I was investigating ways to get creative with LEDs as part of an electronics project. I have been using press studs (aka poppers) as conductive components in my circuits. Here is a way to use plastic bags to create transferable LED beads.
You will need:
- Plastic bags
- A metal rod (could be the handle of a cooking utensil or something similar)
- Heat source (e.g. hair tongs)
- LEDs (I ordered my sewable LEDs from Kitronik.co.uk)
- Conductive thread (also available from Kitronik.co.uk)
- Press Studs (a.k.a. poppers)
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Step 1: Cut Plastic Bags Into Rectangles
I found that thinner layers were most suitable for allowing the LED light to pass through.
Step 2: Roll Onto Your Metal Bar
I used an aluminium rod but also experimented with a metal spoon handle. As long as you can pull the bag off one end it'll be fine.
Step 3: Seal the Edges With Heat
I used hair tongs as I found they gave a good amount of heat but were easy to handle. It was important to just pulse the heat onto the bag - if held there for any longer than a second it would start to melt to fast and create holes.
You can layer the bags to create patterns simply by rolling over the top and reheating. If holes do form it is easy to patch up the tubes by layering in this way.
Step 4: Scrunch and Remove
Scrunching the plastic gives it an interesting texture. Once removed from the metal your plastic bag beads are ready to get electrical...
Step 5: LED Sewing
These beads are designed as part of a circuit. They connect to the circuit using press studs. It is important to know which way round your beads will be sitting in the circuit as the LEDs only work if positive and negative are the right way round.
Once you know which way round to sew you can get started.
Cut a strip of card to fit inside your tube. Using conductive thread sew the plastic bag tube and half a press stud to one end of the card. Push the bag up to the end and sew towards the middle of the card. The LED needs to be sewn onto the opposite side of the card to the press stud. Connect the correct end of the LED using the thread. Tie a knot and cut the thread.
Starting on the other side of the LED, secure the LED and sew towards the other end of the card. As you reach the end pull the tube down over the LED and secure it to the end of the card. Sew the other half of the press stud in place.
Step 6: Your LED Beads Are Complete!
Your beads are ready to connect to your circuit.
Troubleshooting: If they don't work try the positive and negative the other way round. If they still don't work it could be that your thread is not sewn tightly enough.