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Thread: Labelling buttons for an OEM look - how?

  1. #1
    Constant Bitrate Gibson99's Avatar
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    Labelling buttons for an OEM look - how?

    I'm going for a simulated head unit type build. i'll be making a double-din face plate out of clear acrylic/plexi or lexan. audio output of the pc (pc volume set just below max) will be fed straight into a master volume knob (an actual potentiometer) which will be mounted to my new face plate, which then feeds directly to a 5ch amp with its gains set near max. faceplate will also use a 2x20 text display and fifteen (yes, 15!) individual buttons (though probably black instead of white, as shown in that link).

    i'm not worried about about physically mounting anything - that's the easy part. the question is; how can i label the buttons in a way that they'll look cool, be visible day and night, and not look like they were labeled with a P-touch or something? it's hard enough to find buttons that are backlit (the ones i linked to are not), but then to find one that i can use my own labels... yikes. so i have decided that i'm either going to have to concede and just live with buttons i can't see at night (which i could probably learn to deal with) or have labels that aren't actually on the face of the button - down next to the buttons themselves. granted, that's not truly OEM style, but i want something at least semi-professional looking, and since i'm OCD (ok, anal), i want it to be snazzy lookin day or night!

    below are a couple ideas i've come up with. i'd like your input on them - please tear my ideas to bits, add your own comments, or suggest something totally new - i'm open to ideas, and since i haven't spent any money making the faceplate yet, it won't hurt my feelings if you say my ideas suck. i'm new to detail fabrication like this - i'll cut holes in headliners, bumpers, trunk lids and fenders all day long, but when it comes to tiny little labels like this, i'm lost. i figure at most, my lettering will be 2-3mm tall. now you see my dillema!

    (1) 1/8" thick sheet of plexiglass. drill/cut holes for knobs, display and buttons, deburr and finish all edges as necessary. scuff BOTH sides with something like 400 grit sandpaper for zero glare and nifty backlighting effects. use vinyl stickers or similar to make labels, then spray front of panel with flat black paint. peel off vinyl so that labels are clear (no paint). and backlight or sidelight with LEDs so labels are visible.

    PROs: fairly simple, lettering should look neat. no glare from shiny plexi. cheap to make.
    CONs: letters probably can't be very small due to the use of vinyl. paint can/will rub off or scratch. unsure about visibility of labels. cleaning may harm paint/labels and that's hard to touch up.

    -------------------

    (2) - 1/8" sheet of plexi. spray entire backside (except display area) black. drill/cut holes for knobs/buttons but do not cut display hole. using stencils, etch labels on front side. sidelight so labels show up in darkness. to cut down on glare & fingerprints, i guess i could leave an air gap of 1-2mm around the labels and screen, then etch the rest of the face.

    PROs: still fairly simple and cheap. labels will be easy to read day or night. easy to clean if needed since labels are etched, not painted. display will be protected by plexi. (i guess i could do (1)'s display that way too but it wouldn't look as clean as this way since paint is on the other side).
    CONs: glare on the screen. where will i get (or how can i make) stencils that small? if i etch the entire face, the whole entire face will light up at night, which may show the locations of my sidelight leds. then again, that might look pretty damn cool!

    ------------------

    ok, so those are my two ideas on how to make this work. what do you folks think?

    and before you say "screw all that - just get a touchscreen!" know this - i have a convertible. and i havea 7" lili touch. even with the top up the screen isn't very easy to read in daylight, and is only 'ok' at night. really, the text and buttons are too small for me on the touchscreen. i guess they'd be fine in a car that rides smooth or only for use while sitting still, but my car rides stiff, and i'd be hard pressed to always hit the right spot on a touchscreen. plus since it's a convertible, i don't want it too obvious that i have a screen for someone to steal. mainly, i like the tactile feel of buttons and knobs. easier to use while driving, since you can do it by feel without taking your eyes off the road. i might keep the lili in the glovebox for maps or maintenance, but it won't be out and in use all the time. this machine will be for 99% mp3s and 1% everything else. my last carputer only had a numpad and NO display, and i used and loved it for over a year. then i sold that car. *shrug* i'm just trying to make an evolution of that machine without making it too complicated.

    one other interesting method of painting i've seen was done on an engine cam/valve cover. the letters were recessed on this particular cover, so the guy filled the letters with WATER then sprayed the entire thing. then he used compressed air to blast the water out of the letters, and that took the paint with it. left the letters unpainted and the rest had a nice finish with a good edge on the letters. i wonder if i could do something similar here... hmm....
    Previous: CamryAmp 1.0 - 95 Camry SE V6 Coupe (sold)
    Current: CamryAmp 2.0 - 98 Camry CE V6 5spd (still bench-testing)

  2. #2
    Variable Bitrate SickVette's Avatar
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    I would have someone with a laser CNC machine cut the openings for the buttons and etch the labels for you. There is a guy on the forum who has a machine like this. If he can not help PM me and I will give you info on another guy that can. Also you should check locally to see if anyone has a laser.

  3. #3
    Constant Bitrate Gibson99's Avatar
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    yeah, i saw that fellow when i was searching. i also found the link to that laser cutting service. i planned on contacting one of them once i figured out what my final plan was. for some reason i didn't think about laser engraved labels - only laser cut panel/holes.

    the purpose of this thread is such: i wanted to solicit others' opinions first, since my own ideas are usually just kinda mediocre, and when other people see them, they often come up with ways of making small changes that make it loads better.

    here's an idea... after etching the front everywhere, paint those etched areas (except the labels) flat black. that'd cut down on the brightness at night and clean up the look in the daytime. or even better - also paint the etched part of the labels (wiping the clear, unetched part clean), then once the paint dries, use something to fog the clear part around the labels for even better contrast both day and night.

    if only i could make the buttons themselves look that good...
    Previous: CamryAmp 1.0 - 95 Camry SE V6 Coupe (sold)
    Current: CamryAmp 2.0 - 98 Camry CE V6 5spd (still bench-testing)

  4. #4
    Variable Bitrate SickVette's Avatar
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    That is a good idea but my friend with the laser has it one up on you. He applies vinyl to the back of plexi and then laser cuts it. The edge is perfect and sharp along with being able to do the process is all sorts of colors.

  5. #5
    MySQL Error Scouse Monkey's Avatar
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    looking at OEM button designs you could have the button image, e.g. M, cut out of the button and then fill it with clear plastic, eg epoxy, to act as a light guide. YOu can then get tactile switches with illumination in the middle to light them up.

  6. #6
    Maximum Bitrate
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    Something like this?

    http://riocar.org/modules.php?set_al...ecc25dd7832ed5

    http://www.reardon-logsdon.com/brett/scout/empeg1.JPG

    Read this:

    Clear Plastic Liquid

    To get text on the buttons get stick-on alphabet letters from hobby shop.
    If you want to make the text glow you can stick the letters on , spray the buttons, and then remove the sticker.

  7. #7
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    I don't know what your budget is, but the auto industry using paint and laser etching to create their backlight graphics. Do a search for paint and laser etching or lasing as some call it. You may call some of the companies and see if they would do a custom project such as yours. Basically what they would do is paint a translucent white, or if the buttons are already white they would leave them that way, then they would paint black, then they would use a laser to "etch" the black away to expose the white. You can etch any text, shape or graphic that you can do in Photoshop. Of course there are some limitations to the line width of the graphic. Hope this helps.

  8. #8
    Constant Bitrate Gibson99's Avatar
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    tred - just finished reading that thread on the liquid plastic. interesting stuff. would def be more durable than paint, if i did what was suggested earlier (get solid black button caps, cut out letter/label, fill w/ liquid plastic & backlight). only problem is... my labels aren't quite so simple. i'm working up the drawing of my faceplate in acad right now... here, this is what i have so far (work in progress!)

    [edit] my server's down... attached image one post below [/edit]

    i think as long as the paint is a good, durable paint, then i could definitely live with this design - clear plexi that's been painted black on the front and white on the back, with labels etched in just enough to get thru the paint and fog the glass a little. then backlight it.

    whatcha think?
    Previous: CamryAmp 1.0 - 95 Camry SE V6 Coupe (sold)
    Current: CamryAmp 2.0 - 98 Camry CE V6 5spd (still bench-testing)

  9. #9
    MySQL Error scott_fx's Avatar
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    one thing you could also try is to hack apart a remote control and use the buttons on that. something like this:
    http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/pr...CONTENTID=9511

    i'm sure you can find a remote with the look that you like that is dirt cheap on ebay, put some momentary switches behind it (maybe glue an led on top of the switch) and you'll be good to go
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  10. #10
    Constant Bitrate Gibson99's Avatar
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    i have some old remotes i could have done that with, but the main buttons i want labeled are playlist buttons. i'll never find those with the right labels on a prefab remote anywhere. and since my webserver seems to have died, i'll see if i can attach the image that i tried to link to above.

    on the image, it helps to know which color lines mean what. cyan (light blue) are areas that will only be etched. black will stay black. the light gray outline represents 7"w x 4"h - the standard double-DIN size. red lines will be cut all the way through for mounting buttons and knobs. the gray dividers in the playlist buttons will not exist - they're just there for clarity, but there will be 8 half-inch square buttons all in a row, similar to radio preset buttons. the dark blue text is an even deeper etching, for spiffy lighting effects. remember that this will be made of clear plexiglass with the face painted black and the backside painted white, and will be backlit with LEDs.
    Attached Images Attached Images  
    Previous: CamryAmp 1.0 - 95 Camry SE V6 Coupe (sold)
    Current: CamryAmp 2.0 - 98 Camry CE V6 5spd (still bench-testing)

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