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Cheapest way to get prints / decals onto acrylic

Discussion in 'General Hardware' started by WantoN, Nov 29, 2019.

  1. WantoN

    Capodecina

    Joined: Jun 11, 2003

    Posts: 10,145

    Location: Hampshire

    Hi chaps. I could use some help.

    I'm making an IO panel for my desk. It's white acrylic with shamfered edges, and cutouts for the connectors. I want a small, corresponding symbol beneath each port. I've made the symbols in GIMP, but can learn to vector them if necessary.

    They're dark grey stylistic icons, with a light grey, thick border. Shockingly original, I know.

    I think my options are:
    1. Find sticker set that's suitable (no luck yet)
    2. Bodge something half-way decent
    3. Have vinyl decals printed (expensive?)
    4. Buy a vinyl printer / cutter (expensive?)
    I'm guessing I'm stuck with either option 1 or 2.

    So, how in the hell am I going to do this? How would you produce a set of IO port labels, for super cheap?

    It's little projects like this that are keeping me going at the moment, so I'd really appreciate any guidance you can offer. Even if it includes a threat to poo in my mailbox.

    Update 1. So it's going to cost £15 per design for buying vinyl stickers. I am not dropping £75 a few tiny sticky labels :eek:
     
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2019
  2. Jasoncmor

    Gangster

    Joined: Feb 13, 2010

    Posts: 466

    Find someone with a plotter? There are guys on here that i'm sure wouldn't mind helping you out.
     
  3. Quartz

    Sgarrista

    Joined: Apr 1, 2014

    Posts: 8,936

    Location: Aberdeen

    Stencils? Make stencils of the icons, then place and mask out the rest and apply your paint.
     
  4. Lakeland

    Soldato

    Joined: Nov 1, 2005

    Posts: 5,242

    Laser cut/engrave the design? Should be easy enough if you have a design, just need to find a company with a machine
     
  5. YoungBlood

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Feb 19, 2006

    Posts: 1,714

    Location: West Mids

    Do you have a picture of the IO panel?
    It's unfortunate it's white acrylic as it doesn't engrave (in any meaningful contrasting way)
    I have some laser cutters, and would be happy to run your designs through (no charge), we just need to think about what you want them making out of.
    I might have some A4 sticky back vinyl sheets left will have to check Monday, but I imagine the cuts you want will be quite small so applying them and getting them all nice and level might be tricky.
    A vinyl cutter is better for this as it uses a knife rather than a laser, but we have to make do with what we have :)

    Another option, (I can confirm after I see a picture) would be to cut out a panel in plastic, that you can apply to the top/front of your panel with the symbols already engraved.
    Hit me up, happy to help, and I too like little projects like this.
     
  6. Lakeland

    Soldato

    Joined: Nov 1, 2005

    Posts: 5,242

    With white acrylic you can engrave and then draw on the engraved area with a dry wipe marker pen, it colours the engraved area and wipes off everywhere else, looks really good too. Seen people use acrylic paints but it’s a bit messy, pens are super quick and easy.
     
  7. Avalon

    Soldato

    Joined: Dec 29, 2002

    Posts: 5,008

    Unless you like poisonous gas that is also corrosive to your machine, you never, ever cut vinyl with a laser.

    For op - Depending on the size, small plotters are a better option for this, the problem is it’s likely to be two colour and small symbols are a ball ache for this kind of process. Dye sub onto plaque aluminium is full colour, that may work better as a full size plate, other than that it’s laser and contour cut or solvent print/cut, it wouldn’t be worth the time to set-up/test/print via UV or screen.
     
  8. YoungBlood

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Feb 19, 2006

    Posts: 1,714

    Location: West Mids

    Well I did say a knife cutter is better for this :) but sometimes you gotta make do with the tools you have.
    I know it produces chlorine gas, but a few tiny stickers won't hurt, good extraction is key and I have it.

    Ah I will try this next time I have some white acrylic going through.

    What would be great for this project would be a piece of TroLase 2 layer plastic. White on black would be perfecto.
    It's basically 2 thin lasers of plastic stuck together and the laser burns off the top layer to reveal the colour underneath. Looks 100x better than just straight engraving acrylic.

    If your panel is a decent size and you don't mind a single colour I could just cut them out of 3mm black acrylic and you could glue them on, with the hands of a surgeon.
    Course the icons would then be raised but maybe it would look cool?
     
  9. Avalon

    Soldato

    Joined: Dec 29, 2002

    Posts: 5,008

    You mention TroLase, it’s a 2 part micro laminate and they outsource its production to Rowmark, they did try to do it ‘in house’, but cap variance made it horrific to use and they gave up as it wasn’t profitable to keep replacing it when customers rejected the stock. Knowing the guys at Trotec quite well (they’re minutes from my house/old premises and I’ve been a customer since the mid 90’s when they were Suregrave), if you are using a Trotec laser, they will void the warranty if they see evidence of damage caused by cutting unsuitable materials. I’ve been using CO2 lasers for roughly 20 years, discharging chlorine gas even with ventilation is an absolute no-no.
     
  10. YoungBlood

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Feb 19, 2006

    Posts: 1,714

    Location: West Mids

    Your absolutely right of course Avalon, they are great machines but they are not a 1 tool fits all.
    All about good training, and making sure operators know what is, and is not safe to cut, and wear the damn glasses :cool:

    Anyway! back to the op.
    A picture would help, to gauge the size.
    If it's pretty small (pack of playing cards) I would go the sticker route.
    If it was something more substantial I would cut and glue the icons out of thin acrylic.
    If you take the usb logo for example, it's all one piece and very laser friendly, if your icons have separate small pieces it gets hard.
    The icon for wifi for example would be harder to apply.

    If I was making something like this, the side with the ports, curious how you made the holes? I'm useless with my hands so if you have manged to self cut some nice looking usb shaped holes, kudos!

    I would of engraved a deep cavern of say, the usb symbol and use this as a guide to glue the contrasting icons. (it would leave them raised)
    If time was on my side I would literally cut the usb logo out and replace it with a contrasting colour to make it flush. Really hard to get the tolerance right so its a nice perfect fit.

    /unrelated, when done with 2 different types of wood this looks amazing.

    Anyway, I'm sure we are over thinking it!
    /tldr - stickers are always going to be the easiest, but we need to see your icons to advise further :)
     
  11. LuckyBenski

    Mobster

    Joined: Dec 28, 2017

    Posts: 3,393

    Location: London

    Girlfriend just added a plotter to her workshop alongside her laser cutter so we can certainly help :cool:

    She's already got some pretty cool designs made, but its good to have experiments for learning. Want to ping me a trust and we can have a look at the vectors?

    This. There is no "only a little bit" with chlorine gas. It eats everything in the machine fast. There are laser friendly "vinyl" stickers though.
     
  12. YoungBlood

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Feb 19, 2006

    Posts: 1,714

    Location: West Mids

    Not sure how good it would look, but if you google Inkjet clear self adhesive film stickers, you could just print and cut your own out?
    but if you want to go deeper down the rabbit hole, looks like you have options.
     
  13. WantoN

    Capodecina

    Joined: Jun 11, 2003

    Posts: 10,145

    Location: Hampshire

    I'm genuinely blown away guys. It's been a rough ride for quite quite a while, and seeing people come together to offer their own time and resources for such a silly little project has blown my mind. Thank you all, very much.

    I haven't made the panel yet, my guess is it'll be no more than 100mm x 50mm. I'll be fixing to the desk surface, probably by adding shoulders / brackets and dropping it into a hole.

    I've done this sort of thing before. I'll trace the hole, drill it, then hand file with a very small set of files. If you use a hardened straight edge then results can be more than adequate.

    The two tone material you've discussed I'm very aware of, it's a clever idea. When I worked we sold into HVAC panel builders and they used to use this exact material, engraving or lasering past the first layer to produce clear and accurate labels and diagrams. It's a superb idea I didn't think of.

    Tonight I'll upload a picture of the first pass I've made for the symbols, with approximate dimensions. I'll also download inkscape and have a go at making vectors, my guess is by importing and tracing said symbols. Given the size I want them, I may need to simplify the designs.

    Thank you all again for the offers, really. I'll get back to you tonight and see how you think we can proceed.
     
  14. WantoN

    Capodecina

    Joined: Jun 11, 2003

    Posts: 10,145

    Location: Hampshire

    Apologies for the delay, I've been rather poorly. Here's the first pass of the logos, they'll be about 10mm tall at the most I'd say. The outline is the only cut.

    I've not been able to use the PC much, but I'll give vectors a go soon.

    [​IMG]
    USB3, USB-C, HDMI, Fast Charging (type A). I may do Display Port too. I'm going to have to sell my VR headset, but will buy another as soon as I can afford it.
     
  15. ns400r

    Mobster

    Joined: Apr 23, 2004

    Posts: 3,569

    Location: UK, Near the middle......

    I have a solvent printer/cutter here. Bung me your designs and I will print them out for you. Postage costs only.
     
  16. YoungBlood

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Feb 19, 2006

    Posts: 1,714

    Location: West Mids

    [​IMG]
    That's an idea of what it would look like engraved onto plastic.
    Could'nt use your icons so I grabbed random ones off google.

    Happy to drop one in the post with your icons if you can make them a single solid colour + supply panel dimensions. The cut outs are 18mmx7mm
    Or you have other options above, from other OcUk'rs.
    We got you covered :)
     
  17. Avalon

    Soldato

    Joined: Dec 29, 2002

    Posts: 5,008

    The issue you will have with this is even a small Mimaki solvent printer will struggle to cut 10mm designs accurately, even one of the tiny A4 plotters will struggle to cut what you ask as the cuts are going to be so close it’ll just tear the film. Your only option here is realistically either a full cover in solvent print in transparent film over the panel or laser IMO.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019 at 8:39 AM
  18. WantoN

    Capodecina

    Joined: Jun 11, 2003

    Posts: 10,145

    Location: Hampshire

    Thanks again for the responses chaps.

    I'll do my proposal drawing for the panel, then I'll read through all your awesome replies properly.

    This is phenomenal, I'm very grateful mate. Could you do it on white plastic?

    I'll work on the panel drawing and get something put together. From reading others replies, I think this may be the best method.

    Thank you all again for the input, very much.
     
  19. YoungBlood

    Wise Guy

    Joined: Feb 19, 2006

    Posts: 1,714

    Location: West Mids

    Blue is the only colour I have in this plastic :(
    Don't feel rushed to make any plans/drawings :)

    Things like this take literately seconds on a laser.
    The only hard part is having the materials to suit the project. White is something I have never carried.

    hhmm maybe I could spray a thin piece of wood white and engrave that, oh the possibilities :D
     
  20. ns400r

    Mobster

    Joined: Apr 23, 2004

    Posts: 3,569

    Location: UK, Near the middle......

    [​IMG]

    Printed and cut a sample earlier. No issues with the size of cutting. Will post an image later once I upload it somewhere.
     
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019 at 11:16 PM