Mini light table fits inside a briefcase

portable_light_box

Hackaday forum member [Mike] was looking for project ideas when his girlfriend, an art major, suggested that he build her a light table to help with her various assignments. Having seen a few of these projects pop up from time to time, he figured he was up to the task. He started hunting around at his local thrift stores and finally came across what he was looking for – a hard-sided Samsonite briefcase.

He ripped out the bottom lining of the briefcase and proceeded to paint the inside white in order to properly reflect the lighting he would be adding shortly. A pair of under-cabinet lights were installed, and wired to be easily toggled on the outside of the case. He located some white acrylic to serve as the top of the table, trimming it to fit snugly in the case without any need for fasteners.

His girlfriend loved the table, though we would be interested in seeing a more portable version – it is built into a briefcase after all. We would love to hear your suggestions on how he might make this more portable, so let us know in the comments.

Comments

  1. Nick says:

    Just out of curiosity, how is a briefcase NOT portable? I mean, if there are insane gobs of wiring coming out everywhere, yeah, sure, it’s hardly portable, but… It is a briefcase… Something DESIGNED with portability in mind…

  2. Snobound says:

    Nice idea. I see a couple of alternate paths that could make this truly portable. First direction – replace the AC powered under cabinet lights with a few feet of LED ribbon that could be powered by an on board battery. Second direction – repurpose the backlight from a defunct 17″ or 19″ LCD monitor and again power the inverter with an on board battery.

  3. dave says:

    Yeah, what I was gonna say…

  4. proflt says:

    i think portable power is what had was trying to say. You could rip some scanners apart for there bulbs and power supplys. they normally run from 9-12vdc. that would be low power and very bright.

  5. namo says:

    Hacker: “Look, I made a portable light-table that’s in a briefcase!”

    HAD: “Too bad it’s not portable, it’s a briefcase afterall…”

    I have to wonder what does hack a day think briefcases are for anyway?

  6. kimg says:

    Seems like you could have a much more compact version if you ripped out the backlighting pieces from a LED monitor.

  7. Renee says:

    Seems portable enough, I’d just add a spot inside to hold pens and pencils and other art supplies.

  8. zacdee316 says:

    A small scanner would be the best method. You could tap into the original electronics and turn the lamp on with a switch. That way you can still use the scanner for it’s original purpose.

  9. mad_max says:

    I like how his girlfriend “suggested” that he make it for her. Oh, girlfriends. You do a lot of suggesting.

  10. Renee says:

    Yes, not unlike how boyfriends suggest that women have their hair in a certain way or that they wear something specific or that maybe she should try something different during you know what.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Renee, that’s pretty suggestive.

  12. David says:

    Sex? Are you talking about sex?

  13. DudeGuy says:

    That was the funniest derailment I’ve seen in a while. Back on topic. Nice build! Totally portable, it is a briefcase. I want one.

  14. kevin says:

    Portable light tables are commercially available. I have a little one (about 10cmx15cm) that uses a white backlight similar to a LCD screen’s. It can run off a wall wart or a 9V battery.

  15. JediTalian says:

    in my quest to consume less wattage while not knowing how much wattage i was actually consuming, i found a 95W max PSU in an old 400mhz pc. pretty small for a computer power supply, too. stick something conductive (der, copper wire) between a green and black wire, plug in some cold-cathodes and voila! Not that i have any idea what a light table is used for, but one 12″ cold cathode lights my room way too much, and they are cheap, at ~$7.00 for 2 12″ lights and the little blue box i like to burn things with, plus adhesive velcro pads, and an on-off switch + expansion slot cover thingamajig. cold cathodes pull like 3W max, if that. with the proper power supply feeding it 12v, and an extension cord (or inverter and car battery) PORTAbLe. (minus the car battery, extension cord is lighter and easier to cram into tight spaces.)

  16. CRJEEA says:

    Why take the voltage up from 12v to 240v with and inverter and then back to 12v again with a psu? a bit wasteful I think.
    Considering the voltage is stepped up for the cold cathodes anyway… Maybe if cold cathodes are to be a must, use thoughs small 12v inverter supply’s you can buy for pc cold cathode lighting? Wire them serial/parallel until you have enough to light larger tubes. (I would suggest insulating them a lot. Even from them selves as they van make half inch arcs on their own)
    Personally I would go with a large number of super bright LEDs. (not luxons

  17. CRJEEA says:

    Why take the voltage up from 12v to 240v with and inverter and then back to 12v again with a psu? a bit wasteful I think.
    Considering the voltage is stepped up for the cold cathodes anyway… Maybe if cold cathodes are to be a must, use thoughs small 12v inverter supply’s you can buy for pc cold cathode lighting? Wire them serial/parallel until you have enough to light larger tubes. (I would suggest insulating them a lot. Even from them selves as they van make half inch arcs on their own)
    Personally I would go with a large number of super bright LEDs. (not luxons they get too hot for a small space). And then run it all from lithium batteries. Simple light and won’t break if dropped. (not suggesting in anyway not to trust a woman with tech…).

  18. Pete says:

    I had to make one for my daughter and I used the LCD panel from a MacBook which had a smashed TFT panel. The base board was 6 mm plywood and I used an external CCFL inverter for the backlight supply and the whole thins runs off a 12V brick. I had to mount the inverter to the side but the result is a really slim and portable light box.

  19. Kevin says:

    zacdee316: Have you looked inside a scanner? (just open the lid while scanning) it only has one light tube that is moved back and fourth under the glass, there’s no way to use it as a light table.

  20. Sean says:

    Have to agree – how portable do you want ?

    I did a similar build about 25yrs ago with clear plastic and uv lamps for exposing pcb’s and also built into an old brief/attache case (probably 18 or 20 inch). It was beautifully portable and in terms of size it was actually very close to commercial units but lighter (most were all metal construction) and of course a fraction of the price.

    In my case I also incorporated a small electro-mechanical timer which I think came from some kind of kitchen equipment.

  21. philippe says:

    Electroluminescent backlight ?

    http://www.elec2go.com.au/category7_1.htm

  22. Mike Nathan says:

    To answer the question of “how portable do we want?”, I was imagining something that does not require 120v to run.

    Perhaps something along the lines of a couple of scavenged power tool battery packs with an external charging port and perhaps some CFLs.

  23. Colecoman1982 says:

    Say “what” again. Say “what” again. I dare you. I double-dare you, motherfucker. Say “what” one more goddamn time.

  24. Chris says:

    I like philippe’s idea. I would like those guys to put up specs though… how many lumens are we talking about on those EL sheets?
    C

  25. Kuhltwo says:

    Good Idea. And with 10 to the unth power of possibilities and ideas. Just pick your poison or what you have laying around the shop.

    BTW, who let the troll in?

  26. philippe says:

    I don’t know about lumens, here are a few technical infos : http://www.surelight.com/files/EL_Parallel_Panel_Technical_Data_sheet.pdf

  27. Isotope says:

    It works, she’s happy. Why does HAD always feel the need to find inadequacies?

    “…WE would have liked to see…”

    then build it yourself. jeez.

  28. Yomama says:

    Maybe all the anger and negativity in the comments are finally getting to these hackaday guys. Maybe they are becoming one of us and dig up inadequacies in everything too.

    Or maybe they were just trying to spark conversation.

  29. MikeLinPA says:

    More portable than that? OK! I got you covered.

    An iPAD or clone displaying a white screen. Possibly as easy as opening up a blank text document or a blank web page. 10+ hour battery life, and it comes with a charger. No hacking needed.

  30. james says:

    I want one on the lid of my laptop!

  31. Renee says:

    @ Chris, cd/m2 is candela per square meter

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Candela_per_square_metre

  32. chango says:

    Colecoman1982: The first thing I thought of when I saw this was Marsellus Wallace’s briefcase.

  33. jaded says:

    There’s a coincidence. Truck in the driveway + tailgate down == workbench. I have the same one!

  34. mjrippe says:

    @ Renee – This is why I need to date a geek girl. I can “suggest” she that builds some projects and she can “suggest” that I try something different during you know what!

  35. nick says:

    James, just replace the housing for your laptop with something clear. could be as simple as cutting out a section and fitting a sheet of acrylic

  36. Steve says:

    I would throw in a handful of cyalume glowsticks,
    so it can be used in tactical situations,and also
    emergencies.

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