Pulp Based Computing: Paper with Embedded LEDs

Picture of Pulp Based Computing: Paper with Embedded LEDs
The MIT media lab has been experimenting with pulp based computing (making paper with embedded electronics):

Integrating electronics into materials such as paper bring up interesting questions about what computing in the future will look like.  

This tutorial shows you how to make your own paper with embedded LEDs.  It's easy and fun!

Required Materials:
 • paper to tear up to form substrate
 • window screen cut to approximately 4 x 6 inches (or desired size of paper) 
 • tub to put pulp/water in
 • blender to create pulp
 • conductive materials to create conductive paths within paper (22 gauge
non-insulated wire, conductive thread: http://www.sparkfun.com/products/8549,
twisted tinfoil, etc [conductive thread works best])
• LEDs: http://www.ledshoppe.com/led5mm.htm
• 3v battery

Reference Videos:


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Step 1: Prepare the Paper

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First, tear or cut paper into small (1 inch approximate) squares. Then reduce paper to a pulp. This can be done either by combining with water and then boiling or allowing to sit in water for a few days.

Step 2: Prepare Your LEDs

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Next, while your paper is turning to pulp, prepare your LEDs. LEDs are polar, meaning that one side is positive and one side is negative. The longer side is the positive side.

Take your LEDs and curl the ends with small pliers to make hooks. Make sure to keep the positive side slightly longer, so that you will be able to tell which side is positive/negative. Then tie conductive thread onto each side (or wrap wire, aluminum foil, etc.), wrapping it tightly multiple times around the hooks multiple times to ensure a good connection.

Step 3: Make Paper Pulp

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Once paper has started to deteriorate, combine with more water, and pulse in a blender until it is a pulp like consistency (like guacamole).

Step 4: Pour the Pulp into a Tub

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Pour the pulp into a 2 – 3 inch deep pan or tub. Combine with more water until it’s the consistency of soup.

Step 5: Dip Your Screen into the Paper

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Dip your screen into the paper pulp mixture.

Step 6: Flip the Screen & Squeeze Out Water

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Flip the screen onto a counter (or cookie dough sheet for mobility) paper-side-down.

Pat dry with a towel. Remove as much water as possible.

mischka4 years ago
I cant imagine what to do with 3 LEDs embedded in a piece of paper, but embedding tiny electronics in paper seems to be an interesting concept, beside of noizy greeting cards. I imagine a Harry Potter newspaper with embedded videos or moving pictures.
DIY-Guy mischka3 years ago
I can imagine a small set of electromagnet coils hidden inside and a magnetic ball rolling around between them on top of the paper....
verence4 years ago
Nice i'ble. (Only in step 8, the diagrams don't show up for me where they should - there's just some white space)

Of course, 3 LEDs are kind of pointless (no offence meant), but definitely an interesting idea for some design objects. I can imagine a free hanging (maybe somehow curved) RGB-LED-matrix showing some data or just a mood light, the when switched-off has a non-technical appeal.
lizzzz (author)  verence4 years ago
I totally agree with you about the pointlessness of 3 LEDs. This instructable/project was just to introduce the simple process of embedding LEDs within paper. I hope soon to do a project that integrates them in a more aesthetically pleasing / functional way. Thanks for the thought!