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

Copper Tape Paper Circuit Project – Grant Johnson

Build Process

Through our initial introduction to circuits and some prior knowledge, I was presented with a pretty wide variety of possibilities for a final product for this assignment. As per usual, my initial idea was more complicated than feasible — I wanted to use a person’s finger to complete the circuit in order to turn on the LEDs within my pop-up card. I wasn’t able to find much information on how to do this correctly (I did see some designs that said a resistor was necessary?), so I decided to simplify my design.

The initial cityscape which would be both carved and etched on a piece of paper.

I eventually came up with a design for the card in my mind that would depict Godzilla standing in front of a cityscape, at a distance, coming out of the water. I figured with how intricate a city silhouette would be (and how large the LEDs can be stuck through an average sized piece of paper) that I would take the lights and fan them around Godzilla, in the skyline, to both light him up and possibly make it look like he was charging up to fire his energy beam. After playing around with the LEDs some I found that I would need to use multiple batteries per series in order to get the voltage I needed. Using a voltmeter I also noticed that there was a voltage drop after the first LEDs in my circuits, which provided just enough power for the next LED over. I used a series circuit, so I am aware that if one LED burns out then the whole circuit of LEDs will drop.

My finalized circuit set-up for my Godzilla card. Here you can see the copper going down the hinge and series circuit structure I used.
My finalized cut out of Godzilla, as well as the city and the ‘reflection’ on the other side of the hinge.

After deciding on what I wanted to use the LEDs for and how I wanted my card to be designed, I cut out the shapes of Godzilla and a city skyline using Inkscape and the paper cutters. Once I had my cutout shapes and backing for my card, I realized that the best place for me to run my wire to make switches would be behind Godzilla on the hinge pushing him outward. I then ran the wire underneath the other half of the paper to where I had cut switches in the backing that stick out from the bottom of the card.

Everything ended up working pretty well in the end. I think that one main problem I ran into is how certain colors of light won’t work within the same circuit as others. I solved this by just bunching my lights in ways that complimented each other. Another problem was that when I hooked multiple LEDs into a circuit I had to double up on batteries, which made securing the whole thing a bit more difficult, but far from impossible.

…And the right-side lights!
…The left-side lights…
My final build…


Overall, I think this project ended up turning out better than I could have even hoped for. The process was a bit hard to conceptualize, but once you take some time to play around a little and try different things, you very quickly realize what the limits are and what you can do.

I think that if I were to redo my card I would try and place the horizon farther up from the hinge of the card because the way mine was cut ended up making that layer structurally kind of weak. Once it was all glued this didn’t matter, but I think it may just give a better quality to the card. I also think that my card would be better if Godzilla was just a teensy bit smaller, he kind of takes up a lot of real estate.

This project helped revitalize a lot of knowledge I had about electronics and circuits specifically, while also giving me the opportunity to use those skills to make something simple, practical, and fun. I would love to make more cards like this for other people — I think they would get a kick out of them.

The hardest part of this project is probably finding a way to mesh both your design elements and the practical elements of things like where am I going to glue parts together, where am I going to run wire, etc. I ended up having to string my wire across the “3d” hinge of my card because I found that the best place with how my background was cut out. Something that is fairly simple is the process of building circuits, but this can quickly ratchet up in difficulty depending on how many lights you want to add, how your switches work, the amount of electricity you’re feeding into the circuit, etc.

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