Finishing, enclosure, LCD mounting, board mounting, etc.

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by Neosec, Mar 13, 2013.

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  1. Neosec

    Thread Starter Member

    Feb 25, 2013
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    I've been having a bit of trouble finding finishing hardware and accessories for projects. I'd like to have a finished project with a factory look, like a flush mounted LCD behind a Lexan window perhaps with membrane switches. Also having a bit of trouble with connectors, cables, headers, and PCBs, etc. Cables and connectors are difficult (for me anyway) because there are tens of thousands to sift through. The prototyping goes along pretty well and works great all breadboarded out but getting it into a professional looking enclosure seem more difficult than designing and building the prototype circuits. I've found several places the do custom fabrication of front panels and enclosures with prices to match. Haven't come across any place with low cost generic faceplates or inexpensive custom PCBs.
    Do you have favorite places to shop for these items and perhaps how to info too?

    TIA
    Neo
     
  2. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
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    define low cost?
    define your volume?

    I always run across this company
    http://www.okwenclosures.com/
    and they have "customizing" services
    http://www.okwenclosures.com/enclosures/custom_enclosures.htm

    As for connectors/cable reliefs,etc.... Thats just life.. You need to find the one that meets your needs.

    One place for cheap PCB's that I've been using is
    http://imall.iteadstudio.com/open-pcb/pcb-prototyping.html
    Takes about 2 weeks from order to get to the US from China. Board quality was excellent. I did a 4 layer PCB and it turned out perfect.
     
  3. edwardholmes91

    Member

    Feb 25, 2013
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    With regards to PCBs can I point you in the direction of http://mitchelectronics.co.uk/ He is a member of this forum and produces one off PCBs for a very reasonable price. I am actually about to order some myself.

    Places like Rapid Electronics, RS and Maplin Electronics will sell enclosures in many shapes, sizes, materials and colours. In fact eBay may even sell some!

    I saw the other day a really interesting enclosure for a RaspberryPi called the "PiBow". Not only is this a really interesting type of enclosure, if IP rating isn't an issue it is really flexible. It can be made in "funky" colours and to any size. The different layers can be used to support different parts etc, designs can be engraved into the surface and cutouts for LCD panels etc. can all be included relatively easily. Sometimes simplicity is elegance in itself... seeing the products through a clean, slick, simplistic case design is always a winner in my eyes.

    Connectors are like you say a tricky one. PCB mounted screw terminals are relatively easy to use and allow flexibility. If you would like a more "pro" looking design you can use different connectors, D-Type plugs and sockets, SIL pins, DIL connectors etc. Take a few things apart and look how things connect together. I get a lot of my ideas for designs from existing designs, selecting the best bits from lots of other designs.
     
  4. Neosec

    Thread Starter Member

    Feb 25, 2013
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    Thanks for the links and the tip!

    Well, low cost is tough to nail down. I suppose It's more that I'd hate to spend $50 building up a board with components and display and then have to spend $100 to stick it in a box that looks finished.

    As for quantity, these are personal projects so 1 to 5 most of the time.

    Neo
     
  5. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
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    Then for sure you find an off the shelf box (that oki company has tons) and so does digikey/newark/mouser and then design your PCB to fit into that box.
     
  6. THE_RB

    AAC Fanatic!

    Feb 11, 2008
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    That's pretty much exactly what you have to do to make it look "pro".

    For low quantity hobby use, you can keep an eye out for reasonably attractive $10 plastic boxes, and get two-tone plastic faceplates engraved at your local engraving (trophy) shop.

    Here's a couple of mine;

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I've got my own small CNC engraver machine now, so I can do these at home without running off to the trophy shop and paying $10 a time for engraving. :)

    Both those boxes were $10 or less, and had recesses on the front ready for a faceplate to be glued on. The faceplates supplied and engraved were $10(ish) but you need to get friendly with the engraver guy and let him know it's not a rush job and you want it cheap even if it's slow. ;)
     
  7. edwardholmes91

    Member

    Feb 25, 2013
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    Oh wow they look amazing! Out of interest, what sort of price will a mini engraving machine set you back? I'm assuming it is a small CNC type router?
     
  8. ErnieM

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 24, 2011
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    A very inexpensive way to make very presentable panels is to just print your own on label paper. Label paper comes in 8 1/2 by 11" sheets and you can make up a panel in most any program (I use Autocad cause I have it and I get accurate dimensions). Mine are black images on a white background.

    I use boxes similar to RB's that have an inset for the panel, cut out one corner and strip back the opposite corner to expose the backing. That gives me one corner to bank in place, then I worry out the rest of the backing, press it into position and use a fresh exacto to cut out the rest. The inset edge is the guide.

    Underlay it with a blank sheet so the white stays white. Overlay with some transparent contact paper. I've had some make over a decade ago for production test fixtures that still look presentable, though they are dirty and scuffed.

    I once looked into membrane switches, you can use a similar technique but I'd plant a PCB under it to do the wiring. I didn't find a good surce at the time, but some kind salesman sent me a lifetime supply of the buttons as free samples. But ultimately I went with tactile buttons thru holes, or mounted buttons (they just look better for the $$$).
     
  9. Neosec

    Thread Starter Member

    Feb 25, 2013
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    Very nice work there RB. I'll have to look into that.
    Good tip on the printer too. What I'm working on is for a high humidity environment (greenhouse) so I'll have to look for materials that will hold up. I seem to remember seeing bumper sticker material for an inkjet. Hmmm.

    Edit: My search turned up this too... LCD mounting kit @ a place called Seetron Tech. http://seetron.com/mounting.html
    There selling OLED displays that look nice but too power hungry for my battery powered project.

    Image from Seetron Tech:
    [​IMG]
    Neo
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2013
  10. THE_RB

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    Feb 11, 2008
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    The engraved faceplates are great for industrial or humid use, as they are mechanical engraved with depth into a two-tone material and can never rub off or fade or get moisture issues. They are also about 2mm thick and hard plastic so unlikely to buckle or peel.

    I've tried with printing them onto different paper types but have not had much success (although I know others get great results). Mine end up peeling or smudging, apart from a couple I did laserprinted (as it can't smudge) and then sprayed with clear coat varnish, but that was a lot of work and can still peel or discolour.

    To EdwardHolmes91; You can get small CNC router/engravers now from a few sources, some in kit form. Generally under $1000 and some as low as $500 for a basic setup. Have a google around and check them out. :)
     
  11. Neosec

    Thread Starter Member

    Feb 25, 2013
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    Ah, the machines. I came across this the other day... 3D printers. This one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aghzpO_UZE on You Tube prints color and with moving parts. Another video there comparing 3D Printers showed one for ~$500. Would be cool to print your own custom enclosure with color inlaid labeling, text and logos. Proper offsets for mounting LCD, buttons, battery compartment etc. At $100 a pop for a nice enclosure it doesn't take long to justify the cost of a 3D printer. I suspect it will only be a few years till they're in the $200-$400 range. Seems to be an exploding market.
     
  12. edwardholmes91

    Member

    Feb 25, 2013
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    Color 3D printers are fantastic for prototyping. You can make working parts such as ball bearing races, gears and even springs! With the price of technology constantly coming down, like you say, it does look like something that could soon be readily available to hobbiests very soon! Mum would kill me if one of these arrived at home though!
     
  13. ErnieM

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 24, 2011
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    Wow, 12 bucks for a flat piece of lexan just to cover my display?

    I'm still looking for a nice bezel to cover some 4x20 LCD displays. The bezel has always been the sticky part.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2013
  14. Neosec

    Thread Starter Member

    Feb 25, 2013
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    Heh, yup. I was at Seetron and had the kit in the shopping cart when I went to check out $5.00 was tacked on for shipping totaling $11.00. Seems to me it could be shipped in a #10 envelop and a single stamp, USPS. I did not place the order. I can't bring myself to spend that much on "pretty" I'll leave that to the women and their shoes.:D
     
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