Whether in a shop window or mounted to the top of consoles in NASA’s Mission Control Center, edge lit acrylic is a popular choice for making high visibility signs. Partly because of their striking hologram-like appearance, but also because they’re exceptionally cheap and easy to produce. Just how cheap and easy? Take a look at this recent video from [Hack Modular] for a perfect example.
Now you might think you’d need something like a CNC router to produce a sign like this, and for more complex images, that’s arguably the case. But if you’re only concerned with text, and have a fairly steady hand, you can pull off the etching step with nothing more exotic than a printed template and a razor blade. Of course, the LCD style font that [Hack Modular] picked for this sign is particularly well suited to hand cutting — if you’re interested in edge lit calligraphy, this method probably isn’t what you’re looking for.
With the text carved into the acrylic, the only missing ingredient is light. For that, [Hack Modular] is using a 12 volt linear LED strip light. That is, instead of being dotted with individual LEDs like traditional strips, it provides a continuous band of light that’s perfect for this application. That gets stuck down to a scrap piece of wood, and a rusty angle bracket from an old Meccano set is used to hold the acrylic right on the center-line. If you think the final product looks like something that was created from trash, don’t feel bad, that was the intent.
The end result looks great. In fact, if we’re being honest, it’s a lot better than we would have thought was possible using hand tools. Granted the choice of font has a lot to do with that, but then again, we wouldn’t mind if all our edge lit acrylic signs ended up looking like big seven-segment displays either.
Like a lot of hams, [Stuart] wanted an “on the air” sign. These signs often connect to a PTT switch or maybe an output from the transmitter that also does things like switches antennas or switches in an amplifier. [Stuart’s] version, though, simply senses the radio frequency emissions from the transmitter and lights up that way. You can see two videos about the sign, below.
Honestly, we are a little worried that he might have too much RF at his operating position. Presumably, the device is pretty sensitive, especially if there’s any actual antenna on the sign. A comparator and a pot let you set the sensitivity so it doesn’t light up when your garage door opens.
[Geek Mom] has long been a fan of edge-lighting, as it’s a great way to make beautiful glowy projects out of acrylic. In this case a fluorescent acrylic is used with white LEDs to generate an eerie green glow, though it’s also noted that the project can be done with clear acrylic and color-shifting LEDs instead for an equally cool look. If you’re filming a low-budget sci-fi film, this could be just what you need.
The pendants made a great project for young makers to learn about LEDs, electronics, and technologies such as lasercutting that were used to produce the parts. With copper tape used instead of soldering and a CR2032 battery used to eliminate the need for a current limiting resistor, it’s a very accessible project that most teens were able to complete without assistance.
If you want to display numbers, just go for Nixies. There’s no better way to do that job, simply because they look so cool. Unfortunately, Nixies require high voltages, controlling them is a tiny bit strange, and they suck down a lot of power. These facts have given us a few Nixie alternatives, and [Dave] is here with yet another one. It’s a light pipe Nixie, made from acrylic rod.
The idea of using lights shining into a piece of acrylic to display a number is probably as old as the Nixie itself. There were a few tools in the 60s that used side-lit plastic panels to display numbers, and more recently we’ve seen a laser-cut version, the Lixie. This display is just ten sheets of acrylic etched with the numbers 0 through 9. Shine a light through the right acrylic sheet, and that number lights up.
You can do just about everything in acrylic, and it’s already used for a light pipe, so [Dave] grabbed some acrylic rod and bent it into the shape of a few numbers. With a little work, he was able to make his own FauxNixie by mounting these numbers in a carefully modified lamp socked wired up with ten individual LEDs. The results make for big, big, big Nixie-style numbers, and the perfect clock for the discerning glowey aficionado.
Engraved acrylic lights up nicely with LED lighting. Simply engrave clear acrylic with a laser engraver, then edge-light the acrylic and watch the engraving light up. This badge made by [Solarbotics] shows how they used this principle when creating some pendants for an event that performed particularly well in the dark.
The pendants they created have two engraved acrylic panels each, and that’s about it. Two LEDs and a CR2032 battery nestle into pre-cut holes, and the engraved sides are placed face-to-face, so the outer surfaces of the pendant are smooth. By using some color-cycling RGB LEDs on one panel and blue LEDs on the other panel, the effect is that of an edge-lit outer design with a central element that slowly changes color separately from the rest of the pendant.
The design stacks the LED leads and coin cells in such a way that a simple wrap of tape not only secures things physically, but also takes care of making a good electrical connection. No soldering or connectors of any kind required. [Solarbotics] found that CR2032 cells would last anywhere between a couple of days to a week, depending on the supplier.
This design is great for using a minimum of materials, but if that’s not a priority it’s possible to go much further with the concept. Multiple layers of edge-lit acrylic were used to make numeric 0-9 display modules as well as a full-color image.
Got 30 minutes for a holiday project and don’t want to get wrangled into some sort of decoupage disaster? Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories can show you just how easy it is to do edge lighting effects. Pictured above are three holiday cards constructed using scored plastic. You can use many different types of clear plastic for this, not just acrylic. The lighting is just an LED on a coincell. Black tape is used to prevent light leaking from the edges. The red and green version above is two stacked layers. This looks like something fun to scale up for a larger project or just to kill some time.