Thursday, 4 November 2010

Update on front panel artworks

Just thought I'd give a little more detail on front panel artworks as there is already some interest.

The picture below of my module currently in development shows the CAD drawing for a 12HP front panel in the top left. The adjacent front panel overlays show an evolution from a very simple, flat looking artwork to more 'sexy' metallic looking and coloured alternatives with some apparent depth.
Edit 08/07/11: The following graphics, based on ink-jet/laser printable vinyl overlays, was attempted on the first off batch of CV Tools modules but has been withdrawn in favour of a standard screen printed panel for two reasons. The first was that it was not liked that much by customers; people saw it as a cheap label. The second was that it was expensive and difficult to apply accurately. I will still use the overlays for prototypes.Please read the following but note it has all been superceded by events.

My task is to make this a service that is affordable by streamlining how I go about setting out the pot scaling, legends, functional grouping (separating lines or boxes). A good place to start from is if you use Schaeffer Front Panel Designer to get the panel made then I can use the DXF file generated to align the graphics to the holes; obviously with as much description from you as possible about what you actually want to see.

The one-off 2mm anodised panel from Schaeffer cost me 27 Euros (about 23GBP, $35US but it is beautifully machined!!); I anticipate the cost of an artworked plastic overlay would need to be less for that size panel to make it attractive, including my design effort (that's why I need to streamline the process - the slicker I get the more viable it'll be!).

The hardest part is lining up the overlay accurately on the panel as the overlay is self-adhesive. I'm getting quite adept at this now as I have prototyped several overlay types. You do get several chances and I may include a spare.

I am still developing the technology as it needs to have great graphics, be cheap to make whilst still having good wear and scratch resistance properties.  This balance is not easy and I will still need to explore better processes and techniques so initially this will be for smaller prototypes with some caviats on how much abuse it can handle. The artwork is great quality though and the durability is reasonable but could be better. The price will reflect this fact. Having said all that I'm going to use it in my system as it stands as I don't tend to abuse my hardware.

Any suggestions and comments would be most welcome.

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