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Lazertran on aluminum panels
MUFF WIGGLER Forum Index -> Music Tech DIY Goto page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5  Next [all]
Author Lazertran on aluminum panels
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
Here's a picture of a panel I made lastnight. This is a 1U x 5U panel made of 0.1" 6061 Al sheet. I printed the label from Front Panel Designer onto Lazertran backwards using an HP 2100M Laserjet printer (the ol' beige cube) running the "Universal Printer" driver from HP (a free download) which allows one to print mirror images. First I printed it on a piece of plain paper. Then I cut a piece of Lazertran to size, leaving about 1/8" extra over each border. I taped this piece onto the sheet of paper over the original image and ran it back through the printer. After I printed the Lazertran, I hit it with a heat gun for a few seconds to fuse the toner, although I doubt this was really necessary. Then I soaked the Lazertran in water to loosen the decal.

I peeled the protective sticker off of a precut aluminum blank (I get these cut to order from the Metal Supermarket) and applied the decal directly to the Al surface, printed side down (and gum side up), with no pretreatments. Once I got it lined up, I squeegeed it smooth with a soft silicone kitchen spatula to remove any air bubbles and water droplets from underneath. Then I ran the panel under cold water and rubbed it with my fingertips to remove the gumming. Finally, I put it on a cookie sheet and popped it in the oven at 170F. After one hour at that temperature, I started increasing the temperature of the oven, by 25F every 20 minutes, until I got to 400F. Hence, the whole procedure took about 3 hours, but for most of that time I was doing something else. After 20 minutes at 400F, I turned off the oven and let the panel cool. The whole procedure was dead easy to do. This morning, I drilled the holes, and there were no issues there either.

After baking, the Lazertran film becomes a hard plastic coating on the aluminum. The excess film at the edges wraps around the sides of the panel, which is pretty cool. The surface is very tough -- you'd have to cut it with a razor blade or something to damage the printing underneath. After futzing around with DecalPro dry transfer decals (which are hit and miss in transfer quality, a pain in the ass to make, and not durable at all without varnish), this is like a godsend. For the first time since I started synth DIY, I'm actually looking forward to making panels! If you, like me, have been hesitant to try this technique, then let me reassure you that it is painless and the results are fantastic.

A few words about the panel itself: Obviously, my panel style is somewhat minimalist. It was inspired by Thomas White, who graciously shared all of his FPD files with me about a year ago. This panel is for a preamp/envelope follower which is essentially a clone of the Doepfer A119. The corner mounting holes are 5/32", the pot and LED holes are 5/16", and the jack holes are 3/8". There are no toggle switch holes here, but if there were, they would be 1/4". If you look closely, you can see that a couple of the holes are a tiny bit off centre. This is because I was a little off with my centre punch.

Tonight I'm going to try labelling a couple of bigger panels which I've already drilled (one is 3U and one is 4U), and which currently have paper labels stuck on. I'm going to cut little crosses in each hole after I print the Lazertran, in the hopes that the flaps of film will coat the inner surface of each hole. I'll let y'all know how it turns out tomorrow. I'll also post a picture of this module when I've got it all finished. Stay tuned!
GeneralBigBag
Your oven goes up to 400 C ?!
You'd better be making pizzas with it too nanners

Seriously though, that panel looks really good.
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
Holy shit! I meant F!!! (I've been in Canada too long.)
I've edited the post.
Luka
great stuff it is

i also use it


Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
Your panels look awesome! I'm not much of an artist when it comes to panels -- I tend to prefer a purely utilitarian approach. I find that once I've used a module a few times, I never really look at the panel again anyway. It's just annoying when the words get scratched off.

(By the way, "FLUCTUATED" has an A.)
itijik
Good job! thumbs up

Luka - your panels are always hot stuff! love
Luka
FLUCTUTED = new speak hihi

i think im up to about 15 spelling mistakes waah
the worst being "Jurgen Hiable Living VCO" in big title print on my 2nd largest panel. I felt proud posting that in the JH section of e-m once i had finished the module d'oh!
Moog$FooL$
hey Dr.

looks like u may have this finally sorted!!! thumbs up
looks good.

but.... i still think u should paint them some sorta color first.

or..... does the Lasertran not like going on to paint?? (hides)
Luka
Actually i think if i ever finish my synth i might get my panels all laser etched / detailed. Some of the lasertran edges on my faceplates are lifting around the area where i hold the module when wiring it up. Not much but it is noticable when all together.

I also seem to mangle most of my panels when i am deburring the drill holes. all the aluminium bits and pieces tend to scratch and make a mess of my clean finish.

lasertran is still amazing
it is about $5 per a4 sheet here but still so cheap
costs about $10-$15 to get a panel made
Bricks
Gorgeous! Really nice work.

How is metal supermarket's accuracy?

I've been using Onlinemetals, and they're not always perfect... which is a pain.. because the whole reason I go to a mail order metal shop is that I can't cut metal easily on my own.
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
Bricks wrote:
How is metal supermarket's accuracy?

Well, I actually stand there and watch them do it in the shop, so it's about as accurate as I want. They have an enormous digital guillotine which can be programmed to cut to the nearest 1/1000". Plus, if they screw it up, I don't have to take it.
Having said that, it's important to ease off on the nominal dimensions just a little bit. Hence, 5U = 8.75" but should actually be about 8.735". I've made that mistake in the past, and my earlier panels are all just a tiny bit too big.
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
Luka wrote:
FLUCTUTED = new speak hihi

i think im up to about 15 spelling mistakes waah
the worst being "Jurgen Hiable Living VCO" in big title print on my 2nd largest panel. I felt proud posting that in the JH section of e-m once i had finished the module d'oh!

Ah well, we can't sweat the small stuff. As long as the module works, that's the important thing.
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
Luka wrote:
Actually i think if i ever finish my synth i might get my panels all laser etched / detailed. Some of the lasertran edges on my faceplates are lifting around the area where i hold the module when wiring it up. Not much but it is noticable when all together.

Are you leaving some extra at the edges so that it wraps around when you bake it?
Luka wrote:
I also seem to mangle most of my panels when i am deburring the drill holes. all the aluminium bits and pieces tend to scratch and make a mess of my clean finish.

Yes, you have to be careful. Make sure to set your drill press to the lowest speed when drilling panels. Also, if you lift the bit out of the hole frequently, the little chips and ribbons will come disattached and fly away. I managed to limit the damage to little circular scratches right hear the hole which will be covered up by washers, but I drilled very carefully. Alternatively, you could pre-drill your panels. I'm going to try that tonight, as I have a couple of pre-drilled panels to label. I'll let you know how I get on with that.
Luka wrote:
lasertran is still amazing
it is about $5 per a4 sheet here but still so cheap
costs about $10-$15 to get a panel made

I paid $3.50 per sheet at my local professional art supply store. I can get a 4U panel out of one sheet. Also, I pay about $1 per U for the aluminum at Metal Supermarket. Hence, I can make panels for about $2/U.
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
Moog$FooL$ wrote:
does the Lasertran not like going on to paint?? (hides)

Lazertran goes onto paint just fine. However, some paints bubble and squeak when you put them into the oven. Baking is the tricky part with painted panels.
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
Looking at the picture of my panel just now, I realize that it could have used some lines to connect the two output jacks and the gate and envelope jacks and LEDs. Perhaps my panel is just a wee bit too minimalist. Oh well.
Moog$FooL$
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch wrote:
Moog$FooL$ wrote:
does the Lasertran not like going on to paint?? (hides)

Lazertran goes onto paint just fine. However, some paints bubble and squeak when you put them into the oven. Baking is the tricky part with painted panels.



yeah i was thinkin' that after i wrote it...... still there's paint that can handle high temp.'s
Moog$FooL$
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch wrote:
Looking at the picture of my panel just now, I realize that it could have used some lines to connect the two output jacks and the gate and envelope jacks and LEDs. Perhaps my panel is just a wee bit too minimalist. Oh well.


oh well..... maybe do that on future builds.
like the one you'll do for me someday!! ha!

razz

oops, i forgot i still owe yeah for those others. waah
Luka
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch wrote:

Are you leaving some extra at the edges so that it wraps around when you bake it?


In most cases, but i must admit im not one for repeatable precision in such things

Dr. Sketch-n-Etch wrote:

Yes, you have to be careful. Make sure to set your drill press to the lowest speed when drilling panels. Also, if you lift the bit out of the hole frequently, the little chips and ribbons will come disattached and fly away. I managed to limit the damage to little circular scratches right hear the hole which will be covered up by washers, but I drilled very carefully. Alternatively, you could pre-drill your panels. I'm going to try that tonight, as I have a couple of pre-drilled panels to label. I'll let you know how I get on with that.


most my panels have 1000 holes so my short attention span can only handle so much. drill as quick as possible. then deburr and hope damage is minimal smile

Dr. Sketch-n-Etch wrote:


I paid $3.50 per sheet at my local professional art supply store. I can get a 4U panel out of one sheet. Also, I pay about $1 per U for the aluminum at Metal Supermarket. Hence, I can make panels for about $2/U.


nice i wish there was more of a market for it here. only one art shop stocks it in melbourne. it is the most awesome art shop though. i turn into a giddy kid at a toy shop love
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
Luka wrote:
In most cases, but i must admit im not one for repeatable precision in such things

It's a hassle, but I think it might be worth it in this case.

Luka wrote:
most my panels have 1000 holes so my short attention span can only handle so much. drill as quick as possible. then deburr and hope damage is minimal smile

If your drill press is set to the minimum speed, and your drill bits are sharp, and you use a piece of wood underneath, then you shouldn't have to deburr. The hole should drill clean. This is definitely one case where slow and steady wins the race.

Luka wrote:
nice i wish there was more of a market for it here. only one art shop stocks it in melbourne. it is the most awesome art shop though. i turn into a giddy kid at a toy shop love

Only one artshop stocks it here as well: Opus Framing and Art Supplies on Granville Island. It's a lovely shop, but it's a real hassle to get to unless you're lucky enough to be a student at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (now Emily Carr University), which is right across the street. Granville Island is a lovely place, though, and it was a perfect day when I went there...
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
As promised, here's a picture of the finished module. I tested it, and it works perfectly. Now my modular synth is also a guitar synth! w00t
BTW, does anybody else here use 0.1" MTA connectors to hook up to panel LEDs? It sure beats the hell out of trying to solder wires to the leads, put on heat shrink, etc.
Luka
lovely
Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
Does anybody know where my original post (the one that started this thread) went to? It seems to have disappeared!

Nevermind. It showed up when this thread went to two pages. There must be a bug in the forum software, since the post dropped off the end, but there was only one page. Now that I've added this post, a second page has been created and the original post has showed up again. Weird! woah
fonik
years ago i tried lazertran and i washed away the substrate according to instructions for lazertran as a etching resist. the result was frustrating, since the isoprop partly washed away the toner, too.

i just did not like the substrate covering the panel...

david. your success forces me to try it again. your panel looks awesome even with the substrate!
i believe i used the wrong copy machine? however, we have new machines ehre in the office. time to try them out...
the bad producer
Great work Dr Sketch-n-Etch, I too found lazertran most excellent.

Fonik - I soak the panel in a bath of IPA as soon as it is out of the oven, with a bit of tissue pressed to the front, it removes most of the substrate without having to rub, having said that on occasion that I have rubbed it away, it has not affected the toner, maybe that is something to do with the printer?

I've used HP Laserjet 3800, 3505, 2605 and 2430 and they all work.

I drill all the holes first, I tape a paper template to the front and punch the centres, then drill, then brush finish the panel, this removes the chance of any drill burrs scratching the panel. The lazertran just melts through the holes.

Having said that, I've started using paper on my panels now, as they have such a nice texture and feel to them, and also different colours...

I tried using lazertran to do coloured panels with silver text (the raw aluminium) but over large areas the results were not so hot! lots of bubbles!

Charlie

PS Lazertran:



Paper:

Dr. Sketch-n-Etch
fonik wrote:
years ago i tried lazertran and i washed away the substrate according to instructions for lazertran as a etching resist. the result was frustrating, since the isoprop partly washed away the toner, too.

As I mentioned on the parallel discussion over at SDIY, I don't understand how the IPA got to the toner underneath the substrate. hmmm..... In any case, PnP blue transfer paper is cheaper than Lazertran, and probably works better as a resist.

fonik wrote:
i just did not like the substrate covering the panel...

That, for me, is the main selling point. I was using the DecalProFX dry transfer decal system, which basically deposits just the toner (with a very thin black image-enhancing metallic film) onto the aluminum. When this works properly, it looks nice, but it is very tricky to do, easy to fuck up, and the end result is not durable at all -- the toner will scratch right off unless you put varnish over it. Hence, I gave up on this technique (after investing a considerable amount on the laminator, the fibreglass substrate boards, and the various supplies) and didn't make a panel for several months. With Lazertran, the substrate is like varnish, but I think its better, because it is a hard plastic coating, and it eliminates a step. It is a little bit shiny (which I kinda like myself) but this shine can be buffed out with some very fine steel wool. I can tell you, with this new panel and my old DecalPro panels side by side, that this new panel looks far superior.

fonik wrote:
david. your success forces me to try it again. your panel looks awesome even with the substrate!

Thanks!

fonik wrote:
i believe i used the wrong copy machine? however, we have new machines ehre in the office. time to try them out...

Old laserjets are best, if you can find one.
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