EL wire 'neon' sign

I just finished this. 3 layers of laser cut acrylic with EL wire sandwiched between them. Heat shrink tubing to black out the wire between letters.
Needs a better inverter, but I just ordered some USB ones.


That really has a neon tube look about it.
I think the black tube adds to it.
Looks good.
How big is it?

Looks great…

How bright is this stuff, and can you vary it? What happens with different frequencies? And what voltages are involved?

Will you blog it?

@tomnewsom were you Glownimals based on this stuff?

It’s about 200mm square. The EL wire is 2.6mm diameter, which fits nicely in a 3mm layer of acrylic.

I thought about making the back layer black to hide the wire between the letters but I agree with @gordonendersby and liked the black tube - it looks more neon tube like, I think.

I think it’s hard to vary the brightness, and control it generally. It needs a high AC voltage to drive it. I’m using a little inverter that takes a couple of AA batteries at the moment, but I’m hoping the USB ones I’ve ordered will drive it a bit brighter.

What do you mean by blog it, @Dermot ?

@dermot Glownimals is based on that stuff yes… You can do dimming with PWM. It’s not hugely bright, you can’t see it in daylight.

Yeah it’s only any good in the dark. It also degrades under UV so can’t be installed outdoors

Very flexible stuff though. All sorts of applications. A bugger to solder.

You’re not going to catch me trying to solder it!

Working on another one…

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From the photos. it looks like the real thing. pun intended.


I figure I may as well upload the dxf files I cut these from. I’ve added an extra set of holes in the Coke sign as the middle could do with a bit more fixing.

Atari.dxf (92.0 KB)
CocaCola.dxf (295.9 KB)

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@tomnewsom Have you any experience with the 5mm EL wire? Or @unknowndomain?

I’ve only ever used the 2.4mm stuff.

The only difference is the thickness of the outer sheathing. So the thicker wire actually looks dimmer because it diffuses the light over a larger surface area. The only reason to use it is to get a deliberately chunky look, or for longer life in an outdoor application (the sheathing protects the phosphor from UV).

Thanks @tomnewsom although that’s not the answer I wanted to hear! Was looking to scale up the Coke sign but if it’s going to be even dimmer then it might not be worthwhile.

The only way to get a wider line while maintaining brightness is by bundling multiple wires. Can look good, but you don’t get that clean neon-like appearance.

EDIT: You can also use an over-sized power supply to increase brightness, but it decreases lifetime.

@richM Woderful work! How can you glue wire on acrylic ? 3M?

this is my work


Being an ex mechanical engineer I went down the bolt-it-all together route.

The EL wire fits into a groove laser cut in the centre of three layers of laser cut acrylic which are bolted together with M3 machine screws. Heatshrink tubing blanks off the gaps.