Front / Rear Panels

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Front / Rear Panels

Postby chris p » Wed Sep 06, 2006 7:07 pm

From a post by Chris MDFU in another thread, I thought I'd raise this ugly issue again.

MDFU gave a link for the design software
http://www.frontpanelexpress.com/download/index.htm
which I have used - in fact I've gone the whole hog and ordered the panels to be made up and posted to me - cost about $50 per panel, but, you know, nice.

I now just use laser printed labels - you can get transparent film labels and make up a design using whatever software you have at hand. I use Filemaker for reasons that totally escape me. The downsides are 2: you generally have to print a 19" design in two parts, and you really need a silver / aluminium face on your panel to get the contrast. For lasting results, you also need to apply a seal over the applied transparency to stop it rubbing off over time.

This solution works at about $1 per label, but its far from perfect. I'll try to post some photos of the end result as soon as I get my web server running. What do the rest of you do?
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Postby astrovic » Wed Sep 06, 2006 11:30 pm

I've tried lazertran, without success - I stuffed it up. I've got more sheets, so I'm going to see if I can scrub the crap off with turps and give it another go. Always worth experimenting.

Does front panel express come in about $50? That's not bad, considering what they do.

(Another) Chris

PS Chrisp - from reading around here, you're a lawyer? Yikes, that's scary - me too. Already too many Chris's, and two lawyering Chris's with a side interest in DIY. What are the odds?
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Postby chris p » Thu Sep 07, 2006 9:47 am

Hey Astro

What are the odds? This is THE forum for coincidence. Every time I speak with any member it turns out we have parallel lives in so many areas.

Front Panel came to about $50 per panel when I bought multiples. Its a toss-up, really, when the rest of the project costs $200 it seems out of proportion to pay that sort of money for decoration. Still, the result was outstanding good and exactly what I ordered, and those projects have the finished look about them that my lasertran ones don't.

I would REALLY love to find someone who could do the FPE type of thing here in Oz - send them the art and get back the panel.
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Postby mfdu » Thu Sep 07, 2006 11:43 am

i've simply used FPD to lay stuff out for my own metalwork.

since i don't have freelancers through my space, i haven't bothered with all the pretty-pretty labels and stuff - jus' keepin it ghetto.
(some may call my units ugly - they serve their purpose, though)

after all, front panels costing 25% of the total project build is a bit rich for me.

chris
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Postby astrovic » Thu Sep 07, 2006 12:12 pm

Another alternative was an approach taken by Mnats on his unit:

http://www.prodigy-pro.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=11428&highlight=mnats

He said:

"I made it using photo printing paper and an inkjet printer. Did the artwork in a drawing program. Cut out the two "panels" and stuck them on with spray adhesive. Coated the whole thing with matt acrylic spray. "

Interesting approach, as it lends itself to some pretty flexible options. It looks damn good though. I just wonder how long the paper will stay stuck to the front panel though.
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Postby rick » Fri Sep 08, 2006 3:29 pm

in my experience the inkjet sticker story works pretty well for a long time unless the box gets hot and then as if magic one day the paper starts to bubble..

rob at proharmonic in adelaide has been getting some incredable results for me using lasers instead of engravers , i 'm sure it has a price point issue but it looks so good i banned him from talking me out of it
check out his website for
extremely elegant racking projects

care to spill the beans on the process rob or is it a secret ?
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Postby rob » Sat Sep 09, 2006 10:46 am

as i spend much of my working week racking channel strips and building one off "black boxes" i can say that labelling is the bane of my life. Often there just isn't the budget to do a professional labelling job such as engraving with colour fill, which probably yields the best result. I've been quoted ~ $200 to $250 to engrave and fill one 19" panel plus my time to design and draft the actual design in suitable CAD software.

The techinique that Rick is refering to is laser engraving or laser etching. This is a process that can yield a very crisp and accurate image on an aluminium panel. There are some significant limitations. It can only be done on a black anondised panel and only gives a whitish result. The end colour can vary from a goldy white to a pure white, often with not much control as is depends on the acutal dies used in the anodising process and the laser intensity and "write" speed. A guaranted result can be obtained on a self adhesive black metalised film that can then be stuck onto a panel.

So "where do you get it"? Well, i know a couple of places here in Adelaide, but generally check out larger engraving and trophy makers. There are quite a few places geared up to do this although not all of them have had a 2Unit 19" thrust under their nose and asked to wack their lasers onto it. You might have to twist their arms to make them aware of this use of their equipment. Most engraving places use Corel Draw for control of the laser and thus the laser can deal with both vector and bitmap artwork.

As to other options, over the years i've developed a whole range of techinques that i guess could be described as semi professional but can be done quickly, at low cost and fit my client's budgets.
I'm not going to spoil your fun in discovering these by spelling out the details, but here's a list of ingredients to start developing your own labelling techinques:

drawing software ( Corel is hard to beat, and is like the protools of the labelling world )
good inkjet printer
self adhesive paper
self adhesive clear film
clear contact
weird bits from the corner of your local newsagency
wander the isles of officeworks

i'll soon post up a unit that i've recently finished on my website, this has an example of my lastest labelling techinque for illuminated push button switches. Stay tuned

and welcome to the craft school

Rob
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