Conductive Ink: The Power of Electricity in a Circuit Pen

David HookCircuit Scribe News, Using Circuit Scribe

A child successfully lights up an LED with his circuit while he lays on the floor.

We’ve taken engineering from the chalkboard and put it in the hands of kids with a unique STEM experience – a conductive ink pen.

Now, creating circuits is as easy as drawing them directly on paper.

Out with the wires and soldering and in with creative circuitry!

Our not-so-secret, secret ingredient

Conductivity is the measurement of how easily electrons flow through a material under an applied field, like the voltage produced by a battery.

Metals are the most conductive material available with silver ranking the highest.

Silver is the magic element that makes our ink one million times more conductive than carbon-based or homemade inks. Our patented ink is created with a combination of non-toxic silver flakes and water-based ingredients. Through the mixing process the silver flakes disperse leaving conductive silver suspended in ink.

When you draw with the Circuit Scribe pen, the silver ink creates a pathway for electricity to travel through. Connect your drawing to power and – voila – you’ve made a working circuit!

An animated conductive ink pen draws a circuit on paper.
The Circuit Scribe pen lets you draw working circuits directly on paper.

Creating circuits is now as easy as putting pen to paper

When you draw with your pen, you’re laying down a conductive trace that dries to create a metal “wire”. Even though the ink on the paper is only a few microns thick, it’s powerful enough to transfer the electricity needed to make both simple and complex circuits.

Electricity travels through your drawing, so you control how it moves and interacts with your inventions. An entire world of imaginative circuitry is now just a sketch away.

A hand draws circuits with a Circuit Scribe conductive ink pen.

Drawing circuits with a conductive ink pen is just like writing with regular ink.

How do you draw a circuit? It’s simpler than you think.

  • Grab your Circuit Scribe conductive ink pen. It writes exactly like an ordinary rollerball, so if you’ve ever penned a letter or scribbled on your lecture notes, you’re already well on your way to making your first circuit.
  • Consider what you’d like your circuit to accomplish. What do you want to invent? Don’t be afraid to think big! (If you’re looking for inspiration, check out our projects for fun ideas.)
  • Select a piece of paper for your project. Your conductive pen writes on any pen-friendly surface, including copy paper, cardboard, and photo paper.
  • Using one of the circuit patterns from our Inventor’s Notebook or a design of your own, draw a line between points – one point to connect a power source and another to connect electronic components (or modules), like LEDs or sensors.
  • Attach your components to the points you’ve created on your paper. If you’re using our modules, you’ll attach them magnetically to the steel sheet included in our Maker Kits. You can utilize most components that require a wire lead, but we recommend our modules for optimal circuits.
  • Now switch on the power and watch as your paper circuit comes to life. Congratulations and welcome to the world of engineering!

The ability to immediately begin creating circuits is our favorite feature of our pen – just pick up your pen and get to it! There’s no learning curve to conquer or previous knowledge required.

Anyone can be a circuit whiz, regardless of their familiarity with engineering and electronics.

Circuit Scribe conductive ink pens are arranged in a pattern.

Circuits are the cornerstone of all electronics

Circuitry has been an integral part of technology for centuries, made possible by the invention of the battery by Alessandro Volta in 1800. The first circuits were batteries and electrodes immersed in water, used to demonstrate how the flow of current could produce hydrogen and oxygen. While this bubbly discovery may not seem particularly exciting to us today, it was a feat that laid the groundwork for electronics as we now know it.

The practicality of circuits gained widespread recognition thanks to Thomas Edison’s invention of the light bulb in 1878. Suddenly, the world was illuminated – and so was circuitry’s potential. After Edison, circuit development gained momentum at breakneck speeds.

Circuitry makes our modern world go round

Circuitry has advanced significantly since Volta and Edison. Now, circuits are essential in all modern technology. They power everything from our household appliances, mobile devices and computers, to hydroelectric power generators, pacemakers, and space stations.

Your phone? Circuits. That car? Circuits. Ferris wheels, electric guitars, Hadron Colliders, neon signs, surgical robots, arcade games? Definitely circuits.

Did you know: the largest circuit is technically the Earth and its atmosphere! The smallest circuit was created using two wires separated by about 150 atoms. Click To Tweet

Today, we continue to innovate with increasingly advanced circuit engineering. Microprocessors are becoming progressively smaller and more powerful. Our ability to create circuits on an atomic scale presents an exciting opportunity for advancement in nanotechnologies.

These discoveries will sculpt the future of technology in ways we can only begin to imagine today. And the possibilities continue to grow with each new discovery.

An animated circuit drawing pen creates lightning bolts.

Our pen is the heart of Circuit Scribe

We think our pen is so cool, we built our whole ecosystem around it. All of our Maker Kits and Classroom Kits use the Circuit Scribe pen as their foundation. It’s the base that connects your drawings and our modules, turning your circuits into feats of engineering and art.

Each kit contains our circuit pen, but pens can be bought individually or in sets.

Modules make the Maker

With your Circuit Scribe pen and modules, you can build circuits that power lights, sounds, motors, sensors, and more. The limitless combination of modules creates an endless opportunity for invention.

When you write, your pen digs small trenches across the surface of the paper. Our modules are made to conform to these trenches. The modules’ magnetic feet adhere to the steel sheet included in your Maker Kit, which fortifies your circuit drawing and ensures an optimal circuit.

Circuit Scribe modules, like LEDs, switches, and transistors are arranged on a green background.
Modules, like LEDs, switches, blinkers, and transistors make for exciting circuit creations.

Your modules can be used again and again – if you have paper, you’ll always have new opportunities to create. They’re designed with classroom use in mind, meaning their durability can withstand even the most enthusiastic of young inventors.

They’re reusable and adjustable, so you can rework them for all of your circuit creations!

Creative circuits for all ages and backgrounds

No previous experience with circuitry? No worries, our kits start simple but can be extended to any level of complexity. Our Circuit Scribe Maker Kits are great for curious explorers and genius circuitry artists alike.

A circuit pen with perks

Maybe we’re a little biased when it comes to the topic, but we’ve made a pen that we’re proud to see used in schools, makerspaces, and homes.

We love our pen for a lot of reasons, but here are some of our favorites:

  • Unlike other formulas of conductive ink, ours is safe and certified non-toxic.
  • Other than silver, our ink contains similar ingredients you’d find in ice cream – though we recommend leaving that indulgence to Ben & Jerry’s.
  • If you get our silver ink on your hands, simply wash it off with soap and water.
  • Our pens write and feel like ordinary ink and dry instantly, making it an easy choice over messy alternatives.
  • Our ink dries instantly and is precise, so your circuits won’t smudge or bleed.
  • You can sketch circuits on almost any pen-friendly surface. It works on copy paper, photos, cardboard – even some fabrics and wood.
  • Our ink transfers electricity, but your drawing is completely safe to touch – it’s shockingly fun, not physically shocking.
    You can even create touch-sensitive circuits that react with your body’s own conductivity when you touch the ink with your fingertips!
  • DIY conductive ink can be fun, but it’s also messy, unreliable and offers very little conductivity.
    Ours is one million times more conductive than homemade inks, ensuring your circuits are much more powerful.
A multimeter tests the voltage of a conductive ink drawing.

A multimeter shows that our conductive ink can power LEDs and motors.

Conductive pens are perfect for your classroom:

  • Hand-drawn circuits don’t require computers or tablets, demonstrating that STEM and screens don’t have to go hand in hand.
  • Use your pen to create everything from simple circuits, like switches, to an Arduino made out of paper.
  • Your circuit drawings can connect with other STEM tools, like Makey Makey, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi.
  • Integrate your drawings using Scratch, Blockly, etc.​ to teach coding and computer science.
  • Connect real resistors, capacitors, photo sensors​ to scale your projects from elementary school to AP Physics, prototyping and college courses.
  • You can solder wires directly to your conductive sketches, allowing you to create advanced circuits.
  • Depending on the type of paper you’re drawing your circuits on, our ink has an electrical resistance of 1 ohm per centimeter.
  • Writing with a pen is an intuitive and familiar process, making it an accessible way to introduce circuitry.
  • We don’t stop at STEM – utilize your pen to create interactive art in arts and humanities classes.
  • Best of all: it’s easy!

It’s good to be loved

We’re not the only ones who are excited about our pen and creative circuitry. We’re proud to have been featured in:

io9.com logo
Wired.com logo
Cnet.com logo
Purdue University logo
Scarymommy.com logo
PC Mag logo

Draw lasting connections for lifelong learning

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

– Confucius

We all know that students have different learning styles. Some are visual learners, some are auditory learners, and so on. But regardless of students’ different learning aptitudes, the quote above rings true – all students benefit from hands-on, tactile learning.

“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,” — psychologist Stanislas Dehaene in the New York Times

Maria Konnikova.”What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades“. New York Times, June, 2014.
STEM students create circuits with conductive ink pens and electronics.
Hands-on learning is key to conceptualizing how STEM skills can be used in the real world.

Recent research suggests that writing notes by hand leads to better recall than typing them. Similarly, we believe that drawing circuits helps your mind connect the dots better than making circuits with breadboards and wires. Physically drawing a circuit reinforces the theory in your mind: the drawing is both the working circuit and the abstract representation of it.

The act of participating in project-based, manual learning experiences makes an idea a reality. Click To Tweet

Holding a pen, drawing a circuit, and watching your circuit bring your creation to life transforms lessons from vague concepts to concrete results. This experiential method empowers students to make the lasting cognitive associations needed to develop STEM skill sets.

This way, they’ll carry their new knowledge throughout their lives instead of leaving lectures behind the moment they exit through the classroom doors.

A student draws circuits with a conductive ink pen using the Circuit Scribe notebook.
Drawing circuits is a unique and compelling way to teach STEM concepts to students.

It started with a spark of inspiration

Circuit Scribe began as a university research project by our CEO, Brett Walker, PhD., and our co-founders. Their aim was to develop innovative ink technologies that could seamlessly integrate with everyday materials. They knew their invention had the potential to give people a way to learn electronics that was both accessible and exciting.

They believed that breadboards, soldering, and traditional methods of circuitry created an obstacle that was keeping students from learning STEM concepts. Engineering circuits was a difficult and intimidating endeavor with a high barrier of entry. Students deserved an engaging, approachable introduction to circuitry – and creative, pen-based engineering was the key.

They recognized an opportunity to inspire the next generation of makers and inventors through circuitry, but they needed a way to make this opportunity a reality.

Conductive crowdsourcing

Our Kickstarter video showed the awesome possibilities of conductive ink.

In the fall of 2013, they took their concept to Kickstarter. The campaign featured our circuit pen, a variety of basic components and modules, and the first iteration of our Inventor’s Notebook.

The campaign took off like wildfire and in a little over a month, they received $674,400 in funding – an incredible eight times the original goal. The Kickstarter campaign was backed by over 12,200 enthusiastic patrons, proving others were just as passionate about their mission to bring circuitry to classrooms and homes as they were.

And thus, Circuit Scribe and our conductive ink pen were born!

Even after our successful launch of Circuit Scribe, we fill each pen with silver conductive ink by hand in our headquarters in Austin, TX, just like in the days of our Kickstarter.

A looped GIF of a hand filling a circuit pen with conductive ink.
Handmade with love, from us to you.

Engineering should be an adventure

STEM should be interactive and imaginative, not relegated to dusty textbooks and chalkboards. It should be about play and possibility, not repetitive lecturing and tedious note-taking.

No one should feel too scared to try engineering, dissuaded by preconceptions about how difficult it must be. We have the opportunity to encourage a new generation of STEM leaders and luminaries. To foster artistic exploration, curiosity, and confidence.

And that confidence starts with putting pen to paper.

Ready to control the power of conductivity with creative circuitry?

Grab your Circuit Scribe pen and let’s start inventing!