Some of our favourite brands for paper circuits are Chibitronics, Circuit Scribe, and Makey Makey, and copper tape is used extensively in projects for all of these platforms. So what is this magical copper tape?


Hey, how you going, Sam here from Core Electronics and today we're going to be taking a look at how you can use copper foil tape in your paper circuits. So what is a paper circuit? Well nowadays education is all about STEM technology, to bring bring technology into the classroom in a fun and innovative way all about creating things using the environment around you, so paper circuits refer to creating a circuit on paper, funnily enough, without a traditional printed circuit board so materials such as copper foil tape which allow you to create traces as you would have on a standard traditional PCB are incredibly valuable, because copper is a really great conductor so we have this this really awesome tool in copper tape. Now there are two different types of copper tapes that we carry apart from my physical physically different sizes you've got the copper tape that has non conductive so it is adhesive on one side and on the lower-cost tape that adhesive is non conductive, which means that it won't conduct on one side only been on each side obviously now this is great for a lot of use cases and in some situations this might even be better because you might want one side not to be conductive but most of the time working with conductive adhesive tape like I've got here is a lot that as it allows you to create connections on both the top and the bottom sides. So I've got here the five millimeter copper tape from SparkFun fantastic products, one of our maker favorites and I just wanted to go through I've been getting bit hands-on with it and run through some tips and tricks methods as I've found really useful to create a circuit with some copper foil tape I've got a couple of simple components here that you wouldn't normally find on perhaps you know a paper circuit but we're going to look at how you can really easily integrate, even you know, traditional through-hole components into your paper circuits.

So you've got platforms like Chibitronics, Makey Makey. CircuitScribe they're all platforms and brands which use copper foil tape or can use copper foil tape really extensively in projects for them. In fact Chibitronics is all about stickered components so an LED that's in the form of a sticker with some conductive pads in it it's all about using copper foil tape in other that's just a really handy addition. So I want to talk a bit about using conductive adhesive and non-conductive adhesive tapes together because as I mentioned the non conductive adhesive tape is a little bit cheaper so it's always good to have a roll on hand but you don't always need to use conductive adhesive, you know, for everything because I'll go ahead here and quick tip the copper foil tape because it's copper it's very springy, so you can easily unravel from the coil which is a little tricky so every time you're finished using it just unpeel a little bit and stick it onto itself and that way save you some saving hassles so I'll just use the one type here to demonstrate but it yeah it's designed to use non conductive adhesive tape in your circuit, as well, so you can grab a strip just going to grab some scissors one moment.

So take the scissors and cut off a little section of the tape, now peel that on sticks onto our paper here so ordinarily and now this is our conductive adhesive tape, but im going to use it like it isn't so we stick that down now if you use non conductive adhesive tape if you try and stick it on top of that it won't conduct because the bottom side the adhesive side isn't conductive, but if we use that bottom, the bottom layer as our non conductive adhesive tape and that topside's still going to be some conductive so you grab some of your adhesive conductive tape, whack that on top and you're taking advantage of the fact that both sides don't necessarily have to be conductive to make a great circuit. It can be tricky to peel off sometimes there we go so you can whack that one on there and if that was non conductive adhesive tape, no worries, our conductive tapes going to do the rest of the job peel that off and save yourself the conductive adhesive for when you actually need to use it and the non conductive works just as well in this situation just really cool.

So another really handy thing about the copper foil tape is that it's really easy to solder to especially the thin stuff now when I was testing that I thought there might have been a few issues with the body of the tape wicking away the heat, making it hard to get a nice smooth solder joint but it wasn't the case because the tape itself is so thin it does it is quite nice solder so you get a really nice pillow of solder on there so if you do need to I mean it to fix the point of a paper circuit a little bit you might have an external circuit that you wanted to hook up to this so I'm going to show you how easy it is to solder to. So I've got my soldering iron here, grab that guy, now if you're not sure how to solder check out out how to solder tutorials which runs you through it. So now I'm just going to get a little bit of solder you can see that yeah little bit of solder to the tip and just tin this wire to make it nice and easy to get good adhesion, i'm doing this little one-handed it's a little tricky but all right we've got our copper foil tape here, I'm going to take a bit of the adhesive off to make it easier to hold in place while I solder to this normally I would us, actually let me use this helping hand here this is a Hobby Creek Helping Hand and it is absolutely awesome right we've got that in the frame there it's going to grab there now I'm actually going to just put a bit of a pillow of solder onto onto the tape here just to make sure I've got that it's going to really take that nicely and take out our pre-tinned wire and just make sure like it's nice smooth, smooth flow and you see I've got a really nice solder joint so it's not it's not mechanically strong, solder isn't designed to form a mechanical connection but you can see that has just taken really really well and it's not going to come off very easily at all. I just tore the tape before the joint gave way.

So that is a soldering to copper tape, so next up is using components with copper tape and as I mentioned you can get some Chibitronics packs which have stickers so all the components are you know in the sticker form so it's really easy to get started with paper circuits that way but few you know you standard through-hole components like an LED or A resistor, it can be a little bit more tricky so I'm going to go over some tips on how you can secure those. So you can of course just tape it especially with them you're going to want conductive adhesive tape you can just tape it straight to the paper like I'll try and get my hands out of the way like that so pressing down now and that's going to form a very good connection or if you've already got your traces here and you can simply, I like to cut off a small little rectangle of the tape, put my lead there, just spin this around, and then I can get the LED, stick this tape over the top, and because it has conductive adhesive it's going to conduct on the adhesive side as well also hold your LED up nicely really, really cool so on the other side I'll just tape it straight down to the paper can see that yeah there we go tape that down then I'll go ahead and just show you a quick little circuit and wait to connect the battery up and turn it on. I'm going to get into using it with batteries in just a moment. So go ahead and feel free to follow this at home it's a really good starter circuit if you want to get into using you know traditional components with copper foil tape the hardest part is separating it from the paper, there we go so again I've already put that trace down so I'm just going to grab a little a little square there, tape it down on top of my existing trace, that's gone down quite nicely and trace over that one that's going to allow me to put a coin cell battery in there to connect up our circuit make sure they're all pushed down nicely cool and that is using standard components our through-hole components with with conductive tape with paper circuits it's very cool.

So of course we're going to what a switch to turn our circuit on we don't necessarily want it to be on the whole time so there's a few different ways you can make a switch and we're going to go over both of them. So from here I'll draw some traces out or make some traces out I should say nice big long trace over to here, so bear in mind that because copper foil tape is quite thin, especially if you are using this smaller width stuff you're going to want to be careful how long you are making your traces because can it can start introducing some you know some significant resistance to your circuit, we're not talking you know kiloohms at all but that still can be you know can affect your circuit so go ahead oh cool. So if you want to make a foldable switch you could of course put your put your tape near the corner of your paper and simply fold the corner over and that's going to make a circuit across those two connectors and bang you've got a foldable switch, which is okay you do crease your paper a little bit it's good for you know a gift cards or things like that but I do prefer I think it's a little bit of a cleaner solution to just create a switch, a little springy momentary switch leaving another little snippet of tape I'm going to fold that over on itself so that it can stick to that trace and one side of its sticky and now we have a little momentary switch which we can tap on, that just really cool you could of course just create a bit more of a latching switch and put a sticky side down on hold of tear it back up again pretty cool although bear in mind once this stuff gets a good grip on the paper it won't let go you will tear your paper because it is quite sticky which is a good thing.

So now we've got our circuit laid out a bit now let's look at putting a battery in now I'm going to just take up this tape a little bit so I can introduce a switch in series into here so I'll keep that that open for the moment I'm going to look at our using a coin cell battery coin cell batteries are awesome in paper circuits that thin that small they're reasonably safe they're fantastic, but of course you know we need to get, we've got a positive side and negative side so we need to get those sides on to our circuit. So you can see I've left a bit of width in between the traces here if the traces are too small I might just short it out and connect the negative side to both traces and if the positive sides connectors well you're going to have some issues with your circuit, it's never good to short the power supply. So what I'm going to do again not a small section of tape, that guy, I'm going to use the old double sided trick so fold it in on itself put that at the the end of the circuit just there and then I can stick make sure I've got that connected up to the battery in the right way, yes that's the positive side so I'm going to want to stick it over to that side, making sure I've got a bit of an air gap or paper gap as it were between those two sides, get another piece of foil or copper tape should say, and we're going to stick it onto the negative side you can see the LED has a little flat side, a flat edge on one side which is over on this side here and you can see that so nothing's happening because I've got that open circuit then when I connect it down you can see that still nothing's happening. So here it's worth going through and checking all over your connections so you can see it's still not turning on so what is the issue have I connected something up the wrong way what's going on so this is where it's important to be able to troubleshoot your paper circuit, so we'll begin it's a good process to be able to learn, so we'll take the battery out so I can see that's an intermittent flashing when I push that one down so it's likely that's just a bad connection somewhere along here. So when I press on that and so the good bit about this foil tape is that you can press on different parts of the circuit and see if that's what will make work and try and find the bit of a fault somewhere yep so my my battery is connected up the correct way that's not the issue so when I press on the LED leg there and the resistor it looks like that's what yeah that leg of the LED isn't very well connected so I'm going to take that one up bring it up above the foil tape instead of taking it straight, straight on to the paper, I'm going to tape it on to use that that double tape method, a little rectangle here another little bit of copper foil tape and I'm going to put it over the top which is much more reliable connection for LEDs.

So we can see that it's still not turning on so there must be another issue somewhere, there must be another issue somewhere so we keep going we can see our that resistor again that's the one I taped straight to the paper so it is an easier way of connecting up the components as you can see when you start testing out your circuit it can introduce some issues whether that's sandwiched between two sides of you know conductive adhesive tape you're going to have a pretty solid and reliable connection. Take another little bit of tape and so I did mention that sticking directly to paper in case you do have conductive adhesive tape and you want something that's going to be quick and easy to get started you can see now I've switched I've switched those out press them back down again I've got my LED on, I've got nice reliable circuit when I pull the this little bit of tape up im using as a switch it will break to certain go out on on off on oh so pretty cool, pretty cool stuff.

So that's some of the big tips that I found really handy when getting started with copper foil tape on circuits so you can see some troubleshooting tips there how to actually make the circuit and something else I mention as well as you can see on the tutorial I've listed a few different wearable products so coin cell battery holders, some LEDs, a little button board, that are actually designed to sewable project, wearable projects but the reason I list them is I've actually got you can see I'll see only pictures that they've got nice big round tabs which is ideal for sewing but they're also might be able to sticking because they're designed to be quite flat you can easily implement them in a paper circuit, you know, setup and just put your tape on those those nice pads there, they've got some LEDs button board which is pretty cool.

So that's a roundup are using copper copper tape in your paper circuits if there's anything that you can decide you've had on this paper circuit you can make and we haven't covered off on something and you are a bit curious about how you would do that then let us know get the conversation started in the comments below and happy making guys!



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