Inexpensive DIY LED Lightbox for Tracing
As an Industrial design student, I often trace my rough sketches refine them into nice looking presentation drawings. I've been wanting to get a light box for a while now, but the ones commercially available are either bulky (with florescent tubes) or expensive (with LEDs).

On a recent trip to IKEA, I saw the "Dioder" LED set for about $25 and I got inspired to make my own LED light box at TechShop. All together, I saved over $100 by making my own and I had a lot of fun making it!

This is a great project for artists, designers, and photographers! It only took a few hours and it's something I will use a lot.

I made this at TechShop!
http://techshop.ws/ts_sanjose.html

Step 1: Materials/Tools/Equipment

Inexpensive DIY LED Lightbox for Tracing
Here are the materials, tools and equipment I used to make this project, there are plenty of other ways to do it so I'll try to suggest some alternatives along the way.

Materials:
- "Dioder" LED set from Ikea.
- 24" x 24" Sheet metal (Steel)
- 1/4" translucent acrylic sheet
- Something to make electrical connections (solder, electrical tape, solderless connectors, etc.)
- Powder coat or paint

Equipment:
- FlowJet waterjet cutter (You could also use the various shears in the metal shop at TechShop)
- Sheet metal bending brake
- Spot Welder (or something else for joining sheet metal)
- Laser Cutter (or table saw for cutting acrylic)
- Powder coat gun and oven

Tools:
- AutoDesk Inventor 2012
- PC
- Soldering Iron


Step 2: Design the box

Inexpensive DIY LED Lightbox for Tracing
Inexpensive DIY LED Lightbox for Tracing
I started off by designing the box using the Sheet Metal tools in AutoDesk Inventor 2012.
When I was satisfied with the design, I exported the flat pattern as a DXF, which I used to run the FlowJet.
(This photo shows an early version of the DXF opened in Corel Draw.)

Step 3: Cut the sheet metal

Inexpensive DIY LED Lightbox for Tracing
I cut the flat pattern for the box on the FlowJet at TechShop San Jose. It took just over two minutes to cut this out and it is way more precise than I could do by hand. Once the piece was cut out, I rinsed it off and deburred the edges.

No FlowJet? You could also print your drawing full size and cut the profile out using the shears, punches, and corner notcher, etc. in the Metal Shop, but FlowJet is so much faster.

Step 4: Bend

Inexpensive DIY LED Lightbox for Tracing
Using a sheet metal finger brake, I formed the box. It's important to make the bends in the right order, otherwise you end up in a situation where you can't make the final bends. If you're not sure, try bending the shape in paper first.

Step 5: Spot weld corners

Inexpensive DIY LED Lightbox for Tracing
I joined the corners using a spot welder, but you could also use hardware such as sheet metal screws or machine screws. Spot welding is so quick and easy though.

Step 6: Paint!

Inexpensive DIY LED Lightbox for Tracing
I chose to powder coat the metal box with in mirror white, to maximize the light reflection on the inside. You could use spray paint or even do multiple colors.

Notice that I also drilled a hole for the wire to pass through. I could have included it in the cut file, but I forgot.

Step 7: Install LEDs

Inexpensive DIY LED Lightbox for Tracing
The Dioder kit comes with really short connectors and really long wires. I chose to shorten the wires by cutting and soldering them. You could also use solderless connectors or just leave them full length.

Step 8: Cut acrylic and slide it into place.

Inexpensive DIY LED Lightbox for Tracing
I cut the acrylic sheet with a laser cutter, because it gives a nice, clean edge. A table saw or router would work well too. I used 1/4" thick acrylic so it would be steady while tracing. Notice that it's translucent white, which helps to diffuse the light.

Slide the acrylic into place. No hardware is needed here, it fits tightly between the edges of the metal box.

Step 9: Plug it in and enjoy

Inexpensive DIY LED Lightbox for Tracing
Stand back and admire your handiwork.

Optional: Run around and tell everyone "Hey, look what I just made."
 
 

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