Introduction: LED Lit Acrylic Sign
My wife asked if I would help create thank you gifts for her community choir that would be presented to the conductor and accompanists. I showed her pardy73's Edge Lit Acrylic Sign Instructable and she loved it! I used our Makerspace's Epilog laser machine to etch the acrylic as well as create a wood box frame.
The gifts were handed out at the end of the last choir session and they were well received.
Step 1: Materials
I took advantage of being able to access an Epilog laser machine at my local Makerspace for this project.
- Sheet of acrylic (12" x 24" x 0.25")
- Sheet of good both sides plywood (20" x 30" x 0.25")
- LED strip lights
- 12v DC power wall-wart
The best place I found that had clear sheets of acrylic at a great price was at a automotive/window glass shop. They will even cut the sheets to your order specifications at no additional cost.
The LED strip lights can be purchased on eBay or other outlets.
I usually find my DC wall-warts for a couple of dollars at the Salvation Army.
Step 2: Etching the Acrylic
My wife created the designs for each gift in Gimp. She used both purchased artwork as well as her own artistic talents and created unique and tailored images for each person. When designing your artwork, keep in mind leave space at the bottom that will be hidden inside the box.
I took the images and mirrored them. The idea is that when you etch the acrylic you want the etching to be facing away from the viewer of the artwork. I am quite certain that I took photos of the etching process yet I cannot find the images on my phone.
I removed the blue protective sheet from only the side that I was etching. I left the other side on to protect it from being scratched by the bed of the laser machine.
I gave the acrylic a warm water-only bath to remove the smoke particles and other items that stuck to the piece. Pat dry with a clean towel.
Some tips on etching acrylic:
- Make sure you etch from top to bottom if the exhaust fan is at the top of your laser machine. Any laser work will produce smoke and this smoke sticks to the acrylic. It's easy to rinse off but you don't want the smoke particles to impact your artwork during the laser process.
- Choose a "stucki" dithering option when setting up the print job. This produced a very smooth etch on the wider etches such as the piano keys.
Step 3: Designing the Box
I used Makercase to design a box for this project. I chose a finger joint as it is quite aesthetically pleasing and a very strong joint.
Use millimeters for the most accurate sized box. My design used 700mm x 100mm x 50mm dimensions. I also used a digital caliper to find the absolute width of the wood. Use the "custom material thickness" option with Makercase and enter this value. The finger joints will be flush with all sides of the box.
I opened the Makercase .SVG file into Inkscape to rearrange the pieces to take full advantage of my wood material. I added a 6mm slot on the top half of the box that will be used to slide the acrylic into the finished box. I added a 5mm hole to one of the side pieces for the power cable.
Important Feature: I added a filled box that will be placed on the bottom piece inside face. This box is in line with the hole that will be cut on the top piece. This will be a guide for where to place the LED strip. The LEDs will be perfectly in line and in the middle of the acrylic sheet.
Step 4: Assembling the Box
Assembling the box is a pretty straight forward process. Add glue and pressure and give it time to set. However there is an order that needs to be followed:
- Trim the LED strip to the length of the guide.
- Remove the protective backing from the LED strip and apply the strip to the bottom piece of the box. Use the etched guide for perfect layout.
- Run the power wires through the hole and create a simple knot that will prevent the wire from being pulled out from the box.
- Solder the power wires to the LED strip.
- Now apply glue to each finger and clamp the pieces together.
Step 5: Add Acrylic Sheet to Box
Now it's time to check out your project! Slide the acrylic into the box until it reaches the bottom of the box. The hole is the same width as the acrylic so it will be snug and won't move around.
Power up the LEDs and turn off the lights! The LEDs will be super bright with room lights on but the project looks so much better in the dark. :)