Introduction: Care-O-Matic!

Feeling down, defeated, demotivated, or just plain tired?

You could use a solid dose of self care from the Care-O-Matic, the self care "vending machine"! It's essentially a 12x16x4" cabinet with three shelves and six compartments (Me-Time, Interest, Energy, Comfort, Love and Rest - six aspects of self care) that light up with the press of button. The cabinet doubles as a container from which a community can deposit or take small self-care objects or trinkets from. Through its vintage aesthetic and interesting premise, it hopes to motivate people to partake in a culture of self care, and to try and help each other get by, by placing small goodies or simple motivational notes.

Intrigued? This Instructable will guide you through making your very own Care-O-Matic for your community, or provide you with the steps you need to create a special kind of cabinet or container with lights, assembled out of lasercut acrylic pieces and powered by an Arduino.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials.

You'll need:

For the cabinet

  • Lasercutter
  • 3mm and 2mm acrylic
    • I chose to use 3mm clear acrylic for the walls (as it was what was abundant in my school's FabLab), 3mm yellow tinted acrylic for the doors, and 2mm acrylic for the handles. You may use other materials such as medium-density fiberboard (MDF), or wood, but this would require advanced knowledge in editing
    • Choose opaque acrylic to avoid the need for paint.
  • Tamiya Cement (For best effect on the joints)
    • You may rely on other adhesives on-hand such as super glue or glass glue, but these will not yield the best stability for your cabinet.
  • Masking tape
  • Scissors
  • Super glue
  • Glue remover (optional)
  • For painting (optional)
    • Plastic primer
    • Acrylic paint
      • I used red and white to make pink for mine, but you may use any color!
      • Or spray paint
    • Large flat acrylic brushes
    • Fine/super fine sandpaper (360 to 600 grit)
    • Small brushes for painting details
    • Chisel/small file for paint scraping

For the electronics

  • 24 5mm LED lights (Any color, 4 per compartment)
  • 12 100 Ohm resistors
  • 22 AWG wire (at least 10ft)
  • Power supply:
    • Breadboard (Mini size will do)
    • Arduino Uno
    • To power Arduino: Either USB connector for the Arduino and powerbank, or wall adapter plug
    • OR
    • Any other power supply (batteries, etc.) to supply 5V
  • Soldering iron and lead
  • Twisting pliers
  • Wire stripper
  • Wire cutter
  • 6 on-off switches (Press to close circuit, press again for open)
  • Electrical tape
  • Scissors

Step 2: Lasercut the Cabinet Parts.

The attached .pdf files are what I used for my project - these were all created on Inkscape and are all made specifically for lasercutting on 3mm material (tabs are 3mm wide/tall, all paths are red and 0.001 inch wide), except for the handles, which should be cut on 2mm acrylic. If you're advanced and wish to modify the files, you may message me for the .svg files..

  1. Send these to the software used to control your lasercutter.
  2. Don't forget to recalibrate and load the appropriate cutting settings before running the lasercutter!
  3. Lasercut each file once, except for the lights (3 copies), shelf bottoms (2 copies). and handles (6 copies).
  4. Remove the backing on your parts, and store for later assembly.
  5. It may help to label each part with masking tape so you can easily track which part goes where.

Step 3: Paint Your Pieces. (OPTIONAL!)

This is an optional step.

If you want to go with the vintage aesthetic, hand-painting your parts is the way to go! I chose to emulate the look of those retro vending machines, and chose pink because it's a friendly color that also symbolizes care or love.

Stay clear of using anything other than spray paint if you're not using a primer! Paints will tend to not stick onto the acrylic, and will not dry properly. If you have spray paint, you may spray the acrylic directly.

  1. Set up your work area. Make sure to lay all your paints, parts, and brushes on a surface that can be dirtied! Have tissue and water on standby, in case you make any mistakes.
  2. Make sure your pieces are clean and dry before priming and painting.
  3. Before priming your pieces, use a fine sandpaper ( to give your pieces a rough finish - primer will stick easier!)
  4. Spray plastic primer onto your pieces. Make sure to press the nozzle around 12 to 16 inches away from the surface you're spraying, to avoid pooling. Also try to spray the pieces evenly by spraying slowly in sweeping motions.
  5. Leave the parts to air for at least 10 minutes.
  6. Paint the parts with the base color! Make big strokes and use a large flat brush to easier coat the parts evenly. Paint carefully around the holes so you won't have to scrape too much off the edges later.
  7. Leave to dry for at least 30 minutes.
  8. Paint the details with smaller, finer brush sizes. Make your strokes smooth so the letters will be legible.
  9. Leave to dry for another 30 minutes.
  10. Once the pieces are completely dry, you may check the holes and edges to see if any paint solidified. Scrape these off using a small file/chisel/cutter.

Step 4: Assemble the Electronics.

The final project uses a circuit diagram originally made with the goal of incorporating an Arduino for a randomization function, as well as light animations. The power supply required by the circuit is 5V (having only one compartment/4 LEDs at a time), as that's the maximum an Arduino Uno can supply. If you're advanced in electronics, you could find a way to supply 5V of power without having to use an Arduino!

The electronics can only be assembled fully along with the assembly of the box, so later steps are found in the next step.

  1. Check if all your components work (LEDs) by prototyping it in the breadboard. You may also simulate your circuit diagram to make sure it really works.
  2. Prepare the lights parts (the one with four holes), your wire, wire stripper and cutter, and the soldering iron.
  3. Prepare the switchboard. Push in the six buttons.
  4. Place the LEDs through the holes of the lights parts.
  5. Use the circuit diagram to guide you in wiring.
  6. Be careful with the soldering iron and lead!
  7. Make sure all the connections are secure. Use electrical tape if you need the wires to stay in place, to avoid tangling.

Step 5: Assemble Your Cabinet Parts, and the Rest of the Electronics.

This part may be a bit tricky. You may use masking tape to hold the pieces together while you wait for the adhesive to set, or while trying to fit everything together. If using an adhesive other than Tamiya Cement, test it first on acrylic to make sure the surfaces really bond together and hold.

  1. Start with the front part and the bottom part, then move on to the tall middle divider.
  2. You may also glue in the switchboard.
  3. Apply small amounts of Tamiya Cement, or another trusted glass/super glue on the tabs. Fit the parts together and make sure the parts stand straight and still while the adhesive sets. Tamiya Cement takes 24 hours to really dry and bond together acrylic.
  4. Before placing the shelves and the other walls, finish the electronics shelf by shelf. Connect the circuits with wire and let it run through the holes in the divider, to the hollow space between the right wall and the divider. This space is meant to hold the Arduino and breadboard/power supply.
  5. Connect the right circuit to the corresponding switch on the back of the switchboard.
  6. Move on to the next shelf, then the small divider. Apply Tamiya Cement as you go.
  7. Once done, connect all the switches together in the wiring (This will be the positive end), and all the negative ends of the light circuits. Use electrical tape to bunch them together.
  8. Power the Arduino either by connecting it through USB cable to a computer, or a powerbank. You may also use a wall plug to get power directly from the outlet.
  9. Test the lights, and modify your circuit if anything goes wrong.

Step 6: Affix the Doors.

The doors .pdf file I attached in the earlier step has labels (custom lettering) specifically for a Care-O-Matic; again, you may ask for the .svg files should you want plain versions!
  1. Fit the handle parts in the doors. Use a mallet or a similar tool to drive it in properly.
  2. Use super glue or another good adhesive to glue the middle bar to the handle.
  3. Wait for the glue to set as you go.
  4. Glue a hinge onto the bottom of each door, middle position.
  5. Position the door in the hole it will cover before gluing the other side of the hinge to the front part of the cabinet.

Step 7: Place Little Self Care Items!

Place your little items inside the compartments! If you've chosen to use the same compartments as me (Me-Time, etc.), here are examples of what you can place:
  • Me-Time - shower gel, lip balm, candy, bar of soap, massage coupons, nail polish
  • Comfort - small bottle of lotion, comforting quotes, notes from friends or notes from you (as a well-meaning stranger)
  • Rest - tea for before bedtime, stress ball, small plushy/keychain
  • Love - motivational quotes, love song recommendations, free hug coupons, chocolates
  • Interest - nice paper, small sewing kit, beads and nylon string, index cards with recipes, book recommendations
  • Energy - energy drink packets, candy, dance song recommendations

Step 8: Exhibit in Your Community!

Once your own Care-O-Matic, you may now place it somewhere for the community to try out! Make sure to place instructions with it as well, and encourage people to not only take, but to also leave things of their own. You can display it together with a notepad, so people can at least write notes for placing it in for the next person to read!