Advice wanted about labelling the front panel of some test equipment

Hi,
I am constructing a piece of test equipment in a case with a plain aluminium front panel and I wish to label the switches and indicators. I
have come up with the following alternatives:-
1) Letraset and varnish. Not ideal. 2) Screen printed. 3) Chemical or laser etched. 4) CNC engraved.
I think option 2 would be expensive and I'm not sure about the clarity/resolution available with option 3.
I just suspect that CNC engraved would give the clearest results and should be able to generate any characters, symbols, dots and lines I might want.
Am I right or have I missed something obvious?
Once I have the "right" process, who can do this for me and what price?
I realise that a one-off is more expensive than a production run and the cost will also depend on the quantity of engraving, but lets say something along the lines of the complexity of an AVO Model 8 front panel.
When I Googled for local suppliers, it got a bit vague and industrial. Perhaps there is someone on this newsgroup who can do this sort of thing?
BR
Mick
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On 12/10/14 18:07, Super_7b wrote:

yep, unless you are making lots of them, when it becomes cheapest.

You gets what you pay for.
Though you can do a reasonable job yourself using photoetch, available at electronics stores, after a bit of practice.

Yep. But pricy and time-consuming.

Compose the whole panel in a vector-graphics program, something like Inkscape (free) or Illustrator (expensive).
Print it out on a computer printer, either inkjet or laser, then stick the print on, and varnish. Makes a reasonably semi-pro finish, much better than letraset or godforbid dymo etc.
I sometimes do this, laser-printing machine dials onto transparency film - make very sure the film is laser-printer-compatible, damhikt - or extra-white plain paper, gluing them in place and either varnishing or putting clear shrink-wrap over them.
I'm told that you can print (laser or inkjet) directly onto aluminium, using a printer with a flatbed attachment for printing CDs, but I haven't done it myself.
Note if you want to sell it it will almost certainly have to be CE marked. This isn't that difficult, but it can be a hassle.
-- Peter Fairbrother

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On 12/10/14 19:08, Peter Fairbrother wrote:

Oh, another method - laser print in reverse on paper, then put the paper over the ali and iron the ink onto the ally. Again I haven't tried this, but something very similar is used to make pcb', using the ink as resist.
-- Peter F

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On Sun, 12 Oct 2014 18:07:23 +0100, Super_7b wrote:

What about a local jeweler engraving it?
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On 12/10/2014 18:07, Super_7b wrote:

If using Peter's suggestion of printing on white paper, then how about encapsulating it rather than varnish for durability?
Henry
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"Dragon" wrote in message

Have a look for Brother TZ tapes - these are available in different coloured lettering on a wide range of background colours, including clear.
The tapes are laminated so the lettering is protected from reasonable wear and tear. I've used these for some permanent outdoor items of equipment and after two years water hasn't penetrated the tape and neither have the labels faded from UV radiation.
But the label making machines aren't cheap.
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Dymo is probably the cheapest solution provided that it has all the characters that you need. - http://global.dymo.com/enGB/Home/default.html
Regards wasbit
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1. Print a nice coloured ink-jet paper panel, may take some fettling to get the exact right size, but you lose only pennies for each attempt
2. Seal in plastic.
3. Use sharp cutter to make holes for switches, etc.
4. Reseal the edges of the plastic at the holes with varnish.
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On 12/10/2014 18:07, Super_7b wrote:

If a one-off then perhaps you might include photo(chemical)etching.
If many, then silk screen printing is most cost effective.
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or 5) inkjet transfer film systems like DASS or inkAID used in fine art and signage - google for "inkjet transfer film metal" eg: http://www.inkaid1.com/inkaid-transfer-film-sheet there are some u-tube videos eg:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idqWQsbnt2c

The DASS and inkAID systems look expensive for doing just the labelling you need but there are cheaper "iron on" systems for fabric printing that may be adapted for use on metals as long as they are sealed afterwards with eg varnish. (adding DIY to the google search I suggested above will give some links)
I hope this gives some more ideas.
Best wishes Alan
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wrote:

Slightly better - using Letraset Safmat film and laser printer:- https://www.flickr.com/photos/13629865@N03/sets/72157648343584217
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"Geo" wrote in message
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- That's impressive. Can you confirm that the film is transparent plastic please?
Cliff Coggin Kent England
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On Tue, 14 Oct 2014 17:03:13 +0100, "Cliff Coggin"

Yes - it is very clear although the print is on the top surface - so not protected:- http://www.letraset.com/shopcontent.asp?type=info-safmat About a pound a sheet. Main problem is sticking it down on large area without getting small air bubbles trapped.
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On 14/10/14 20:26, Geo wrote:

You can also print in reverse onto overhead transparency sheet, then stick that down with double-sided cold laminating film (which is a bit like big sheets of double-sided sellotape). That way the print is under the top layer of plastic. Again avoiding bubbles is the trick.
An idea, I haven't tried this: maybe you can make a paper print, preferably on as thick paper as your printer will handle, then get a shop to triple or quadruple hot laminate it. The result should be about as stiff as a sheet of ali, and you use that for the front panel instead of the ali.
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wrap around rolling pin as you do with pastry into pie dish except that you need to apply pressure at the same time
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Water slide decal paper is another option
http://www.craftycomputerpaper.co.uk/.-Laser-Water-Slide-Decal-Paper_155.htm
It gets round the air bubble problem of the Letraset adhesive transparencies. It does need a layer of varnish and I've never tried it on bare aluminium. It works great on a freshly-painted aluminium panel.
Regards, Alan
On 12/10/2014 18:07, Super_7b wrote:

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On 14/10/14 23:05, Alan Ibbetson wrote:

Thanks to all for the responses. Much to contemplate.
I have been tentatively offered a chance to get the panel CNC engraved by the sister of a friend at her work, so I am waiting to see if this firms up.
BR
Mick
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Before I retired, we used to make a lot of one-off prototype labels for electronic equipment, so I feel the following may be some use to you or others
First design your label (I always used Microsoft Publisher for this) make sure the colours are as bright as possible
Second reverse the image horizontally
Third print on to the (rough side) of overhead projector film, set your printer to maximum photo quality
Fourth cut out the film somewhat larger than the finished label
Fifth cover the ink side with double sided tape (If you've only got one inch wide tape, then carefully use the strips side by side) do not them overlap
Sixth obtain a piece of clean and unwrinkled bacofoil, carefully apply to the double sided tape (In item five), bacofoil usually has one surface shiny, and one with a satin finish, the satin side generally shows up the colours better ?
Seven apply another layer of double sided tape to the back of the bacofoil, cut the label to the required size and apply it to the panel
The front surface of the label will be shiny and finger mark proof If you wish to make it more waterproof, A spot of varnish applied just to the edges will help
If you require a particularly bright image then it is possible to obtain inkjet photo paper which is self adhesive
Hope this information may help you, it's quite amazing how many people build lovley equipment but then fall down on labeling it !
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