Front panel design/templating

Discussion in 'The Projects Forum' started by Blatboy, Oct 7, 2014.

  1. Blatboy

    Thread Starter Member

    Jun 11, 2012
    Just thought I'd mention this... as I don't think I have been the only person asking about software to help design and make templates for instrument panels and the like.

    I have no CAD experience, and was looking for an easy way to draw up a 1:1 scale template to print out and use as a guide for drilling, etc onto the front panel of a power supply project I've been working on. I started looking at CAD programs and vector drawing programs... but I was having a hard time figuring it all out... those programs are so big. They're meant to be able to do everything. My brain was melting trying to dig through all the features to just get the functionality I needed.

    I had used Front Panel Express before for a fancy schmancy project I did at one point that needed a really slick front panel. I certainly paid a premium, but they did good work. They have a piece of software you can download (mac too) and use to design your front panel, and send to them for them to fabricate. I checked out that software again, and it's not just a front end for their business. You can actually print out your designs (to scale) to use yourself...which I think is really great. True, they tempt you into having them fabricate it for you, with labeling and graphics and all... but I really liked how the software just does one thing (unlike CAD or Illustrator or the like.) It just does panels... and of course you can use exact measurements... good stuff.

    I printed out the panel as a PDF... then converted it to a .tiff... loaded it into photoshop (most any image/photo program should work) and flipped the image horizontally. This way, I can put the template on the back of the panel, so I'm not drilling (and making mistakes) on the front.

    If you want a simple go to bit of software to help you make's free and is available for Mac/Windows. The software is a little clunky, but it's only meant to do one thing, which I found refreshing.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2014
  2. Blatboy

    Thread Starter Member

    Jun 11, 2012
    Just realized this perhaps should be in general electronics and not projects... if an admin wants to move this, you'll get no complaints from the trombone section.
  3. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
    try draftsight.. its basically free autocad..
    draw to scale.. mirror right in draftsight and print. done.
    djsfantasi likes this.
  4. ErnieM

    AAC Fanatic!

    Apr 24, 2011
    Many programs will work for this as long as you can get a 1:1 final printout. I feel blessed at home to have a 9 year old version of Autocad to do this. We don't use that program at work, but I've found Microsoft Publisher to be adequate.

    I don't make a backing sheet to make holes, though I do see the advantage and disadvantage of having to re-align the front to the back.
    I just use the hole centers on the front to drill, but I first cover the panel with clear plastic. It's not ideal as the drill shavings oft get under this cover, though this usually gets covered by the connector or switch.