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Old 30th January 2007, 12:08 AM   #1
JesseG is offline JesseG  Canada
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Talking Labeling faceplates the TT way

Hi Guys 'n Galls

So here I am making another PCB using the tried-and-true toner transfer method, and it occurred to me: why couldn't this same method be used to put labeling, text, etc. on the faceplate of my project?

Answer: why not indeed!

So, I tried it... and it worked! Actualy better than I imagined it would. So, here it is for all of you. If you try it, I think you will be amazed, as I was, how easy it is and how good the results can be.

Project: a passive linestage that has two identical knobs on the front of a small aluinium box. To look finished, it needs something to indicate which is volume and which is input select. And, some indications of which input does what wouldn't hurt either. And, maybe a logo or name for the thing. And, .... no: that's enough.

So lay out the text in the computer. I used Corel Draw, but could use anything that can scale the text to some real-size marks. MS-Word (awkward), Excel, Illustrator, whatever.

Next, print the text with a PLASTIC-TONER laser printer onto some hi-gloss inkjet photo paper same as done for home-etched PCBs.

Next, realize that I forgot to reverse the text left-to-right before printing, so if I transfer this to my faceplate it will be mirror-image backward. Flip the whole graphic left-to-right and print again.

Good! Now, tape the paper, print side down, to the faceplate. With masking tape, NOT scotch tape (scotch tape melts!). Put the faceplate paper side up on a slab of wood. Don't do this on a counter top because it will be getting really hot!

Now, apply a HOT (max, linen setting) laundry iron to the paper and hold it there, moving in slow circles, for about 5 minutes. If the design has graphic near the edges of the faceplate, use the tip of the iron to ensure that these get lots of heat. What's happening here is the heat and pressure is melting the plastic toner from the paper onto the facelplate. also, DON'T let your wife catch you using her good laundry iron for you DIY hobby!!!


Next, let the faceplate (with the paper still stuck to it) cool so you can handle it. Now plop it into a dish of plain water and let it soak for about 30 minutes. Slowly start to peel the paper away from the faceplate. If you gave it enough heat for long enough, the paper will peel off leaving the graphic adhered to the faceplate.

Lastly, give it a gentle scrub with your fingertips to remove any lingering paper and there you have it (or should have). It dosen't seem to matter how detailed or small your text is. As you can see from the photos below, the text here is only 6 point (about 3/16" high) and is quite thin.

Have fun and let me know how you make out.

Jess

Click the image to open in full size.

Photo 1 - graphic printed and ready yo be ironed on to the faceplate

Click the image to open in full size.

Photo 2 - plate printed - a bit of paper still adhereing to the printing

Click the image to open in full size.

Photo 3 - the results - not bad, eh?
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Old 31st January 2007, 08:24 AM   #2
Pano is offline Pano  United States
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I've tried this, too. Though the results looked nice, they scratched right off.

How durable is yours?
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Old 31st January 2007, 04:24 PM   #3
JesseG is offline JesseG  Canada
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so far, so good.

I expect that this will be less resillient than a silkscreened paint, but we'll see.

I allso had the thought that after labeling, the faceplate could be sprayed with artsist's fix to help protect the lettering, however I hear that this can yellow over time.

Jess
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Old 31st January 2007, 08:50 PM   #4
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The people who make the toner transfer paper recommend using a clear coat over the nomenclature to make it more durable. Without it, I would not expect the lettering to last long.

Grey
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Old 1st February 2007, 04:21 PM   #5
JesseG is offline JesseG  Canada
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I was also thinking since panomaniac's question...

When I prepped the plate for heat transfer, I washed it VERY thouroughly with benzene (acetone would have worked quite well also) to remove any packing film or finger grease. This has made a big difference when making PCBs, so I did it here as a matter of habit.

Before doing this with PCB transfers, the toner would lift from the copper while trying to clean the paper off. Washing the copper with a good solvent allowed the plastic to adhere much better to the copper.

I imagine that the same it true for the faceplate.

I tried scratching a corner of the lettering with my fingernail last night and it wouldn't come off. Seems to stick at least as well as the silkscreen stuff from the factories

Jess
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Old 1st February 2007, 11:20 PM   #6
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When I do toner transfer circuit boards--which is rarely, since I have come to despise the process--I use 0000 steel wool to take off the clear protective coating, then lacquer thinner to clean any residue.

Grey
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