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gordon s

Building a control panel.....

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Apologies if this is the wrong place, but couldn’t see an obvious forum.....

 

I’m in the throes of building a large mimic panel and am looking for some ideas how to build the actual front panel. I have a panel size of around 700 x 200mm and I need to fit around 150 leds to show routes. No problem with the electrics, more the mechanical aspects of construction.

 

I have tried to build a panel of three layers sandwiched together. The back will be a  5mm back panel with holes drilled to suit 3mm recessed leds. The track plan will be on a paper or vinyl print and the top layer Is planned to be a 2mm clear acrylic wipe clean protective panel.

 

I read that punching holes in the paper/vinyl layer is better than drilling, but can’t seem to get an unmarked panel with clean cut holes perfectly aligned with the 5mm panel.  With 150 holes to punch in the paper/vinyl layer there is every chance the white surface will get marked or dirty.
 

Punching the holes and then sticking the paper/vinyl on to the 5mm backing panel again risks dirt or marking when drilling. It is difficult to drill without generating swarf and that gets under the paper/vinyl no matter how well it is glued to the backing layer.  Drilling without punching the holes in the paper/vinyl layer means it can tear when drilling and you end up with rough holes. I’m not planning to use bezels as the hole centres mean the larger bezels are very close together.

 

Any ideas how to handle the number of drilled holes without damage or marks to the paper/vinyl track level?


I did see a YouTube video where they punched the holes and then temporarily fixed the pre punched sheet to the back panel. The holes were then marked with a centre punch and once the track layer was removed all the holes were drilled. It appeared to be OK, but I think it would be impossible to realign the holes in paper/vinyl level with the holes in the 5mm back layer after drilling. It may be fine with just a few holes, but 150 is a tough call.

 

Any recommendations for a better method?

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Laser cutting works well with acrylic, but 700x200 lasers are expensive so you would need to find someone who can do it.

You would also need to get the plan printed separately so would need the cutter & printer calibrated to match each other.

Once sandwiched between the layers, could you cut the print with a scalpel?

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When I've drilled awkward materials, prone to tearing, two things make a difference.  Firstly the type of drill bit - there are a lot of different shapes, and the wedge "jobber" drill most of us use is only one.    Secondly, putting some masking take over the item, then drilling through the tape, then the material, often reduces tearing.  The masking tape is then peeled off.    So, it may be possible to fit the vinyl to the underlying board, add masking take, then drill. 

 

Alternatively, I'd suggest engraving board, which is a plastic board made of at least three layers, such as white-black-white.  Use that to engrave the panel.  Its designed to be cut by a laser these days, but can be done on a milling machine.  It probably cuts ok with a home router.   There's still a problem of aligning holes accurately (unless using CNC for the cutting). 

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Posted (edited)

This is a very interesting problem (to me, anyway).

 

If you have the graphics for the panel in your computer with the hole positions clearly marked, you could print two copies (or get two copies printed in large format in a print shop). Printers are very accurate these days, and the two copies should align accurately if you make sure you control any scaling that the software might do.

 

One copy would be sacrificial. You would tack it to the backing and drill through, not worrying about damage, marking or scarf. Then remove it and clean up the board.

 

The other copy would be the fair copy and you would use a hammer punch to make the holes cleanly, on a suitable surface away from the backing board. Then place the fair copy over the backing board, the holes should align (we hope), and tack it lightly in place because you might want to change it later.

 

Then fit the front "glass" on and Bob's your uncle Robert.

 

Edited by Harlequin
clarification about punching holes
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Posted (edited)

Thanks Phil. The choices I considered were self adhesive vinyl or paper using spray mount. The unknown for me is the alignment of 150 x 3mm holes in the plan level over the drilled backplate. I could use 3mm dowel pins set across four corners, but wondered about the co efficient of expansion with differing materials. Hand punching 150 holes in the top layer may well change the accuracy of the top layer versus the drilled backplate. Of course you still run the risk of ripples, bubbles or creases when it comes to sticking it in place.
 

Perhaps I’m imagining problems that aren’t there, but I don’t want to write off several printed panels in the attempt.....;)

 

Reverse printing on acrylic appears possible, but I need more research into drilling acrylic to avoid cracking. The recommendation would be start small and increase the drill size as you go.
 

I can see 450 holes ahead of me....:D
 

Even more with front mounted leds and bezels, hence the plan to fit 3mm in plain holes from the back.

 

I wonder if the holes in the front face could be left unprinted or clear so they become a lens rather than a drilled hole? I could even have 3mm clear areas in the front and use 5mm leds behind, which would help with any minor misalignment.

 

I guess anything is possible, it’s whether or not it can be done for a reasonable cost.....
 

Back into Google.....

 

 

Edited by gordon s
Added comment about 5mm leds

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Using everyday materials and printing technology should be a lot easier and cheaper than reverse printing on acrylic and trying to drill it accurately!

 

I don't think differing expansion rates would really be a problem and you could partly allow for it, and give yourself some leeway, by punching slightly oversize holes in the fair copy of the diagram.

 

A couple of further thoughts:

The fair copy could be sprayed with varnish to stiffen it up before punching. Might help with more accurate registration and cleaner holes.

The sacrificial copy could be printed in reverse (but with lettering the right way around - reasonably easy to do in a drawing program) and permanently stuck to the back of the backing board. This would help when wiring up.

 

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I need to check I've chosen the right options, but a 600 x 200 panel reverse printed came out at £23, so not a kings ransom. Quite like the idea of circles left clear as that overcomes the whole drilling in acrylic issue and just leaves the 5mm/6mm substrate to be drilled. That could easily be mdf or 6mm ply.

 

Also found a local company that may be able to do something similar.

 

I like the idea of a reversed printed sheet on the back as it's always a nightmare trying to identify parts from under a panel. I know that only too well with mounting Tortoise motors.....:D

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If you're going for clear printed sheet for the LEDs to shine through, then the backing sheet could be two layers of, say, 3mm.  The upper layer drilled "tight" to the LEDs for accurate positioning.  The lower drilled with more generous clearance.  

 

Printing two sheets seems simple if you have it all in computer art-work.  The reverse can be done on cheaper material.

 

- Nigel

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Rather than a cobbled together attempt, with an uncertain outcome, maybe look at one of the professional printing services, who can  print images ( such as a track plan, with labelling and graphics) onto a variety of materials.


There are so many different types of printable laminate board available these days.

I’m currently looking at the possibility of using a track plan printed onto a board made from Dibond, with a gloss laminated surface.

Dibond is available with a range of surface colours, a number of different surface textures and finishes, is rigid and require minimal support. It’s easily drilled, if using the right sort of drill bit.

I don’t know if this is the right stuff to use, but it looks promising.


Gordon, there’s a duplicate thread to this in the “Model Questions, Help & Tips” section.

The latest post in that thread, has a photo showing a control panel that looks as if it might possibly be made of Dibond or something similar, but then there are so many different types of such board material.


 

 

.

 

 

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Thanks Ron Ron Ron.......'A cobbled together attempt'........Ye of little faith.....:D

 

Off to search out the possible Dibond thread. Sent a graphics file to a local printer to see what they come back with.

 

I must have missed the thread the first time around or just forgotten. Happens a lot these days....;)

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Found the thread, so many thanks. I agree is does sound like Dibond and few minutes later I stumbled into this website.

 

Sounds to good to be true right now, but maybe worth a punt, particularly having read it was easy to drill etc....

 

In 3mm thick, it may mean the leds protrude through from the back or its going full circle and looking at small bezels front mounted. Either way at £21.20, I could be tempted.....

 

1872497449_Screenshot2020-08-02at13_27_42.png.b8e7e363bcb62c261d1f7803713c442c.png

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Posted (edited)

I have a feeling Ron's "cobbled together" might have been aimed at me!

 

For the record, I'm coming at the problem from the angle of steam-era Signal Box Diagrams which used a similar technique of backing board, punched paper and glass front. So my suggestion is possibly more suited to that kind of period diagram and particularly if it's a display panel, not a switch panel. In that context, if the paper yellows with age and some modifications have to be made by pasting on small slips so much the better, in my book!

 

Edited by Harlequin
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45 minutes ago, Harlequin said:

I have a feeling Ron's "cobbled together" might have been aimed at me!.....

 

No, not at all Phil.

Nothing personal intended towards anyone.

The remark was intended to reflect Gordon's and other peoples various ideas and the concern that it would all be a bit hit and miss.

 

.

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5 hours ago, gordon s said:

Found the thread, so many thanks. I agree is does sound like Dibond and few minutes later I stumbled into this website.


gordon s - are you saying that you can get your track plan printed on that sheet, by the sheet provider? (I started the other thread with a similar query to you, albeit having bought laser-cut self-assembly control panels, my dilemma was mounting a sub-3mm sheet on the existing 6mm ply - or maybe replacing it, I guess)

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Your local sign making company should be able to knock these out quite readily - same process for them as creating an advertising sandwich board. Using that sort of external grade material, no obvious need to put acrylic sheet on the front of it I would have thought.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, ITG said:


gordon s - are you saying that you can get your track plan printed on that sheet, by the sheet provider? (I started the other thread with a similar query to you, albeit having bought laser-cut self-assembly control panels, my dilemma was mounting a sub-3mm sheet on the existing 6mm ply - or maybe replacing it, I guess)

 

Hopefully yes. Ron Ron Ron kindly pointed me towards the other thread and mentioned Dibond. I just did some more research via Google and found 'optimalprint'. They listed 60 x 20 sheet size which just happens to be the size of my panel and then I uploaded the .png file from Templot of my track plan.

 

It was as simple as that.  The preview shows my whole schematic plan printed onto the aluminium sandwich. Certainly looks the part and fingers crossed, the print quality will be OK. The reviews etc sound promising. I suspect the discount is a 'new customer discount' as when I logged on again after I had set up my account the discount disappeared. I may need to get a family friend to order if I want another one.....;)

 

With any luck delivery is scheduled between the 5th and 12th August, so I decided to gamble on £20. My thoughts are the panel will be 3mm thick and the leds are probably 5mm in height. Possible ideas are to mount the 3mm sheet on 2mm mdf sheet and drill 3mm holes through the dots in my plan. If I can get the leds flush with the front surface, I could then add a 2mm clear acrylic panel on top to make a sealed surface that will easily wipe clean.

 

I won't really know exactly what route to take until the panel arrives. The alternative is to drill larger holes and mount the leds in bezels from the front. I'm sure it will still wipe clean, but the leds will protrude and the brightness may be too much without additional resistors.

 

I let you know more when the panel arrives. They guarantee 100% satisfaction, so nothing to lose.....

 

https://uk.trustpilot.com/review/optimalprint.co.uk

Edited by gordon s
I do get annoyed when words keep changing to what they want and not what you typed.....mdf became pdf.....:-(
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Thanks Gordon. Sounds like you’re running slightly ahead of me in timing, so I hope to learn from your experience!

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Hi Gordon,

I'd be very interested to see your schematic, if that's possible?

 

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Happy to post a more detailed image, Phil, but it will have to be tomorrow once I get back from golf......

 

First Qualifier since lockdown in March.....:dancer:

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Posted (edited)

As promised, this is my schematic for ET. I was developed through Templot and the Sketchboard facility. Took a little while to get my head round the various menus etc, but I have ended up with a panel artwork I'm happy with.

 

It started out as simply a mimic panel to show the directions turnouts were set, but has since developed into full route indication which is set via my ECoS controller.

 

In simple terms there are four main lines, so the operator simply chooses which platform/siding/shed/storage area they want to enter as an incoming train or which line they wish to leave on if departing from ET station. In total there are around 70 routes and the new route cancels out any old ones in cases of turnout requirements used in several routes.

 

There has been some discussions re the platform route leds and how they can be switched on  a train is approaching or switched off if the platform is not required. The solution was actually quite simple, with each set of platform leds set up as an accessory in their own right. It was then possible to add that accessory into the route structure so that any route through a platform meant the leds were illuminated. If not part of the route they stay off, so only a set route is illuminated.

 

Within the schematic are red dots which are turnout controlled, blue dots which may be common to several routes and always on and finally green dots in the platforms which will only come on if required as part of a route. They are simply for planning and wiring purposes as all leds will be the same colour (still to be decided).

 

Still early days and I'm sure some of these leds will change status as the route selection aspect becomes clearer.

 

There is more information within my ET thread (link below).

 

Hope that helps.

 

mimic_panel.png.18cc778c9de442c80c673e180896e70c.png

 

Edited by gordon s
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I'm sure I'm not alone in looking forward to reading how satisfied, or not, you are with the printed panel, when it arrives.

I hope it turns out (doh!) well and is pretty much what you were looking for.

 

There's quite a few companies out there who will do similar photo and graphics printing on Dibond and other types of material.

This company has a description of different types of board, from Acrylic to Kappa board and from foam board to Dibond, with other materials described as well.

 

https://www.supersizeprint.co.uk/Dibond-Printing.aspx

 

https://www.supersizeprint.co.uk/material.aspx?BaseProductID=32

 

They offer Dibond with a selection of laminated top surfaces, including Gloss, Satin, wipe dry, anti-grafitti, textured, as well as without a laminated finish.

 

 

This company can do a 600mm x 200mm printed Dibond panel, with Gloss surface lamination for £9.60 according to the online sizing calculator.

I'm not sure if that price is with for without VAT, I assume the latter, but what the heck ! That's certainly worth looking at.

 

https://www.colourgraphics.com/dibond-printing/

 

 

Here's another one worth a look. There's a variety of colours and metal finishes on display here.....

 

https://www.cutplasticsheeting.co.uk/dibond-aluminium-composite-sheet/

 

A bit of info on the stuff.....   https://www.cutplasticsheeting.co.uk/blog/uncategorized/what-is-dibond/

 

 

 

.

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I did a big minic using 3mm dibond and simply had the plan printed locally on outdoor vinyl 

 

i then drilled 3mm as required about 200 holes in all 

the drill leaves the vinyl slightly ragged but not bad 

 

Worked well 

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Morning guys...

 

I had a quote in for printing on acrylic at £145, so I think I’ll give that a miss. It would appear you’re into the sales volume/pricing equation. Smaller companies don’t have the volume or equipment to handle a high throughput of one offs, so their pricing probably reflects all the time to set up a one off print. They may be better geared to supply a higher volume of one item rather that the opposite. I’m not saying they are all like that, just my initial thoughts.

 

I contacted Supersizeprint to enquire about file formats etc and had this back....

 

Hi Gordon,

 

Our printing process is very high quality. However, we print varying degrees of quality depending on what the client supplies. At the bottom end of the quality spectrum we print lifesize cutouts for stag parties from low resolution phone images.  From the top end we print very high resolution original photographic material and design package created files. The way you set up your original file will determine the output quality.

 

Here is some advice which I hope will help.  

 

If the image contains:

 

Text only – supply as editable text or vectors and supply file as a pdf – do not supply as a bitmap (jpeg, gif, png, tiff).

 

Photographic image only – supply as jpeg with maximum compression quality. 

 

Text and photos together – supply text as editable text or vectors and photos as embedded bitmap files, all within a pdf file.

 

Shapes & logos – as vectors where possible unless by their nature they are created as a bitmap image.  Again these should be in a pdf file unless they are a bitmap image and not included together with other graphic elements.

 

Resolution of photographic images – the most important thing is to use good photos which are sharp and not blurred or grainy, and have good colour. Take photos on the highest resolution available to you, and use your original photo files – do not use emailed copies unless you are sure they have not been reduced in size.  You cannot improve much on the original image quality by artificially increasing image resolution; you are simply dividing dots up into more smaller dots.
 

 

All pretty standard stuff, but I wonder What level of quality Optimalprint will aim for. I’m hopeful it will be fine as my original was 600dpi and the ET logo came from a bitmap image.
 

I’ll take another look at Supersizeprint this morning and if the costs are £10 or so, I may order one from them as well. It will be good to compare quality and having a spare for practicing drilling, led placement etc will be handy.

 

I thought vinyl may end up with jagged edges once drilled, Junctionmad. Hopefully having the plan printed dierectly on Dibond will solve that problem.

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Interesting. I guess when they say, "jpeg with maximum compression quality", they mean "jpeg with minimum compression and maximum quality"...

 

So the ideal would be to create an all-vector PDF file to get the best from their printing process, whatever resolution they use. An RGB bitmap will (a.) print the background colour, white in your case, and (b.) have to be scaled to their print resolution which may introduce visual artefacts, depending on how good their subsampling is.

 

It's not clear (hah hah) if transparent areas in vector PDFs would print or not. You would hope not so that the natural surface would show through.

 

BTW: I wonder if your dark blue lines might be a bit too strong to look at comfortably while operating? Just a thought...

 

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