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LED neon or LED flex is a very handy material for creating neon-like signage and effects.
As time goes on it's harder to find places that still make traditional glass neon. This is largely due to the advances made with LED technology providing a safe low voltage alternative for illumination of channel letters signs, and novel materials like this that emulate the traditional linear lines of neon.
Cost is a major factor too. While the LED neon flex won't last as long as a properly processed neon tube, it is easier to drive and much more tolerant of rough handling.
This project uses short pieces of LED neon flex to create very punchy looking geometric shapes. It's perfect for using up residual scraps from other projects.
To make a frame, copy and paste one of the scripts at the bottom of this description area into openscad, a free piece of open source software written by mathematical wizards. It allows you to describe 3D objects as text. That makes it very easy to adjust parameters to make custom STL files for using with your choice of slicer software (converts an STL file to a 3D printable form), and then print them with your 3D printer of choice.
Neon frame openscad scripts. Circle, triangle and square. Make sure you leave the "=" and ";" intact when adjusting variables - they are needed by the software:-
//LED neon circle frame
//Two main adjustable variables
thick=5; //thickness of LED neon
diam=121; //diameter of circular frame
//More specialist variables
wall=1.2; //wall thickness
height=6; //depth of groove
$fn=100; //circle segments
//Don't change variables below here
wl=wall*2;
thk=thick*2;
radius=diam/2;
difference(){
//main disk
cylinder(h=height+1, d=diam);
//central void
translate([0,0,-1])
cylinder(h=height+2, d=diam-thk-(wall*4));
//cable hole
translate([0,radius-wall-(thick/2),-1])
cylinder(h=height+2, d=thick-1);
difference(){
//channel groove outer dimension
translate([0,0,1])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=diam-wl);
//channel groove inner dimension
translate([0,0,-1])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=diam-wl-thk);
}
}
//LED neon triangle frame
//Adjust these main variables to suit
thick=5; //width of LED groove
width=150; //width of frame
//More specialist variables
height=6; //depth of LED groove
wall=1.2; //wall thickness
curve=20; //corner outer radius
$fn=100; //circle segments
//Don't change variables below here
wl=wall*2;
crv=curve*2;
thk=thick*2;
crz=(width/2)-curve;
tri=crz*1.732-crz; //peak of triangle
difference(){
//main disk
hull() {
translate([-crz,crz,0])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=crv);
translate([crz,crz,0])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=crv);
translate([0,-tri,0])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=crv);
}
//central void
hull() {
translate([-crz,crz,-1])
cylinder(h=height+3, d=crv-wl-wl-thk);
translate([crz,crz,-1])
cylinder(h=height+3, d=crv-wl-wl-thk);
translate([0,-tri,-1])
cylinder(h=height+3, d=crv-wl-wl-thk);
}
//cable hole
translate([0,(width/2)-wall-(thick/2),-1])
cylinder(h=height+2, d=thick-1);
difference(){
//channel groove outer dimension
hull() {
translate([-crz,crz,1])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=crv-wl);
translate([crz,crz,1])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=crv-wl);
translate([0,-tri,1])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=crv-wl);
}
//channel groove inner dimension
hull() {
translate([-crz,crz,1])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=crv-wl-thk);
translate([crz,crz,1])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=crv-wl-thk);
translate([0,-tri,1])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=crv-wl-thk);
}
}
}
//LED neon square frame
//Adjust these main variables to suit
thick=5; //thickness of LED neon strip
width=100; //width of frame
//More specialist variables
height=6; //depth of groove
wall=1.2; //wall thickness
curve=20; //corner outer radius
$fn=100; //circle segments
//Don't change variables below here
wl=wall*2;
crv=curve*2;
thk=thick*2;
crz=(width/2)-curve;
difference(){
//main frame
hull() {
translate([-crz,crz,0])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=crv);
translate([crz,crz,0])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=crv);
translate([-crz,-crz,0])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=crv);
translate([crz,-crz,0])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=crv);
}
//central void
hull() {
translate([-crz,crz,-1])
cylinder(h=height+3, d=crv-wl-wl-thk);
translate([crz,crz,-1])
cylinder(h=height+3, d=crv-wl-wl-thk);
translate([-crz,-crz,-1])
cylinder(h=height+3, d=crv-wl-wl-thk);
translate([crz,-crz,-1])
cylinder(h=height+3, d=crv-wl-wl-thk);
}
//cable hole
translate([0,(width/2)-wall-(thick/2),-1])
cylinder(h=height+2, d=thick-1);
difference(){
//channel groove outer
hull() {
translate([-crz,crz,1])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=crv-wl);
translate([crz,crz,1])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=crv-wl);
translate([-crz,-crz,1])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=crv-wl);
translate([crz,-crz,1])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=crv-wl);
}
//channel groove inner
hull() {
translate([-crz,crz,1])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=crv-wl-thk);
translate([crz,crz,1])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=crv-wl-thk);
translate([-crz,-crz,1])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=crv-wl-thk);
translate([crz,-crz,1])
cylinder(h=height+1, d=crv-wl-thk);
}
}
}

This is a fairly simple and surprisingly, neat project to make led neon style shapes. Let me power these up. You can see them they're quite attractive. I shall turn the lights off.

I won't adjust the exposure, because these are a fairly bright source of light and, as you can see, i've got triangles circles and squares and the material gets laid in and by adjusting the frame size. Even though you can only cut this material, roughly every inch or 25 millimeters, you can fine tune the sizes to match up so the ends meet up nicely. The light is coming back, watch your eyes and i shall put the neon out and tuck it out of the way, so we can actually concentrate on making it so i'll put this over here and the project uh. If you ever use this stuff you'll end up with lots of loft cuts and, generally speaking, you can use it in short sections.

But i thought it'd be really nice to actually use that by making these frames and i've got various scripts in the description down below, and that does mean you're going to need a 3d 3d printer. If you don't have a 3d printer. Consider this as your inspiration to actually perhaps look at buying one if you do buy a 3d printer, ignore all the videos on youtube that are all geeky and they're. Saying oh you've got to adjust this parameter in that parameter.

If you buy a 3d printer, don't worry about stuff like that, buy it build it start using it, and then you can worry about fine-tuning things later on. I just see stuff that puts people off so to make these frames. It's for this uh typical, led name flex that operates at 12 volts and if you see the little dots in the back of this they're, the cutting marks - and you can cut it roughly - every inch 25 millimeters and inside is a sort of led strip with the Clusters of leds and then a little gap just so you can actually solder on or cut them. Now i see a common approach is actually cutting the end and then soldering into the end.

I prefer to cut it into the middle and solder into the middle and on the back, it's worth mentioning that some of these strips uh - they don't have these pads in the back, but the bus bars are still there and if you get a sharp knife - and You gently pair away the material you can get access to the copper. Another thing worth mentioning when you lay these into the frames is that i tend to do it with the leds. If you look down the end of the material you'll see the leds are facing into the materials sideways, i prefer to lay in with those leds actually going in the inside bend. The reason for that is, if you've got fairly tight bends, like say, for instance, the squares or triangles uh.

It's just nicer on the leds. If that radius is as the led's pointing out the way they prefer to bend this way, they're, not so good. For bending that way, although in complex reentrant shapes they, you can do that, but just for tighter bends, it's actually better in the outside, with the leds pointing out the way. So here is how you do the project, the script that you use to print these, and there are three of them down below, have just a couple of variables.

Let me just zoom down on this. Oh too much zooming down a couple of variables. There are other ones, but the main things you want to change in the script are thick is the thickness of the led neon. That's the back bit.

That's actually going to go into the channel. Let me just grab a pair of calipers here and just show you that the thickness of this stuff is typically about five millimeters for this particular version and that's why that's set to five the width in the case of this one, it's the the square frame, the Width is uh the actual size from the outside of this. Let me get the calipers again and show you so roughly 104 and initially, when you've printed your frame off just put that out of the way. Initially when you printed your frame off.

Oh, i should actually finish what i'm doing here first and the other variables that you can change. If you wish are height, that's actually the depth, the groove in here the height of the balls at the wall, which is 1.2 millimeter. That's the wall thickness. I don't recommend going below about 1.2.

That's based on three lines at 0.4, millimeter nozzle the curve in the case of the square. One is the outer curve here and function 100 that it's the number of segments in the circle. It's less critical, although if you make the circular frame, you can actually set that as six for a hexagon or eight for an octagon, but note that the little hole that it puts in for you for the cables to go through. It may not line up uh.

If you actually choose that sort of uh, if i chew, if you choose a like six-sided or eight-sided uh circle, it'll also have quite sharp bends when it goes around that it's not got the same curves as have been built into these right. Okay, zoom back out. Zoom out so to start off with you print off your frame and then i'd recommend leaning the neon in it's interesting to note that what i said about the leds pointing out the way if you actually have the leds, pointing in the way it changes. The flexing of this material enough that it actually makes a difference to where the ends will meet up that can have a significant impact.

You might size it for one thing: just lay it in and if you have the leds in the wrong side, it will actually come in a different size. But when you're ready you, when you've printed off your first frame, sit your surplus led in like this. Just basically work it round into the channel. Oh, if only real neon.

Was this easy, it's very hard to get these days it used. I went through a fad of actual rooney and uh getting it made by companies. Uh was expensive, but it was quite special. It was also very breakable.

This is not very breakable. Okay, so i've tweaked the size here see how this little dot here is uh, coming in almost dead on to the end of that, if you print off other ones in the case of this one that was 120 millimeter diameter for the outside size, it meant that That overlapped slightly and it was going to be quite hard to actually get it. You can't really use too much force to squeeze it in. So i just nudged this one up by just one millimeter and i do recommend writing numbers in the back of these.

When you're sizing these just to get it absolutely perfect, so uh, let's make this so i'll, show you how we're going to terminate onto it. I like to terminate in the middle as opposed to actually at the ends. I just find it. It gives you access to a much bigger pad.

I find it easier in the long run i used to terminate onto you know onto the pads at the end initially, and it makes it a bit more messy because, where the ends line up where you can see here, it's kind of got that it's mashed up. A bit - and it just means the front - can sometimes be messed up just for that is particularly if you're trying to get two ends to butt up close together. So i recommend taking a little notch out. Let me just zoom down this a little notch out, but be careful when you're cutting through, because, if you cut through too deeply, you can actually cut into the actual copper and you can damage the bus bars inside.

It's not a huge problem because uh these are very short lengths, so they're not really passing a lot of current. You know it's not like a huge mega long strip, but when you the process of doing this, you start off by exposing the pads and this stuff. They need a scrub when you actually do it. You need to get a blade and just scruff the oxidization off like this to gain access to them.

Once you've exposed the pads like that and uh when you're cutting it down just cut it. So it doesn't quite touch the tape and then slit in from the side, and then, as you peel, it will actually tear it. Much like when you're just ringing around a flex to strip it once you've done that put a blob of soda on one side and a blob of soda on the other side, and this stuff is positive at the front next to the uh, the output surface. And it's negative at the back, not the same with all tapes.

Some of them are different once you've done. That then get your wires and don't have too much spare copper just a little bit at the end, exposed and solder on. So you can run the wires out and it lays flat with the uh led neon material, so it doesn't actually make it a tight fit into the case. So i shall show you that right now i shall terminate one and so drawn to it.

I'll just set the soldering iron on and i'll be back in a moment. One moment please: okay and we're ready i've lifted this up to get it close to the camera. Nice black background. Now i'm going to cut a little uh window out of here just to actually access those copper pads.

You could theoretically do it anywhere, just by scraping the insulation off the bus bars, but i don't recommend doing it in between these pads. These dots here, because uh that will potentially be in the areas but the leds and other side, and you could effectively desolder them. So i'm going to start by making a little slot up here, and this is all down to practice. Once you've done this a few times, it will all make sense, so i'm not cutting all the way through.

I'm just well hope, not anyway, i'm just cutting through into the plastic, and i shall cut a little slot here as well trying to see where i am so. I cut it roughly in the right place once you've done that get a pair along those pliers. Well long as power side cutters would be better uh get the correct tool clive and you should be able to just peel this up and uh expose the connections underneath, as i say, it's all down to trial and error. Let's uh leave a little bit more space.

There, as i say, trial and error, i'm just going to open that up a little bit more because i want more room in there, the more room the better, but you don't want to go too close to the top where actually it goes near the stuff. I might also go down like this. Well, i'm messing this up. Big time.

Haven't i? Yes, that's fine! I have no problem with that. Okay right, i'm just going to grab the soldering iron now, okay, now i've actually remembered to turn the soldering iron on before. Actually soldering these i'm going to do what i mentioned and i'm going to just take the blade here and i'm just going to scrape the surface off these pads because uh they are kind of oxidized. I presume it's part of the plastic molding process that has a slight oxidizing surface on these uh copper pads and you want them fairly clean because uh, the soda will take better some of these.

They print the black line right across the pad as well. That is not helpful when they do that right. I think the soda iron is up to temperature. I shall melt some soda on top nice, clean, shiny tip here, and i shall put a blob over here making sure not to melt the front of the plastic.

This is where you find out if you've not cleaned it enough, because the the soda will not take if it's a tarnish too much, there's one little blob and here is another blob, but i've put it at the other side, so the wires aren't going to like Cross now i'm going to uh tin the wires that i've pre-arranged here so just a couple of bits of wire one end strip long, but the other end just barely stripped about less than eighth of an inch just a couple of millimeters here. Just because i don't want too much copper in here and the positive is going to go to the top so and the negative to the bottom. So i'm just going to throw some solder onto these, noting that if you pause too long, the plastic of the cable will shrink back a bit and then i'm going to start with black at the front like this and just flow that on and let it cool Down before i take my fingers over here, i'm notorious for trying to do this too quickly and then the uh, the soda, isn't fully set and then the wire pops right back off. Again, that's impatience for you, and now i'm going to sew to the positive wire at the top bus bar and by soldering the bottom one.

First you're not actually soldering the vicinity of a cable, that's already there. So this is ready to test i'm just going to test it. I'm going to get my power supply here, i'm going to hook it on to these two leads and we'll see if our strip is going to illuminate. Yes, it is.

There is our neon stripe. Okay, now it's time to put it into the frame i'll, just uh get this stuff out the way, and then we can do that. I'm going to start by threading the wires through this and then i'm going to look at the location of the led neon. The leds inside which are facing this way, so i'm going to put it in with them in the inside of the circle, and i'm going to sit that in carefully line the top of the hole that my script conveniently places in for you.

It may be a little hard to put this in, because you've got a possibly bulgey wires. If you put quite big cables in uh and also it can actually make the plastic just sort of like blow out in that area. Now i'm gon na dress the rest of this in i'm going to bring it round and uh. This should be almost a perfect fit, but i've got the option of just lifting this out and trimming it if it needs to be as it is.

I do notice it's at slight angle, but we'll see how it looks when the other end is butted up to. I can always square that off so now i'm going to bring this bit round. These wires are getting right in the way now, because it's the end of the drums so that when you get to the end of the drum, the wires tend to be called quite tightly around it. It just makes them a bit slinkyish.

So let's put this in and it's going to cut on this line here i think it's going to be okay with real neon uh. You would tend to have a little gap between the ends anyway, because they can't, but the tubes too hard up together, especially for using high frequency supplies. It causes issues. Now.

What can i do here right, i'm going to have to take off shot momentarily, but what i'm going to do? I'm going to put this sharp blade, i'm going to place it on a hard surface and at the edge of the table, and then i'm going to actually chop cleanly down on that mark. So i'm going to just take that off camera momentarily. While i do that and chop it like that, then i'm going to lay it in butt it up to there yeah see i could have actually done a better job of that, but it's fine. It doesn't really matter once it's lit.

It doesn't really show and uh just to make sure this is all sat down nicely. I'm going to press it like that, then i'm going to get the power supply hook the leads up, and that should be our big pink ring. It is. We now have a big pink ring: how lovely what our appropriate choice of color - that's quite nice, isn't it i didn't notice.

I had the exposure off there. I hope that wasn't yo-yoing up and down. That is very nice. Isn't it it's got a real sort of neonate, look to it and this operates at 12 volts.

I actually will i recommend the lights coming back. Watch your eyes. I recommend at slightly lower than that it will usually operate down to about nine volts uh, but operating at say, 10 volts or even just putting one or two diodes and sears the 12 volt supply will actually make this run at lower power, and it just means It lasts longer that puts less stress than leds, not they're. Usually too stressed in these.

I'm not going to do this bit. Uh you what you can do with these bits. You can actually, if you've got the patience, you can actually turn lots of terminate lots of sex. You can have multi color circles or shapes, but that's it so uh circles triangles squares.

Take your pick, uh tweak to get it the size. That's just perfect! For the material you've got and then basically just terminate and sit in. I think this is a good project. I do like it a lot uh, but there we go, i'm just going to make the rest of this light up.

I think that'd be a good finale. It is a good finale. Oh that is so bright. It's really nice uh statistics, the pink ring we've just made at 10 volts.

It runs at 120 milliamps, that's about 1.2 watts, which is a very good intensity for indoor use at the 4012 volts. It runs at 240 milliamps, which is considerably more and uh that can get a bit of glare and fierce um. So you can just choose that just nudge the voltage to whatever whatever pleases you, but there we go, how to use up all those scrap bits of led neon flecks and make some nice ornamentation for your home and workshop.

15 thoughts on “Make custom led neon shapes”
  1. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Tony Sheerness says:

    I hope the 3d printer companies have donated to your channel, as you must drum up a lot of business for them making pink Halos.

  2. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars radnukespeoplesminds says:

    I think this is a sign to buy a 3d printer. Perhaps an ender 3. Ive been playing around alot with openscad and cadquery since your video about customizable bulbs

  3. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars LegacyMicro says:

    I literally just bought two Ender 3's from a seller on ebay. $69.00 each and free shipping. They are returned and possibly missing small minor parts (ie screws , tools, manuals) one of them was missing 2 screws and the ($8.oo) pei build sheet. The other was missing nothing. ๐Ÿ™‚ Both work perfectly! If they are still available I plan on two more…..
    UPDATE: they're gone….

  4. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars GNARGNARHEAD says:

    would be cool to see a collection of various bends that could be assembled into various shapes, words even

    anyways, coolbeans

  5. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Zsombor99 says:

    ๐Ÿ’ก Make a word in script font style where the word is one continuos line, then 3D print it and put one of these "LED neon" strips in it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars HermannPaschulke says:

    I made a Cyberpunk 2077 neon sign using this technique a while ago. It's a super nice effect. I don't even play that game, but the logo is cool

  7. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars funkster dot org says:

    Wires joining in the middle is an excellent idea, I might have to get some of this strip to have a play with. Maybe the wire hole could be offset so that it cuts slightly into one wall, to make it easier to get the thicker bit with the wires in? Obviously the user would then have to choose inside/outside offset.

  8. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Dustin Sparks says:

    10V you say… so putting a couple "normal" silicon diodes in series with a 12-14V supply as needed should do it without too much heat?

  9. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Voice of the Clan says:

    I have a problem Clive I have ADHD and dont have a clue how to learn how to make the printer do what I want it to do, this has caused me to not buy a printer, and I would love to buy one, where can I learn to do it help please.

  10. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars George Dorn says:

    These are some great starter scripts for learning OpenSCAD, too. It might be worth also posting them somewhere that can do indentation correctly, like pastebin or a page on your own site.

    Anybody who doesn't have a 3D printer and can't afford it (in terms of money, space or time), check your local library. Many of them have one and using it is either free or very cheap.

    Barring that, make friends with a local nerd. Almost everybody with a 3D printer will be excited to share the hobby with you.

  11. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars zh84 says:

    One obvious application of this would be to make neon "letters". The 3D printer's language resembles the constructive solid geometry language used by the ray-tracer Persistence of Vision, with which I am familiar. POV contains letters as primitives, but given the way most fonts are constructed, with varying line widths, that wouldn't be practical for a printer. You would have to construct the letters yourself from line and curve segments, and of course not all are equivalent to a circle or a line segment and would have to be made with more than one segment of tape.

  12. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Peter Kay says:

    Every maker and tinkerer should have a 3D printer. They have been around for long enough, they are cheap enough and easy enough to use these days. I custom print boxes for all my projects now.

  13. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Joey Strong says:

    It's awesome though clive. I'm gonna us some and make a star for the wifey. Thank you

    Buy a cheap ender 3. With auto leveling and you're all set.

  14. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Joey Strong says:

    Those things are cool I'm always tempted to buy them. How about a project with the edison neon filaments? Also clive it's time for a new iron. I suggest a 50 dollar ksger t12 station. I bought a new fancy one but went back to my t12 haha

  15. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars MrKoakai says:

    Got to playing with this stuff to make displays in store (I work retail). I used a frame like the department of villainy and managed to win some money for the store social fund. Going to have to unpack the printer and give this a shot.

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