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Mar. 14th, 2023
A neon door sign for the MIT Electric Vehicle Team.
Inspiration for this one came from Cat Arase's IAP neon sign class --> see here.
For those of you who have been following along recently — either on social media or elsewhere, you'll have heard about my slight pivot in joining the MIT Electric Vehicle Team. The truth of the matter is, I needed some funding to complete my hydrogen bike project, and the MIT Edgerton Center was happy to give it to me along with a team of wonderful people. I really prefer this to the lone-ranger work I was doing before. The team is amazing, and we're having a lot of fun getting this bike working.
This hasn't come without its challenges however, the MIT EVT hasn't completed a big project in a while despite the team's long and significant history making many contributions to the field of electric vehicles. So, as a group, we had to spend some time digging things out of storage, setting up a new space to work, and etc. We started in MITERS, and while we're still doing a significant amount of work with our friends there, we cleared out an old room in the MIT Milkdrop Shop and moved a whole bunch of old EVT cruft into there.
Some things we found...
a Zero Motorcycles motor
an EMRAX motor
a SEVCON motor controller
a whole bunch of A123 battery modules
many misc. wires, tools, power supplies, chargers, etc.
Anyways, if you want to learn more about EVT and all the work we're doing now, check out the new website—we've rebranded a little.
The point is new team, new room, we needed a door sign (obviously). Can't have just a plain door that would be horrible. So I stared by adding a High-Voltage sign I found in MITERS, a Lithium battery transport warning label, a laser-cut acrylic version of the old EVT logo, and a few MIT D-Lab stickers just for kicks. But I wanted a little more "pizzaz."
Over IAP, my roommate Cat Arase ran a faux neon LED sign class in the Metropolis makerspace on campus. That, and the new "retro-industrial" branding of EVT (and Licence-to-Fab) prompted me to try making one.
If I'm being honest I could have documented this project better with more pictures, but I'll try to describe the process in enough detail to re-create it below.
Steps in order—
first drew the outline of the sign on the door and planned out how each strip of neon would look, I used pencil for the outline and sharpie in the corners, I did some measuring but mostly eye-balled it
then, I basically took the double-sided tape and peeled only one side and stuck it to the door in the shape I wanted, I tried to make the pieces as continuous as possible, with no overlap, for SUPER sharp corners I didn't place tape down, I only secured the straight edges going into and out of the corner with the intent that the LED strip would naturally form a curve in the corners—forcing the curve just increases the chance of it ripping off the tape when we attach the strip to the door
I drilled some holes in the door near where the "end" of each LED strip would go, I tried to do each color continuously so I could use the ends to power them, doing multiple strips of each color would mean I'd need to add wire between each of the strips to power them, this way I could pass just the end of the wire through the door and hooked the three strips up to each other. In hindsight, I should have done the drilling before the tape because some of the door fragments got stuck on the side of the tape since I used thick double-sided tape, and I had to spend some time brushing it off—but not a huge deal
I slowly peeled away the second layer of double sided tape, I exposed all of the sticky side that corresponded to each strip of LEDs before I laid them on. I slowly laid the LEDs onto the strip, pressing into the tape to get as good adhesion as possible. I fed the exposed wires through the holes
some tight corners of the LED strips weren't being held down well enough by the double sided tape, some curves were hard to get with tape, and I wanted to secure the wires and hide the holes in the door a little better, for all of this I used hot glue. Potting the holes, and then using small dabs of hot glue to hold the strip to the door in certain locations
on the back side, I wired all the LED strips in parallel, these LED strips have their own internal current-control drivers so you don't blow the LEDs by passing too much current (these strings accept a voltage input, some accept a current input, be very careful when buying a strip to check which one it takes)
just cleaned the wires up a bit and then plugged in the power supply to the wall! Only thing here was to make sure the wires and the power supply don't prevent the door from opening and closing.
Here's the final sign on the door in our room in Milkdrop! This project was honestly just super fun, because it just felt artistic instead of engineering-y, I need more projects like that in my life. I think the three colors were a good choice, any more or less I think the sign would be too busy or not have enough diversity. Because of the current control in the LED strips themselves, the lighting brightness is very consistent even across colors, and I can leave the sign on all the time without fear of blowing or overheating the LEDs.
Hope you enjoyed this one :) — come visit MIT EVT in the Milkdrop shop sometime!
#neon #signs #industrialdesign
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