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Nice Box Labels

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Obiwan
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Username: Obiwan

Post Number: 339
Registered: 12-2005

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Posted on Saturday, 01 April, 2006 - 07:47 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

Here's a trick I learned at a company I used to work with.

If you want to create nice professional looking switch/other labels for your front panels, here's a good way to do it.

You have several options. You can have a small square/rectangle larger than the switch with the label below (similar to the old On/Off plates that went under toggle switches) or you can use a whole aluminum panel that covers the whole front of your project.

But here's the basic of it, you can figure out the best way to apply it.

Aluminum will get a thin but tough oxidation coating on it. You can't even see that it's there really. But the best part is that it's also resistant to acid.

So make sure the aluminum you use is older has been exposed. Some sheeting has a protective film on it that you pull off. That will NOT work unless you make sure it has oxidized or helped it.

Once you have a piece that you want to work with, either a small piece under a switch or full front panel, and have decided what you want under the labels, make a drawing of it.

You need to take it to an engraver. That's why the drawing, to show the exact position. It would help if you talked to one before hand and that they knew exactly what you're doing and that they can read your drawings.

Then have them lightly engrave the title of the switch on the aluminum. It doesn't have to be very deep, basically you want them to scratch off the oxidation. Where they scratch will show up as the label.

They also have to be very careful not to scratch anything that isn't supposed to be scratched. But that should not be that much of an issue, they're used to this kind of thing.

Now the best part!

Take it home, and don't mess around with it don't set it aside for a couple of days, so take it, have it done, and bring it home when you're ready and able to work on it.

Now you drop acid on it! I know the etchant of Muriatic acid and Hydrogen peroxide works, but I'm not sure about Ferric Chloride(?).

Use an eye dropper and drop some acid where the engraving is. And wait a few seconds. It will soon start oxidizing or anodizing. Watch careful so the area around it doesn't turn black. Then wash the acid off.

Either way, it will turn black. And that black stands out nicely against the aluminum. And it's tough, it will stay there forever. You can't smudge it, you can't peel it up, it just stays there forever.

And you can get nice fancy fonts, or plain old technical fonts.

If you use new clean aluminum, say the protective coating type, you may have to speed up the oxidation process. That film is mostly to protect it from scratches (good) not so much oxidation.

So if it's new, maybe leave it in a very week acid or saltwater bath, maybe heat it up in the oven or something like that.

It will still look very clean and new, but will have that nice "invisible" oxidation coating. But you'll have to play around with it to see what works best using small pieces.

Just put a drop of acid on it, and then watch it. If it turns black, you can't use it, if it just sits there, it's ready.

I'll try to have a test made up and post a picture of it. I made one here by hand, but it looks like one that was made quickly by hand. Nothing but scratches, but you can see the black of the scratches. I'll try to get that this weekend.

Very professional looking, and very inexpensive too.
May the Force be with (most of) you.....
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Terry
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Post Number: 151
Registered: 05-2005

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Posted on Saturday, 01 April, 2006 - 10:20 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

Maybe you could use the spray on photo etch stuff
and do it like we do for PCBs ?

Terry
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Obiwan
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Post Number: 340
Registered: 12-2005

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Posted on Saturday, 01 April, 2006 - 10:40 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

I don't think so.

The "etch resist" is already on the board. So taking a blank and putting it in acid, will have no effect on it other than minor scratches already on it.

So you need to scratch the surface first. Somehow.

I just back from a mall and asked the jeweler about engraving a word for me, and the only thing he could do was the outline of the letters. And then hand scratch the internal part.

So maybe a machine shop is needed. But then again, after a little more testing here, that might be the best way.

It looks like if you havea wide area scratched out it turns more gray than black. the black is around the edges. So more fine scraching may work better.

I'll have to try a few things. One thing, is finding out just what I used the first time. I can't even remember the switch company.

I'll also try a weaker solution and see what that does too.

Perhaps using a stencil of some sort, and then rubbing the surface with some fine steel wool will work good too.

But once you get it done, it looks first class, and you can etch instructions on the panel like "Null Before Use", or much longer, and it looks first rate. You just can't do that with those old sticky strips, or pasting a paper label or something similar.

And you can get some small text that is very readable too (when you can get an engraver or miller to do it).

Even using an abrasive of some sort would work I think, like a old "ink eraser", those that felt like they had pumice in it. That 3M green cleaning pad might work also.

Right now, I've got some hand drawn letters etched, and I'm trying to find a way to darken them.

And I pulled the plastic backing off of the other side, and it resisted the adic perfectly. So that doesn't seem to be an issue as I had thought. It looks like brand new shinny aluminum, but it's resistant to acid. So that's good.
May the Force be with (most of) you.....
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Obiwan
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Post Number: 341
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Posted on Saturday, 01 April, 2006 - 11:17 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

I have to think about it, but that Press-n-Peel just might work. Depends on how tough and how sticky it is.

If you make a negative of the text, so the metal is exposed, and then rub some sort of abrasive on it, leave the P-n-P on and the use the acid, that would leave text exposed to the acid.

Then when you remove the rest of the P-n-P, you should have nice etched text.

Another method, if you know somebody that does glass etching. You still need a good stencil for that though. But the blasting of the glass beads or whatever they use should be a nice abrasive.

And you should be able to get that fairly cheap.

That sounds like a winner. P-n-P, glass bead or what ever blasting, acid and peel.

Either way, I will find a method and use it on my next project and take a picture of it and post it.
May the Force be with (most of) you.....
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Alan_jones
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Post Number: 91
Registered: 05-2005

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Posted on Saturday, 01 April, 2006 - 11:54 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

Hmmm!!

Does the date have any significance here?
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Obiwan
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Post Number: 342
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Posted on Sunday, 02 April, 2006 - 12:20 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

Ah, you mean am I pulling your leg??

Nope, I had forgot what day it was. I read you message and was wondering "What date?".

Too much blabbering on my part to be pulling your leg.

I sent an email to somebody that may help me out in finding out what "Chemical X" is.

When I first used the stuff years ago, it turned the etched text a deep black color, and all I'm getting now is a gray.

But even with that, you can put something in it like a paint. It will still stay there for a very, very long time and look first class still.

I do appreciate you thinking I was capable of pulling such an elaborate hoax though! (now if we were at work together, then you should always be watching your back, no matter what da it is!! )
May the Force be with (most of) you.....
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Grab
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Post Number: 156
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Posted on Monday, 10 April, 2006 - 02:10 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

We used to use that at GEC when I was there. Like you, I can't remember what chemical we used to do it, but you got nice black lettering.

Really you need a CNC milling machine to do a good job, although you might be able to make a regular plotter work if you could rig up some kind of scraper attachment.

Graham.
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Blockhead
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Registered: 04-2006

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Posted on Saturday, 15 April, 2006 - 10:55 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

A long time ago I used a similar method to make front panels. Spray the Aluminium with positive resist if you are using a negative of the panel or negative resist if using a positive of the panel. Make sure you spray the edges with resist as well. Cover the back of the panel with plastic contact (the sort you might cover a book with). Expose and develop the "aluminium pcb" the usual way. The contact prevents the aluminium reacting with the developer. Wash off the aluminium panel. The next part is best carried out with a fume cupboard because ferric chloride is painted onto the lettering, the reaction gives off chlorine gas. Wash off the panel after a couple of minutes. The aluminium wll be lightly pitted and can then be put in a shallow acid bath. I used dilute nitric acid because we had it where I worked, but diluted hydrochlic should also work. With a little experimentation you can get a good result. Remove with plastic tweezers and rinse thoroughly. Remove the resist. Place the panel in a mixture of water and caustic soda, from memory (25years ago) 500ml to 25gms. This will cause a black coating to be deposited on the aluminium, use a soft brush and gently brush off the coating in the direction of the "aluminium's grain". Carefully remove after about 5 min. Wash off and gently rub off any black deposit with a soft damp rag, again in the direction of the "grain'. Be very careful not to touch the aluminium or nasty fingerprints will appear on the aluminium. The aluminuim will look like it's been anodised. Dry the panel and wipe on some ink used in screen printing onto the aluminium and wipe clean with a soft rag. Ink will be left in the etched lettering. Leave to dry and the spray with clear matt varnish to protect from fingerprints. Remove the plastic contact from the back.
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Atferrari
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Post Number: 168
Registered: 05-2005


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Posted on Saturday, 15 April, 2006 - 12:35 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

What I recall is basically the opossite:

The front plat was drilled and then anodized with the standard procedure, later, engraved with an engraving maching. Finally, there was a paste like the one used by the people who does engraving on (almost) transparent plastics to fill up the profiles making them readable.

Coming in different colours, you were able to have the "grooves" filled up with that paste.

If finely engraved the result was excellent!

It was applied with kind of "crayon" like the ones used by kids in kindergarden, and the excess in non-engraved parts, eliminated with by rubbing it with a clean cotton rag.

This was 30 years ago ++
Agustín Tomás - Buenos Aires - Argentina
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Blockhead
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Posted on Monday, 17 April, 2006 - 11:42 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

Of course getting the panel engraved and then anodised gives great results and I have used that method. The anodising company always required the engraving to be done before anodising the panel. You could get any colour ink for the lettering. The process took about a week and involved me dropping off and picking up the panels and was expensive. We came up with the method I posted if we needed a panel done quickly for a prototype, it's not quite as good as anodising and engraving, but still looks very good and doesn't cost much.
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Obiwan
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Post Number: 398
Registered: 12-2005

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Posted on Tuesday, 18 April, 2006 - 01:51 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

There's an easier way if I can just find out what that chemical is.

There's a forum out there I need to get on and ask around. All it does is turn the aluminum black, you'd think that would be easy.

Then all you do is engrave, put the chemical on, and wash it off, done.
Do Not Hit The Fly That Lands On The Tigers Head.
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Atferrari
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Post Number: 170
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Posted on Tuesday, 18 April, 2006 - 03:45 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

As far as I recall it was a matter of the pigment used to give color. Is it like that nowadays?
Agustín Tomás - Buenos Aires - Argentina
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Obiwan
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Post Number: 402
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Posted on Tuesday, 18 April, 2006 - 03:04 pm:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

No, what I used was more like a acid. It was clear and bubbled up a little bit, but turned it blacker than black.

The company that made the stuff said it "anodized" the label, but I really doubt it. I'm sure it was just a heavy oxidation.

I've tried several acids and get some discoloration, but nothing like what I saw.

I'll find out, sooner or later, because this is just too good to let go of.
Do Not Hit The Fly That Lands On The Tigers Head.
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Terrym
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Post Number: 207
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Posted on Wednesday, 19 April, 2006 - 05:03 am:   Edit Post Delete Post Print Post

Do a Google for diy aluminium anodising. Throws up plenty of interesting sites.
TM

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