Introduction: Light Up LED Place Card/Name Tag

About: I used to teach middle school science, but now I run my own online educational science website. I spend my days designing new projects for students and Makers to put together.

It’s getting to be that time of year again, where everyone’s Facebook feed is filled up with wedding announcements and pictures. Here at, we decided to put a new spin on these name tags, and these table cards, transforming them into place cards for weddings or other events. If you want, you can even use safety pins so your place cards become nametags!


Laser Cutter


1x Clear Acrylic – for Badge: 3x4 inches, 1/8th inch thick

1x Acrylic (any color) or Wood - for Stand: 3x4 inches, 1/8 inch thick

2x Color LEDs (clear, not diffused) – any color, white works best

2x Small Paperclips

1x CR 2032 Battery

1x Adhesive Bar Safety Pin (Optional)

Step 1: Cutting and Etching


Laser cut out your nametags and their stands from the files provided, or use ours as guides to make your own. There are three different styles of stand, with a 1x1 inch reference square. Final dimensions for the badges are approximately 2.5x3.3 inches.


Before you etch, make sure you orient the badge so that the large round hole is at the bottom. This is especially important if your badge is doubling as a nametag. Using the laser cutter to etch names into each tag is a huge timesaver. Make sure you spell check! Otherwise, you can use a safety pin to scratch each name into the acrylic, but this is tedious work. Convince your friends to do it themselves!

Peel the protective backing off of the acrylic before moving on.

Step 2: Wiring

LEDs have two legs, one long (positive), one short (negative). They will not light up if they are wired backwards.

  1. Pull the center bend of both paperclips out a bit (like you tried to paperclip a huge stack of papers) to make it springy. This will help keep your battery in place.
  2. Fit one LED into its hole in the name badge with the positive leg on the same side as the etching and the negative leg on the back.
  3. Put the positive leg of your LED through one end of the paperclip, then through the hole in the badge labeled with a plus (+) sign. Bend the leg on the back side of the badge to keep it from coming out.
  4. Repeat parts 2-3 with the second LED. Your paperclip should now be fixed diagonally across the center hole of the name badge. Make sure that the springy bit you made in step one faces into the hole.
  5. Now, turn your badge over to the back side, which should have two free LED legs sticking out. Seat your battery in the hole with the words (positive side) facing the front of the badge.
  6. Now we’re going to repeat steps 2-4, but with the negative side. Thread an LED leg through an end of the paperclip and through the negative (-) hole in the badge. Then thread the leg of the second LED through the paperclip and through the negative hole in the badge. Remember to keep the springy side against the battery for a good connection!
  7. Your paperclip should be going diagonally across the back of the badge, in the opposite direction of the positive side, and your LEDs should be lit up!

Step 3: Final Assembly

Put together the stand you cut out and place your badge on it. You’re done!

If your place cards are doubling as nametags, you’ll also want attach or supply adhesive bar pins to the top so your guests can wear them around! You can even etch labels such as "Grandfather of the Bride" or "Friend of the Couple" to help people get to know each other!

Step 4: Troubleshooting

A few common issues, and how to solve them:

  1. One LED doesn’t turn on.
    1. The LED is in backwards, take it out and turn it around so that the longer, positive leg is in front.
  2. Both LEDs don’t turn on.
    1. Your battery is in backwards. Just flip it over!
    2. Both LEDs are in backwards. You can turn both around, or just flip your battery over.
    3. Your battery is dead, get a replacement from your local dollar store.
    4. Your paperclips aren’t making good contact with the battery. You can test this by pressing the assembly together and seeing if things light up. To fix this, take a look at Part 1 of Step 2. Make your paperclips springy, and make sure the springy side faces the battery!
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