ruffrecords

Silk Screen Graphics
« on: December 21, 2017, 08:19:40 AM »
Inspired by this thread:

https://groupdiy.com/index.php?topic=67511.msg858017#msg858017

I have decided to have a go making a simple front panel using the aluminium PCB and silk screen technique. I have chosen a small, simple front panel as a first test. It just has a few holes in it, some text and one gain control. The holes and the text have been no problem. I even managed to make a slot using overlapping holes. But where it comes unstuck is on the gain control. I thought I would just put a dozen 30 degree  spaced dots around the control on a 25mm diameter. The program I use for PCB layout can only draw circles/arcs and vertical/horizontal lines plus text and it cannot import artwork. I tried using full stops for dots but as the font is proportional it is a real pain to place them in line with the control's centre line.

Bottom line is I really need to upgrade my PCB layout software. The one I currently use (FreePCB) is uncomplicated, easy to use, runs on Linux (under Wine), creates impeccable Gerber files and is free. I am not averse to paying for a good program provided it has all the features of freePCB with better silk screen graphics capabilities.

Any suggestions?

Cheers

Ian
www.customtubeconsoles.com
https://mark3vtm.blogspot.co.uk/
www.eztubemixer.blogspot.co.uk


'The only people not making mistakes are the people doing nothing'


Re: Silk Screen Graphics
« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2017, 09:35:01 AM »
Any suggestions?

a few:

1. Don't use aluminum PCBs as your front panels.
2. Switch to KiCAD.

JohnRoberts

Re: Silk Screen Graphics
« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2017, 10:50:25 AM »
There are a number of cheap (free) 2D graphics programs.

I haven't used these guys lately but https://www.emachineshop.com/  has free 2D (3D now?) design software that outputs DXF files.

JR
Don't only half-ass tune your drums. Visit https://circularscience.com to hear what properly "cleared" drums sound like.

ruffrecords

Re: Silk Screen Graphics
« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2017, 11:09:49 AM »
a few:

1. Don't use aluminum PCBs as your front panels.

Why?

Cheers

Ian
www.customtubeconsoles.com
https://mark3vtm.blogspot.co.uk/
www.eztubemixer.blogspot.co.uk


'The only people not making mistakes are the people doing nothing'

ruffrecords

Re: Silk Screen Graphics
« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2017, 11:10:43 AM »
There are a number of cheap (free) 2D graphics programs.

I haven't used these guys lately but https://www.emachineshop.com/  has free 2D (3D now?) design software that outputs DXF files.

JR

I have 2D CAD that can output dxf files. I am not sure how that helps me?

Cheers

ian
www.customtubeconsoles.com
https://mark3vtm.blogspot.co.uk/
www.eztubemixer.blogspot.co.uk


'The only people not making mistakes are the people doing nothing'

JohnRoberts

Re: Silk Screen Graphics
« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2017, 01:02:10 PM »
I have 2D CAD that can output dxf files. I am not sure how that helps me?

Cheers

ian
a proper cad program should be more flexible than PCB design software for making faceplate art.

DXF is a common mechanical cad exchange protocol, there are probably others.

JR
Don't only half-ass tune your drums. Visit https://circularscience.com to hear what properly "cleared" drums sound like.

ruffrecords

Re: Silk Screen Graphics
« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2017, 01:20:01 PM »
a proper cad program should be more flexible than PCB design software for making faceplate art.

DXF is a common mechanical cad exchange protocol, there are probably others.

JR

I understand that. Maybe I am just being a bit thick after bending my credit nearly in two with Xmas spending, but I am still not sure how that helps me. Are you saying many PCB CAD programs can import dxf files as the silk screen layer?

Cheers

Ian
www.customtubeconsoles.com
https://mark3vtm.blogspot.co.uk/
www.eztubemixer.blogspot.co.uk


'The only people not making mistakes are the people doing nothing'

pvision

Re: Silk Screen Graphics
« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2017, 05:19:42 PM »
I'd ask the PCB manufacturer what files their customers send them and what software created them. I am sure they will have some advice - assuming the language barrier is not too extreme

Nick Froome

Re: Silk Screen Graphics
« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2017, 05:45:17 AM »
a few:

1. Don't use aluminum PCBs as your front panels.

Why?

Cheers

Ian

Very costly if you're looking to make a full 19" front panel size or a console channel strip size.

No custom color. You're stuck with the solder mask and text colors the PCB manufacturers have in stock.
Some charge you more for purple and black. Some are stingy and apply the solder mask very thinly. Some use a technique in applying the solder mask which sometimes you can see thin vertical lines spread evenly across the PCB.

You need to export AutoCAD DXF files from your vector graphics editor then import them into your PCB design software.
Then, export as Gerber files. Then, submit the Gerber files. Then, wait for an OK review from the manufacturer.
Repeat if you made a mistake. Way too much hassle, imho...

Last reason, I don't know about you, but here locally, I'm competing in a small market with imported products from the big players, and the last thing I want is potential customers staying away or don't even bother to check my products because mine look amateurish.

ruffrecords

Re: Silk Screen Graphics
« Reply #9 on: December 22, 2017, 12:06:39 PM »


Very costly if you're looking to make a full 19" front panel size or a console channel strip size.

No custom color. You're stuck with the solder mask and text colors the PCB manufacturers have in stock.
Some charge you more for purple and black. Some are stingy and apply the solder mask very thinly. Some use a technique in applying the solder mask which sometimes you can see thin vertical lines spread evenly across the PCB.

You need to export AutoCAD DXF files from your vector graphics editor then import them into your PCB design software.
Then, export as Gerber files. Then, submit the Gerber files. Then, wait for an OK review from the manufacturer.
Repeat if you made a mistake. Way too much hassle, imho...

Last reason, I don't know about you, but here locally, I'm competing in a small market with imported products from the big players, and the last thing I want is potential customers staying away or don't even bother to check my products because mine look amateurish.

I don't see the problem with Gerbers. A good Gerber viewer will show you everything.

The last reason is perhaps the most important. I want to provide a very high quality finish but my customers are also cost conscious and front panels are a large part of the cost.. It would be nice to be able to offer an alternative.

Having said all that, I am only considering it right now for prototypes where appearance is secondary to having the right size and shape holes in the right places.

Cheers

Ian

I agree with everything you say. Clearly the technique has its limitations. I would not dream of using in for a full width 19 inch panel.

Unless you pay for painted and silk screened front panels you colours are limited anyway. With engraved anodised aluminium panels the base colours are limited and not particularly attractive. Only black and white infill really have enough contrast.
www.customtubeconsoles.com
https://mark3vtm.blogspot.co.uk/
www.eztubemixer.blogspot.co.uk


'The only people not making mistakes are the people doing nothing'


JohnRoberts

Re: Silk Screen Graphics
« Reply #10 on: December 22, 2017, 05:30:00 PM »
I understand that. Maybe I am just being a bit thick after bending my credit nearly in two with Xmas spending, but I am still not sure how that helps me. Are you saying many PCB CAD programs can import dxf files as the silk screen layer?

Cheers

Ian
I thought you were trying to make artwork for a silkscreen?

I don't know if you can import a dxf image into a PCB design like a gerber layer, maybe? But not sure how that helps.

Last time I made silk screens we used a photographic process using a film negative/positive(?), similar to (KPR?) photographic PCB resist processes.  After a UV cure you can wash out the screen openings.   Different colors require multiple screens and different screen hits, with drying time in between.

We must be pretty close to computer printers that can print one-off faceplates onto film escutcheons. But last ones I ordered has significant tooling set up costs, no doubt done on a big dog (expensive) commercial printer, but that was several years ago and that industry should be changing fast. .

JR



 
Don't only half-ass tune your drums. Visit https://circularscience.com to hear what properly "cleared" drums sound like.

john12ax7

Re: Silk Screen Graphics
« Reply #11 on: December 22, 2017, 06:47:31 PM »
Imo CAD programs, like Autocad, are horrible for creating faceplate graphics. You want a vector based graphics program, Illustrator or similar.

For the other things, most PCB software should be able to import DXF as silkscreen.

Some PCB software options:
KiCad - I didn't like it when I tried it a while ago, but supposed getting a lot better. Free.
Diptrace - This one seems the most professional to me of the lower cost options
Other options -  Altium Designer, Orcad / Cadence, Mentor Graphics PADs. Very expensive, but ask around if you can buy an old license for cheap.

ruffrecords

Re: Silk Screen Graphics
« Reply #12 on: December 22, 2017, 08:00:23 PM »
Some PCB software options:
KiCad - I didn't like it when I tried it a while ago, but supposed getting a lot better. Free.
Diptrace - This one seems the most professional to me of the lower cost options
Other options -  Altium Designer, Orcad / Cadence, Mentor Graphics PADs. Very expensive, but ask around if you can buy an old license for cheap.

What about DesignSpark? Any good?

Cheers

Ian
www.customtubeconsoles.com
https://mark3vtm.blogspot.co.uk/
www.eztubemixer.blogspot.co.uk


'The only people not making mistakes are the people doing nothing'

john12ax7

Re: Silk Screen Graphics
« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2017, 11:16:37 PM »
What about DesignSpark? Any good?

Cheers

Ian

I've never tried that one. Isn't that tied to a fab house or some other restriction?

ruffrecords

Re: Silk Screen Graphics
« Reply #14 on: December 23, 2017, 02:26:51 AM »
I've never tried that one. Isn't that tied to a fab house or some other restriction?
Not that I am aware of.  Design Spark does have a built in fab cost calculator with a partner company but your Gerbers are on your hard drive so you can send them anywhere. I downloaded it last night and watched a couple of tutorials. I was pleased that its user interface is similar to freePCB  (that I use at the moment) but much more capable. Might be the one.

Cheers

Ian
www.customtubeconsoles.com
https://mark3vtm.blogspot.co.uk/
www.eztubemixer.blogspot.co.uk


'The only people not making mistakes are the people doing nothing'

Rob Flinn

Re: Silk Screen Graphics
« Reply #15 on: December 26, 2017, 05:52:55 PM »
I was talking to a print shop n a building I was working recently about printing front panels.   They use UV cured inks that are extremely hard wearing.  For example they had a large 2' by 3' sticker that had photographic & text content that they had stuck on the floor in front of one of their printers.  This had been walked on for months & was still pretty readable.    I noticed that they were printing on some clear acrylic sheets so was asking them whether they could do some 19" panels & I am planning on sending them a panel to print as a trial to see how it works out.     

I have been using Corel to design front panel artwork.  I'm not really great at using these programs but it seemed fairly easy to creat circular scales & text. I also was able to easily import logo's.
regards Rob

Andy Peters

Re: Silk Screen Graphics
« Reply #16 on: December 26, 2017, 09:45:58 PM »
Bottom line is I really need to upgrade my PCB layout software. The one I currently use (FreePCB) is uncomplicated, easy to use, runs on Linux (under Wine), creates impeccable Gerber files and is free. I am not averse to paying for a good program provided it has all the features of freePCB with better silk screen graphics capabilities.

I've done half a dozen boards in Kicad and it's really come a long way in the last couple of years. The push-n-shove router works a treat.

And before someone says, "... but the libraries!" I have to say, "... but every PCB layout software has a library system someone hates."
"On the Internet, nobody can hear you mix a band"

ruffrecords

Re: Silk Screen Graphics
« Reply #17 on: December 27, 2017, 04:23:56 AM »
And before someone says, "... but the libraries!" I have to say, "... but every PCB layout software has a library system someone hates."

This is always the case with any CAD. Apart from the learning curve, your biggest investment in any CAD system will be the creation of your own library parts. No matter how good or bad the editor, the think that takes the time is working out the positions of pins. Easy with ICs but rotary switches , vacuum tube bases and special connectors are a PITA. It is probably the one thing that makes me reluctant to change CAD program because I know just how much work it will be.

Cheers

Ian
www.customtubeconsoles.com
https://mark3vtm.blogspot.co.uk/
www.eztubemixer.blogspot.co.uk


'The only people not making mistakes are the people doing nothing'

ruffrecords

Re: Silk Screen Graphics
« Reply #18 on: December 28, 2017, 08:35:13 AM »
i received the prototype aluminium PCB front panels in the post this morning from allpcb.com. They look pretty good to me. The black solder mask seems to be very even and the print is very clear. They unfortunately made one mistake - they forgot to drill the gain pot hole.

Cheers

Ian
www.customtubeconsoles.com
https://mark3vtm.blogspot.co.uk/
www.eztubemixer.blogspot.co.uk


'The only people not making mistakes are the people doing nothing'

Re: Silk Screen Graphics
« Reply #19 on: December 28, 2017, 09:20:02 AM »
ms to be very even and the print is very clear. They unfortunately made one mistake - they forgot to drill the gain pot hole.

oops !
and as usual, pcb manufacturer put a factory code on the top layer... that you can't hide under an IC  in your case :-\

Is that really cheaper than a proper black anodized AL with white digital print ?

Best
Zam