Paper Flashlights

Foam tape inside a folded paper model helps make to a push-button LED circuit, and the result is a simple, pocket-sized light source!

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Setup and Supplies

Making a Paper Flashlight is simple and fun for all ages and skill levels.  You’ll need basic supplies like LEDs, batteries, foam tape, and a paper template that you can cut out in advance or have participants cut out themselves.

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Build time:

Approximately 10-15 minutes

Skills needed:

  • Basic scissor skills (or have templates cut in advance)

Tools:

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Supplies for each Paper Flashlight:

Cost:

For a workshop with 25 students you can expect to spend about $50 on supplies.


How to Assemble a Paper Flashlight

Simple folds turn a paper template into a pocket that can hold a battery, with LED leads held around the battery with foam tape that helps act as a switch.

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Step 1: Cut out the paper template

Use scissors or a craft/laser cutter to cut out the paper flashlight template. The dotted lines indicate fold lines, and they will be on the inside of your flashlight.

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Step 2: Fold in the sides

Fold the long edges in along the dotted lines. Make a solid crease along the lines.

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Step 3: Fold up the base

Fold up the bottom half of the template along the dotted line so that it meets the tab.

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Step 4: Fold down the tab

Fold the tab down over the rest of the template.

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Step 5: Insert the LED

Unfold the tab and poke the LED leads through the paper in the center of the fold line of the tab. The light part of the LED should be on the outside and the metal leads should be on the inside.

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Step 6: Stick foam tape under the LED leads

Peel off one side of the double-sided foam tape and stick the tape to the template just under the LED leads.

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Step 7: Stick the negative LED lead to the tape

Peel off the other side of the double-sided tape and press the short LED lead onto the top of the sticky part of the tape.

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Step 8: Insert the battery and test the circuit

Press the negative side of the coin cell battery to the sticky side of the tape (positive side up, negative side down).  Press the long LED lead onto the top of the battery and check that the light goes on.

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Step 9: Add foam tape to make a push-button gap

Lift up the long LED lead and stick the two pieces of single-sided adhesive craft foam to the battery, one along the top and one along the bottom, leaving a gap in the middle.

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Step 10: Fold the paper template together all the way

Fold the long LED lead back down and then insert the tab into the pocket formed by the open edge of the paper template. Push the tab all the way in to the pocket so that the model lies flat.

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Step 11: Press down to turn on your paper flashlight!

When you press near the top of the “flashlight”, the long LED lead will make contact with the battery in the gap between the two small pieces of foam tape, and the light will go on!


Going Further

Now that you know how to make a simple LED flashlight, try experimenting with different exteriors.  Can you decorate your paper flashlight? Create a different folding paper design? Use other materials? Design a custom 3D-printed casing? Get creative and add your own style!

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If you’re interested in exploring more DIY flashlight ideas, you can:

  • Create some light-up origami by combining paper-folding designs with LEDs. For inspiration, check out emilyvanleemput’s Sparkly Origami LED Cubes or Hexaquan’s LED Origami designs on Instructables.
  • 3D print an LED flashlight casing, such as Lochemage‘s cool Motorcycle Keychain with Light design on Thingiverse shown on the left. For this model, print the motorcycle base, insert a battery and LED, and snap on the battery cap.  We recommend printing the battery cap upside-down and without supports for best results.
  • Design your own 3D-printable flashlight case in Tinkercad. If you want to start with a working battery housing, you can import the Motorcycle Keychain with Light design into Tinkercad and then change the motorcycle design into something new.

Acknowledgements: The DHF Paper Flashlight design was inspired by marc92’s Robot Paper LED Flashlight on Instructables.


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