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Old 1st December 2002, 08:35 PM   #1
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Default DIY amps front panel lettering

I'm putting together the cases for my p3a and p88 amp and preamp and was wondering what people do to put lettering on the front panel. Normally on store bought equipment all the lettering is silk screen printed but obviously that's not possible for 99% of diy'rs. What are people doing or are they just leaving the panels unprinted.
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Old 1st December 2002, 08:38 PM   #2
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I'm using dry transfer sheets under Letraset brand name. You can purchase it from graphic supply stores.
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Old 1st December 2002, 09:05 PM   #3
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These are yet untried ideas, but I have been thinking about
alternatives to silksccreen using photoresist of the type used
for etching PCBs. One would then make a mask such that
the photoresist covers all but the text/symbols. Then one might
simply paint over the whole plate. This requires finding some
suitable paint that sticks well to metal but that doesn't stick to
the photoresist, or at least is thin enough so it will separate
nicely where we want it to while removing the photoresist.
An alternative way would be to actually etch the plate to
get pits where we want the text. Then we could remove the
photoresist and then paint the plate. Then we could simply rub
off the paint and, hopefully, it will remain in the pits. I think
acrylic paint should be quite suitable here. It is easy to rub
off from metal, but if we use it thin enough it should stay in
the pits. The painting process may be repeated to get a thicker
layer in the pits. If desired, we may finish off with some suitable
transparent treatment, eg. acrylic varnish. There might be
better choices of paint for metal, perhaps. An obvious advantage
of these methods over readymade things like letraset is that
it would be quite easy to use multiple colours.

These are just some ideas I have been playing aound with. I am not in the phase where I need to do this myself for some time
to come, so test pilots are welcome if you think this might be
worth a try.
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Old 1st December 2002, 09:09 PM   #4
jwb is offline jwb  United States
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I have been experimenting with decal paper and aluminum. The decal paper is the clear plastic decal material used in model railroading. You print your lettering or artwork on the paper using an inkjet printer (or laser, but the results are worse). Then you cut the decal, soak it in water, and apply it to the metal. The decal dries onto the metal. You can fix the decal by painting a clear coat over everything.

So far I just tried with some scrap, but the result are first rate.
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Old 1st December 2002, 09:33 PM   #5
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Jwb,

If I understand you correctly, you cut a sheet the size of the
whole metal plate? I have been thinking about similar things
but the problem is that I will most likely want white text on
black metal, which would require a printer that can actually
print white paint. Such printers would be most rare, if they
exist at all.

I got a new idea, though. I have also been thinking about
using a plastic sheet as a stencil to apply the paint to the metal
plate. That would require making holes in the sheet corresponding
to the text, and cutting such holes is hardly tempting. However,
if one could find some suitable chemical to etch holes in plastic,
then one could use the photoresist method on a plastic sheet,
etch it and then use this sheet as a stencil. Perhaps it would be
better to use a thin sheet of some metal. That might be easier
to etch sharply. Further ideas/opinions on this is welcome.
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Old 1st December 2002, 09:52 PM   #6
OliverD is offline OliverD  Germany
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You can use nothing but the photoresist itself to get lettering on light metal surfaces, however, you will only have one colour available and the quality isn't THAT good.

Just spray the photoresistant on the whole frontplate, put your (positive) film on it, light, develop... done. One advantage is that you can make letters and symbols in any sizes your printer can print. It's also good for small series.

To make it more sratch resistant, you can burn it in by putting it in your oven for some hours. This changes the colour a little bit.

I've done it that way on some of my PA electronics in 19" cases, but I wouldn't like it on my home high end equipment.

In Germany, there's a company that makes your very own frontplate with high quality lettering in every colour you could imagine. They provide you a design software to download and you send them the file. They also drill holes and everything. Somewhat pricey however...
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Old 1st December 2002, 11:31 PM   #7
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If you use black anodized aluminium, you can cover the whole plate with photoresist, then expose with a photographic film, and use normal revelator as for PCB.

If you then etch the plate with light nitric acide solution, you can obtain white letters. But it is essential to not use soda or sodium carbonate to remove the photoresist, because soda will etch the black aluminium oxide layer. Use acetone instead.

Warning : nitric acide is dangerous, use suitable glasses and gloves, don't inhale vapors. Nitric acide will etch all metals. Mix with plenty of water before throw away. Acetone is very inflammable, don't smoke or use electrical appliance. Acetone fire can be extinguished with water.

Regards, Pierre Lacombe.
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Old 2nd December 2002, 12:32 PM   #8
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Default Panels - Silk screening

If you can make your own PCB's you can silk screen -- it's the same idea. You coat the surface with a photographic emulsion, expose, develop etc. But oh ! the investment of time and money !

Here's my method -- I use Power Point to set up a slide with the panel -- you can add text, text art. boxes, circles, rectangles, fill with color etc. I print to an Avery Full Page Label -- Avery 8665 -- it's a lot easier than decals. (These are the same full page labels I use for PCB's).

Seems that the electronics of what we do for a hobby is the least of the expense. Getting it into the box and making it look nice chews up a lot of money!
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Old 2nd December 2002, 01:00 PM   #9
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Here's the sample of dry transfer on my BOZ. It was done in '96 and there is no sign of wear and tear. No coating done.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg boz.jpg (32.0 KB, 3792 views)
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Old 2nd December 2002, 01:07 PM   #10
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Your projects always look great Peter! I think your method is the fastest and easiest, I'll try to find the letraset dry transfers somewhere. They seem similar to what plastic modelers use, with the differance being that in modeling you apply a special coating after applying the decals to get them to snug down to every groove and crack.
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