LED push buttons


[pros] has come up with a very elegant way of making lighted buttons (translated). Using a bunch of small push buttons harvested from old CD players, he rigged this unique way of mounting LEDs. Each LED has two buttons under it. They are wired in parallel, so if either of them is pushed, the button works. The LED isn’t actually soldered where it passes through the board. The anode and cathode are bent around and soldered to allow the LED a little bit of travel.  There’s a good picture of how he did this on the site. The rest of the details might be hard to decipher though, it looks to be in dutch.

[thanks Tom]


  1. paul says:

    Erk, it took me a while to notice that it was a google translation.

    My tired brain spent waaaaay too long trying to understand what they were saying.

  2. rasz says:

    it looks to be retarded
    material stress will kill those led connections quickly

  3. mr_seeker says:

    Actually, it is dutch…

    They are commenting on the original topic, but due to the mistakes in writing and using typical dutch words it will be hard to understand.

    small list of dutch translations:
    Zoja = if so
    Mooizo = Beautiful
    brouwseltje = homebrew
    toetsjes = buttons
    ledhouder = ledholder
    zorden(typo)/zorgen = making sure
    schakelaar = switch

    Hope that will help you a lot :)

  4. Bhima says:

    Living in a country which uses a language which is not my first language. I use google translate *a lot*… and it can be substantially entertaining.

  5. zapwiz says:

    @rasz, I wouldn’t go as far as calling it retarded.
    Sure the wires on the LED won’t last 500,000 presses like the buttons, but for a hobby project it should work very well.

  6. Sparky says:

    rasz: I can only assume you don’t have a degree in mechanical engineering, so I won’t blame you for a little ignorance.

    LED legs are usually made (mostly) of iron, and iron is one of the materials that has a so-called “fatigue limit”, unlike, for example, aluminium.
    If you stay below this stress level, the material will never fail due to metal fatigue. This is called the infinite life concept.

    Now I don’t feel like calculating the stresses in the legs of the LEDs, but with a very small travel (say, 2mm) and the length and shape of the legs in this example, I think they are well below the fatigue limit.

    The only thing I would worry about, are the brittle solder joints.

  7. tony says:

    I agree with sparky and zapwiz. This is not a commercial solution, but should work well enough for one off devices you build yourself.

    With that said, very nice work.

  8. Caleb Kraft says:

    very interesting. That’s new to me.

  9. jerm says:

    one of those genius little tricks I’ll keep up my sleeve. Should come in handy for a custom car headunit.

  10. fartface says:

    Hey sparky, Most of my led’s legs are made of copper or brass. I just checked. non magnetic and inside is copper when clipped.

  11. loststeve says:

    And anyway I’d guess its probably the solder joint that would fail, not the legs themselves. But who cares if its just for a hack, its a neat way to use these components.

  12. plokko says:

    cool idea!

  13. weasel says:

    As many have already said, I see stress being a major issue with it. Hate to see what it would do when rapidly pressed. heh

  14. pferland says:

    IMHO, after looking at the picture, those LED’s should hold up nicely with the little amount of movement that they will be traveling. They have enough room to move and not have any stress, although i would make sure that the ends are soldered down well enough so that the solder point doesn’t break off if it is a cold solder

  15. az1324 says:

    I like the hack where you turn an led into a touch sensor better… not as straightforward though. :P

  16. Moggie100 says:

    Looking at those initially I thought that they were being used like a two-way momentary rocket switch, so pushing the LED up a tad would push one switch, and down, the other…
    Evidently not, but I’m sure as hell going to try doing that!

  17. hooooooooorj says:

    I’m sure you could figure out a way to connect the LED leads to wires to the solder joints. I think it would be a bit more work getting them to stay in the enclosure, though.

  18. K1ngfunK says:

    As a fellow ME, I can soundly agree with what Sparky said above. However, for you nay-sayers, you could easily modify this by making a sharper bend in the led leads immediately upon it passing through the board, thus preventing the led from moving far away from the buttons. Then, instead of using the remaining leads from the LED to connect to the solder point, you simply use a small length of thin wire. This setup would still function properly with no fear of stress on the solder point, although the LED might jiggle around more than you want.

  19. fractalrock says:

    neat idea…

  20. Jerome says:

    hey guys,

    I really love that idea but when you thing about it, it does not make sense.

    Has a user, would you think of pressing an LED?
    The first thing you will think is ” There is not emboss button on the panel, I guest I need to press something else…”

    Second, you have your finger over the LED, you won’t even see it light up! :P

    Ultra bright LED might and will light up the tip of your finger.

    I will try it out.

  21. strider_mt2k says:

    …rocket switch?

  22. Sammy says:

    I really like this. Yes it has a few issues but it’s a good idea. I will try it out next time I build something.

  23. Andrew says:

    funny, I was looking at lighted switches today, snap dome switches and reverse firing LEDS




    (of course this wouldn’t work on perf boards :-)

  24. nubie says:

    I can’t believe all the hate on a sweet hack!?!

    Anyway, as was mentioned, just add some flexible wire, it isn’t rocket science.

    I was kind of hoping it was a lighted mini toggle with up and down separate.

    My addition would be to glue/epoxy the LED to the button so that you can easily add the flexible wires.

    Or better yet, make a hole in the panel large enough to move the LED, but small enough that the LED base can’t make it through. LED restraint problem solved.

  25. heyallen says:

    The original poster, as translated from their language even mentioned the possibility of using wires instead.

    They also suggested possibly using the LED as an indicator rather than flashing with the button push.

    Say, have it latch on or off, depending on the state of the function the button controls?

  26. jef says:

    Some of the translated sentences are really hilarious. There is clearly space for improvement of the translation software.

    Disadvantage: low arch variants are ugly, and pretty costly.
    >Disadvantage: cheap variants are very ugly and nice ones are expensive.

    You must be a complete fool for something to remember!
    >You must be nuts to come up with such a thing!

    toetsjes pressure

    Does there PROF. uit! off
    >looks very professional

    and legs with transparent varnish
    >spraypainted with transparent varnish

    Also out for a little less convenient when I dilettante
    >can even be done by a less experienced do-it-your-selfer that I am

    the best long-lasting I think
    >it can last for a long time, I think

    would be a pity if this topic depth collapses
    >it would be a pity if this topic fades away (or: will get burried)

    just a nice clean gatboren (= gat boren)
    >just drilling a clean hole

    especially for the genes that are not so handy with syringes
    >especially for those that are not so handy with (paint)spraying

    and you also have generous square holes drilling
    >and you don’t have to drill square holes

    (yes, this last one is exactly the opposite…)

  27. dan says:

    an alternative to this could maybe be to use the LEDs as light sensors as well as light emitters, detecting when one is covered by a finger in order to trigger a response:


  28. saimhe says:

    Regarding mechanical durability, leads should be as long as possible (which means smaller deformations). Just coil the “redundant” piece in a manner of a spring.

  29. dan says:

    an alternative to this could maybe be to use the LEDs as light sensors as well as light emitters, detecting when one is covered by a finger in order to trigger a response:


  30. dan says:

    an alternative to this could maybe be to use the LEDs as light sensors as well as light emitters, detecting when one is covered by a finger in order to trigger a response:


  31. Wwhat says:

    Funny how people are so alarmist about metal fatigue then as a solution suggest wires, and what are wires? Thin strands of.. -that’s right- metal.

    Incidentally the patent office must have thousands of ways to connect those LED, which nicely gives me an excuse to share this interesting yet deceivingly simple link:


    Be careful though, it’s a link that can really engross some people and before you know it an hour has passed.

    Oh and of course there are ready-made buttons with LED, so this projects is designed to do it on the cheap for people on a low budget, and thinking up expensive fixes is defeating the purpose.

  32. l says:

    very nice.

    finally something usefull on hackaday

  33. MRE says:

    there has been extensive ‘research’ on this and other methods over at midibox.org, with a variation of this method coming in over two years ago.
    If I remember right, the led leads were bent out, and the led base was epoxied to the button cap, making one unit. wires connected the leads to the pcb. on a midibox, the dout is usually NOT built onto the interface panel, and all of those leds have to be individually wired to the dout board anyway, so fatigue is not much of an issue.

    The button caps were taller, such that there was room to cut a notch on top to let the leads out of the sides.

    anyway, if you are in need of button making ideas, there is several over there.. check it out.

  34. therian says:

    if project use some micro controller then I would go one step further to eliminate mechanical parts and use LED for output and input

  35. nubie says:

    @ Wwhat:

    I did suggest finely stranded wire. It is wrapped internally, thus reducing the amount of bending any one strand endures.

    Also since the wire is stranded a fatigue forming in one strand doesn’t travel to the next strand.

    Also there are special wires designed for flexibility.

  36. Wwhat says:


    I realise that, but I just think the feeling the pins will break in the configuration the guy uses is a bit panicky, and just as wire although it’s metal is pretty bend-proof so I expect is the setup with loops combined with the short traveldistance, but I guess only trial and error can tell, and it’s dependant, how many hundred times you can press it, on the material of the pins of the LED, which I don’t think are always the exact same composition amongst various manufacturers, at least that is my impression from the LED I’ve seen, sometimes the leads seem slightly different in composition to me, but I might be imagining things.

  37. Tom says:

    I think the LEDs will survive about a gazillion presses. The displacement is about a mm, or less (depends on how far you have to press the underlying buttons). This millimeter is spread over 3 cm of LED legs. I doubt it will ever break.
    Nonetheless, the physics behind metal fatigue are interesting, but that isn’t what this hack is about.

  38. S_aver says:

    Next time you see a nice concept like this in dutch, let me know, ill translate it for you guys, could be easier to read for all english-speaking (reading) readers.
    Btw, nice project.

  39. 3Djesus says:

    just curious, this is from 2007, how come it took so long to show up here…..maybe Ted Stevens emails clogging the nets?

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