Make Your Own Front Panels

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Intro: Make Your Own Front Panels

When you have invested lots of time developing and prototyping your electronic DIY project and when it's finally time to mount it into a box, you realize that you need a front panel to make it look more professional.

In this instructable I will show you how to do it and to almost no cost.

Step 1: ​This Is What You Need.

  • Steel ruler
  • Leather Punch
  • Sharp Paper Knife
  • Glossy Thick paper for laser printers
  • Clear Lacquer spray
  • sheet of double sided mounting film, Mounting film
  • Transparent pvc for display window if needed. Min0.24mm thick
  • Drawing software for your computer
  • Printer, Color Laser or similar

Let's start making panels.

Step 2: Draw the Panel

When your are finish with your project and the PCB is screwed into place and all the test is done then is time to start drawing your front panel.

Start by carefully do all measurements for the buttons etc.

Draw the panel in any drawing software that you like. I use SmartDraw, you find it here. smartdraw

Begin with the outline frame of your panel.

Place simple cross for the cutouts, print on standard plain paper and again measure to see that you have the right dimension.

Step 3: Add Text and Color

If you got all the measurements right, go on and add text, button labels and color to your panel.

When happy with the result ,print on 200g/m2 glossy plain paper.

Cut out the waste but save a border around the panel.

Remove the protecting sheet from one side of the plastic film and paste the panel carefully onto it, make sure there is no air bubbles in between.

Step 4: Making the Holes

Use the paper knife and the steel ruler to resize the panel, follow the Outline border carefully.

Continue with the display window,(if any).

Use a leather punch to cut the round holes for the buttons, select a size slightly bigger then the button itself.

Place the panel onto the box to make sure it fits as expected.

Step 5: Protect Your Panel

Protect the panel with at least 2 layer of transparent spray lacquer.

When waiting for the panel to dry cut out the display window if needed.

Make sure to do the window slightly bigger than the cut out in the panel.

Step 6: Paste Your Panel to the Box.

Place the display window on to the display in the right place.

Remove the protective sheet from the panel and carefully place it in the right position on to the box.

Add pressure to make it stick to the surface.

That's it, you are done.

Step 7: Done

If succeed you will have a nice looking panel added to your project.

I use this technique to many of my electronic projects to make them look more professional.

I hope you will find this instructable useful for you.

All the best.

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    15 Discussions

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    AlistairW7

    7 months ago

    great idea thanks for sharing

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    crank2

    7 months ago

    Another method is to backprint on clear or matte lexan film and then spray paint a background color. The image is thus protected and really professional. Corel Draw allows mirror imaging so the image comes out correct when printed on the back of the film. I use this regularly with a laser printer.

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    RumpelScrank2

    Reply 7 months ago

    Good idea. Publish an instructable!

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    gm280

    8 months ago

    Nice project and idea. I do something similar to that using CorelDraw and make whatever I like. Then I LASER engrave that panel layout and attach to the project box. There is no limit to what you can do and how professional they can look as well. Thumbs Up!

    6 replies
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    JohnW51gm280

    Reply 8 months ago

    Are laser engravers expensive? What kind do you have?

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    gm280JohnW51

    Reply 8 months ago

    John, we do have a large commercial LASER Engraver. And they are pretty expensive. However, the also make smaller desktop version LASER Engravers that would work perfectly for Electronic panel projects. Ours is a lager bed setup. But desktop versions will make pretty nice size panels as well. Here is a recently power supply panel I made. Nothing special, just a nice clean look.

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    TechnicalKidgm280

    Reply 7 months ago

    does the panel get black when a beam of laser hits it or do you have to fill the engraving with color?

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    gm280TechnicalKid

    Reply 7 months ago

    See if I can explain this better. All a LASER engrave does is burns off what you don't want. In other words the black, in this case, lettering and shapes are just beneath the face color. You buy the LASERable material in whatever color you wish and even select what lettering and shape colors show through. I used this brushed aluminum metal looking face material with a black background. And the LASER burns off the face brushed aluminum metal looking material so you can see the engraved black. You can buy just about an unlimited assortment of panels and background colors. Your imagination is basically your limit. Do a quick search on LASERable material and have a look. And there are tons of places that sell that material. If you want neon green with purple letters and graphic, buy it. Hope that helps a little. If you have any more question, please let me know. I don't mine answering if I can.

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    gizmologist

    7 months ago

    Clear self-stick laminating film over the panel will protect it from wear much better than spray lacquer.

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    ve6cmm

    7 months ago

    I do something very similar. I once had a very nice 1930's radio in for restoration with a broken glass scale. There was no way that I could get another, and the glass was all there so I taped it on the back and made it as good as I could, scanned the front with my color printer, and then photo shopped the cracks out. I then had it printed on photo quality paper, and used the spray for protection. Instead of the scale mounting in front of the pointer, it had to sit behind. When it was all put back together, it looked fantastic.

    Also, the spray protection works very well on chassis after they have all bee cleaned up. It will stop them from oxidizing.

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    Alex in NZ

    7 months ago

    Thanks for showing. There are some nice techniques used here :-)

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    misterxp

    8 months ago

    Hi TomasC62; nice idea thanks! I use tubes from old aerials to make holes, you can use a fine round file to keep them sharp and you have a variety of sizes. For thick card I use brass tubes and tap the other end with a small plastic hammer. However,I like you neat way to design, print and protect them.

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    AlyssonR2

    8 months ago

    I do something similar.

    For a much more durable panel, sheet of perspex (suitably drilled) will give a near indestructible panel.

    I also laminate my printed panels when I want a membrane keyboard.