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Cutting rectangles in plastic, but small ones!

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  • Cutting rectangles in plastic, but small ones!

    Ive read a few threads about cutting in plastic and its always blah blah about drilling and using a jigsaw.

    I want to put a set of buttons beside my screen sort of like this:


    I want the buttons to be lit with LEDs so I think these would work best:


    Except, how do I cut those small little rectangle openings into my bezel (the picture is someone else's bezel with a screen in it):
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  • #2
    Or another example, how do you cut the rectangles for the USB ports in this picture:
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    • #3
      drill a small hole then open it up with a square needle file
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      • #4
        1. drill a hole and adjust the shape with a file
        2. precision punch like these: http://www.precisionpunch.com/webpage.cfm?page_id=7

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        • #5
          Better yet, use a laser cutter. Most people that have them wont mind doing it. Some will make you pay a few bucks, but it is exact and fast. And it is a laser so the overall cool/geek factor goes sky-high.

          On a side note, where did you source those button thingamagiggs that go over the pushbutton knob?
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          • #6
            Originally posted by colin View Post
            Or another example, how do you cut the rectangles for the USB ports in this picture:
            From the clean cutting and the USB logo in the middle, that one looks like a laser cut. That's the best system -- if you have access to a laser cutter.

            If you don't have that access, some very careful -- very, very careful -- cutting with a simple X-Acto knife and a steel straightedge can get you there. If you have a template, it's easier, but you really can cut straight lines in plastic. Cut a fine, shallow line to mark the shape, and then deepen the cuts slowly and gently.

            This is slow, precise work, and it takes attention to detail. Practice on scrap, and then go for it. The keys are to go slowly, keep all your cuts gentle, and use good, sharp blades. Cut less than you want each stroke. You can do it.
            .
            If just enough is really good, then too much ought to be perfect.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by 2k1Toaster View Post
              On a side note, where did you source those button thingamagiggs that go over the pushbutton knob?
              I was searching for rotary encoders and I went to a place that I was sure would have them (they didnt): SparkFun. If you haven't heard of them, theyre like a general hobby electronics place with a very easy to use catalog and very interesting front page posts. The product is called the IceCube Light Pipe Switch

              Originally posted by rdholtz View Post
              From the clean cutting and the USB logo in the middle, that one looks like a laser cut. That's the best system -- if you have access to a laser cutter.

              If you don't have that access, some very careful -- very, very careful -- cutting with a simple X-Acto knife and a steel straightedge can get you there. If you have a template, it's easier, but you really can cut straight lines in plastic. Cut a fine, shallow line to mark the shape, and then deepen the cuts slowly and gently.

              This is slow, precise work, and it takes attention to detail. Practice on scrap, and then go for it. The keys are to go slowly, keep all your cuts gentle, and use good, sharp blades. Cut less than you want each stroke. You can do it.
              That's the process Ive used all my life, except it does not ever produce good results when I do it. It takes hundreds of swipes to go through a decent sized piece of plastic, that's why I'm inquiring about this

              Guess I just have to buy really, really small files or find a local laser cutter.
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              • #8
                CNC mill...I've had intricate acrylic machined perfectly for my needs. Not the cheapest solution, but you draft it up in CAD and you get exactly what you asked for.

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                • #9
                  Cheap is the top priority. Its like 6 or 7 holes, dont wanna spend too much money on it.
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                  • #10
                    how bout a dremel tool?

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                    • #11
                      With a cutting disk? Too big. The buttons are quite small.
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                      • #12
                        The Dremel tool does do the job, But you need to use other parts apart from the cutting disk. It does have a few attachments like the sharpening/filing bits.

                        With a little practice, The engraver tip should do just fine for something like the usb logo.
                        As for the holes, Drill the center/pilot holes and then use what ever you feel best with after that.
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                        • #13
                          cut/drill a hole that is obviously too big. tape up the button. hot glue it in the position that you want it in. take body filler and fill the gaps completely. as the filler sets, pull the button back out to release the grip from the body filler. The filler shud be rubber like to touch at this point, but not wet or capable of lossing its shape. then once the filler has cured you simply block sand down to the original piece, paint and reassemble with the tape removed from button.

                          the way i typed this may make this sound easy and it really it is, but doing it for the first time will be an experience and may not turn out the way you want. if you are experianced with body filler it should be much easier.

                          this method should work for you and still be pretty cheap to do.

                          I suggest practice first, then do the real piece when you get it figured out.
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                          • #14
                            I think the Dremel idea may work maybe using one of those cone sanding bits, thats what I like to use when the plastic is not too thick or rough. Most likely would melt the plastic and give you nice smooth edges rather than burring it with an x-acto knife. My opinion.

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                            • #15
                              Yeah I thought of that, that's my last resort if I mess up. Guess we'll see what happens right.
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