A few weeks ago, I took a paper electronics class at the San Francisco Center for the Book to make an e-luminated tunnel book. I had never heard of paper electronics until I took this class. It is a way of making interactive artwork that moves, lights up, makes sound, plays music, etc.
Jie Qi, the artist who created the artwork shown in the preceding video happens to be a friend of Natalie Freed, one of the instructors of this class. Along with Becca Rose, the two of them walked us through the process of creating our own e-luminated tunnel book.
The first thing we did was to create the accordion sides for our tunnel book:
Unlike the tunnel book I had made at Castle in the Air with Alice Armstrong – read about it here – in which each of the sides was constructed out of several pieces of folded paper attached to each other, each side of our e-luminated tunnel book was constructed out of a single sheet of cardstock. However, like that earlier tunnel book, we made the accordion folds along the grain of the paper.
Next, we created a template for the notches that would be cut out from the sides for the panels of our book:
We used the template to draw and cut out notches in the valley folds of the accordion sides:
(If you recall, when I created my first tunnel book with Alice, each of the panels had sizable borders that were used to attach to the accordion folded sides, so there was no need to cut out any notches, but because of the way this tunnel book was constructed, notches were needed to attach our panels, as you will see.)
Next, we glued a piece of cardstock to the back of the pre-printed circuitry pattern and created the parallel circuitry for our tunnel book out of copper tape and a coin cell battery. (We ended up folding back part of the pattern to create a smaller panel.) The negative and positive were taped down so they ran parallel to each other.
This is the pattern we used:
The circuitry pattern helps determine the pattern for the electronics – in this case, LED lights – i.e., how the electronics are spaced out.
(Some of the students cut the copper tape in half, creating narrower pieces of tape for a more streamlined look.)
Folding the tape to create the corners was a little tricky, and my first attempts were sloppy:
I got better as I went on:
What I didn’t realize when I was creating my circuitry was that the copper tape running parallel to each other (the negative and positive) had to be close enough so that the LEDs could bridge the gap in order for them to light up. Since I hadn’t done a great job taping down my copper strips, I had to close some of the gaps by adding more copper tape and soldering it to the the copper that had already been taped down.
The circuitry pattern was a bit larger than our actual tunnel book, so we ended up folding the battery portion back. I ended up extending the circuitry in the back.
Since I didn’t cut out long enough pieces of copper initially, I ended up having to patch additional pieces to extend the circuitry. I had to solder the patched pieces together to create a continuous path for the electrons to flow.
To see if our soldering was successful, we used an instrument with two probes and placed each probe on either side of the soldered section. If the instrument buzzed, our soldering was successful.
Next, it was time to attach the battery. Natalie and Becca provided each of us with a template for the battery holder that we cut out, folded, and glued together.
We attached the holder to the circuitry and wrapped the holder around a 3V coin cell battery.
Here is the battery in the “on” position that allows electrons to flow through (and light the LEDs):
Here it is in the “off” position, with the negative copper tape not touching the battery:
The final step in creating the circuitry was the addition of the LED lights. We had two choices, circuit sticker LEDs or surface mount LEDs. We also had two choices in how we could adhere the surface mounts – with clear tape or solder. We could also choose the colors of the lights we wanted for our tunnel book – blue, white, red, or yellow.
The circuit sticker LEDs were larger and could bridge a larger gap between the negative and positive tape on our circuitry. Since they already had a sticky backing, we just stuck them on, making sure to orient them in the right direction with regards to positive and negative. For the surface mount LEDs, we taped some of them and soldered some on. The tricky thing with soldering was that the surface mounts were really tiny, so we had to be careful that we didn’t end up damaging them.
Next, it was time to create the individual panels of our tunnel book. Since I am not much of a drawer, I cheated and used some panels that Becca had already created, as templates for my book. Becca had created three panels for a theater scene – the audience, the curtain, and the performers on stage.
Her panels were slightly smaller than the tunnel book I was making, so I resized the cutouts for my panels accordingly.
It was time to put everything together. I first glued on the panel with the circuitry to serve as the back of my tunnel book.
To allow the light through, yet hide the view of the circuitry, I covered the back of one of my cutout panels with red glassine paper attached to some white vellum. Truth be told, I really didn’t need the vellum; the glassine paper would have sufficed.
I like how the red color makes the white cutouts pop.
I attached this panel in front of the LED panel.
I attached the theater curtain panel next.
I didn’t like how plain this panel was, so I decided to pretty it up with some origami paper.
After I added the front panel with the audience members, this is how my tunnel book looked:
It didn’t look right. I wanted to better define the theater curtains, so I redid that panel by adding some pumpkin orange crepe paper and some gold Dresden trim. I had plenty lying around, from all those crepe paper flowers I make.
Here’s how my tunnel book looks, “e-luminated:”
Here are some amazing tunnel books that a few of my fellow students made:
Liza did a more complicated circuitry for her book that enabled the lights to give the illusion of movement. I didn’t think to record it in action, but here is the link to Becca’s blog where she shows it in its animated glory. (Scroll to the end of the post).
Doesn’t it look like an actual meteor shower? Here’s the circuitry she created for her tunnel book:
When you folded the right side of the circuitry over onto the top of the left side and ran your finger down along the panel, the lights seemingly moved about randomly, creating the illusion of a meteor shower. Very cool!
My favorite was Felicia’s:
Can you believe she cut everything out, freehand??
That last cutout panel closest to the light source had two different patterns, one on each side. Here’s the panel seen from the front:
And the panel seen from the back:
I love how the light plays off the two different cutouts to create a shadow effect.
To see more photos of these tunnel books, visit Becca Rose’s blog here.
To make your own e-luminated tunnel book, here are the instructions, courtesy of Natalie Freed and Becca Rose: http://tinyurl.com/mtpfzja.
I had a lot of fun in this class and learned so much. It’s gotten me thinking about other possible tunnel book ideas I can make using the basic techniques I learned. I might re-take the class when they offer it again next year to refresh my memory and ask more questions that I’m sure I’ll have. Thanks again, to Natalie and Becca for an awesome class!
Are you familiar with paper electronics? Have you tried your hand at creating your own? Please share in the comments.