Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

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Paper Circuit: Bobby Zahn

For my 2d in-class card, I used the quote “If you’re going through hell, keep going,” which was attributed to Winston Churchill. On the front of the card, you see a person surrounded by flames, and the card opens to reveal them walking out into a nice meadow. When you press the fire extinguisher to put out the last of flames, the person’s eyes light up to symbolize them making it out of hell.

The execution of my in-class card left much to be desired. The connection of the LEDs to the copper tape was finicky, so you had to press them down to make the eyes light. I also didn’t plan my design around the necessity of wiring the LEDs, so the circuit wasn’t integrated into the drawing very well. It was hard to wire the two eyes so close together without letting the wires tough, so I put in a little slip of paper to separate the two ends of each LED. I kept these issues in mind as I started my 3d project.

For my 3d project, I made a fire-breathing origami dragon. First, I found an online video tutorial of an origami dragon and followed it using a 8.5” square cut out of a piece of white printer paper to make my first prototype. I named him Ruth after the white dragon in Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series.

After finishing Ruth, I experimented with different origami shapes for his fire. I tried to make a longer, spikier version of the classic origami balloon. My first attempt looked interesting, but was rather prone to falling apart.

My second attempt made a nice diamond shape. Inspired by the Pokemon Charmander, I decided to give Ruth a flame at the end of his tail as well as one coming from his mouth.

Now that I had my paper bases, it was time to plan the circuit. Ruth took a pretty long time to fold, so I wanted to make a relatively simple circuit. I picked red and yellow lights to be flame-like, while also not needing any resistors. Originally, I wanted to have yellow lights at Ruth’s mouth and the tip of the tail, and then red lights for his eyes, but after thinking about my 2d card, I knew that would be too complicated to wire in the head area.  Instead, I decided to give Ruth spines like a stegosaurus, which would allow the circuit to be a nice, clean line down both sides of his body, with all of the lights in parallel to each other. The battery and switch are hidden between his legs. The switch closes by pressing the two halves of his body together, so that the copper tape touches the battery as illustrated below. I created a very simple circuit prototype on Ruth and tested the yellow LED inside my flame prototype.

Next, it was time to choose my materials for the final version. I wanted to make a bigger version of Ruth, so I used 12” square paper. I considered several different reddish patterns, settling on a subtle flower pattern which wouldn’t too busy on a moderately complicated folded dragon. I also really liked a certain green polka dot pattern, but I thought it would clash too much with the copper tape.

With this paper, I folded my second dragon, nicknamed Baby Ruth. As you can see, Baby Ruth is quite a bit larger than Ruth.

I picked a yellow tissue paper for the flame. I picked the tissue paper because it was thinner so I figured it would be more see-through than normal paper. However, when I tried to fold it, it didn’t hold its shape very well, especially at the ends. So instead, I used the tissue paper to make amorphous blobs for the fire.

I started wiring Baby Ruth with his flames. I originally wanted to wrap all the wires in copper tape to strengthen the connections, but when testing the spines I found that the connection worked perfectly fine without wrapping them, so the spine wires are not wrapped in tape like the flame wires are. After wiring Baby Ruth, I discovered that his lights were very dim, so I added a second battery in series with the first and he lit up much better. Here are pictures of Baby Ruth, both lit and unlit.

Overall, I was happy with how Ruth and Baby Ruth turned out. The paper I used for Baby Ruth was a little thicker than would be ideal, but he turned out okay. I were to redo it, the only glaring thing I would change is Baby Ruth’s mouth flame. If you look closely at his mouth, you can see that I hid the wires of the LED inside his mouth. This made the LED a bit too short to properly light up the flame, so the very tip of the flame wouldn’t light up much. I’m also a little disappointed I didn’t get to use the original flame prototype, since I really liked how the yellow LED lit up the white paper like a lantern, and I liked how Ruth looked with his white paper tail flame, but I prefer the tissue paper on Baby Ruth, especially when unlit. With the yellow tissue paper, it might actually be possible to use a white LED instead, since the tissue paper would make the light look yellow from the outside, but it probably wouldn’t make a big difference.

I also think it would be cool to experiment with hiding the copper tape inside the folds instead of putting it superficially on the outside of the body. In order to do this, you would have to put the copper tape on the paper before doing some of the folds, which would be interesting. I don’t think the copper tape would remain intact through Baby Ruth’s folding process, especially with such thick paper, but it could work for a simpler origami.

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Sticker: Bobby Zahn

In class, I made two practice stickers: a giraffe-groundhog griffin, and an Umbreon.

My Umbreon’s eyes turned out a little funny-looking because it was hard to get the placement right with no references to line them up. I originally wanted to make a Ninetales, but Ninetales has fewer obvious markings to break up a silhouette, and I didn’t see multiple shades of pale yellow vinyl so any attempts at doing lighting/shadows instead would probably look funny.

For my final project, I chose to make a sticker for my girlfriend of her favorite hero from the game Overwatch, Ana Amari.

I based my sticker off a drawing of Ana’s Cabana skin by @irlwitch on Twitter. I chose this image because of its simplicity. The artist uses clear, distinct shapes and colors without making the proportions too cartoony, which makes their style good for converting to a layered sticker.

I started by trying to trace the bitmap of the image in multiple scans, but I found that it was too complicated to work as intended. So instead, I brought the image into GIMP and used the intelligent scissors tool to simplify the image into six discrete shades. I was aiming for a minimalist style to make it easier to put the sticker together, so I left out all the facial features, the shading and shadows, as well as small details like Ana’s neck and the rim of her hat. I originally wanted to include her hand shushing, but it looked weird without her mouth and with her finger blending into her face.

Next, I imported the image into Inkscape and traced the bitmap to vectorize it. I smoothed out the curves and used the path editing tools to eliminate gaps and overlapping. I learned my lesson from my placement trouble with Umbreon and tried to leave little clues to help with the layer placement. For instance, there’s the little bump of the scarf onto the left edge of the face to help line up those pieces, since otherwise it could be hard to figure out the perfect alignment for the face piece, especially with my original intention of making the hair color be the background. I ultimately decided to change the shoulders to match the hat color and use that as the background because the pale yellow flower blended in too much with the yellowish hair, and I remembered from class that there weren’t enough available shades of pale yellows/beiges to distinguish them. Instead, I changed the hair to a light gray shade more accurate to the character’s in-game appearance. In-game, Ana’s hair and sunglasses are actually almost white, but I used light gray to avoid confusion with the white default background in Inkscape, and also because the bright white was kind of glaring.

As it turned out, I managed to find vinyl squares that almost perfectly matched the shades I wanted. I used the select-by-color option in the Silhouette program to print out each colored section separately. Except for the base hat layer, none of the layers are stacked on top of each other. Instead, I cut them so that their edges would line up and make it easier to get the placement right. I also wanted to avoid making the sticker too thick. I forgot to take pictures while printing the sticker out and putting it together, but here are pictures of the last layer (the sunglasses and eye patch) and the finished product.

Overall, I think the sticker turned out nicely, and my girlfriend likes it. I definitely learned from my practice Umbreon sticker a lot which helped the process for the Ana sticker go smoothly.

The toughest part was lining up all the pieces perfectly. If you look closely, there are gaps between some of the edges, especially between the face and hair. Alas, if only the real world had an option to automatically snap cusp nodes together like in Inkscape! To avoid the hat color showing through the gaps, it might be possible to make each successive layer entirely filled in, but then it would be harder to figure out where to line up the top layers (the same problem I had with Umbreon), especially with stuff like the sunglasses lens. I think the beige hat color is discreet enough that it’s not a big deal where it shows through, but maybe for a sticker with a bolder background color it would be better to use a different method.

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Laser Name Tag: Bobby Zahn

I started my design planning with the idea that I wanted to use a gradient raster to make a detailed drawing on wood. I couldn’t find a way to easily make a smooth grayscale vector out of a rasterized image, so I decided to make the background a gradient with a simpler foreground. I’ve always liked horses and birds, so I picked a pegasus as my foreground image, with a pale moon and a simple gradient for the sky.

For the ground, I used a 7-colored solution to the Hadwiger-Nelson problem, implemented with shades of gray. I originally wanted to use a premade texture, but as before, I had trouble with converting multiple shades of gray to a vectorized image, so instead I made hexagons using the polygon tool and used the Create Tiled Clones tool to fill in the space.

I decided to make my nametag circular so that it could double as a drink coaster. I don’t anticipate having a use for a name tag any time soon, and I dislike having useless stuff, so I figured making a coaster would be a good compromise.

With that, I cut out my first draft:

I found that the gradient was too dark to properly make out the legs of the pegasus and my name above the wings. I liked how the moon and wings stood out from the rest of the image, but when I lightened the gradient and made my name bigger, the contrast was less obvious. In order to maintain the contrast, I cut the wings and moon out of acrylic instead. I wanted to keep the design flat, so I decided to inlay the the pieces instead of putting an extra layer on top of or behind the wood.

For my second draft, I made two versions: one with the wings and moon cut out, one just of wood in case the acrylic pieces did not fit properly. Unfortunately, I found that when printing, the image got cut off to an 8.5 x 11″ rectangle, so the wood-only version did not cut properly. I also switched to use the epilog laser cutter instead of the universal on the recommendation of one of the Fab Lab assistants.

Luckily, when I tried to inlay my acrylic pieces into the wood, they fit! I glued them in with normal Elmer’s glue, which worked surprisingly well. Here are pictures of the name tag pre-glue and while drying. I left the name tag to dry upside down so that the front side would be as flat as possible.

Overall, it was a pretty ambitious project but I was happy with how it turned out. There were slight gaps around the wings since the acrylic pieces were a bit smaller than the holes in the wood. If I were pickier, I could have made the cutouts in the wood slightly smaller, but the acrylic pieces stayed solidly attached despite the gaps, so I kept them as is.

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