LED Paper Lantern

Introduction

Use paper and LED strip to create a fun light. This is a great activity for groups with varied skill levels; our students often have fun sharing their electronics and paper crafting skills with each other. The guide includes tutorials for both a soldered and solderless version.

Step 1: Tools

  • Diagonal Cutter
  • Wire Stripper
  • Safety Glasses

Step 2: Supplies

Step 3: Tools – Optional for Soldered Version

  • Soldering Iron
  • Solder (nonleaded recommended)
  • Board or mat to protect work area

Step 4: Materials

  • Various Paper
    • e.g. Origami Paper, Vellum, Newsprint, Books / Magazines, Wrapping Paper
  • 5V LED Strip
  • 2-conductor wire, 16-20 gauge, available from local hardware stores and electronics vendors

Step 5: Materials

Step 6: Materials – No-Solder Version

Step 7: Materials – Soldered Version

Heat Shrink Tubing

Step 8: Make Your Paper Shade

  • Make a paper shade
  • Think ahead about where you will place your LEDs, it often looks best if the LED strip is hidden from direct view
  • Check out the examples at the end of the guide for inspiration

Step 9: Wiring Connection Diagrams

  • Plan how you will connect LEDs to the battery pack.
  • Each LED Strip must have 5V applied to the end, matching the positive and negative connections
  • You can add extra wire to increase the distance between the battery pack and the lamp

Step 10: Wiring Diagrams

  • You can connect multiple strips in “series” or “parallel”
  • The LEDs are all connected in parallel within the strip – each strip segment must have 5V applied to its + and – connections

Step 11: Cut LED Strip and Wire

  • For use with AA batteries, we recommend no more than 4 strip segments to get good runtime. You can leave them as one long strip of 4 segments, or cut them and connect them as on the previous step.
  • Cut only at the cut lines on the strip

Step 12: Strip Wire

  • Strip 10mm (3/8″) where you connect wire to wire
  • Strip 3mm (1/8″) if soldering, where you will solder wire to LED strip
  • The guide splits here into NO SOLDER and SOLDER versions. Soldering is a little more challenging. Choose the techniques that work best for the supplies you have available

Step 13: NO SOLDER – Attach LED Pigtails

  • Open the latch on the pigtail, and insert the LED strip under both the plastic and metal tabs
  • Make sure you have your red wire lined up to + and black to –
  • Ours were very tight and it helped to very gently pry the metal tabs up with diagonal cutters
  • Close the latch. It may help to use pliers

Step 14: NO SOLDER – Make Wire-to-Wire Connections

  • Connections will almost always be red-to-red and black-to-black for this project. If you have other colors, just make sure the polarity between the battery and the LED strips is correct
  • Line up the stripped wire ends together
  • Twist the wires together, clockwise when seen from the end
  • Twist on a wire nut, clockwise when seen from the end
  • Keep twisting until it grabs and starts to wind the wires together

Step 15: SOLDER – Connect LED Strip to Wire

  • Clean and tin the tip of soldering iron
  • Tin the short stripped (3mm / 1/8″) end of your wire
  • Tin the pads on your LED strip
    • The pads can be challenging to tin, make sure to make good thermal contact with the side of the iron, and heat the pad for a second or two before applying solder
    • Only apply a small amount of solder, too much can create shorts

Step 16: SOLDER – Connect LED Strip to Wire

  • Rest one wire over its corresponding pad
  • Use pliers or a third hand tool to hold it
  • Heat the wire with soldering iron until all solder melts and flows together
  • Repeat for second wire
  • Check for shorts (solder bridging between wires or pads)

Step 17: SOLDER – Connect Wires to Wires

  • Slide a piece of heat-shrink tubing onto wire before soldering
  • Twist wires together

Step 18: SOLDER – Connect Wires to Wires

  • Clean and tin soldering iron
  • Hold wires with third hand tool or pliers
  • Shrink tubing with a hot air gun. Some shops may allow using the side of the iron as shown here, but ask first

Step 19: Complete Your Lamp!

  • Peel the backing from LED strips and attach to the lampshade
  • Double check your connections!
  • Make sure your positive and negative wiring is consistent throughout
  • Install batteries
  • ENJOY

Examples and Inspiration

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