Material illumination (or 6 great materials for making lights)

14/01/2016

Last week we introduced you to some of our new electronics kits to support you through the electronics curriculum changes. They are low cost, can suit many skill levels and we’re sure you’ll agree, will inspire your students to make something great.

Once you have your kits, there are lots of materials you can experiment with, so to help you make that inspiring project, we’ve put together a selection of some of our more popular materials, including some new ones and highlighted why they’re great for these kits.

 

Polypropylene (PP)

Such a versatile material, commonly used from drinks bottle tops to storage boxes. We love it for its flexibility, it means it’s easy to mould. But its special power, the integral hinge takes this material to dizzying heights of designability. 

Product designer Marco Sousa Santos produced these lights just using flat polypropylene sheet, the design restrictions brought about new and inexpensive light products.

 

Use translucent polypropylene sheet with our super simple Mood Light (£4.49/6 kits) for a hands on KS3 project which pushes imagination to the limit. Requires 3 x AA batteries per light.

View our range of Polypropylene sheets.

 

 

 

Cardboard

Cardboard is a great medium. Often produced from recycled material, it is 100% recyclable too. For a cradle to grave project, it is a great way to close the sustainability loop. Used with electric paint, you can create simple glowing houses that switch on as it gets dark. Perfect for KS2/3 projects involving smart materials, electronics and product design.

 

 

 

Step it up a gear for KS3/4 projects, using card and electric paint. Why not create eco lights by exploring proximity sensors; we think they’re great for a sustainable buildings project. If you have little experience in electronics, don’t worry, the Touchboard will do all the hard work for you. Bare Conductive have some awesome tutorials aimed at all skill levels.

If you think you’re a Jedi, then here’s a way to make your standard Arduino work as a proxy. You can buy all you need to get started with Arduino here (from £69.34/ea).

View our range on cardboard.

 

 

 

Ply for laser cutting

Isn’t it satisfying to design, cut, and then assemble? Designing in 2D to create 3D assemblies is great for students to learn tolerances, and types of fit early on. So as they advance, they’ll have a toolkit of options to try out when they face a new challenge.

Our birch ply for laser cutting has been selected for its low resin content, that’s in essence what laser ply is. We regularly laser cut ply, so we know what to look for. It’s great for making lamps like the one below as it’s solid, great to machine cut and can be finished with suitable paints & stains.

An alternative to ply is MDF, equally a great product, just a little cheaper. MDF is manufactured from fine wood particles which are compressed and glued together, it’s this process which means it is more uniform that  most other woods giving a consistent finish.

There’s something special about nightlights, sending little ones off to sleep, which means peace and quiet. Ahhh. Feels good, doesn’t it.

Take the simple electronics route using our timed nightlight kit (from £2.95/ea.) or go whole hog and introduce exciting, wondrous, and surprisingly simple programming to the classroom with a PIXACE night light (tutorial). You can buy the 08M2 starter pack here (from £15.50/ea.) (Requires 3 x AA batteries).

Low resin ply from £1.69 per sheet.

 

 

Acrylic

Classic material for LEDs. Low flammability rating means it’s safe to use in houses. And it doesn’t require any pre-drying like ABS does, so thumbs up for processing too. But best of all acrylic is great for transmitting light across its face. Don’t believe me? Ask Boba.

 

Did you know, you can buy Acrylic (otherwise known as PMMA) for use with your 3D printer?

 

Save up to 10% on acrylic sheet.

 

 

 

PLA

Made from corn starch, PLA is a biodegradable plastic which has become extremely popular with 3D printer users in recent years. What’s great about PLA is it has a low melting point (180-210°C), so it doesn’t suffer the same warping problems that affect ABS, while still producing a strong, durable model, plus it smells great too.

The glossy finish you get with PLA and the various colour types such as fluorescent, translucent and neon can look great when exposed to light. So why not explore these variations and create a fantastic looking light project.

PLA 3D printer filament.

Our 1W LED lamp kit (£3.76/ea) would be an excellent option to light up your lamp, use with the 5V mains power supply (£3.38/ea) unless you are any of the following superheros: Ironman, Storm, Shellectro and Nikola Tesla.

Huge range of 3D printer filament.

 

 

 

HIPS

High Impact Polystyrene; our favourite styrene (Yes, we have a favourite styrene). Why? Because it’s commonly reprocessed, which is great! We do love a bit of recycling here. You could even make your own coloured sheet using the schred granulator.

We also love HIPS because it’s easy to process. Take the light below. It’s simple in form, but involves a great use of mixed materials in a project, and does its function well. We think Dieter would like this.

 

 

We think our low voltage light project (from £19.56/ea) would be perfect. It removes the dangers associated with main current, easy to use, and bright.

See our range of HIPS for vacuum forming.

 

All prices are exclusive of VAT.

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