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

Posts Tagged ‘Section: Dot’

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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Copper Tape Origami Pikachu

For this week, I created three different simple circuits using copper tape and different LEDs.

I started with a basic copper tape circuit with a switch. It was basically taping over pre-drawn lines, but it helped me understand how the tape worked, and made me familiar with using copper tape.

Basic Copper Tape Circuit

Then, I created a simple light up card using parallel circuits. Again, this made me more comfortable with working with copper tapes.

For my assignment, I immediately thought of making Pikachu from Pokemon. Since we were working with electricity, I think this is a natural connection.

I looked up an origami Pikachu tutorial online, and made a prototype version. The paper I used was too thick, and therefore it was difficult to make.

Initial Trial

For my second prototype, I used a bigger, and thinner paper so that it would be easier to fold. It was easier to make, and looked nicer. Then, I unfolded everything back to a square, and laid out the circuit. The positioning of my LED’s made it difficult to create a parallel circuit. I ended up having to tape over the copper tape with regular tape, then apply copper tape over it to create a parallel circuit. I folded everything back up, and checked that it was lighting up.

Then, I started preparing the final version of my assignment. With a new piece of paper, I carefully made another Pikachu. Then, I marked the sides that were visible with a yellow color pencil. Then, I unfolded everything, and colored in the marked sides, and drew on the face and ear tips. Then, I re-laid the circuit with copper tape, and tested the circuit. I folded everything back, and tested the lights once again.

This was a fun experience, and definitely challenging. I was quite worried that the circuit might not work out while making my second prototype. Making a parallel circuit seemed almost impossible, as I needed the circuits to run on top of each other. I was able to circumvent the problem by applying normal tape over the copper tape, and running another copper tape on top of the normal tape.

I also could not create a typical switch that I learned in lab. Instead, I had to use the battery itself as a switch. I applied normal tape around the battery, making the bottom part lifted up slightly by the tape. Then I could activate the circuit by pressing down the battery to make a connection with the copper tape.

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Pseudo-Circuit Battleships

For this week’s assignment, we had to create some sort of paper circuit display using: copper tape, a watch cell battery, & some LEDs. In my case it was all those listed items plus some alligator clamps. The purpose of this assignment is to give us a very basic understanding of how electrons flow to make a circuit.

Initial Concept

Instead of making a paper display with LEDs, I decided to do something a little more engaging. I made a small time version of the board game “Battleships” where the players used alligator clamps to scout for enemy “ships”(red LED). A player uses their alligator clamp to find enemy ships by clamping down on a positive end of the opponent’s LED. If it clamps onto an enemy ship the LED will light up red, if they miss the LED will light white. Instead of mimicking the 100 square board that Battleships has, I only did 9 squares so that I would be able to get the point of the design across.

First Run

To the left is the first version of the battleship board. The copper tape can be seen intended to make the 3×3 grid. I have an arbitrary LED at the bottom right of the copper box which I used to test the circuit. The placement of the watch battery servers a structural purpose by weighing down the paper flaps when the board is standing up. Once the player taps the positive side of the LED, the circuit is completed and the LED lights up.


I learned a couple things from making this prototype. For starters, terrible spot for the alligator clamp. The clamp being at the bottom of the paper made it difficult for the whole board to stand up. Also, paper is a poor material for making things stand up on their own so the jump to construction paper was made. Finally, I learned that completing the circuit while using another piece of metal, that is not the top of the watch cell battery, made completing the circuit inconsistent. So, I had to anchor the clamps to the actual board.

Final Form

Pictured above in the blurry picture on the left and the clear picture on the right is the final form of the pseudo Battleship game. The LEDs on the paper have their positive side sticking through the paper so that the opposing player can clamp on to it while the negative side sits under copper tape waiting to be completed. I moved the clamp position from the bottom of the paper to the side of the board. This allows for not only a better structure, but also looks nice. From these pictures, one can see how this method could be applied to a large board for a real game of Battleships. Overall the project went well and turned out better than I thought it would.


Working with circuits was harder than I thought it would be! I’d like to think I am good at design, but when it comes to circuits I have no clue. I typically do not go for the most basic idea/what is assigned at a base level. So, thinking of something was the most challenging part of this assignment. My issue with circuits might stem from me not being able to visualize what is going on within the circuit. The water analogy seems to be the best visualization but, it just doesn’t do it for me. Doing projects like these could help my situation.

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Jacob Pruiett Copper Circuit

For this design I decided to continue working with an alien theme, since I find aliens to be a fun and aesthetically pleasing concept. Since we had to make a paper craft project here, I decided to try my hands at making a drawing of aliens attacking a city pop to life, both physically popping up on paper, and adding lights to certain elements of the scene to make it look more interesting.

Rough draft of my initial drawing
Added some explosions and fire, as appropriate for an alien movie. I also Got the whole scene to pop like I wanted.

Getting the paper to pop up was a lot harder for me to wrap my brain around than I had expected, it took me a number of practice sheets before I felt confident doing it on this one. I decide to place a green LED up in the cockpit of the spaceship to make it stand out more and look more alien, and place some orange LEDs down near the flames and explosions to make them stand out more.

Seeing as I’m an electrical engineering major, drafting a schematic was super easy to me…
Or at least I’d thought so before realizing that the resistor needs to be attached to the less powerful LEDs, not the more powerful ones.
I readjust my schematic to fix my mistake.
And do the same with my circuit, extended some of the copper to reach the green LED’s positive lead, and attaching resistors to the orange LEDs and curling up their leads to make sure they don’t extend too far.

I felt quite foolish making this mistake, considering my background, but thankfully I was able to adjust my circuit without having to start from scratch. In addition, the right orange light glows rather weakly, so it shows up much more poorly than the other two LEDs, which I wasn’t super happy with. But in the end I decided to roll with it.

I tape down my LEDs, resistors, and my battery to the paper, and also create my switch at the bottom.
Here is the project popped up and switched on, every LED is visible behind the paper, but the one on the left in this image is rather faint.
And here is the final product, with the city and ship colored in!

Overall I was not totally satisfied with my end product, and I wish I had more time to devote to the project, but other classes got in the way of doing so. I am still happy with the process of doing the project and had a lot of fun designing and creating this piece, but there were several little things about the final product that still bug me, such as the one really weak orange LED, and the fact that the coloring on the paper somewhat hampers the LEDs from showing through. I found the paper craft to be surprisingly hard to learn on my part, and was quick to move through the circuitry, which came to bite me in the butt later when I realized I had wired it up incorrectly. Next time I will need to make sure I don’t overlook the basics, and that I don’t underestimate something that seems simple. On the other hand, working with circuits in such a novel way is quite refreshing for me, seeing circuitry used for form rather than function was a huge change of pace compared to my normal experience with it. So I am quite glad I took part in this project, even if I’m not completely satisfied with my results.

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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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Vinyl Sticker – Brandon Steinman

Originally, I wanted to replace an old sticker that I’d had on my bike years ago, but with some creative license taken (obviously). In short, the end product was not what I was looking for, and I’ll be making edits and trying again sometime in the near future. I messed up the sticker by mistaking the layout, with some layers being only virtually overlapping, which caused problems when I went to cut them out. Essentially, there should have been a white portion on top of everything, and, rushing myself through this, I overlooked that.

This was more what I was looking for. Essentially, I inverted the colors of an image, did a *lot* of node editing, make some other minor adjustments. I might try this design again, or I might do something different, since the shapes are very difficult to line up well enough.

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Griffin Part Two: Now with Cannons!


This weeks design task was to create an multilayered (minimum 4 layers) sticker of original design. This is not my first time using the silhouette cutter so there were not any issues regarding interacting with the technology. Issues with this task arose from the art/creativity side and will be explained late in the post.

Design Planning

The bulk of this assignment was spent in this planning phase. Starting out, I had a couple ideas but none I really liked. Most of them were simple, cut a logo in half, splice it into another one, made for a decent cop-out.

I have an affinity for taking dumb ideas and running with them, thus the Cannon Tangler! The Cannon Tangler is a Turtle with an Angler’s head and tail as well as tank cannons on its back. While this may just be a stupid design I actually had to actively think about certain aspects of the sticker that I would not have had to worry about had I went with one of my cop-outs. One such aspect was a sense of depth. the grey backing shown in Pic. 1 was made to be a consistent backing for the whole sticker as well as providing a base for one of the back cannons. In the final product (Pic. 2) you can see that I was able to achieve that sense of depth by making it seem that the Tangler has one cannon on each side of its shell. Finally, the grey backing supplied a stable base that made the sticker, well, stick better as a whole. Had I not had the backing, the back cannon would most likely not stick to the whole Tangler when peeling off the backing.

Pic. 1 Tangler Genesis. The Tangler gets its significant backing

Pic. 2 Tangler Revelation. Finished Tangler with green skin, brown spacers and, two cannons.

I do not have any pictures of the building process but in short it was mostly just connecting nodes, similar to that of the griffin lesson. However, getting the lines to fit the scraps properly was a bit of a pain. I just had to move around the red trace lines around a bit.

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Multilayered Sticker

Optionally titled: “Shaoyie this is why people dont make stickers with millions of tiny fiddly parts.”

(Apologies for informality, I’m a little sleep deprived.)

So this is the finished product!

everyone press f for the whale, who was meant to be part of the sticker but i messed up tragically with him, and then didnt have the heart to take him out.

Sources first: This quote (and the bear character, named Angus) are from a game called Night In The Woods, which I’m pretty fond of. … without context I realize this quote might seem a little depressing but I promise in context its a pretty heartwarming conversation about human nature and etc. That is also where the whale comes from, although I failed to use him properly.

This was not the original design/idea I was going to go with; I was originally gonna do a cleaner, less fiddly design where I just mashed together some of my favorite video game logos, but logos are pretty well designed and mashing them together kind of felt like sacrilege. So I went for this route instead.

Layers come from Angus’s face, and the lettering. The lettering ended up being very problematic- I intended to use the actual letters, not the cutouts, but they were just…. way too tiny and got all messed up so eventually i gave up and just used the cutout, manually cutting out some weird polygonish shapes. Turned out okay, especially given that they were manually cut and I was using a multitool. and am very bad at cutting straight lines.

i was working on this in an empty lecture hall and i only now realize how strange it must have looked to the person who came in and then promptly left.
ft. my multitool with its tweezers that came in real handy here.

Lessons learned: do not use little fiddly shapes like letters or fine tracing (like the whale) unless you are willing to spend inordinate amounts of time adjusting and arranging and working with very very tiny pieces of sticker. That was probably supposed to be self evident, but. oops.

Last note: I guess theoretically the little circles coming off of the thought bubble aren’t physically attached to the main sticker, but they are meant to be. Emotionally.

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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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Jacob Pruiett Vinyl Sticker

During the lab section I created two stickers, one was a fusion between an
alligator and a gorilla (A Gorillagator or an Allilla, your choice), and the other was the superman logo.

As for my main sticker project, I decided I wanted to do an alien abduction, but didn’t want to be cliche and have it abducting just a single person or a cow, so I have it abducting an entire house instead. I didn’t use any originally existing logos, because I thought that would be boring, so none needed to be modified.

I then prepared for moving to the cutter by separating the layers into constituent parts.

Next I chose the vinyl I would use to actually cut out my sticker. Unfortunately there weren’t any black pieces large enough to serve as the back piece, so I instead used a dark gray and used a silver for the saucer to make it stand out more.

Vinyl all lined up to be cut!

Here’s what it all the layers looked like after being cut out, but pre-assembly and in the order of layers from left to right:

I chopped off excess vinyl so as to reduce waste, if you’re wondering about the size change.

And here is the final product after assembly!

I was satisfied with the results of my project, but would change a few things. For example, the brown on my sticker is very dark, and can be hard to differentiate from the dark grey layer below it. In addition, it was difficult aligning some of the smaller pieces with areas I had lain out for them, and so the sticker isn’t perfect. But overall it was a fun experience, and I enjoyed the process a lot!

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Multi Layer Sticker

I created the Dog Bird and Spiderman logo during the lab section as we were introduced to making multi layered stickers

For the assignment, I started off from an icon of a person with headphones on. I decided to add sound waves to represent the music being played, and put everything inside a bubble, as listening to music can put people in their own world.

I decided to put a base layer of light gray as a simple circle. The blue bubble was added on top, then the person, then the sound wave, then the headphones.

Everything worked out fine until the cutting. For some reason, the vinyl cutter was offset an inch to the right, and therefore the two large circles did not get cut out properly. The yellow sound wave was small enough that it wasn’t affected by the offset. Consequently, I had to re print the two circle shaped stickers by simply putting them an inch to the right on the board.

Also, I had designed the sticker such that the sound wave would be covered by the headphones, but the cutting process made the sound wave smaller. However, I am still satisfied by the final product.

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