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

Copper Tape Circuits Project – Nick Desai

Our third assignment was to make a 3D paper object with copper tape and LEDs. This was super fun, because I’ve played around with circuits before, but never with these kinds of materials. In the intro class, we had an introduction to circuits, and we made quotes with light-up areas powered by circuits underneath. I chose a quote about a bat by Shel Silverstein, and made the bat’s eyes glow when you pressed the quote. The in-class project was fun – I haven’t worked with crayons in a long time, so it felt like being a kid again!


For our more advanced week project, we had to either make a pop-up card or an origami object that incorporated lights. I always like looking at other people’s origami stuff, so I wanted to make something with origami. To see if that was remotely feasible given the fact that I have very little previous origami experience, I tried my hand at making a paper crane out of an old assignment sheet. It went pretty well, so I got some construction paper from the lab, trimmed it into squares, and made a bunch of different animals. One difficulty I had working with construction paper is that it’s kind of thick, so areas where a lot of layers sit on top of each other tend to be thick, and folds don’t press down quite as nicely as you would want. It would have been nice to work with actual origami paper. Another problem is that construction paper tends to have one direction along which it really likes to tear, so you’ve got to be careful when you’re pressing folds flat that you don’t accidentally ruin your paper (which I did šŸ™ ).

After I made the crane, I was thinking about how to incorporate electronics into it, and thought of making a display case for all the different animals, where the case had the lights and the animals themselves acted as switches, so putting an animal on the case would complete the circuit and cause the case to light up. I tried it with the crane first, putting copper tape along the bottom of the model, and it worked well enough that I did it with the rest of the animals too. I then made a box for the animals to sit on, and put the battery on the inside, with tape running to the outside where the LEDs were mounted.

Then I tested the crane on the box.

It worked all right, though I had to press down to get the circuit to complete. That proved to be the case with the rest of the animals too – I had to cover every part of their bottom parts with tape and press them down to get it to work.

In the end, to take the result pictures, I had to kind of cheat and use a bit of extra tape to connect the animals to the circuit. But I like the way the result turned out!

(There’s a stingray, an attempt at a dragon, a butterfly, a crane, and my favorite, the dinosaur)

I like how the light reflects off the folds in the paper, especially on the last one! Though it was kind of a pain to get the circuit to connect, and if I were to do this again, I would have put the switch on the box itself, and weighted the animals down so they pressed a switch flat, which I think would have been more reliable.