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How are good quality panels produced?


NickD
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I'm considering getting into homepit construction, mainly for VR but I have a problem of wanting it to also look good...

 

I was under the impression that most of the panels people produced were e.g. Aluminium with silk-screened text, but lately have seen lots of different sources where they can be backlit - and the only thing I can imagine is a very thin aluminium layer bonded to a translucent plastic layer and then drilled into with e.g. a CNC router.

 

And this seems like it would be very hard to get good quality text, especially with the insides of letters like "A, O, e" etc. Except the style seems quote common.

 

What am I missing? What sort of processes are normally used for these panels?

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Haha I've asked this same exact question a while back. I was really confused about the panels being metal AND backlit. Well it turns out the very top of the panel isn't metal. I haven't been able to nail down if it's glass or plastic, but the way the simpit guys do it is translucent white plastic that's painted and laser engraved. I personally think it looks amazing.

 

http://hispapanels.com/tienda/en/80-a-10-thunderbolt-ii

 

I have no doubt that someone around here can give you more detailed info.

Light the tires kick the fires!

 

[sIGPIC][/sIGPIC]

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Hi NickD

there are a few ways of doing it and its worth trawling through some of the great threads, which show the different ways. Personally I use a clear acrylic back panel, the acrylic is a 'light guide panel' taken from a 600mmx600mm LED flat panel, which is then cut to size using a laser cutter. The front plate is made from laser engravable laminate, I use 1.5mm thick white with a black face. This then also laser cut and etched. See my post

 

https://forums.eagle.ru/showthread.php?t=166687

 

I am very Happy to answer any questions you may have? There are a great many very helpful Simmers who have lots of posts, but be prepared for allot of reading. You may want to start with this thread:

 

https://forums.eagle.ru/showthread.php?p=2356934

 

Regards

 

Neal

Desktop PC:

Intel i9 9900K, Gigabyte MOBO, 32 GB RAM , GPU Nvidia RTX 2080

Windows 10, TM Warthog, Crosswind rudder peddles, Occulus Rift S.

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On this thread you can see how the real ones are build up;

https://forums.eagle.ru/showthread.php?t=112210

 

Others are made so that the backplate of the light plate can be removed;

u0cIBogh.jpg

 

On this picture you can see the light bulbs (5VDC) on the backplate in the background. In the foreground you can see two of the lenses removed and also notice there is a metal'ish cap that prevents the light from going directly into the lightplate but instead diffuse into the light plate.

N7biFI2h.jpg

 

Here is a thread about how Warhog has soled his backlighting;

https://forums.eagle.ru/showthread.php?t=138740

 

I believe that Warhog's method is pretty close to how the real is build. Saw a YT some time back where you can see manufacturer handspraying panel with white first. Then black top lay which is then engraved away for text.

 

Others use Lasermax which is a plastc material white/clear lower layer with black top layer. Will give you kinda same effect as two layers of paint but removed the problem with getting correct layer thickness. Lasermax and similar are relatively thin so you need to glue it unto a intermediate later to get some thickness.

 

Haven't ventured too much in any of the methods wait until some of the experienced builder chime in :thumbup:

 

Cheers

Hans

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Lately I've been concentrating on refining my backlighting technique. I rebuilt my CMSC panel because of this.

 

As Hans has already pointed out, engraving plastic is used for the top faceplate. Its a laminate of white translucent plastic with a fine layer of semi matt black surface. You only need to cut into the laminate .004" and your into white material. The next layer or two is .125" clear acrylic. In the photo below you can see the PCB behind the acrylic which has a series of thin flat LEDS and SMD resistors. This is now what I'm using to backlight the engraving.

 

IMG_0926_zps26n7eya3.jpg

 

The end result looks like this. Its also important to scuff sand both sides of the acrylic which helps to diffuse the light.

IMG_0952_zps5ilttsnm.jpg

 

I know some people also add an aluminum backplate but I use all acrylic for my panels. There is more than sufficient strength if you use several layers of acrylic. There is also the added expense and the effort required for milling aluminum even if you do have the equipment to mill it. There are times when I do use aluminum in the cockpit but not for any of my panels.

 

If you wish to see additional panels in various states of construction, please refer to my signature for the links.

Regards

John W

aka WarHog.

 

My Cockpit Build Pictures...



John Wall

 

My Arduino Sketches ... https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1-Dc0Wd9C5l3uY-cPj1iQD3iAEHY6EuHg?usp=sharing

 

 

WIN 10 Pro, i8-8700k @ 5.0ghz, ASUS Maximus x Code, 16GB Corsair Dominator Platinum Ram,



AIO Water Cooler, M.2 512GB NVMe,

500gb SSD, EVGA GTX 1080 ti (11gb), Sony 65” 4K Display

VPC MongoosT-50, TM Warthog Throttle, TRK IR 5.0, Slaw Viper Pedals

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Warhog, do you paint thick layers of white, then one layer of black so that the black doesn't show up in the scratches when you laser engrave?

 

I guess I wasn't very clear in my description. The first pic shows the backlighting behind two layers of acrylic. The second pic shows the finished panel. What you are looking at is engraving plastic which sits over top of the two acrylic layers.

 

I use engraving plastic for every panel I make. The "paint it white and then black" technique produces inconsistent results so I avoid techniques like that. I also do not laser engrave. I use a TAIG CNC mill to engrave. This type of engraving is called "rotary engraving". If you check out the links in my signature you will see many panels in various states of construction but they all use engraving plastic for the top and final layer of a panel.

 

This pic better illustrates the layering I use to form a panel... two layers .125" thick acrylic and one layer .0625" thick engraving plastic.

 

IMG_0156.jpg


Edited by Warhog

Regards

John W

aka WarHog.

 

My Cockpit Build Pictures...



John Wall

 

My Arduino Sketches ... https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1-Dc0Wd9C5l3uY-cPj1iQD3iAEHY6EuHg?usp=sharing

 

 

WIN 10 Pro, i8-8700k @ 5.0ghz, ASUS Maximus x Code, 16GB Corsair Dominator Platinum Ram,



AIO Water Cooler, M.2 512GB NVMe,

500gb SSD, EVGA GTX 1080 ti (11gb), Sony 65” 4K Display

VPC MongoosT-50, TM Warthog Throttle, TRK IR 5.0, Slaw Viper Pedals

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This has been some fascinating replies! Thanks all!

 

Warhog:

  • I see all your buttons look like they are acrylic - a lot of the panels e.g. UFD look like they are the 'rubberized' style of button - have you looked into manufacturing it like this directly? I imagine (in my naivete no doubt) that you could cnc the rubber, and if it had a conductive back/could be painted then you'd eliminate the step of having to solder every switch?
  • Looking at your backlighting posts, you put the lights on a separate PCB. Is there a reason that you aren't just using a double-sided PCB for the same purpose, and reducing parts?
  • Annoyingly, the "Two threads" you link in https://forums.eagle.ru/showpost.php?p=2690141&postcount=7 are just the same thread... any idea what the second one you meant to link to, was?


Edited by NickD
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This has been some fascinating replies! Thanks all!

 

Warhog:

  • I see all your buttons look like they are acrylic - a lot of the panels e.g. UFD look like they are the 'rubberized' style of button - have you looked into manufacturing it like this directly? I imagine (in my naivete no doubt) that you could cnc the rubber, and if it had a conductive back/could be painted then you'd eliminate the step of having to solder every switch?
  • Looking at your backlighting posts, you put the lights on a separate PCB. Is there a reason that you aren't just using a double-sided PCB for the same purpose, and reducing parts?
  • Annoyingly, the "Two threads" you link in https://forums.eagle.ru/showpost.php?p=2690141&postcount=7 are just the same thread... any idea what the second one you meant to link to, was?

 

Hi Nick, as to your questions...

1. ...most of my buttons are now made from styrene (plastic). I tried different materials and different techniques but in the end the styrene button was easiest to make and it did have a softer feel than acrylic buttons. Also, "Easy to make" is good when you have almost 100 buttons throughout the entire cockpit to deal with. I guess I could have developed a technique using a rubber type of button. I certainly have all of the mold making equipment and chemicals. But spending months trying to develop a reliable system of embedded contacts for a solderless solution didn't seem worth the time it would take. Besides, I'm not an engineer so I have to rely on more primitive methods. :smilewink:

 

2. The backlighting PCB has to be closest to the front panel to ensure nothing else blocks the light. This makes it very difficult to use the same PCB for buttons due to the depth they need to be place to properly sit in the panel. There are some instances where I have used double sided copper board where the traces are much more complex and as such they need to be on both sides of the board. Now a days I shy away from double sided board. If I can use a couple of jumpers on the board as a means of removing the need for double sided, I will do that. I have learned, over the last three years of building, that the simple solution is almost always the better solution. If you look carefully at the next few pics you will see why I couldn't place everything on the backlight PCB.

 

 

 

Notice there are several different layers of PCB. I set the "PRI, SEP and UKN" buttons on a single PCB. The menu select buttons on the side are on a separate PCB as well. All of the buttons, because of their design, need to sit further back from the face of the panel. I also wanted to adjust their depth quite precisely independent of the other components that make up the CMSC. You can see the one set of three buttons is already screwed down. The other two are off to the side with some cabling plugged into them. I do try and maximize what I pace on my PCB's. Notice the LED indicator that is part of the three button PCB. There is also an LED indicator on the display module PCB.

IMG_0936_zps2pylb7pd.jpg

 

Then there are the display modules. They too sit at a different level from everything else.

 

IMG_0929_zpsukbpgxfh.jpg

 

Here we have all of the PCBs that make this panel work. The only thing left to do is to paint the sides of the acrylic flat black, add the extension pieces to the rotary encoders and add the engraved faceplate to the front of this mess.

IMG_0946_zpsvtptkw4v.jpg

 

IMG_0940_zpscl9vgyqz.jpg

 

And to your last question... That second link was a faux pas on my part. There should only be one link. It was meant to take you to Tores thread where he was having difficulty getting his machine to perform properly.

 

I am glad you found this enlightening :smilewink: (pun) I hope you enjoyed the pics and maybe gave you some ideas on different ways to build stuff.

Regards

John W

aka WarHog.

 

My Cockpit Build Pictures...



John Wall

 

My Arduino Sketches ... https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1-Dc0Wd9C5l3uY-cPj1iQD3iAEHY6EuHg?usp=sharing

 

 

WIN 10 Pro, i8-8700k @ 5.0ghz, ASUS Maximus x Code, 16GB Corsair Dominator Platinum Ram,



AIO Water Cooler, M.2 512GB NVMe,

500gb SSD, EVGA GTX 1080 ti (11gb), Sony 65” 4K Display

VPC MongoosT-50, TM Warthog Throttle, TRK IR 5.0, Slaw Viper Pedals

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