads. Then carefully place a component with tweezers and press in the center.

This method is permanent and the connection between components and pads should be good. However, we sometimes reinforce the connections using conductive epoxy applied with a syringe or an electric fluid dispenser.

Method 2:
Place a strip of z-axis tape over several of the component pads. Then press the surface mount components in place. The components could be peeled up later and reused. This is by far the quickest and easiest method to attach components.

Step 6: Burning the Arduino Bootloader & Programming

Picture of Burning the Arduino Bootloader & Programming

Burning the Arduino Bootloader
An Arduino chip isn't ready to program straight from Atmel's factory (the company that makes the microcontrollers)! In order to get the ATMEGA328 to run any Arduino sketches, the Arduino firmware has to be loaded in a process known as bootloading (akin to loading an operating system such as Windows 7).

There are a few programmers you can buy - we use a USBtinyISP from Adafruit. You can also buy Atmel's official programmer (an AVR ISP) from digikey. If you never want to burn the bootloader yourself you can buy the surface mount ATMEGA328P already bootloaded.

Burning the bootloader is simple. First connect 5 pads on the Paperduino (GND, VCC, MOSI, MISO, SCK and DTR) to the programmer. Once connected, select the correct board type in Arduino IDE (an Arduino Pro Mini 328 at 5V), and then click "burn bootloader." If it works, the bootloader will be uploaded. If needed, additional help can be found here.

Uploading a sketch to the Paperduino
Our Arduino does not have an FTDI chip built on the board. The FTDI essentially bridges the gap between USB and the serial communication of the ATMEGA328 chip. What we need is the simple FTDI chip, which can be found packaged in a USB cable, and purchased from Sparkfun here. In future versions of the Paperduino we'll actually integrate an FTDI chip and make a paper USB connector to plug directly into a USB port on your computer.

Once you have the FTDI cable in hand, the connection is simple. Wire up the GND, VCC, TXD, RXD and DTR to the appropriate spots on the cable (we used our magnet-tipped cables from the Arduino Connection Kit). Once wired, all you have to do is upload a sketch. Uploading the blink example will blink the green surface mount LED.

We uploaded a simple sketch that changes the direction of our magnetic bi-direction LED component from blue to green. Using two digital outputs, the direction is changed easily by making output 6 low, and 7 high. And to reverse, make output 6 high and 7 low. Voila!

Step 7: What Would You Make?

We can't wait to see what you come up with!

Share your own project ideas with us in the comments section!


AnirudhT1 (author)2016-03-11

Hi. I do not have the Silhouette SD so but I have the circuit pen. Can I draw it with hand? And those capacitors in that flat shape are not available. So can I use the normal shaped capacitors of the same value?

MinkooC (author)2015-10-18

what does it mean? 'To solve this issue, overlay the pads with meandering line features so they will be filled by a raster pattern.'

Could you explain it for me more specifically?

Thanks in advance.

MrsTerrible (author)2015-06-09

The project and result is awesome! It#s based on the Arduino pro mini 5V/16Mhz, right? I just wonder why you put an 8Mhz resonator on it, but the originale Arduino pro mini 5V works with 16Mhz.

fmlemos (author)2015-02-16

Need help to download Paperduino Layout board.

The link on Dropbox, bellow, is broken. Can you please fix it ?

Our final Paperduino 2.0 EAGLE files can be found here.

karma-laboratory (author)2014-12-04

I was looking at the BOM and adding everything to a DigiKey order but both the Red LED (475-1416-1-ND) and Green LED (475-1407-1-ND) give me an error message of "Value add packaging not available; alternate packaging exists.".

I looked at the 2 alternative packages and they are also not being sold. Suggestions for alternative LEDs with the same form factor?

twelvetone (author)2014-10-09

Where do you get the Arduino Connection Kit?

twelvetone (author)2014-10-09

Where do you find the Electroninks Arduino connection kit?

ijourneaux (author)2014-10-09

I was wondering if there was additional info on connecting the components to the paper and provide a reliable connection between the component and the trace that is on the paper?

Amytheengineer (author)2014-08-29

Sorry to be a bother, but I'm having considerable difficulty bootloading the atmega ic. I'm using the adafruit SMT Test Socket - TQFP-32 and this arduino tutorial: Is this an appropriate approach?

Amytheengineer (author)2014-08-13

The BOM and audio calls for an Atmega328, but the video show an Atmega168?

Hi Amy, we used both, but the Atmega328P is what should be used. It is a bit better and not much more expensive than the 168P. See the actual BOM here:

Thanks for the reply! Any tips on bootloading those suckers? This is my first time.

tz1 (author)2014-02-10

You won't be able to get the pen until July 2014. You should really say that somewhere near the top since this "instructable" can't be done until then unless you already contributed on kickstarter and got a preview.

The link to actually get a pen is at:

sbouli (author)2014-01-16


none of your download (in dropbox) are working anymore .. I bought a silhouette portrait just to try to built your paperduino ;)

please provide the eagle and schematics by other means ...


a french circuit scribe baker ;)

Electroninks (author)sbouli2014-01-16

Sorry about that Stephane! We moved from dropbox to Google Drive. We've updated the link, or try directly here:

Let us know how it goes!

Ibraheem Bokhari (author)2013-12-25

Were can I order the pen

You can grab the pen here:

MrCruz (author)2013-12-18

I'm wondering if there's any way to do double sided circuits.

Electroninks (author)MrCruz2013-12-18

Yep! You could flip the page over (if both side are the same texture). Vias can be made by punching holes and drawing through the hole. Or you could try using a brad, or paperclip. :)

r-philp (author)Electroninks2013-12-19

a staple might work too.

tovey (author)r-philp2013-12-22

It depends on the staple form.

If the staple is squished flat like copiers do, then yes, it would likely work provided the coating does not prevent contact.

A typical stapler that bends the staple arms into a curve underneath the paper and allows the staple to rock back and forth would likely give you poor contact and cause issues with the project.

Then there's the issue of resistance in the staple material as well.

Certainly an idea to test out.

agis68 (author)2013-12-22

that's a revolution....only imagine the possibilities

msemtd (author)2013-12-20

Wonderful! I see it is called Paperduino 2.0 - is it in any way related to Guilherme Martins' Paperduino? (See )

guibot (author)msemtd2013-12-20

This project is so completely amazing!!! The relation I see with my "paperduino" is only the name!!

This Paperduino is so much cooler!! I'm sure I will replicate it, and by the way, I have just backed the conductive pen on kickstarter :D

Electroninks (author)guibot2013-12-20

We called it Paperduino 2.0 to pay homage to Guilherme, since he created the first one! Glad you like it, and thanks for backing us!

rmgb (author)2013-12-20

I would definitely suggest the Silhouette pen adapter. It holds pens a lot better than tape.

prakis (author)2013-12-20

Circuit Scribe looks like magic for me, and with ink-jet cartridge its a hobby home factory.

destroid75 (author)2013-12-20

this is really awesome but getting an arduino uno seems much cheaper on my side of the world

nwlaurie (author)2013-12-19

Excellent project - now all we need is an ink-jet cartridge with conductive ink in it!

SayntCigol (author)2013-12-18

I would love to see this pen in the silhouette form factor (so you don't have to tape it up)

Electroninks (author)SayntCigol2013-12-18

How about a 3D printed holder? It's just a cylinder that is hollow. We can post a part for that.. no problem. :)

SayntCigol (author)Electroninks2013-12-18

If only I had a 3D printer... hmmm gonna have to get my tools list prioritized

annecost (author)SayntCigol2013-12-19

It looks like Silhouette makes an adapter that works with ball point pens:

annecost (author)2013-12-19

This is brilliant on a number of levels! I am vey excited about the circuit scribe and funded on kickstarter. Great way to teach my kids about circuits. I've been on the fence about getting a Silhouette but your MAcGyver move here shows there's a lot more possibilities with the device. Bravo!

bill2009 (author)2013-12-19

This is wonderful. The use of the Z tape is brilliant. I had been thinking about trying it for mounting smt components on a pcb for quickly trying something out but i wasn't sure it would work. I'll do it for sure now.

About This Instructable




Bio: Circuit Scribe is a rollerball pen that writes with conductive silver ink. It makes creating circuits as easy as doodling! Visit the Circuit Scribe site ... More »
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