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Labelling Prototypes

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by Ian Bell, Jul 5, 2010.

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  1. Ian Bell

    Ian Bell Guest

    What do you guys use for labelling prototypes? I am thinking
    particularly of control panels (19 in rack mounting for example)
    containing pots, toggle and rotary switched all of which need labelling.
    So far I have looked at iron on T shirt printer paper, special
    transparent overhead projector type film with built in adhesive and
    contacted a company that does custom stick-on vinyl decals. I need
    something I can design easily myself on a PC and either produce myself
    or have produced at reasonable cost. Any one of more of the above might
    work but before I take the plunge I thought I would ask what others use???


  2. If you're making a few the same, silk screening isn't too bad. You
    make up the artwork using (for example) Adobe Illustrator, get the
    screenmade, and use a hinge/table setup (a small gap remains between
    the screen and the panel) to squeegee the paint onto the panel. A bit
    of skill required, but the results are excellent. If you bugger it up
    you can generally wipe it off and fix it up. Multiple colors etc. are
    no problem. Don't get too fancy with placement or colors that have to
    line up over a wide area- allow a mm or so tolerance. The screen costs
    around $100 if you buy it with a wood frame. They can be cleaned
    (leaving the pattern) and re-used a number of times for the same job,
    or stripped (removing the pattern) and re-used a number of times. I
    use a high-end screenmaker, most of the guys out there are T-shirt
    types and their quality is dubious.

    These days, I might get the company cutting the panel to do the
    screening, so they have to deal with the mess and fuss.
  3. Would this be in your budget?
    I've used them once, around $100, results were nice.

  4. The "Front Panel Designer" looks pretty nice. I am going to look at
    that. Looks like it might be a nice piece of software to have.

    Maybe allow for a better, more accurate means of proofing and deciding
    on a vendor quote.
  5. E

    E Guest

    I use white PVC electrical tape and marker pens.
    Cheap & gets the job done.

  6. Eggsactly. If it's just a one-off there is so much engineering cost in
    it that the small overhead to make it look just _fabulous_ is not not
    signficant. I suppose I could dredge up my Dymo labeller for that
    1960-70s look, but why?
    AFAIK, all screens are re-usable until you break them. Most have the
    same process- get the material stretched onto the frame (or buy it as
    such), coat with emulsion (in film or liquid), allow it to dry, expose
    with bright light (or UV), develop (warm water), allow to dry, harden
    (optional), and use. No really nasty chemicals other than the ink
    solvents (and you can use UV cured if you like which will minimize
    VOCs, but the minimum quantities for some colors are prohibitive IMHO,
    like $400 a color for some transparents).

    BTW, that T-shirt screen maker has a pretty coarse mesh for doing
    panel markings. Acceptable, perhaps, if you can design for it.
    Craft and art stores sell screen printing kits (eg. Speedball). They
    might not be optimal for graphic arts as opposed to fine arts type
  7. Jeez. You can buy sheet fed labels just as cheap, and they do not
    stretch or leave adhesive behind.

    Crimany! The damned blue masking tape is better for the job than that
    crap is!
  8. Brady also sells label stock that has clear covers for each.
    I have also bought Brady roll stock, made for their printers as it is
    cheaper. Then, I can cut and paste (literally) an entire label onto a
    cut sheet and then print onto it. Ends up a bit cheaper than cut sheet
    label stock, but then gets re-costed in the labor it takes to set up the
    print job.
  9. Jamie

    Jamie Guest

    For small cabinets I print out via laser in mirror form, the drill
    locations, knock out locations, control labeling, logo's etc. all on a
    single sheet of either ink jet photo paper or clay paper and iron it
    on the surface.. when removed via wetting it, 99% of it comes out and
    I touch up what I don't like.. then I spray it with a clear coat to
    protect it..

    The cabinets I used either have a base color already on it that the
    toner sticks to nicely or we spray it with a thin clear coat first..

    It does give a shinny look if that isn't abjectable.

  10. Charlie E.

    Charlie E. Guest

    I usually print on the 8x11 clear Avery lables using my color ink jet.
    If you let the colors set, you get good life out of it. If paranoid,
    the old technique was to print reversed on an overhead transparency
    film, and then glue the colored side down. Lets you do a proto for
    less than $10!

    For a full size rack, you might need to split the graphics, and have a
    seam somewhere...

    I have also printed all the labels on smaller avery type clear lables,
    and then xacto cut them out and attached just over the appropo button
    or LED.

  11. Baron

    Baron Guest

    Ian Bell Inscribed thus:
    A local company engraves plastic panels at very low cost. Many
    different colours with white, red, green or black lettering. The
    plastic is made from three layers and they remove the top layer by
    engraving it with a high speed router type bit. Thing like pots,
    switches and connectors can be mounted directly to the plastic panel if
  12. Printing on clear stock does not protect the printed media.

    Print on white label stock and COVER it with a clear over-sheet.

    Labels with direct exposed print, especially from a laser or ink jet,
    do not usually last very long. Clear laminate on top of such labels
    makes them appear more professional, and retains the integrity of the
    print without smears or other undesirable happenstance.
  13. PeterD

    PeterD Guest

    Print to heavy paper, laminate top with plastic, and contact cement in
    many cases.
  14. These guys are good too:

    Not cheap, but top-notch quality.
  15. Ian Bell

    Ian Bell Guest

    Thanks for all the ideas. To answer some of the questions and add some info:

    Yes, it is a one off

    Yes it needs to look professional. For quantities I would normally get
    it silk screen printed.

    I am in the UK

    I think the Avery and Brady clear label ideas are the same as the
    transparent film I already have. Only problem with that is I find the
    ink jet printing is not very dense so the label is hard to see against
    the (nearly black) panel paint (and yes I am using bright colours).

    I had not thought of silk screen printing at home. I had not realised
    this was possible. Is there anyone in the UK doing this regularly that
    can give me some pointers of what to get and where + how easy/hard it is
    to do yourself?


  16. Ian Bell

    Ian Bell Guest

    I should alos have said I am aware of Front Panel Designer - the only
    thing that puts me off is I think the resolution of their engraving will
    not be fine enough for what I require.

    I am also aware of protocase and may well use them in the future.

    Thanks again for all the ideas.


  17. That panel express link sounds like it then. If you want pro
    appearance, it should be worth the less than $200. I cannot imagine it
    being higher than that.
    The folks that asked that question are not observant enough to place a
    lot of credence in their answers.
    Not really. The Brady labels are WHITE, and you print on that, apply
    it, THEN you place the cover label over that to protect it.
    Anyone that suggested printing on clear stock isn't very bright.
    The "yudu screen printing machine" I posted a link to on Amazon looked
    pretty nice. You would have to find a source for it over there though,
    since they will not ship one out of the US.

    You might find a local decorative engraver that will engrave it for
    you, and you can do the colored enamel backfills ala Cloisonné. All
    after you have the punch outs done, of course.
  18. Then, a local decorative engraver would be the choice for that.

    I think that FPE does engraving at a higher degree of precision than
    you apparently think they can.
  19. You reminded me of the way I used to make some of one company I worked
    for's product labels.

    We bought the $3.50 per sheet 3M matte finish metal backed adhesive
    sheets. They are silver with a matte print surface.

    I printed really nice labels on the color laser printer, then ran them
    through the laminator 2 times (inside card stock) to dry the sheet, and
    fix the laser print job better. This keeps bubbles out of the laminated
    finished product. THEN, I laminate them with the thicker lamination
    stock which is available.

    The ONLY drawback is the cut edges, and the prospect of delamination at
    those fringe edges.

    They stick great, and this stock is specifically made for permanence, so
    the adhesive is real good.

    The price is one drawback, but having them on hand for the next project
    is always nice as well.
  20. Rich Webb

    Rich Webb Guest

    Try some of the water-slide decal paper, from places like

    For use on a dark background, you would probably want the "white" decal

    Silk screening onto the panel directly would probably give the best
    results but there is some "NRE" involved.
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