Instructables
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Do you like making electrical gadgets? Read on to find how to make them look indistinguishable from professional shop-bought equipment with nothing more than a can of spray glue and some OHP transparencies.

Whether you are just making a flashlight or designing the greatest microcomputer-controlled device, making the finished product look professional adds an enormous amount to the 'wow-factor' of your finished gadget. The big device in the image is nothing more than a switch box to control some lights in a school production of "Carmen" (hency the tacky pun with the name), but it looks like a commercial shop-bought product because of the use of a few simple techniques described here.
 
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Step 1: Choose a box

Picture of Choose a box
Gone are the days when you have to choose a boring black square-edged enclosure for your device - now there are hundreds of choices, some with lovely smooth edges and even rubber hand grips. Go to somewhere like Digikey in the US or Rapid in Europe, and choose a box that is the right size and look for your project. Ideally, get one with a recessed area on the front panel for an overlay - in this image, you can see that each of these has a front panel area that is recessed by a fraction of an inch.
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lazydiyer3 years ago
Outstanding ! Great idea and great tutorial. I've used a similar idea in the past but you really put the finishing touches on this. Love it. And will definitely use it !
nelfer5 years ago
Awesome idea! I was wondering how to do something to look professional and you answered!
i might make 1 that will look betta and advatize my website and for the buttons i will have a holes for a curcuit tester so i can easly make it a led, battery, and componet tester lol i can plug it in to my digital maulti meter as the curcuit and battery tester lol easy no real curcit behing it but the ristous for diffrend power lol
what r they ment to do???
oupps i c u have in step 6 what u use it for oupps
Instead of spending money at places like istockphoto, I use sxc.hu as it's free and the images are great!
WingDings6 years ago
Good job! Thank you for posting this - it's a really good idea. Do you think if you put a transparency on a black (or dark coloured) box you could put some (reflective) aluminium foil behind it? So glue that on, then glue the transparency on top - then you have a back-reflective graphic?
try using foil tape you can get it at the hardware store normally with the ducting stuff.
tomward (author)  WingDings6 years ago
Interesting idea - worth a try - might be hard to get the foil to have an uneven, non-wrinkled appearance - perhaps a spray-on silvered paint might be worth a try as well. Not sure what advantage over a white background this would offer - presumably a higher reflectivitiy, and the appearance of silvered areas?
marc926 years ago
Does anyone know of an easy way to cut rectangular holes into plastic enclosures like the ones used here? If so, I'd be glad to hear about it.
i normaly use a cut-off wheel on a dremel but that doesnt work well for small holes. you need to use low speed to avoid melting the plastic.
tomward (author)  marc926 years ago
It isn't the fastest, but using a nibbler you can get nice square edges. First drill and then nibble! Sometimes I use files as well. You can get punch/die sets if you need to get neat results quickly (production runs), but that is much more expensive.
Here is an inexpensive version if you are my side of the Atlantic.
siloraptor6 years ago
Thanks for posting, great info and ideas and the "Extreme Business Cards" one too.
emac6 years ago
cool good job
Hawaii000006 years ago
Wow its rayed 75 seems that everyone wants to make professional looking gadgets.
RATED
heathbar646 years ago
Hey, this is just what I needed for professional looking prototypes and technical jokes. but I don't know what you mean by ohp transparencies. what is it and where do I get it?
tomward (author)  heathbar646 years ago
Overhead projector transparencies - thin sheets of clear material (usually polyester I think), designed to run through photocopiers or laser printers - the sort that teachers used to use to write on and project up on a board, but the ones designed for laser printers/photocopiers can withstand the heat of these machines.
kennyeddy6 years ago
Here's what I do: Print graphics right-side up on full-sheet label paper (like Office Depot 612071 or 612291), then stick full-sheet laminating film (like office Depot 365475) over that. Peel the liner off the paper side and stick to the box. Now you have a nice graphic with a protective plastic film over it. Also, metal electrical junction boxes with a blank cover make nice sturdy boxes, cheap!
An adage about stones and glass houses comes to mind :P Very nicely done Instructable.
gannon6 years ago
Nicely done--thanks for sharing.
thadrien6 years ago
Great ! It is cool to know this because most of gadgets are good but doesn't looks as good as they can be. Thanks !
mrfixitrick6 years ago
Love this instructable! Thanks for the ideas and a laugh or two reading the comments, too!
guyfrom7up6 years ago
aha! I found one typo! In the last paragraph of the 2nd step you said: it just means you can turn the transparency over after printing, and the ink will be on the reverse side of the plastic, and will then stay protected for life and not scratch off. You should have said "you can't turn" Don't feel bad, one of my longer instructables had over 100 errors after I published it, later I went back and fixed a ton of them.
I'm fairly sure he got it right the first time actually, maybe just me though.
It's not just you. He meant can. He prints the image reversed so that when it's printed out he flips the transparency over to apply it. This means that the printed surface is actually on the side that's glued onto the box, which protects it from smudging/smearing/scratching/general damage.
Keith-Kid6 years ago
Lol the new and improved Carmen Electra! That oughtta bring new people
Keith-Kid6 years ago
guyfrom7up is right, very proffesional instructable. God instructable by the way!
you mean good instructable i think :)
tomward (author)  joejoerowley6 years ago
I prefer to think that he was referring to me as a Deity - am I getting too big-headed here?
no my lord, your head is of regular size
Yeah, you are deity based on all of your comments and ratings. Great instructable or should I say god instructable. :)
marc926 years ago
Great Instructable but one question. What is the Carmen Electra device used for?
tomward (author)  marc926 years ago
The text alludes to it in the "Intro" page - basically I did some special effects for a production of "Carmen" - as it was an electrical control box for "Carmen" - I named in "Carmen Electra" (sorry for the bad joke if you know of the actress!). There were strip lights on each step (made of strings of high power LEDs) that were activated in sequence by the switches. The last switch was to control a "pyro" - in this case an explosion/puff of smoke. Also had a hand-held flame thrower which was great fun!
marc92 tomward6 years ago
Cool. Lucky that you get to use pyrotechnics in a school play. :)
tomward (author)  marc926 years ago
Yes, but I must admit that I didn't really ask anyone before hand :) Our health and safety officer got very worried when she saw me asking for a long ladder to change the pyro devices after each performance. She asked me to make sure that no children go up the ladder - I told her that there was no problem - the children would be holding the explosives at the bottom of the ladder.
marc92 tomward6 years ago
Hahaha. My former director was like that. She let me and my crew do what ever I wanted and still managed to produce a damn good show.
Yeah,I was wondering the same thing. It looks like an igniter kind of.IDK. Please fill us in. :) Great instructable btw.
trebuchet036 years ago
Looks great :) Although, I do love making things that look like they just can't work.
Gotta agree with everyone else, this is a great instructable. And when I make my next gadget I'll know to order a box from Rapid. I would order from the US place but Rapid is much better organized, I know what I'm getting there.
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