ISTE Standards & NGSS Science & Engineering Practies

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Paper Circuit Mini-Book with New Materials from AgIC


For this little book, measuring approximately 3 1/2" tall by 4" wide, I stepped away from copper tape, my soldering iron, and microprocessors to try out AgIC's erasable Circuit Marker (and some other goodies that they sent my way).

The first thing that I'd like for you to notice about the video embedded below is how the tiny LEDs are flashing in a somewhat random pattern. Would you believe that these little surface mounted LEDs are blinking on their own, rather than being controlled with a micro-controller or effects sticker?

While it's not difficult to find standard 5mm LEDs that twinkle, this is the first time that I've encountered surface mounted LEDs that flicker!  AgIC sent me five of them (and I am in love).  I've since discovered that you can order them on eBay.

 



I created this little book using materials in the AgIC Circuit Marker Starter Kit, two magical surface mounted LEDs, and basic craft materials.

Tools
AgIC Circuit Marker, Circuit Eraser, and Circuit Stencil
Bone folder
Ruler
Piercing tool
Needle
Cutting Mat
Pen Knife
Colored Pencils
Paper Clip

Materials:
1 sheet AgIC Circuit Paper (or a sheet of photo paper cut 3 1/2" X 5 1/2")
4 sheets of text-weight paper cut 3 1/2" X 8" and folded in half
2 sheets of colored cover stock cut 3 1/2" X 8 1/4" and folded in half
1 sheet of white cover stock cut 5" X 9" and folded in half
5 inches of linen thread or embroidery floss
1 coin cell battery with tabs
3-4 inches of aluminum tape
2 SMD LEDs (unless you have the special ones from AgIC, yours will probably not twinkle on their own)
Scotch tape

Directions: 
1. Lay a sheet of AgIC Circuit Paper down lengthwise, shiny side down. Measure and score it 4 inches from the left edge and fold it so that the shiny surface is on the outside. Position the paper so that the crease is on your left and the largest part of the paper is on the top.

2. To create a signature, or booklet, nest the folded text-weight paper inside of the folded cover stock. Wrap the Circuit Paper around the outside, the large, shiny surface on top; this will be where you'll be drawing your circuit.

3. Clip the layers together to keep them from slipping and use the piercing tool or needle to poke three holes through them, one in the center and the other two at equal distances from the top and bottom.

4. Use a pamphlet stitch, starting from the outer center hole, to secure the booklet. Tie it off and trim the ends to about an inch.  These will be hidden inside of the finished book.


5.  Use the stencil to draw contacts for your battery.  Design your circuit the way you want it.  I wanted to create a push switch, so I also drew contacts for a switch at the top.


6.  Place your battery on top of the circuit and tape down the terminals with small pieces of aluminum tape. Position the SMD LEDs where you want them, ensuring that the polarity of the LEDs matches the circuit, and tape them down securely.



7.  Test your switch by holding a piece of aluminum tape over the switch terminals.  If all looks good, it's time to design your cover.



8.  To make the slip cover, lay the 5" X 9" of white cover stock on a table and center the open book block on top of it.


9.  Use a ruler or another straight edge to score a line across the top of the book block.  Repeat this step for the top and bottom edges.


10.  Fold along the scored edges.


11.  Place the book block back into the center and fold up the left and right sides of the cover to fit it.  This doesn't have to be perfect.  The idea is that the removable cover will fit snugly when the first two pages of the booklet are inserted in the slots that are formed from folding.



12.  Place a piece of aluminum tape on the inside of the removable cover so that it will make contact with the switch terminals that you drew earlier.



13.  Assemble the book. Make sure that the circuit works when you press down on the area of the front cover that has the foil backing.





14.  Verify the location of your LEDs.  Take off the cover to complete your artwork!


15.  Voila!  To light up the LEDs, press the switch; use a paper clip to close the switch and maintain the connection.  To conserve battery life, remove the paper clip to open the switch!


Reflections:
I had to make quite a few different prototypes before I arrived at one that I was happy with.  While I have experience working with circuits and a variety of conductive materials, using new materials required me to work differently and think differently about my process.

Before settling on this design, I attempted to embed the tabbed battery into a piece of binder's board by cutting a recess in the material, with the idea of gluing my design over the circuit.  This approach was problematic because the special circuit paper has a glossy surface that doesn't play well with wet glue. Double-stick tape would have worked, but I was also concerned that the tape might lose some of it's stickiness over time.

While the conductive ink works like a charm, and erases easily (which is a huge bonus), my biggest difficulties occurred when re-positioning the LEDs.  Each time I did so, even if it was just slightly, I had to remove the tape.  Moving the tape left a residual adhesive on the special paper that ended up interfering with the connection of my circuit!  Since I only had three pieces of the special paper to play with, each a little bigger than a small index card, I resorted to using photo paper for the finished project.

Once I decided upon glue-free book model, my process went very smoothly!  A Circuit Marker is a perfect tool for making greeting cards or artwork where the circuit is central to the aesthetic of the design.  So, while I don't think that I'd use a Circuit Marker for bookbinding that might be wet and gluey, I love the idea of having another creative tool that is portable and doesn't require solder.