Using Copper Tape To Create A Digital Selection Pad using Arduino

This is partially me sharing this technique, and partially me learning how to use Instructables. If there are issues with my documentation of the technique or my use of Instructables, please let me know in the comments – thanks!

I needed a long row of switches in a pinch, and didn’t have nearly enough switches in my tool box for this project. This is a way to use copper tape to create many switches, quickly, in order to create a digital selection pad.

Arduino Digital Selection Pad

For this project you’ll need
*A Sheet or roll of copper tape or other conductive foil. You can find this at any hardware store, or in any craft store. (Probably other places too – feel free to leave suggestions in the comments.)
*A roll of breadboard gauge (or other Arduino-compatible) wire
*A piece of balsa wood (cardboard works in a pinch, but balsa seems to work better, as it “molds to” the shape of the wire somewhat, helping it stay in place without sliding out.)
*A roll of Scotch tape
*One 220 ohm resistor for each distinct selection you want to allow (that is, if you want to make 9 buttons, use 9 resistors)
*Something to interpret your input voltage levels from the selection pads (in my case, an Arduino Diecimila with some code performing digital reads – though sadly, the Arduino is limited to 14 distinct input pins; one could an additional circuit to allow for more inputs but that’s beyond the scope of this tutorial).

Step 1: Step One – Assemble Materials and Create Components

For each selection pad/button, first
*cut a piece of balsa wood in the size and shape of the desired button
*cut a strip of copper tape long enough to cover both sides if you wrapped it along the short end
– that is to say, if your balsa wood piece looks like this
[         ]
make your tape strip look like this
[                   ]
*cut a wire and strip both ends of the wire – one end will go into your input (say, an Arduino digital in pin) and the other end will be attached to the copper tape.You can lay your pieces out and count them to make sure you have enough before going to step 2.

Step 2: Building each Selection Button

For each selection button:
*lay an exposed wire end onto one side of the piece of balsa wood and fold your copper tape down over the wire, leaving a bit of balsa wood exposed on one side (so the tape will stick to it)
*now, tape the wire and copper tape together around the bottom of the piece of balsa wood (being sure to leave some copper exposed on both sides at the top of the piece)

The pictures below will hopefully show it better than my words can.


Major Components in Project



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