How to Make a Great Looking Front Panel in Minutes!

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Introduction: How to Make a Great Looking Front Panel in Minutes!

It's easy to make your project cases look professional. Once you have designed and printed your artwork, it takes only a few minutes to produce. It's also cleanable with anti-covid wipes.

Supplies

You will need your artwork printed or photocopied (or even hand drawn), a laminator and laminating pouch, and a craft knife or scissors.

Step 1: A Short Video

Watch the short video for more detailed instructions

Step 2: Create Artwork

Design the artwork for your panel. Here we designed a front panel for a central heating controller. We used Inkscape as it's popular and free.

Step 3: Cut Out Artwork

Carefully cut out the panel. For our panel we needed a window cut-out for the OLED display. To hide the ragged edges, use a black border and color the edge with a black Sharpie.

Step 4: Laminate

Place the design in a laminator pouch, and send through the laminator.

Step 5: Trim Laminate

With scissors or a paper cutter, trim the laminate border to within 1mm of the artwork. Don't cut too close as the laminate seal will be broken. Try it on the project box, ensuring it will fit.

Step 6: Fix to the Project Box

After cutting the holes in the box, you can re-fit the panel. In this design we used tac switches just beneath the buttons, and a hole in the box large enough to flex and operate the switch. You may decide on touch switches. Either way try not to make openings in the laminate, and this will prevent it being waterproof and wipable.

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    28 Comments

    0
    mc.logan.costello
    mc.logan.costello

    8 hours ago

    Sehr schöne Arbeit. Es kann so einfach sein *gg

    0
    RomasP
    RomasP

    5 days ago

    Some years ago I worked in one small company, we produces small quantities (up to 100) of some equipment. So we produced similar panel stickers. Only we used printable sticker paper instead or standard office paper. After lamination and cut-off label was peeled of from the basis paper and you have thin adhesive sticker with protective layer from outside. In such way we produced stickers for everything. Only there was some problem if you need transparent window like in this case. For the window you need to cut out it in printed sticker and put 2 pieces of something exact size, like one piece of the same laminate correct side up and paper. Or if you are skilled enough you can just laminate label without additional thing in window placed and cut out window only from lower side (one layer of laminate). Later I found some friend in local design shop and ordered all production stickers printed on vinyl, even in small quantities. Price was really great, only time needed for this was 1-2 weeks.

    0
    Nickduino
    Nickduino

    Reply 5 days ago

    So, you were laminating only the top side?

    0
    RomasP
    RomasP

    Reply 5 days ago

    In fact laminating both sides and later separating top from bottom. So there we had sticky top side with one layer of laminate and waste bottom side with second part of laminate. Due to fact you need to cut out label by the edges, there is no problem to separate sticky top from bottom. We used something like that https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sheets-Quality-Adhesive-Sticky-Printing/dp/B01MY6JMGI

    0
    Nickduino
    Nickduino

    Reply 3 days ago

    Smart!

    0
    Richard Langner
    Richard Langner

    Reply 5 days ago

    The laminating pouch protects both sides of the artwork.

    0
    Nickduino
    Nickduino

    Reply 5 days ago

    I was wondering about what RomasP did since he mentions using labels rather than paper

    0
    Richard Langner
    Richard Langner

    Reply 5 days ago

    There are many ways to make a front panel. Some are waaay better than mine!
    But this is quick and easy, and cheap! A friend made the central heating controller and I don't think it achieved the required 'spousal approval factor' so I decided to help. Hence this video.

    0
    edabney
    edabney

    Reply 4 days ago

    It appears that Canon has discontinued their Back Print Backlit Film.
    If you have an alternative please leave a note as it looked cool.

    0
    phase90
    phase90

    3 days ago

    Another option that I like to use is the self-adhesive laminating sheets, such as the Avery 73601. I also use the polyester label stock (Avery 6575) since it has the adhesive backing, is waterproof, and doesn't tear easily.
    Either way still looks good.

    0
    Gusgonnet
    Gusgonnet

    4 days ago

    very nice tip, thank you!

    0
    Andy Beck
    Andy Beck

    4 days ago

    Nice Project! I do something similar, however, I use Clear Adhesive Vinyl to cover the front and Double Sided Sticky Adhesive on the back.

    0
    AE7HD
    AE7HD

    Tip 5 days ago

    Nicely done. I use Canon Backprint Film, it is a pure white inkjet receptive film. You print mirror image on the back. It is meant to be used in backlit signs. I would apply laminate just to the back. Then you can trim as you like without worrying about breaking the laminate seal.

    It doesn't work so well for windows, as then you need to laminate front and back. Or just cut the window through the film and laminate, and use a bezel and window. Which is what I normally did.

    0
    cageycruz
    cageycruz

    5 days ago

    I have done a similar process without a laminator. Instead print onto clear transparency film made for ink jet or laser printers. Set the print software to print the image mirrored left to right. Then spray adhesive ( I used 3M 77) on the panel and press the transparency film onto it ink side down. That protects the delicate ink from fingerprints and dirt and makes the panel image come out not mirrored.

    0
    ChiefInstructor
    ChiefInstructor

    5 days ago

    Excellent and simple approach. Thanks for the Inks cape advice.

    0
    HGC
    HGC

    5 days ago on Step 6

    That’s a great looking box, did you 3D print it and if so what material.

    0
    Richard Langner
    Richard Langner

    Reply 5 days ago

    There are many ways to make a front panel. Some are waaay better than
    mine!

    But this is quick and easy, and cheap! A friend made the
    central heating controller and I don't think it achieved the required
    ‘spousal approval factor’ so I decided to help, hence this video.

    0
    Nickduino
    Nickduino

    Reply 5 days ago

    Looks injection-molded.
    You can see the window was hand cut...

    0
    Nickduino
    Nickduino

    5 days ago

    Simple yet ingenious