Getting Started with Copper Tape

copper tape for paper electronics

This video tutorial shows the basics of working with copper tape for making paper electronics

Copper foil tape comes in two forms: with conductive adhesive and with non-conductive adhesive.

You can order copper foil tape with conductive adhesive online here.  Copper tape with non-conductive adhesive is more common. For example you can get it at your local hardware store in the gardening section– it’s used to keep snails and slugs out of gardens!

copper tape

The tapes may look similar but they are very different when building circuits.

Conductive adhesive tape conduct electricity on both the top and bottom so you can make electrical connections just by taping one copper tape to another. While these connections will work initially, they are still far less durable over time than continuous lines of copper tape.

Non-conductive adhesive tape is only conductive on the top, so just taping two pieces together will create unreliable electrical connections where your light may flicker or not turn on at all. As a result you will need to solder the tapes together or fold the ends so that exposed copper is on both sides of the tape.  Then you can secure in place with regular tape.

non-conductive copper foil

To turn sharp corners:
1. Flip your tape over opposite the direction you want to turn, so the sticky side is face up, and flatten.
2. Flip the tape back over in the direction of your turn.
3. Flatten the corner again and you’ve got a crisp corner!

copper tape corner

To make curves:
1. Stick the end of your tape down to create an anchor.
2. Crease the tape slightly to turn and flatten the crease.
3. Continue creasing and flattening as you continue down the tape and soon a curve will emerge.

The more you turn at each step, the tighter the curve.  Also, the thinner your tape, the sharper you can make the turns.

copper tape curve

Try these paper circuit techniques!

Draw designs or write messages with your circuit

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Sculpt and fold your circuit to create 3D forms and circuit origami

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Stick circuits to decorate your favorite things with light

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Use circuits to decorate your room

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You can get copper tape and other conductive foils here:

  • Home improvement stores like Home Depot or Ace Hardware have rolls of metal tapes in the plumbing, electrical and gardening sections.  You can find copper tape in the gardening section as it is used to prevent slugs and snails from wandering into your garden!
  • Craft stores often have copper tape for making stained glass
  • Sparkfun has copper tape with non-conductive adhesive
  • Adafruit also has copper tape with semi-conductive adhesive in 6mm wide rolls and 25mm wide rolls
  • Digikey has copper tape with conductive adhesive
  • Less EMF has a wide variety of materials including conductive threads, fabric tapes and paints
  • Conducti specializes in varieties of conductive threads and conductive metal and fabric tapes specifically for circuit crafting

Have fun circuit crafting and please share your creations with us!

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