Super Simple Cheap DIY USB LED(s) (and Other Stuff)

Introduction: Super Simple Cheap DIY USB LED(s) (and Other Stuff)

Hello and Welcome to my first instructable :)

I bet we're all setting up and repopulating our makerspaces once again after the virus, so I think it's about time we makers all learned to make our own USBs rather than depend on easily depleted batteries or needlessly expensive factory-made USBs all the time. Although this specific instructable focuses on LEDs, you can totally swap those out for wires that lead to any one of your awesome creations (see more examples at the end!). However, perform any crazy experiments at your own risk!

I designed this to be done by absolutely anyone on a low budget HUNDREDS of times, excluding the tools which you probably own as a maker already. So, enough chitchat, and let's




The things you will need will be either consumables or tools.


-Cardboard (it is best if the cardboard is corrugated, but you can use other cardboard as long as you can fit it snug into a USB port after cutting)

-LED(s) (ignore voltage research at your own risk!)

-Resistor(s) (optional, only if you will need them)

-Copper tape (not necessarily with conductive adhesive)



-Soldering Iron (I used the 3dsimo which bonuses as a 3d pen, pyrography tool and foam cutter. Get it here for 10% off on $100+ orders even on already-dicounted prices:

-Scissors/crafting knife (I recommend X-Acto)

-Resistance Wire Cutter (completely optional. In fact IDK why I used it. also part of the 3dsimo)

-Glue (for gluing cardboard)

-Soldering Helping Hands (not required but recommended)

Not a very monstrous list, is it?

Step 1: Mark It!

The first step is to mark our cardboard which we will later cut. Measure out two 7/16

inch squares on cardboard. Make sure this is accurately done. Easy enough...

Step 2: Cut It!

Yeah this is total overkill... just WHY did I do that? You don't need the resistance wire cutter, just pull our your scissors or knife and cut out your two squares. Child's play.

(By the way, you may need more squares if your cardboard is thin, so it fits snug within the ol' port)

(10% off 3dsimo shop, even on discounted items, on $100+ orders: )

Step 3: Glue It!

Now pile those squares and firmly glue one square on top of the other, making sure to rotate the triangular creases (if using corrugated cardboard) in the same direction on both. Do your best to align them as perfectly as possible. Too easy!

Step 4: Squish It!

Sorry about the quality, but you won't really be needing that...

Once you are sure they’re well aligned, squeeze them together (this will flatten the possible triangle creases visible from the sides). This will also likely deform the square shape, but that is not an issue. The simplest step yet.

Step 5: Trim It!

Now cut out the extra cardboard that stuck out of the sides in the last step, and try your best to cut it into a perfect square once again. Make it neat!

Step 6: Measure It!

Measure out and cut copper tape to the length of the square from one open-crease edge to the other. Cut just a little more extra than thin length so you can later fine-tune the length by snipping off the excess. The copper tape is used to keep the solder stuck properly, because solder does not adhere well to cardboard.

Step 7: Halve It!

Cut out this piece of copper tape in half length-wise (this step depends mostly on the thickness of your tape. use the pictures ahead to see if you need to do this for neatness or not).

Step 8: Stick It!

Now, just stick the two copper tape strips onto the cardboard length-wise. Try to keep the edge of the tape lying against the exact edge of the square (by the way, I'm holding this with tweezers).

Step 9: Snip It!

Snip off the excess tape that's going over the edges. Onwards!

Step 10: Heat It!

Switch on a soldering iron so it can heat up through the next few steps. Although I used 350 degrees Celsius, there is no harm in using another temperature as long as it works. Now we're getting there!

(psst! get the 3dSimo here for 10% off on order $100+, even if already discounted!)

Step 11: Choose It!

Select your LED(s). Keep in mind the receptacle in which you want to plug in your USB. Most use 5 volts, but others may have different outputs. Resistors can also be used, if needed (see the intro for an example of this). Let's keep going!

Step 12: Optional Step (although Most Likely Required)

If using Multiple LEDs, you will need to solder them. Make sure the positive terminal of one LED leads to the negative terminal of the next. Use the next steps as a guide to where the positive and negative sides of the USB itself are, and connect your LEDs or resistors while keeping this in mind. Then, Snip short any terminals that you will connect to another LED or resistor.

Step 13: Pre-solder It!

Solder together any LEDs or resistors before moving to the next step. This step is a bit tricky, so I highly recommend using “soldering helping hands” to keep your components firmly in place. Getting interesting?

Step 14: Cover It (with Solder)!

Cover the copper tape on your cardboard square with solder. Use the photos as a guide. Helping hands might also be used here, if you’re having trouble. Likely, you want your iron at a high temperature in order for the solder to spread nicely. Let the solder bulge out a little due to surface tension. Almost there!

Step 15: Finish It!

Now, all that remains is soldering on the LEDs. Note that the right side will be positive, and the left negative, so solder accordingly. Beautiful!

Step 16: Use It!

Now it's as simple as plugging it in! As you can see, I've done some other shenanigans with this method as well. I even used it to power a chip I programmed! Obviously, these are just prototypes and things I've been tinkering with, but the results clearly show the potential! By the way, I used the 3dsimo to create the wire-frame for the lamp. Get this awesome gadget here (with a 10% discount on $100+ orders, even if already discounted!):

Bring in those awesome projects! I'd love to see them!

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