SAO lapel pin experiments

I have been building a new series of art PCBs (printed circuit boards) that can be worn either as an SAO (simple add-on), or as an affordable “enamel” pin, also known as a lapel pin. I love enamel pins, but the cost is quite prohibitive, making it difficult to keep the cost affordable. PCBs, on the other hand, are much cheaper to produce and have the added bonus of all the things circuit boards can do! By harnessing the fabrication layers of a circuit board, I can create unique artworks that would otherwise not seem like a circuit board upon first glance. As an example of the cost difference, a 2″ enamel pin costs $3.39 each at a minimum quantity of 100, not including shipping. This would be at least $350! A batch of 100 2″ PCBs from JLCPCB costs about $25. This is a $325 savings difference! I have to solder the pin to the back of the PCB, but for a cost savings of over $3 per pin, it’s well worth it. Also, since I usually try to throw a circuit on the back of the pin, I have the option of using it as a functioning circuit board, which adds to its potential use-cases.
Keep in mind that this does not include the cost of SMT components or assembly time, but at that point, it is a different product. I try to add a pin backer option to SAO designs so they can all double as a wearable pin if wanted.

The PCBs are designed in Kicad, with the art layers produced in Procreate and Affinity Designer. Designs blatantly pulled from 90s hacker era media inspiration.

Check out some examples of the test results from my last batch of PCBs

Aeon Flux eye with illuminated iris and fly


“Hack the planet” SAO pin design with Angelina Jolie from the movie “Hackers”.

My next goal is to figure out how to add a battery circuit to the designs so that they can be worn as standalone illuminated pins. I also plan on using two soldermask colors, which some manufacturers support. Currently, they have to be attached to a badge with an SAO port, or connected to a battery base, which is not ideal for a wearable pin.