Build an edge-lit sign from the scrap pile

Whether in a display case or mounted on top of NASA Mission Control Center consoles, edge-lit acrylic is a popular choice for making high-visibility signs. Partly because of their striking hologram appearance, but also because they are exceptionally cheap and easy to produce. Only How? ‘Or’ What cheap and easy? Check out this recent video from [Hack Modular] for a perfect example.

Now you might think you would need something like a CNC router to produce a sign like this, and for more complex images you probably do. But if you only care about text and have a pretty steady hand, you can pull off the engraving step with nothing more exotic than a printed template and a razor blade. Of course, the LCD-style font that [Hack Modular] chosen for this sign is particularly well suited to hand-cutting – if you’re interested in edge-lit calligraphy, this method probably isn’t what you’re looking for.

This linear LED provides more consistent light.

With the text etched in acrylic, the only missing ingredient is light. For that, [Hack Modular] uses a 12 volt linear LED light strip. In other words, instead of being dotted with individual LEDs like traditional strips, it provides a continuous strip of light perfect for this application. This remains glued to a piece of wood, and a rusty square from an old Meccano set is used to hold the acrylic directly over the centerline. If you think the end product looks like something that was created from scraps, don’t feel bad, that was the intention.

The end result is superb. In fact, if we’re being honest, it’s much better than we ever thought possible with hand tools. Granted, the choice of font has a lot to do with it, but again, we wouldn’t mind if all of our edge-lit acrylic panels ended up looking like big seven-segment displays either.

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