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

Copper Tape Circuits

Subtitle: “Despite being tape, and despite my love of tape, copper tape does not love me back and I should probably stick to wires in the future.”

(This blog post turned out… weirdly long, I’m sorry. I took a BUNCH of photos apparently).


When lit:

When not lit:

Inspired by none other than good old Opportunity, the Mars Rover. If you have not already heard the story of what happened, I advise you look at this twitter thread:

and have a couple emotions.


I spent a grand total of 10 hours on this because I 1- got way too caught up in it while working and 2- made both a paper prototype and a circuit prototype.

Paper prototype was done first, when I was figuring out the general design and mechanics of how the fiddly bits would work.

Note the two hastily glued pieces of paper because i got WAY overzealous making the original slit, and the paperclip in the mars.

Circuit prototype was next, and took /some time/. I promise I sketched out the lines, but I went over them with the tape before remembering to take pictures.

(note the LED just chillin, up on top.)
Switch logic.
back of the card + sliding shooting star logic
Inside of the shooting star
rover circuitry. i learned to give myself more space on the actual product.


The rover is the “pop up” part of the card, as well as the placement of 2 of the LED’s. The glow makes it a little hard to pick out, but one is meant to be like the “eye” of the rover, while the other is a little light on the end of the antennae, but their proximity kind of makes the colors blur. Opportunity was printed on cardstock, using the silhouette cutter, specifically with the blade set to 5, because I’d tried to cut with 3 previously and had much more disappointing results (see photos of the mockups: that rover is a lil more fuzzy round the edges.).

cleaner than the prototype, still a bit of a mess

The big round red thing is, yes, meant to be Mars, and initially I was going to do some coloring to make it look more like Mars but its about 3:30 AM currently and my circuits insist on being /very/ finicky, so we’re just going as is. “Mars” is a rotateable disk of paper made of 2 layers, and also happens to be the switch for the circuit. I’m quite proud of how I figure out the rotation- its essentially stabbed through with a paperclip, bent so that it sort of pins it to the paper while allowing it to rotate. The two layers are so I can hide the paperclip.

Along the top, is a “shooting star”, with the third LED. This one was trickiest in terms of figuring out contacts, because its meant to be able to slide along the top, while staying lit. The prototypes below show approximately how it works. There are strips of copper above and below the cutout, for the pos/neg legs. The legs are taped (with more copper) to the paper used as the lever, and then everything is held in place with another, larger piece of paper, taped over the sliding parts. This presses the lever+the LED legs to the circuit on the paper, while still allowing it the freedom to slide.

Because the LED is orange, and the other two are white and blue, it required the least voltage, meaning I had to add a resistor to it to ensure my parallel circuit would feed all three lights.

Real talk: It /mostly/ works. The light is a little flickery. But all of them are kind of flickery, and this one /moves/, so….. win? I cant upload videos here so here are frames from a video of me sliding it.

overall! A very fun experience, but also took WAY more time than I expected. Copper tape is /very/ finicky and a lot of the unreliability is just poor connections between the LED’s and the circuit. I hope this works tomorrow in class, but there’s no way of knowing.

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