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circuitstickers

MAKE pal, Maker Shed technical advisor, and all-around maker hero Andrew “bunnie” Huang is collaborating with MIT Media Lab Ph.D. student Jie Qi on a fascinating project, Chibitronics Circuit Stickers. They’re exactly what they sound like—stickers with embedded circuitry that you can stick onto copper tape and other conductive materials to create simple circuits. I foresee this becoming a popular way to not only build simple electronics projects on flexible materials, but to teach basic circuit skills as well. Developing the manufacturing process used to create these stickers required a lot of time and research, and the work that’s lead to their creation is worth reading about.

led stickers
The stickers are born on a large, flexible sheet.

You can reserve a set for yourself by backing this project on Crowd Supply until Dec. 31, and can expect the first kits to ship in May. I was lucky enough to receive some samples from bunnie a few weeks ago, and have enjoyed playing with them immensely since then. After excitedly exhausting some of my copper tape and sticker supply on a few simple stickynote circuits, I decided to see how they would stand up to the abuse of a more complex project and on a different material—3D Printed PLA plastic. I modified a large coaster (which was formerly a failed Zombie Hunter 3D Print) to light up when an object is placed on top. I’ve included a few photos from my build in the slideshow below, but you can read more about the process and see more here.

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And the completed coaster, in it’s glowy glory: coaster gif

There are a few things to keep in mind when building sticker circuits:

  • They’re re-stickable, although not infinitely. Think typical stickers here – you can peel them back and re-stick them a few times, but after a few cycles the Z-conductive tape will wear and they won’t function properly. The material you stick them to will effect their longevity as well. Peeling them back from paper will be more difficult than peeling them back from printed plastic, like I did.
  • Making curves with copper tape isn’t easy. I found that the best solution was to just get it down on the surface, no matter how ugly, and then return with a hobby knife later to clean up the curves.
  • If you happen to break the copper tape line, you can use solder to connect the two sections back together. You can solder directly to the circuit stickers as well.

The Chibitronics team developed other types of stickers, in addition to the LEDs – a few sensors, effects, and even a programmable one for advanced users. Check out all the available types for purchase and see them in action on the Crowd Supply page.

stickers

I have a few additional projects in mind for these, and look forward to receiving more in May so I can continue playing with them. As Michelle touched on in a blog post from earlier this week, these have a lot of potential to become a great learning tool in the education space. I’m excited to see how and where they get used.

In related news, a recent Kickstarter called the Circuit Scribe will let you literally draw circuit traces on paper. This opens even more doors for circuit creation and exploration on all sorts of materials and I’m looking forward to seeing what sort of projects you all come up to utilize the neat new products in this solderless circuit space. Jie made a video to show how well these two work together:

Circuit Stickers + Circuit Scribe from Jie Qi on Vimeo.

As you can see, there are a lot of possibilities here. What would you like to make with these two upcoming products? Let us know in the comment section below.

Eric Weinhoffer

Eric is a Manufacturing Engineer at Other Machine Co., where he uses large machines to make smaller machines. When not building things, Eric enjoys skiing, cycling, and climbing.


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