MSA front panel decal

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Jim Hontoria
Posts: 330
Joined: Sat Apr 28, 2018 6:48 pm

MSA front panel decal

Post by Jim Hontoria » Wed Feb 01, 2012 11:54 am

Some of you have asked about how I made the decal. So, here is what I did: To design the panel I used "Front Panel Designer" Version 4.1 from Front Panel Express (Schaeffer AG in Europe). The software is free and may be downloaded from www.frontpanelexpress.com. As an option you can have them do the panels for you
  I use an old laser printer (an HP P11006) to make two prints. To print in acetate paper (see below) it has to be a laser jet not ink jet or anything else: you need the temperature. 
The first print is a normal print in plain paper. It is used to center punch the holes in the actual panel. Drill all the holes and cutouts. As a side note: I use 3mm LEDs and I drill 1/8" holes for them so they fit decently tight and  I hold them in place with glue.
 The second print is made on transparency acetate. This is the material where transparencies for overhead type projectors are made (a technique getting obsolete very rapidly due to Powerpoint). I have used 3M CG300 and IBM 24L5038, with identical good results.. You have to set the printer in "mirror mode" to print a mirror image. This way the print is in the back of the transparency and protected from being scratched. DO NOT CUT ANYTHING YET.
 By the way, I use exactly the same technique to make my PCB film. If your panel has a clear color and has no scuff marks, then you can attach the transparency directly to it. That is the preferred way. More about this later.
In my case my panel was black so I needed to insert a light color material behind the acetate.I used a plain white heavy body piece of paper.The most scary part comes next. Lightly and completely spray the paper with an adhesive spray, avoiding large blobs of glue. I used 3M Super 77.  Do this outdoors or using  a large newspaper underneath to protect your environment, this stuff is insidious and gets everywhere. I you mess up, use denatured alcohol right away to clean it. You can use the same alcohol to clean the uprinted side of the acetate too. Rapidly press the acetate (printed side down) onto the paper, do not use any sharp edge to eliminate bubbles (if any), I used a ball of paper. Clean the acetate with alcohol if, somehow, the spray got onto it and let dry for a few minutes (pressing together full size pieces minimizes the risk of getting the stuff on the wrong side and you don't have to worry about aligning the paper and the acetate with precission)..
 Inspect the results. If you did the pressing right the ink shouldn't have run. If it did, discard it and start again. Now you can cut the outline of the decal and make the holes. I use a hand punch to do the small holes (at least the ones that can be reached) and to start the larger ones. Then I use small nail scissors for the larger ones. For these, there will be a washer covering them so extreme perfection is not really required.
 The technique to glue on the panel is the same but alignment is critical. What I did was to insert long screws from the panel back in strategicallly located holes (LED holes are ideal for this).Spray the panel and carefully lower the decal using these screws as guides. Press it down again using the same technique. You are done.
 Although the acetate has a very smooth surface and you could dispense with washers under the nuts, try to use them wherever possible. Final note: So far I have been succesfull with three decals and did not have to remove them form the panel. The fact that there is a layer of paper should make the mechanical part easier but I don't know if alcohol will work on dry glue. If your panel is painted other chemicals may damage the paint.
 
73, Jim W1JGH

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