Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

Copper Tape Origami

Here’s my quote-inspired LED circuit: (“I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness for it shows me the stars.” The sun and the moon light up on my card!)

I tried to achieve a starry night effect on the left by poking holes through black construction paper and letting a white LED shine through, but the effect didn’t come out the way I’d hoped. Next time I’ll use a thinner paper, or splatter white paint onto the black paper to create stars! Too many issues with poking holes and getting rid of excess with the construction paper. 


For the 3D part of the assignment, I was inspired to create light-up origami! At first I wanted to create a flower, specifically a tulip, that would light up! Once I had a test model folded, I realized there might not be enough space to put the lights and battery inside. I talked to Dot and Maxx about the problem I was having, and brainstorming with them gave me new inspiration! I remembered there’s a particular type of origami that some satellites use to fold up their solar panels. One kind is called the Miura fold, and it looked awesome. It folds and unfolds just by pulling on two corners! I really, really wanted to make this. The hardest part is folding the paper into an odd number of even sections (like into 5ths). It’s really difficult to eyeball!

Once I created a prototype, I realized I was stuck. I didn’t know what design I wanted to put on the paper to light up! I decided to go with a nice picture of clouds being lit from behind. I love this sort of effect, and I thought it would lend itself well to being lit up with LEDs.

Final product: (it’s hard to tell from the photo, but there are 4 yellow LEDs and 1 red LED lit up under the paper to create a sun.)

If I’d had more time, I would have liked to experiment a bit more with designs to place on top. I think I limited myself a bit with a flat piece of origami, which made it hard to choose a design. I’m not satisfied with the design I ended up with, which was primarily due to time constraints. Had I started a bit earlier with it, I would have been able to use more LEDs and try other designs. I ran into a bunch of issues with the LEDs as well, which proved impossible to solve in the time I had. I first tried to use the flat LEDs to create a sort of sun behind the clouds, since their flat profile would make it easier to bend the design. I wasn’t satisfied with the effect I could achieve with those LEDs, so I tried again with the normal kind. While I was able to get the sun effect I wanted when the paper was flat, it was impossible to fold. And, after I tried to fold it up, I inadvertently broke the circuit, so now not all the LEDs will remain lit. These are things I would like to sort out if I did another piece of light-up, rigid, origami. 

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Copper Tape Origami Succulent

The copper tape card that we made in class incorporates an easy circuit. The quote that my card was inspired by was “It’s the kind of kiss that inspires stars to climb into the sky and light up the world.” I chose to do a simple design for my card and added a parallel circuit underneath the drawing. 

For my copper tape origami assignment, I chose to make a paper succulent and an origami box to go with it. I was most excited about making the origami flower and had a lot of fun choosing which design to go with. My first try at the origami succulent was a failure. It looks sort of like a pine cone instead of a flower. My second try was a lot better than the first.

A tip I learned while making my circuit is that if you got your ends wrong (+ and -), it’s way easier to flip the battery than to flip each of the LEDs individually. I’m very proud of how my succulent flower turned out and I can’t wait to make more when I get home 🙂 

If I had more time, I would add LEDs to the succulent itself instead of the box. I made the succulent before designing my circuit, so by that time, the petals of my flower were already glued down and there was no more room for copper tape or LEDs. One of the hardest parts of this assignment was designing a circuit around a 3D object. I found this difficult because you have to think about all the dimensions that your circuit will be “living” on.

If I had to do a similar project again, I would design the whole project first before jumping in to any particular part of the project. For example, I folded all my origami parts first without thinking about the circuit at all. This wasn’t the best thing to do because if the circuit ended up not working with my origami, I would have to redo the origami. 

Paper succulent tutorial:

Origami box tutorial:

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Project 3: Copper Tape Circuits

This week was especially challenging. Not because I didn’t have a concept, nor because I didn’t understand how to implement it, but solely due to technology not cooperating with my visions. When I started to cut the words out with the Silhouette Cameo, the paper kept moving because the mat wasn’t sticky enough. Seemed simple enough of a solution – just added blue tape to keep the paper in place. Unfortunately, I had a dull blade and thick paper, so even when the blade was set to 10, it still didn’t cut through the paper. When I tried a different type of paper, the Silhouette wouldn’t home properly. I spent 10 minutes trying to fix it before turning it off and back on, which actually fixed the problem. Lesson learned: do that first next time. That didn’t solve the dull blade issue, but before I tried a new blade, I found out I could cut paper using the laser cutter. Frustrated with the Silhouette, I jumped at the opportunity to use the Universal laser cutter, and guess what – it cut perfectly the first time. Once the pieces were all cut, it was only a simple matter of setting up the copper tape circuit and attaching the decorations.

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Valentine’s Popup Card

I made my card in the form of a bunny and a cat kissing, with a red and a yellow LED in each of their hearts that lights up when the card is opened. I chose this because it’s Valentine’s Day and my girlfriend and I joke that I’m a cat and she’s a rabbit.

One problem I encountered while making my pop-up card was that I really struggled to keep the two face-down strips from the switch flat enough to complete the circuit without being actively held down. I had to try to tape them in place several times before they finally did remain flat enough. If I did this again, I would probably have made a switch that didn’t rely on such precise taping.

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Light-up card

For this assignment, I made a mountain landscape with two light up snowflakes as with blue LEDs underneath. The mountain and snowflakes both popped up from the card. The progress pics are shown below.

For this project, I was inspired by some 3-d landscape pop-up cards I had seen. I used blue LEDs for the snowflakes and had the mountain pop-up out of the background. I’m still getting a hold of the artistic value of these projects and I feel that this project was rusty compared to the other ones I’ve made, but I’m making progress in trying to further my abilities as a maker and an artist. I need to learn further of the merit of multiple versions of the same project before achieving that which I want to create. I mistook how long this project would take and didn’t allocate enough time to debug the circuit and redraw whatever parts I felt were not up to par. The most frustrating part was the circuit not working correctly with no tangible issues present, especially since the circuit is relatively simple.

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INFO 490 Project 3 – Paper Circuit

For this project we were tasked with making some type of “light-up paper thing” using a paper circuit. Paper circuits entail the use of copper tape to make electronic connections on a sheet of paper to connect LEDs to coin cell batteries. My inspiration for this project was to do something a little more than just draw on a sheet of paper and have LEDs behind the drawing – instead, I decided to do an origami swan that lights up. I was a huge origami geek in elementary and middle school, so I learned how to make a swan a long time ago.

Origami swan!

I decided to have LEDs in the wings because I couldn’t think of a better place for them, and I decided to store the batteries in the middle part. As a “switch”, I decided to put copper tape along two “ridges” on the underside of the swan. This made it easy to pinch that spot and show that it actually lights up.

Marking the locations for the LEDs.

Where the contacts for the “switch” will be.

The place I’ll keep the batteries (obviously inside the paper, but I can’t get a picture of that from the outside).

Once I got everything marked, I unfolded the swan to start drawing out my circuit. This was a little difficult because I had to take into consideration the folds and contours of the paper.

Made larger markings for where all the components should go.

Made larger markings for the contacts.

Finished the layout of the circuit!

The switch contacts surround the swan’s butthole, which was done totally accidentally and unironically.

Now, it was time to build the circuit itself. Working with the copper tape was a little annoying because it kept bending and sticking to things I didn’t want it to, but (obviously) I managed.

Circuit assembled!

I planned on using the “paper” LEDs because it would’ve made life easier, however unfortunately the LEDs would’ve been upside down if I used them, and I wouldn’t see any light. So, I opted for using “traditional” LEDs.

Finished! (Holding the batteries together because they were making poor contact with the tape)

This was a pretty fun/whimsical project. It was interesting having to think about the design decisions I was making, but over all this was a pretty easy project. I didn’t run into any major issues with the execution of this project, as it wasn’t terribly complicated. As an Electrical Engineering major, I have a decent enough knowledge of circuits that I didn’t need to worry about the construction of the circuit. I’d say this project was definitely the easiest to date (compared to the laser name tag and the stickers), which was good because this week was very tough for me and I didn’t have much time for doing anything over the top. All in all, pretty enjoyable.

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Project #3 – Copper Tape Card

With Valentine’s day drawing near, I decided to make a Valentine’s day card. I found instructions on folding origami roses, so I followed the post to make some and put it on the card. One thing I miscalculated was how to set the 3D roses in a foldable card without crushing them. While googling up ideas for other types of cards (I did not want to dispose my roses), I saw another way: cutting a hole in the middle of the card and setting it up as a  3D sculpture-like form. 

One thing I am very proud of doing was experimenting with the copper tape: coating strands of strings with it, wishing it to still conduct electricity. I could use the conductive strings, but since the assignment mentioned copper tape, I just stuck to it. And I like how it turned out. An obstacle I had to overcome happened while connecting the LEDs to the strings. First, I just taped each end to the string, but nothing happened. After some time, I realized that the string was acting as the main circuit and the LEDs were acting as resistors. Then, I cut the string, leaving the LED legs work as the cords. Lights came on then. 

Overall, I am very happy how the experiments turned out. 

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Copper Tape Origami


This week I made an origami butterfly in lab. It turned out exactly how I wanted it to with each wing lighting up when it flaps. It was really difficult doing the copper tape because due to the structure of the butterfly, the tape kept breaking and then it wouldn’t light up. I had to do the positive and negative side at least 3x each and even then i thought it wasn’t working until I tried the switch for the 15th time. I really like how it turned out and the color I used for the light in contrast to the pink for the origami paper. Overall, I am happy with my piece and Its something I can use to decorate my room and kind of looks like a night light. I have the one I created in lab on the top with the heart and moon glowing up. I have the final butterfly right underneath it. Underneath my final project I have progress pictures before the circuit and then during the making of the circuit. I also include the lighting up in lab picture below as well. 


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Amy Li Copper Tape Origami

Before beginning my project, I started off by looking at the copper tape structure I made during class. I kept in mind that I needed to have the positive lights attached to the positive battery and the negative attached to the negative side of the battery. I was pretty excited to start this project, but I wasn’t sure my lights would actually light up.

While working on my project, I started off by looking for inspiration online. I thought about doing a pop up story that incorporates the LED lighting element, but it got too complicated so I scraped that idea. Then I started looking into origami and decided to create a bat. I thought it would be interesting to have the bat’s eyes glow. It was difficult getting the LED lights to work and show though the construction paper, but I fixed that by moving the lights further up so that it shines through a crack.

Overall, it was a fun project, but I think I could’ve done something more grand and interesting. An origami bat is cool, but I also wanted to make a pop up book with moving characters. Thus, if I was given more time, I’d definitely do something more unique and interesting.

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Copper Tape Card – Rebecca Tu

  I was inspired by the fact that we can use origami for this project. When I was younger, I used to love making paper stars and cranes so I wanted to incorporate my limited origami skills here and have the chance to create some stars again. When I think of lights, I usually think of Christmas so I decided to create a starry background and add a pop up snowflake and snowman.

I faced a lot of challenges when making this project. I went through this tutorial ( until I reached a point where I didn’t understand what was going on towards the end. I was lost about where to place the copper tape on the LED lights and how the circuit should end up looking like. 

Apparently in class, when I did the basic light card, I did the wiring wrong even though it still lit up. 

Here you can see that I didn’t actually create a parallel circuit.

However it somehow still lit up here:

I learned that for my pop-up card that from the positive battery side, I had to extend the tape to the other side of the paper and add a copper tape to that tape from both positive sides of the LED lights. Then I had to connect a copper tape to both negative sides of the LED lights and connect that tape to the switch on the right. Only then did the lights light up. Originally, I had it so that there was just one long tape that went from the positive side of the battery straight to both positive sides of the LED and then back to the switch. This was wrong and nothing lit up.

If I had more time, I would’ve made something prettier. I was just so upset that my circuit wasn’t working and I was so frustrated with trying to get it to work that when I was finally able to, I was exhausted.

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Copper Tape Pop-Up Card-David Booke

For this project, I wanted to make a basketball scene. My pop-up features were going to be two basketball players and a basketball hoop. The plan was to use two red LEDs to put behind the backboard to make it look like the buzzer was going off. The inspiration for this card can be watched through this link:

Before making it, I was slightly worried about making the parallel circuit and doing the wiring from the card to the backboard; I knew it was going to be messy and require a lot of planning. The tutorial provided on compass only featured one LED, so I didn’t think I’d be able to make it look as clean as that one since there was going to be two LEDs on my card.

The first time I tried cutting out the hoop, I forgot about that inner border around the backboard so it didn’t cut how I wanted it to. Removing all the details on the net and making it just a cone shaped black blob also took some time. It required messing around with the nodes a lot. With all the pieces cut out, I quickly realized that the hoop was far too skinny to stand up on its own, especially when it had LEDs on the top of it. I also realized that there was no way I was going to be able to hide the copper tape behind the pop-up like in the tutorial due to how skinny the hoop was. I decided to diagram my circuit and handle those problems when I ran into them. As you can see, I had some issues. My pop-up square proved to not be large enough to have all my tape running up and down it. If I were to do this again, I’d definitely choose wider objects. That way the card would look much better without the tape visible everywhere. Another issue I ran into was having the tape overlap each other. To remedy this, I created a bridge over some of the tape using some cardboard so there was no overlapping happening. It can be seen in the picture above as the blue square to the left of the backboard. Another problem I had was getting the hoop to stand up straight. I was so worried about getting the circuit to work that I neglected the aesthetics of the card. Despite all my issues, both the LEDs worked when the switch was underneath the tape flap. It isn’t pretty, but it works. I think I’m most proud that my circuit worked on the first try. That was thanks to careful planning and Physics 212. 

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Paper Circuit Pop-Up Card

I was excited to come back to the Silhouette for this assignment to create a more polished card. I knew I wanted the focal point of my card to be something that lights up in the real world, so I chose a lighthouse and opted for exposed LED bulbs in the cut-out windows. Fortunately, I have prior circuit experience from the labs in my major, so I was confident in my ability to design a series circuit in a custom shape. I’m a big fan of the ability to create flat, flexible circuits; I see paper circuits as a very versatile art tool. 

If I was teaching paper circuits, I’d be sure to emphasize the importance of LED and battery polarity. Reversed terminals can be a common pitfall for those with no prior circuit experience. 

I began by using the Silhouette to cut my pieces out of thin construction paper. Even with a high blade setting and low speed, I had some snags and ragged lines, so if I were to repeat this project, I’d slow down the speed even more. Then I traced a circuit path onto the back of my paper shapes. I wasn’t sure the flimsy paper could sustain the weight of the LEDs and copper tape, but I really wanted the exposed bulb in the lighthouse window, so I gave it a shot. 

To achieve the design I wanted, some circuit elements had to be at ninety degree angles relative to each other. I taped the circuit flat initially, then folded up the lighthouse vertically. 

I ran into a lot of frustrations once the circuit was assembled with a proper switch. Although two yellow LEDs lit up perfectly fine with a single coin cell battery, the resistance of the copper tape in this circuit was too high. After connecting each LED to power individually to debug, I decided to add a second battery where the first switch originally was, and that worked perfectly! Special thanks to the fab lab employees for bouncing solutions around with me. 


With both LEDs lighting up perfectly, this project was finished. If I had more time to spend on this card, I would like to add more 3D elements and a message to the card, and also redesign the circuit so that the LEDs lit up upon opening the card. I’d love to spend more time on an elaborate, Silhouette-cut popup card. This project was fun to work on and I’m proud of the end result! 

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