How to Apply a Working Electronic Circuit to Glass

French maker Heliox has put together a tutorial video explaining in detail how she made a glass-backed digital dice roller circuit.

Cameron Coward
4 months agoArt

The vast majority of manufactured electronic circuits today are built on PCBs, but circuits can be made out of anything that conducts electricity. For the best balance of performance and practicality, copper is the most popular conductor material. You can use it for point-to-point wiring, freeform circuits, and good ol’ fashioned breadboard wiring. But you can also get a lot more creative. For a more artistic looking electronic circuit, you can even apply copper foil directly to glass. French maker Heliox has put together a tutorial video explaining in detail how she did that to make a digital dice roller circuit.

This video is in French, but YouTube’s automatic translation tools actually work very well. Just turn on the automatically-generated closed captioning, and then click on the settings icon to switch the language to English (or whatever you prefer). Even without understanding what Heliox is saying, you can probably follow along just based on her fantastic demonstration abilities. The process starts with the circuit design. Heliox used Easy EDA software to design hers, but KiCAD or any PCB design software should also work. This technique only works for single-layer circuits, so you’ll need to keep the design simple. You also shouldn’t plan on using any through-hole components, for obvious reasons. Make sure your traces are very wide—Heliox made hers 1.5 mm.

After your design has been completed, you’ll export the traces to a PDF. Be sure not to allow any kind of scaling here. You’ll then use a craft cutting machine to cut that design out of copper foil. Heliox used a Silhouette Cameo 4 in this video. Use very shallow cuts, and only allow it to make a single pass in order to avoid tearing the foil. Then carefully remove the excess copper foil. For now, just leave the foil traces on the cutting mat.

The next step is to get your glass ready. Heliox cut a large pane of glass down to size by scoring it and then breaking it. But that can be difficult — and potentially even dangerous — so you may want to just have yours cut to size at a hardware store. If you’re using a microcontroller, you’ll want to program it now. Heliox used an Arduino Uno to program hers. Then use transfer paper to move your copper foil traces onto the glass. Now all you have to do is solder your SMD (Surface-Mount Device) components onto the circuit. If you’re using any through-hole components, you can bend the legs out in order to solder them. The result is a functional circuit that is also a work of art!

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