Different lighted acrylic sign idea

I just saw a video on Lifehacker that gave me an idea. He was making a faux neon sign by putting EL wire (electroluminescent wire) into rigid plastic tubing then using a heat gun to form the sign as if it were a glass tube. It looked pretty fussy and difficult to me. I thought of another use for that wire. How about laser engraving channels into two pieces of acrylic such that the wire would be sandwiched between the layers? Has anybody tried this?


There are some YouTube videos on bending the tubing out there. Generally they’re folks using it for liquid cooling in computer mods. If EL has come down in price (used to be crazy expensive), I say go for it!


I see butt loads of potential for EL, Arduino, and laser cutting. I don’t know about making the channels though.


What do you consider crazy expensive? It has been pretty well commodified and with just a little shopping can be quite cheap. You will always need an inverter though and that drives the total up a bit.


I haven’t yet seen any particularly bright EL wire. But I haven’t seen much of it, so maybe I have only seen terrible samples.

Bending tubing is pretty trivial. There are a few things to learn as you go, but rarely will you make irreparable mistakes. Especially with tubing small enough to thread EL wire through and not look wonky.


Good to know. I probably haven’t priced it since the age of Tron Guy.


Haven’t tried it but sounds like it would be super cool!


I picked up six different colors of EL wire last year with laser cut projects in mind. I let the kids use them for Halloween and they held up well to that abuse and were a real source of attention. I am not sure if they come in various brightness/quality levels, but the ones I have are best suited for night use. They are not nearly as bright as real neon or even edge lit acrylic.

Here is the set I picked up: https://smile.amazon.com/Pack-Glowing-Strobing-Electroluminescent-Controllers/dp/B00ORGCQ5U/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1474294936&sr=8-5&keywords=electroluminescent+wire


Adafruit has them in 2 brightness levels - of course that means the brighter version consumes twice the power so you can only drive 1/2 the length of el-wire for a given battery power setup (you can also run it off wall power through a transformer if battery portability isn’t an issue).

I made a Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat coat of many colors for my daughter’s high school musical this year using 200’ of el-wire in the seams between panels of different colored cloth with the battery packs and inverters in a pouch inside the back. It even had a sound syncing inverter so as the music changed the lights strobed. Awesome special effect. Used the extra-bright wire for it all.


Awesome! I’d love to see videos or stills of this.


Did the power supplies buzz?

I made a steam punk top hat with EL wire on the brim to add a cool lighting effect. The only problem was the power supply was in the hat, and it buzzed and was super annoying.


Yes, there is a mild buzz. I suspect if it was up by an ear it would be annoying. Just did a quick search and found this:

“All EL drivers run at ‘audible’ frequencies which means that you can hear a squeaking noise emanating from the driver case. This is totally normal, but a little annoying. You can reduce the squeaking by opening up the driver case and padding it with foam tape. You can also try wrapping it in bubble-wrap or foam sheet to reduce the noise. We’ve usually found people wearing EL wire at parties where it’s quite loud already.”


I figured that was the case, just hoped it wasn’t.

Yea, I wrapped it was foam, which helped. But it was right on my head, so not much I could do.

I was hoping I could find some pictures, but nothing yet. I made a plasma globe cane to go with the costume.


Some pretty neat stuff! Just spent an hour learning about it and how it works, and how to modify it. A quick search just lead me to this parts store and this video taught me how to modify its length and reconnecting it all. Looking forward to adding this to my arsenal of making wicked crazy projects!


Check the adafruit ones - they have a 12V one that’s the size of a 9V battery that I swear is inaudible (or I’m just getting too old to hear :slight_smile:). If I recall, the price was pretty cheap too.


EL wire is pretty cheap, but it also LOOKS cheap IMHO unless you can rig it to be perfectly straight and smooth. Laser-cut channels seem like a great idea.