How to Work with Conductive Paint: Make A Plane with Navigation Lights
Did you know that there are special paints you can buy that conduct electricity? They have carbon or graphite (similar to that found in a pencil) in them that move charged particles. You can make many things with conductive paint, like a plane with navigation lights that can be turned on and off with a simple paper switch. You can purchase conductive paint online or you can even make your own. See the links below for more inspiration and go to “Video” on Maker Kids (www.maker-kids.org) for a demonstration of how to make a plane with navigation lights.
Tools and Materials:
Hot Glue Gun
|Wooden Airplane Kit
Conductive Paint (see links for source)
Batteries (see links for source)
- Build the model airplane with a hobby kit, like one that can be purchased from Michael’s arts and crafts (with paintbrush and paint included) or with scrap wood.
- When painting the plane with regular paint, leave a one-inch section on each side of the wings unpainted for the conductive paint.
- With the conductive paint, paint two small ¼” squares on each side of the wings separated by a 1/16th of an inch of white space. The paint of the two squares must not touch or the circuit will short circuit.
- Next, secure the LED into place by separating the cathode and diode so each touches one square. Then dab conductive paint onto each leg to “cold solder” it in position when the paint dries.
- Cut two strips of paper approximately 1.5cm wide x 5cm long, and 1.5cm wide x 3cm long.
- Take your 1.5cm x 3cm strip and cut two small slits into it. These should be approximately 1cm apart.
- Once cut, you should be able to stick the battery legs through these holes and turn the paper upside down so that they face upwards.
- Using a brush, dab the legs of the battery with some conductive paint. This will serve as an adhesive to keep the battery in place, as well as providing a contact/switch for our LED to light up.
- Wait for a few minutes until the paint is dry.
- Then using your glue gun, place a small drop of adhesive on the long strip of paper and glue the battery to it leg side up.
- When you glue the strip onto your plane, the polarity of your battery and LED have to match or else it won’t light up! You can test it before you glue it down to be sure.
- When you push down the paper and the battery connects with the conductive paint, it sends an electric current through the paint to the cathode and diode of the LEDs and it lights.
- When you lift up the paper switch, the lights turn off.
Bare Conductive Paint Tutorials: http://www.bareconductive.com/tutorials
Bare Paint U.S. Supplier: http://www.sparkfun.com/products/10994