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Faceplate material options

T ChapT Chap Posts: 3,721
I have an LCD touch screen in a bezel that I currently machine out of P95 matte acrylic(see black material image attached). It is low volume for this faceplate, maybe a few hundred a year so it does not warrant an injection mold expense. I CNC the faceplate, including a recessed area on the rear for the LCD to sit in a pocket. There is a slot at the top for a gesture sensor. I just looks cheap, I need some ideas on a material that can be machined that looks much nicer. As one option, on the bottom of the image I show an overlay that I have made by a company for another product. It looks better, but it is adhesive backed and there is always the risk of not aligning when installing the overlay or depending on possible improper handling, someone might peel it on a corner. Since the slots and recess have to be CNC'd, stainless is not an option for me as it is a pain to machine and requires coolant on the tools. I once used anodized aluminum and that can look nice but it is too labor intensive and time consuming to send out for finish.

This looks nice:

I included some images of nice looking faceplates. Maybe someone has some ideas on how to do this economically. I can have an injection mold make by a guy I know for a few grand, but he can never get the finish to look like these images, as he does not specialize in consumer injection where the finish is a big concern.

If I could just find the material being used for some of the simple white bezels shown then I might be able to CNC the border and cutout and be OK. But I can't find this anywhere. Typically ABS is used in injection. But sheet material never looks as good as these images.


  • 21 Comments sorted by Date Added Votes
  • Thinking sideways, would having a face-plate sticker work?

    You can get nice shiny stickers pre-cut with the gesture slot, and with labels/gfx as you need. 100's qty not expensive. Keep your current P95 base.

    Or ... get polished or anodised aluminium plates made (same principal, and can look beautiful).

    Or ... send your P95's out for gloss-coat painting. .. (assuming the CNC finish is smooth). If not smooth, we have used Nextel coating to cover uneven/pitted module and extrusion surfaces and they came out great. (Although not the finish your thinking of at the moment, it can look very professional and certainly works in the budget-vs-qty spot your in)

  • Where to send out for gloss paint? I have tried it once over a sheet ABS material and it was a decent matte look. I could even put a radius on the top edges if I were painting this. Stickers are a good idea what ch might give a nice gloss black or white like my example photos. Similar to the back painted Mylar faceplates but those Mylars are very expensive. Ideally I wish I could find the white look in those images and Cnc it then find a way to polish the sides where the tool hit it. Maybe a fine wet polish. But I have looked everywhere for that.
  • T ChapT Chap Posts: 3,721
    edited September 2017 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Any ideas on how they made that white faceplate with the black buttons? Seems like a clear over white. That is amazing.

    I can pocket the back of some clear AR polycarbonate. Possibly wet polish the cut edges and flame, then back paint it to get a similar look?
  • Nextel looks interesting. I can't tell if that is something I can apply or you have to send it in. I'd love to find a product I can shoot myself.
  • How about wood? Even plywood could do it.

    should machine more easy then metal and can be varnished not painted, for durability.



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  • T ChapT Chap Posts: 3,721
    edited September 2017 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Not so easy to glue what wood or metal to the rear ABS enclosure. I like wood but Matte or gloss plastic is the look I am after. Wood is very stylistic and In a house with lots of other very slick home automation keypads it needs to conform to standard aesthetics.

    The plexi p95 glues very well to ABS.
  • Laser-cut acrylic comes to mind. It's available in a wide variety of colors and looks very professional.

    “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • I wonder about Plasti Dip. They have a new "Luxury Metal" range.

    You would think that there would be a huge bezel industry.
  • MicksterMickster Posts: 1,080
    edited September 2017 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Many years ago, I became very excited about At the time, you could simply purchase it but now I'm not sure if you have to send your parts to them.
  • T Chap wrote: »
    Nextel looks interesting. I can't tell if that is something I can apply or you have to send it in. I'd love to find a product I can shoot myself.

    Personally I sent out all paint jobs (including Nextel and smooth gloss finishes) to a local firm. It's a smelly messy business, and not something I wanted to invest in getting right. If you can find a local paint shop, then maybe see if you can do a site visit to see what's involved. It's not rocket science, but takes a certain amount of patience and space, and a decent air filtration system.

    I'm sure the simpler solution would be thick plastic-style or smooth foil-type stickers, but you'd need to search for options. Or cut your own rigid final layer... As Phil mentions, something laser-cut might get you the results you need, and a great reason to bring a laser cutter into your workshop :)

  • I have lots of samples of vinyl, ABS, polycarbonate, acrylic in various colors and other materials. What I conclude is that the look I want requires a finish(paint or coating). I am going to explore painting or finding a coating shop. Ideally I'd like to figure out how to do it in house. Nextel comments on their site claim it is extremely easy to apply. I will look at some samples of their velvet surface but the first choice is a matte or gloss option. As far as a laser I can cnc anything and wet sand the edges no problem but that is not the issue it's the finished look that is a challenge. The p95 I use now is acrylic with gloss on one side and matte on the other but either side looks like your basic signage. It also marks very easily. I wonder if just shooting it with a spray can would work. I have air and can buy an inline dryer and slam sprayer.
  • T ChapT Chap Posts: 3,721
    edited September 2017 Vote Up0Vote Down
    I bought a radius router bit yesterday to round the edges and give a softer look. After fine sanding the edges it will surely require paint or some coating.
  • GordonMcCombGordonMcComb Posts: 3,342
    edited September 2017 Vote Up0Vote Down
    I'm confused what it is you're looking for. Most of your examples show a simple bezel, which can be made with any CNC router. As noted, you can get the rounded edges with the appropriate bit. I'd use plastic, and a rouge and buffing wheel for creating the sheen and smoothness that you're going after. There are some interesting plastics that can impart an unusual look -- aluminum cladded white acrylic, for example. These are readily cut using a CNC. The material is available at any good sign shop supplier.

    Or are you looking for a film overlay that sits on top of a touch screen? There are a number of thin films with static backings that you can print on, but for one-offs, I'd think just sending it out is cheaper. All can be peeled off, but if you inset the screen into the bezel, the corners of the film aren't easily accessible.

    If you're looking for a faceplate with cutouts and indicator markings for switches and lights inside, I'd consider two technologies, neither of which can be peeled off: sublimation or UV flatbed printing. Sublimation uses specialty inks and inkjet printers to create a very permanent image into specially coated materials. These materials can be routed with a CNC for a professional look. You can do this in your own shop. You'll need an inkjet printer filled with sublimation inks, and a non-clamshell heat press that can go to 400 degrees.

    UV flatbed printing requires a (very expensive) specialty printer that uses uses UV-cured resins. It can print on most any material you can place on the bed. Advantages include both white and clear ink. The clear ink can be built up to create a tactile relief. Unless you have about $25K burning a hole in your pocket, it's best just to send these out. You can CNC cut it when you get it back.

    With both of these technologies, the printing supports full color, and cannot be scratched off unless you try really hard with a knife. They are quite permanent, even when used with various household cleaners, and will last years. There is no need for an overcoat; the finish is whatever you can get off your plastic. (Or, you can use the clear UV ink to make a durable overcoat, but you'll need to CNC cut first.)
  • TChap,

    I have a sand blaster in which we use either glass beads or grit, and with low air pressure and a careful hand you can get a nice even matte finish on plastics, or metal with higher pressures.

    On a slightly different note, for text overlays, I have had excellent results with printing multi layers of colors on the back side of thin (3 or 5 mil) clear polycarbonate sheet, and then over coating the whole back side with a solid color. Openings can be left for LED indicators. Stick it with transparent 3M double sided sheet adhesive to a CNC'd bezel with a shallow recessed pocket.

    Makes for a totally professional custom bezel.


    Peter (pjv)
  • BTW, it's always easier to pick a standard, commercial enclosure and customize the electronics to fit, than the other way around. Here's a company that makes some really nice-looking enclosures:

    Maybe you can find something there that will work for your application.

    “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • Another popular option for DIY is making a mold for casting resin. It will require some polishing after. I like it because you can use clear resin, and mix in any colors you want. I have a kit ready to go (for clay molds) but I haven't tried it yet. I've seen some very nice stuff made, and there are plenty of tricks, tips, and tutorials online.

    If it needs to be perfect, finding something already mass produced, or injection molding sounds like the way to go.
  • Have you taken a look at Rowmark materials?

    Maybe this one?

    Can look quite nice when done on a laser, but should CNC decently as well.
  • I've lasered Rowmark stuff before when nomenclature is needed along with panel cutouts. It does produce a clean, professional-looking faceplate, but it's probably not suitable for making bezels.

    “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • Maybe this one?

    Can look quite nice when done on a laser, but should CNC decently as well.

    I have this small salvaged extruded piece of aluminum, anodized in gun metal grey. It will make a nice front panel to something someday, but end caps will be a problem.

    I vote for anodized aluminum, the look is timeless. Easily cut or machined and great durability, but cost may be a setback.
  • The anodizing on the aluminum can also be ablated with a laser engraver to produce nice-looking front-panel nomenclature.

    “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • Thanks for the input guys. Although there is an argument for finding existing enclosures in some cases, in this case I need chase down the solution that provides the perfect solution with no compromises. Buying and machining plastic is a process that might work if there is an adequate finished added to it to give it a professional and competitive look. Injection molding is an option but finding a company that can do this high grade finish is a challenge and very expensive. I can have it injection molded now with ABS but the company cannot do high end finished straight out of the mold, which means it must be finished. So either case the coating or paint process is the x factor. I used to do a faceplate in aluminum and had it anodized, but now I want to master the process with plastic to achieve the same looks as I have linked. Right now I think the plan is to continue with machining and add a radius to the edges which will make the bezel look a little less plain. I am getting a buffing wheel machine this week and will see how improving the edges will help out. The P95 acrylic has to go, so I'll look at other materials for machining. I did find a company that does ceramic coating on plastic, which would give a pro look and a much more durable surface.
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