labelling switch caps, silkscreen?

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totoxraymond

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Hi everyone,

I'm currently building a custom DAW controller based on the MidiBox project.

Everything is coming together nicely recently but there's one big obstacle still in front of me.

I need to label all the switches according to the function I assigned to them. There's about 200 switches so i can't remember all of them all the time (well i might, but it would be better to have nice labels on them anyway).

The switches in question Are Omron B3W-9010 series. They have a 12*12mm cap, which is nice. You can fit a small insert between the switch and the cap,but due to the construction of the switch, this insert would only be 7.4*7.4mm which is much smaller. Besides, those colored caps i choosed are not very transparent and it makes the label quite difficult to read, even for my young eyes.

So i was thinking about putting a label on top of those caps. This way i could use all the real estate i can and the label should be easy to read.

I was thinking the easiest way would be to make some sitckers for that, but maybe the durability would not be so good and i don't want sticky switches.

Then i thought about silkscreening them, but i know nothing about that process. I guess it's quite a learning curve but that's ok, i like the idea of learning a knew technique.

Has anybody here ever done that? I was thinking of buying a starter kit for silkcreen but i'm not sure that i can use any kind of ink. I'm not quite sure which kind of plastic these caps are made of...

And maybe someone has a better idea for printing nice labels on little pieces of plastic? I should say that my handwriting is pretty terrible.:confused:

Thanks!

Thomas
 

TwentyTrees

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Can't suggest anything re screenprinting, but as for other methods - waterslide decals with varnish on top? Not very durable, though. Perhaps with a a clear lens on top? Alternatively, 3D printed custom switch caps?
 
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scott2000

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I was thinking the easiest way would be to make some sitckers for that, but maybe the durability would not be so good and i don't want sticky switches.
I know those little label makers like the Brother p-touch etc... have white on transparent, black on transparent,etc. and some come in laminated which I don't know if that's better..they come in different width tape too..... I do know they usually remove cleanly after a little time but there are also permanent ones.

I've got a pretty old Foote prototype thing that uses these (black on transparent) and it looks like it'll peel off clean...dangit...

I can't rub anything off as far as print but don't feel like proving that theory wrong....

Those label makers are pretty inexpensive?
 

tony hunt

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Two checks:
1. Each switch cap needs a different text, correct?
2. The switch caps are colour coded, so you need to see that under the text / label?

If yes to both then, Brother P Touch suggestion above is the way I would choose.
Get the best machine you can afford. I like the ones that let you set up the label on your computer. That way you have more control over the appearance and less waste.

Brother has heavyduty tapes. I don't remember the codes. Talk to a main dealer, avoid the cheap copies.
Choose the width tape you want and the colour on transparent that you need. .

Possibly Laser-Film could be worth looking into, but I dont know of a laser film process that is transparent.

I learnt screen printing about 30 years ago. For this diy application, screen printing is really not the answer.
 

totoxraymond

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Hi everyone and thank you for your suggestions.


Engrave and infill? Probably the most expensive option but also the most durable.

That could be an option. I have a CNC mill, so i guess it would not be that expensive. I would need to find a way to clamp the caps on the mill though...


Two checks:
1. Each switch cap needs a different text, correct?
2. The switch caps are colour coded, so you need to see that under the text / label?

If yes to both then, Brother P Touch suggestion above is the way I would choose.
Get the best machine you can afford. I like the ones that let you set up the label on your computer. That way you have more control over the appearance and less waste.

Brother has heavyduty tapes. I don't remember the codes. Talk to a main dealer, avoid the cheap copies.
Choose the width tape you want and the colour on transparent that you need. .

Possibly Laser-Film could be worth looking into, but I dont know of a laser film process that is transparent.

I learnt screen printing about 30 years ago. For this diy application, screen printing is really not the answer.

Yes, different labels and 4 colors to be precise. And these are illuminated switches too.

Why do you think screen printing is not the answer? I was thinking i could arrange a square of 100 switches and print them in one go, this way I would only need two screens of 12*12cm

I've looked at the Brother P-touch and it looks like the easy way. But what bothers me is that they seem to be able to print only one line while some of my labels might need two. I need to write thing like "Exp: Send" or "add marker" on some of those switches.

Here's a picture of the caps i need to label.

20210926_132237.jpg

I need to do a bit more research before ordering anything.

Thanks again everyone!

Thomas
 

scott2000

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But what bothers me is that they seem to be able to print only one line while some of my labels might need two
They allow printing of at least 2 afaik.. Of course the text is going to have smaller options...Which is still where you'd want it sometimes anyway...3.5mm ish each character?....can do borders too.... in this pic it is about 8mm from border outside to border outside for example...The text can get pretty big too...

But some kind of etching/engraving is definitely sweeter.. I need to look at an old lighted Gates power switch I have to see how they did it..
 

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scott2000

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I found the old power switch...


Pretty neat. There's a transparent acrylic type insert with the print you slide in to the cap cover.. But I know you need a surface solution... At least it can be done
 

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tony hunt

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Why do you think screen printing is not the answer? I was thinking i could arrange a square of 100 switches and print them in one go, this way I would only need two screens of 12*12cm
I think screen printing is good for long serial runs. The relation between effort and results is, at least for my time, way too high for one-off diy jobs. Plus the durability of the screen print on this plastic is an unkown factor.

Following up on your suggestion - you need to keep the switch caps held stable during the screen printing. Arranging one hundred caps next to each other may work if they are stuck down to sub-base. Or you get a frame lasered out of aluminium sheet to hold them. You will need precise alignment.

My experience was with large art prints and we would get through a lot of paper before getting acceptable results. The paper was held down by vacuum as well as taped. Be prepared for a lot of test runs if you go down the screen printing route.

The p-touch can do two lines, but the height of the text will need to be smaller - but that is the same for any system.
 

abbey road d enfer

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Why do you think screen printing is not the answer? I was thinking i could arrange a square of 100 switches and print them in one go, this way I would only need two screens of 12*12cm
A significant part of the work in silk screening is wedging. Aligning the part(s) to be printed with the stencil is a trial-and-error process. Although the ink can be wiped several times until the right position is found, it tends to deteriorate the printed parts. I don't think it's impossible, but I doubt you can DIY it, because the learning curve requires time and experience.
I would suggest you contact a professional, one that knows this type of work (beware that many professional "silk-screeners" do t-shirts and posters). I believe the best way is finding a metalwork company that does electronic packaging; they usually have good resources, either internal or sub-contracted.
 

Gold

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Since you have a CNC mill that seems like the best option to me. If you pick a standard color switch cap for engraving you could engrave through the cap and let the color of the underlying cap show through the text.
 

totoxraymond

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Hi and thank you all for your answers,

There's really a lot to think about...

May I suggest that you use all transparent (clear) caps and use different colours for the labels?

Well, switches and caps aren't sold separately and I already bought and installed them all, so i'm kind of stuck with these...

A significant part of the work in silk screening is wedging. Aligning the part(s) to be printed with the stencil is a trial-and-error process. Although the ink can be wiped several times until the right position is found, it tends to deteriorate the printed parts. I don't think it's impossible, but I doubt you can DIY it, because the learning curve requires time and experience.
I would suggest you contact a professional, one that knows this type of work (beware that many professional "silk-screeners" do t-shirts and posters). I believe the best way is finding a metalwork company that does electronic packaging; they usually have good resources, either internal or sub-contracted.

I'm prepared for quite a lurning curve, I've been working on this project for several years now. (first PCB layout is maybe 3 years old). I spent the most part of last year re-building my CNC machine (old one had a big design flaw) just to make the front panels. (well the cnc lied unfinished for about 6 month, mostly because days are too short o_O). So I'm not scared about that. Plus, learning is the best thing about DIY.

Since you have a CNC mill that seems like the best option to me. If you pick a standard color switch cap for engraving you could engrave through the cap and let the color of the underlying cap show through the text.

The more i think about it, the more I think engraving + infill woud be the best and most durable finish for this job. maybe also the easiest to learn... I don't have a lot of experience with CNC but i have bits of PMMA left for trials. I'm still not sure about the best way to clamp such a small piece to the wasteboard though...

I think screen printing is good for long serial runs. The relation between effort and results is, at least for my time, way too high for one-off diy jobs. Plus the durability of the screen print on this plastic is an unkown factor.

Yes, I understand that screenprinting can be hard to set up. The reason I first thought about this method is because it can have a good definition and tends to be quite durable. Although as you said, durability will remain uncertain. (until my big fingers wiped all the ink I guess?)


Following up on your suggestion - you need to keep the switch caps held stable during the screen printing. Arranging one hundred caps next to each other may work if they are stuck down to sub-base. Or you get a frame lasered out of aluminium sheet to hold them. You will need precise alignment.

I was thinking of a 3D printed or CNCed jig to hold the switches in place. As I understand it, the horizontal stress wouldn't be too hard and i can be ok with a little misalignement on the labeling. But as you and Abbey said, that's a trial and error thing, practice sure won't be as easy as the theory... but that's the case for about anything. That's what I like about DIY, it's a constant learning process. plenty of frustration sometimes, but really satisfying in the end (as long as you can find an ending point).

They allow printing of at least 2 afaik.. Of course the text is going to have smaller options...Which is still where you'd want it sometimes anyway...3.5mm ish each character?....can do borders too.... in this pic it is about 8mm from border outside to border outside for example...The text can get pretty big too...

But some kind of etching/engraving is definitely sweeter.. I need to look at an old lighted Gates power switch I have to see how they did it..

That might do the job in the end, but I'm quite scared about the stickers edges lifting from the switches. This controller, will be used on a daily basis and although I won't receive any clients in this room, I made so much efforts making it, i'd like this console to look as good as possible for as long as possible.

Right now, I think I'm going to make a few tests with engraving plus infill since I have most of the tools needed. Plus it might the most durable solution.
I won't be able to fire up the CNC this week, but I'll keep you posted as soon as I get some results.

I'm still open for more advices though. ;)

Thanks again everyone for all your advices, really appreciated.

Thomas
 

totoxraymond

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Here are some pics of the controller in its current state, so everyone can have an idea of what I'm trying to achieve.

The small switches are the Omrons B3W i'm talking about, just waiting for their caps.

Bigger ones are e-switch LP6 series, but i think a simple transparent insert will be good enough for these ones.

20210926_215133.jpg
20210926_215210.jpg

The frame is currently made of scrape MDF i had lying around, but will be properly remade with aluminum / steel in the end. It's just a quick mock-up to check that everything fits together. The middle hole will receive a 15" touchscreen running Lemur in the end and the left one will be a 5HE 19" rack.
 

totoxraymond

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Hi everyone!

I was able to run the CNC this morning so I made a few tests on scrape PMMA.

First i ran into troubles while trying to generate a Gcode for engraving small texts.
I usually use FreeCAD to generate Gcode, but i didn't find any compatible Single-Line font for it and couldn't persuade it to follow a line imported from a dxf.
So i tried with CamBam instead and it went just fine.

First, I made 4 tests with the two V-bits I have. One is a 45° and the other a 25°.
I made 2 Gcode chosing 1mm depth and 0.5mm depth. Feedrate was 350mm/min and each pass was 0.4mm deep.

Results are below

First test.jpg

25° @ 0.5mm depth (bottom left) looks pretty good, no problem while engraving.
25° @ 1mm depth (top left) doesn't look bad, but it put a lot of stress on the material , and it wasn't clamped hard enough.
45° @ 0.5 mm depth (bottom right) went fine, but the lines are a bit too thick.
45° @ 1mm depth (top right)... should we talk about that?

Then I made more tests, with the 25° bit @ 0.5 0.4 and 0.3 mm depth. I also lowered the Feedrate to 250mm/min and kept a finishing pass of 0.1mm.

Results were pretty good and I then tried to fill the engraving (didn't took time to take a picture before).

second test.jpg

There's not much of a difference between the three depths so I think i will go with 0.3mm.

Obviously, I used White on black because that was the scrape material I had, but the idea is to use black paint on coloured caps.

Tomorrow i will try to engrave a spare cap to see if it still look as good. Right now, I have some actual work to do. 🙃


Thanks again everyone! I'll keep you updated.

Thomas
 

abbey road d enfer

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Ah OK. I've given up using QCad some time ago at the profit of NanoCad, but I'll see if these fonts can be migrated to NanoCad (I hope they are not coded).
 

totoxraymond

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Unfortunately i think they are. Although i once came across a 3d CAM processor who did got the fonts from Qcad. Can't remember the name of that software though...

Do you use the free version of nanoCAD? Why do you think its better than Qcad? I'm always interested in getting my CAD suite better.
 

abbey road d enfer

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Unfortunately i think they are. Although i once came across a 3d CAM processor who did got the fonts from Qcad. Can't remember the name of that software though...

Do you use the free version of nanoCAD? Why do you think its better than Qcad? I'm always interested in getting my CAD suite better.
Since I started with Autocad (I was an instructor for some time), I have a preference for Nanocad in terms of HI. It's exactly the same, with the same commands, same menus, same shortcuts than my last professional licence of Autocad (2000!). I use the free version.
Now I don't remember exactly what happened but I got seriously pissed off by QCad. Maybe it was something about modifying polylines.
I used QCad for some time, but was relieved when I discovered Nanocad.
All in all, I don't think there's much difference in terms of what's achievable practically.
 
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