Graphics Overlay vendors

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I'm using inkjet-produced graphics overlays for prototypes and they work great but now I need to find a source who make them in small runs (~25 per order).

The bare aluminum panel is 70 x 134mm and the panel has 3 tact switches poking thru and a single LCD cutout. So the overlay would need to be molded over the tact switches but nothing tricky. I'm assuming polyester or polycarbonate overlay material, or similar.

Any recommendations for firms that have competitive small run prices? (Google spits up a ton of companies that do these things...)

Thanks,

Chris B.

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Hi Chris,

Being in the US, you might like to try these guys.

http://www.designasign.com/decals

Three years ago I was going to use them for a dozen small panel decals, but they wanted US$100 to mail the "bumper stickers" to me here in Australia. In other words they didn't want my business.... so why am I recommending them? Well I want to see if they actually produce for anyone.

The attraction was that I upload the image and they simply print it on vinyl... including colours.

Let me know how you go.

Cheers,

Ross

Ross McKenzie ValuSoft Melbourne Australia

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Hey Ross, thanks for the idea and I'll certainly consider it. From all the research I have done looking at gr. overlay maker's websites it seems the best solution for me would be a digitally-printed polyester overlay. Polyester is more durable than polycarbonate (http://www.label-aid.com/digitally-printed-overlays.html).

The main thing that a vinyl sticker would not do is allow permanently embossed areas over the 3 tact switches. For my prototype overlays I use Papilio inkjet glossy photo film (#GP8511G) and then add a laminate sheet on top. Then I heat the back end of a drill bit and push on the areas where the tact switches poke through the front panel. It gives just enough of a little bump to work but it doesn't look as good as true embossing.

With so many overlay vendors it will take awhile to sort them out but I will share what I find. I've even sent out some inquiries to a few of the dozens of Chinese firms that I've found that do this.

Thanks again for the suggestion.

Chris B.

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I've just had a custom 100mm x 160mm overlay made with a clear window for a 2x16 LCD display and 16 'buttons' for tactile switches.

Total cost for 100 pieces was around 1200 GBP (so around 1800 USD?). This was in 0.006" polyester and 3 colour printing.

Of that 100 GBP was for the artwork design, 180 GBP for the cutting tool for the fixing holes and outside edges, 355 GBP for the embossing tool for the buttons and 520 GBP for the 100 overlays.

#1 This forum helps those that help themselves

#2 All grounds are not created equal

#3 How have you proved that your chip is running at xxMHz?

#4 "If you think you need floating point to solve the problem then you don't understand the problem. If you really do need floating point then you have a problem you do not understand." - Heater's ex-boss

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Well some results from 8 RFQ's for front panel overlays are coming in.

Here's a summary of the front panel + overlay specs again:

134 x 70.5mm bare aluminum front panel

2x16 LCD cutout (72.5 x 27.5mm)

3 tactile switch holes

5 countersunk holes for #4-40 screws that secure the nylon spacers on the backside of the front panel (this doesn't affect the overlay)

Overlay to be underside printed in full color on .008 polyester, with an LCD cutout (no window) and embossing above each of the 3 tact switches.

I asked for quotes for 25, 50, and 100 overlays. Some companies also do aluminum work so I am including those quotes too.

Here's what I have received quote-wise so far out of 8 RFQs sent out:

www.label-aid.com Qty 25=$20.67 ea. One-time setup=$720.

www.dyna-graphics.com Qty 25=$25.29 ea, Qty 50=15.13 ea, Qty 100=10.10 ea. One-time setup=$515.

www.nameplatesforindustry.com Qty 25=$33.65ea, Qty 50=17.78 ea, Qty 100=10.10 ea. One-time setup=$472.

www.mpofcinci.com THIS QUOTE IS FOR AN OVERLAY WITH NO EMBOSSING for comparison purposes.
Quote for overlay only: Qty 25=$12.56ea, Qty 50=7.55 ea, Qty 100=5.66 ea. One-time setup=$75.
Quote for overlay + front panel aluminum: Qty 25=$23.66ea, Qty 50=15.86 ea, Qty 100=12.55 ea. One-time setup=$100.

Note 3 vendors said they cannot do embossing even though their websites gave me the impression they could.

The high setup fees are all for setting up the embossing tooling. All of them said they did not stock standard shapes even though I said I could modify the artwork to fit what they have. The last quote (mpofcini.com) shows how eliminating the embossing step more than halves the overlay costs.

Just for reference, the total parts cost for this low volume niche specialized controller (that I project to sell a few hundred, tops) for the PCB+components = $35. Production runs will typically be 25 at a time. Adding a high quality NEMA weatherproof plastic box adds $18. So the cost of adding a small embossed overlay front panel is significant, especially when you factor in the setup costs.

So as of this afternoon I've seen enough to cause me to change the PCB design to work with 6x6mm tactile switches with circular keycaps (example: http://www.omron.com/ecb/products/sw/2/b32.html) instead of just having the actuator sticking above the front panel. This will only change the switch holes in the front panel; the PCB hole pattern will be the same for the keycap-accepting tact switches. I lose the front panel being watertight around the switches but the LCD was already sticking up above the front panel so it will work fine for this application.

Chris B.

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Hi Chris, thanks for that.

What is your reason for wanting a cutout for the LCD? I've just done a panel similar to yours and was able to find an off-the-shelf COG display which was shallow enough to allow me to keep the overlay intact and use standard tactile switches.

#1 This forum helps those that help themselves

#2 All grounds are not created equal

#3 How have you proved that your chip is running at xxMHz?

#4 "If you think you need floating point to solve the problem then you don't understand the problem. If you really do need floating point then you have a problem you do not understand." - Heater's ex-boss

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Hi Brian,

A low cost low profile LCD would be nice (what vendor and p/n did you find?). I'm using a low profile SIP connector soldered onto the LCD module so it's serviceable. That meant the LCD PCB is spaced 5mm above the PCB. The LCD is a Newhaven NHD-0216BZ-FL-YBW that is cheap and readily available.

When you say you're using standard tactile switches I assume I'm using the same type you are. Only difference is that mine are 13mm high. Changing to a projected plunger type with snap-on button caps that will completely eliminate overlay embossing which is much cheaper and gives me more (local) vendor choices.

I'm still in the learning stage. Eventually I'll find the right formula(s) that I can use on future projects.

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My tact switches have an actuator which makes the total switch height 7mm.

I'm buying the display locally in the UK from Midas Displays, their site doesn't seem to allow linking so google them and 'MCCOG21605D'.

#1 This forum helps those that help themselves

#2 All grounds are not created equal

#3 How have you proved that your chip is running at xxMHz?

#4 "If you think you need floating point to solve the problem then you don't understand the problem. If you really do need floating point then you have a problem you do not understand." - Heater's ex-boss

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BW Industries, Inc.
27w230 Beecher Ave.
Winfield, IL 60190
Ph. 630.784.1020
Fax. 630.784.1022

http://www.bwind.com/
Top notch proto label maker. Made a similar label as you describe some time ago for a proto. Made 10 labels using two colors and about 3" x 5" for $100.
Clear window for lcd and about 8 buttons. The switch top protruded thru the enclosure about .025" then the label was applied over it. Rather than holes for the buttons and the expense of embossing the label over the buttons,the label had a riser layer with holes for the buttons added so the top label (no holes) floated above the switch top about .015".
So the completed label stack-up was adhesive layer > riser layer (request thickness) > polyester top layer.
Tactile feel was excellent without the expense of an embossed label.

Also as an alternative to having the switch protrude thru the enclosure a small distance, you can select to position a switch on a pcb with a top /enclosure hole much larger than the switch. For example a switch top about .125 dia inside an enclosure/top panel hole about .5" dia.. The label is flat and mounted with about .015" thk adhesive to front panel (with a non-adhesive cutout of .5" dia for the switch hole). Because the top label is now about .015" above the switch and the enclosure/panel hole is large, the top polyester label will flex down pressing the switch top when you press the area of the switch . Again tactile feel is excellent for this method and it provides a no hole label without the expense of the embossing the switch area. Using this method for multiple switches with a top enclosure/panel space between the switch holes allows the adhesive to adhere the label between the switches and prevents label flex for more than the switch pressed.