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vinyl labels for front panel use?
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Author vinyl labels for front panel use?
analog604
Hey guys,

Does anyone have experience and/or suggestions with printing to vinyl for front panels?
I don't want to go about the lamination method and not willing to pay for expensive engraving for 40 5U modules. Don't get me wrong I have preferred to go with engraving for my gear panels for 8 years now... it is just that the individual 1 and 2U module thing is cost prohibitive for text marking alone.

So I'm researching thermal transfer printers typically used in industrial applications. "Thermal transfer printing requires the use of a carbon based ribbon which is chemically transferred onto a label’s substrate when heat is applied, hence the name "thermal transfer.""

These printers are supposed to produce crisp long lasting vinyl or foil labels, up to 4" wide DPI is 200 to 300.

I've looked at these small desktop printers so far:
Precision 343P Desktop Thermal Transfer Printer $750.00
- most features than others in similar class: USB+LAN, SD card, 300DPI, TSPL2 command set other command languages can be flashed into printer including SPL II, TPLE, PLD and TPLZ (I have no idea what these are yet!)

MiniMark Industrial Label Printer $1195.00
- Not clear that there are any advantages to this one and worse, it seems to use a proprietary but documented printing language .

Duralabel Pro $1500.00
- standard label printing language, recognized brand but supplies are 3 times as much as Precision, less DPI, too costly overall.

None of the supplies are cheap, but even inkjet supplies these days are ridiculously expensive. One roll of vinyl tape would be enough to complete the entire multi-panel project if I go with only one color (which I won't!).

I'm still in the process of researching if the printer command languages for these will be able to produce accurate markings.
The idea being export the basics from FrontPanel Designer templates used to manufacture the panels in the first place.
If not then it won't be a big deal to work up something new in other software.

Comments appreciated!
thanks
-Jay
[edit: updated thread title, last paragraph about software]
hexinverter
Interesting!!!

I do not have much to contribute to this matter, as I use either lamination or home etching methods to make my panels, but, I am interested in seeing how this turns out if you do go forward with the vinyl stuff!

I've subscribed to this thread smile applause
osterchrisi
Mhm, I'm not 100% sure about the materials being the same but with my old band in Austria we once made a 300 edition silkscreened vinyl which we did ourselves. There are special plastic colors (lacks?) that stick well to vinyl and don't go off when you bend the vinyl. I didn't find the pic on my computer but here's one from the interwebz:



The blue zone in the middle is where the white label was... The rest of it is still white until today.

//edit:
PS: I have literally no idea about those printers BUT I assume if you don't spend serious dollars on that you will become very unhappy in the end. Just an experience of my life.
JRock
I don't know abou that stuff specifically,
but my neighbor is a signmaker. I had him print out vinyl decals for a large-ish Frontpanel once.



It looked very nice, and for what you want to do it should work. The only problem was the edges peeled and the pots spun if you crank too hard on them.
analog604
Interesting osterchrisi, thanks for that!

From additional research it seems like the $800 "343P" printer mentioned above is most likely a re-branded version of a TSC TTP-245 or TTP-345 printer... same plastic shell, tech specs, bundled "BarTender" software... but $300 - $600

Anyhow the serious dollars part is why I continue to research the topic.
An $800 printer for one task seems like too much, and the more expensive $1500 one.. well I could get everything engraved for that.

I could see it being used for promo, logos and labels... as you had shown. Gotta have it be a multi-purpose thing! other than a paper weight of course! : )


-J
analog604
JRock, that design is sweet..

if I go with one of these then research on the vinyl adhesive properties is the next step. guess i could seal the edges in some way.

JRock wrote:
I don't know abou that stuff specifically,
but my neighbor is a signmaker. I had him print out vinyl decals for a large-ish Frontpanel once.

It looked very nice, and for what you want to do it should work. The only problem was the edges peeled and the pots spun if you crank too hard on them.
Altitude909
I dont know about the industrial label printers, the low resolution isnt acceptable imho. I have had vinyl + lexan labels made on a Roland printer which laminates/bonds/and die cuts labels in one shot but that machine was $15K and the results were outstanding. Places like Maverick label provide service like that but it only makes reasonable sense in higher volumes.

On the DIY side there are some usable options thoug, I use the inkjet printable vinyl pretty regularly. It sticks like crazy and is pretty soft. The other thing about it is that it comes out SUPER matte so you really need some sort of clear coat for it. But at abut a buck a sheet and the fact you can do it at home at hi resolution (200 dpi is pretty weak IMHO) makes it atractive for sure. You can print it black also with good results

You can see how flat it is here (unfinished)


and after finishing (semi gloss clear coat)

analog604
Thanks Altitude909.

Yeah I think I'll be skipping out on the $15k printer! I've researched Maverik label, found some x0xb0x boxes that used the service. For a group order, each piece was about $35.00 a few years ago. They are about as expensive as a fancy 1U x 5U FPE engraving for single design per panel purposes, but seem to be rugged and very nice.

For your photos:
I see that the box on the bottom is a MB-6582 MIDIbox SID, but what is the top photo?

Any particular clear coat work better for you?

cheers~
Jay
Altitude909
WTPA 8 bit sampler.

Personally, I have yet to find a reasonable label solution for one offs beyond the DIY route above. It may work well for modules since the hardest part of working with it is cutting curves and with square modules, thats not an issue. This is what I am talking about: http://www.papilio.com/inkjet%20waterproof%20adhesive%20film%20media.h tml

These days, I just eat it and get the FPE engraving done. If you spend some time with HPGL engravings, you can pretty much do anything and even the relative high price is better than any other alternatives that I've found for the results
daverj
I've used the Papilio laser vinyl on commercial products that I've sold, and was happy with the results. I sanded the surface with fine sandpaper to dull it a bit (not enough so you can see scratches) to give the adhesive something to grab onto.

Be aware that vinyl can shrink, so don't stretch it while applying it. Also the corners and edges are the weak spots and with rubbing over time they can start to lift. The products I used them on had slight recessed areas which protect the edges from being touched. And modules next to each other will somewhat protect each other so it's probably not an issue with module face plates.

I also use a rubber roller to apply pressure to the adhesive when applying it.
analog604
All good, thank you for the input Dave.

A recessed area is yet another professional touch that I hadn't thought of and for this run it's too late because I've had all the panels anodized, cut and drilled.

Has any particular type of roller work best for you?
daverj
I picked up a small rubber roller at an art supply house. It's maybe 1-1/2" wide and 1" in diameter, with a small wooden handle. Not sure what it was sold for. But it lets my apply a decent amount of pressure with no worry of scratching or denting the material.
Luka
thanks for tip on papilio paper dave

im going to check it out now
analog604
Findings so far:

Several safety + industrial labeling companies seem to use the TSC printer mechanism and simply re-brand them. Most of them are 200DPI in the less than $400 price range. 300DPI for me is minimum.

For supplies, I'm reading that the Duralabel printers use RFID tagged supplies and won't print without recognizing it. Those supplies are expensive. So that one is crossed off the list for me.

Target print media includes vinyl, aluminum (special top coating), polyester, polypropylene (I wonder if I can print capacitors with that? perhaps this is the desert island DiY printer?? only joking!). :)

Various adhesives backings available, silicone, acrylic (all of these not being as good as old fashioned metal rivet!)

Print tapes are available in wax, resins (chemical resistant), polyimide (low -40 def F to the medium temp of 350 deg F target environment), Wax being the less preferred to withstand patching forces or cryogenic temperatures!

Not that I'm considering it but found the following interesting for the toughness factor. Printable and photo etched aluminum labels (likely far out of the reasonable price range):
http://imageteklabels.com/labels-by-material/aluminum/

the search continues..
cheers~
-Jay
diablojoy
looked at vinyl , laminating papers , etching , laser tran and jet tran and even dry transfer papers
all have been either expensive to set up or given unreliable results or both
now looking into doing transfers using artist's gel medium .
this is basically like doing your own semi wet transfer
first trial was reasonably promising though far from satisfactory.
white painted ally panel , standard paper laser print - mirrored
$13 jar of gel medium $15 artists brayer [small hard rubber roller]
PVA glue as a top coat to protect the printing and give a nice semi textured satin finish , applied with one of those cheap foam rollers.
OK some of the printing did not transfer perfectly and i did rub the paper off a little too vigorously in spots , i think that is down to practice , lining up was challenging and wasnt spot on working blind .
Will try another one this time colour bubble jet print on to a clear binding cover , should sort the lining up at least and hopefully no rubbing off of wetted paper
I think i can perfect some sort of technique here but its going to take
some trial and error.
Luka
what is your beef with lasertran?

my only issue is it is hard to do large sizes - I have an A3 laser printer which means i can do 7U sequencer panels but only just

too small for large devices and i guess i can only do black and my laser printer is b/w

what vinyl have you tried? are you talking vinyl labels which you print on or sign shops? if so where in melbourne?
diablojoy
Quote:
what is your beef with lasertran?

$5 a sheet and as you say size, i have some large panels. joins mid panel dont look good.
I only looked at buying a printer for doing vinyl myself but the price of the printer i would have required put me off. dont get me wrong vinyl looks great i just cant afford it . there are signage places all over melbourne that could print off custom adhesive vinyl , any place that does vehicle advertising could do it , i have not checked those places for pricing as its not DIY
Luka
you could build yourself a diy vinyl printer hihi

im about to do the leg work and find a shop who will print vinyl stickers for cheap. ill report my findings.
diablojoy
Quote:
you could build yourself a diy vinyl printer

haha i actually pulled apart an old printer and rebuilt it to print directly
onto panels, never did get it to feed reliably it was almost there but...
oh well i laughed quite a bit over the results anyway.
good luck with the search !

oh mission fail using clear binder cover the print from a bubblejet just wouldnt dry. uh should have known , so trying a transparency film today
which is printable. hmm wonder what they coat it with to make the printing dry ? seems to be the only thing different.
maybe i could try coating the clear binder with gel medium first, letting that dry and then print onto that surface. should make the transfer easy anyway but maybe kill my printer? hmm i guess i will test that out too.
analog604
Heya

Diablojoy and Luka, thanks for the info! The vehicle advert printers did not occur to me until you had mentioned it.

Diablojoy:
You had modified a printer for direct to panel work? You, Sir, have a serious dedication to 'The DiY creed' !
I've watched a few videos that use modified mechs for direct to cotton printing.

[edit: removed slightly off-topic and unsafe fire stenciling video] :)
diablojoy
Quote:
You had modified a printer for direct to panel work?

Yeah well it almost worked haha
been watching print dreams A4 printer for several years now
dont think they will ever release it now though, pity it looked promising
smokestacksproductions
Luka wrote:
you could build yourself a diy vinyl printer hihi

im about to do the leg work and find a shop who will print vinyl stickers for cheap. ill report my findings.



I am based in the US and I have a Roland VS-540 in the shop where I work. It prints, laminates, and die-cuts vinyl. Let me know if I can help!
analog604
smokestacksproductions: cool! I read some info and watched videos of the Roland printer in action printing and forming vinyl in odd shapes for tee-shirt transfer work. Seems like a great professional level machine. Somewhere online I noticed that they could be rented for about $400USD/month.

Diablojoy: I'd like to see that.. if you have a few photos of the printer mod for direct panel printing please share. :)

cheers~
Jay
Luka
smokestacksproductions wrote:
Luka wrote:
you could build yourself a diy vinyl printer hihi

im about to do the leg work and find a shop who will print vinyl stickers for cheap. ill report my findings.



I am based in the US and I have a Roland VS-540 in the shop where I work. It prints, laminates, and die-cuts vinyl. Let me know if I can help!


thanks ill get in contact in the ny
analog604
So I think that I found a solution for my needs using a thermal transfer printer and vinyl material. I can print on more durable medium haven't gotten any to test yet.

Here is a video where I test a few basic solvents against two types of ribbon ink for two front panel designs for my synth in progress:


cheers~
Jay
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