How to label Instrument panel

Discussion in 'Instruments / Avionics / Electrical System' started by HomeBuilt101, Feb 27, 2016.

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1. Feb 27, 2016

HomeBuilt101

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What is the best way to print letter on an aluminum painted Instrument panel?

What is the best way to paint the panel (epoxy paint)?

THANKS!!!

2. Feb 27, 2016

choppergirl

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I cant say with any authority, because Ive never made an instrument panel, but I would hazzard with a letter die punch... like the same way dog tags are made. 100 years from now they'd still be readable. To make them more visible rub over the depression side with colored wax crayons to fill the depressed letter indentation with crayon wax, then wipe the surface off.

I once peeked into an Apollo space capsule and everything was labelled with those klick klack machines from the 70's... you know... you have a plactic strip with adhesive on its back... on a roll.. you spin the dial around on top to select your letter, number, or symbol, and squueze the handle on the handheld klick klack label maker and just like a manual typewriter it crushes the letter into the tape to discolor it to white... and advances it. When done cut tape, trim, and peel off backing and apply. It must be supersticky because even though the plastic strips curl back to their original shape, they were still holding inside the Apollo.

Now adays you can get label makers that do this on thermal paper label strips. Probably no where near as resilent to the ravages of time...

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3. Feb 27, 2016

cluttonfred

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Choppergirl is describing Dymo labels and the company still exists. As I mentioned in another recent thread you can also find the die-cast metal hand-operated Dymo Mite model the also works on aluminum tape with or without adhesive. Less visible but even longer-lasting than the plastic tape and I am sure you could work out a way to highlight the raised letters with paint or marker.

4. Feb 27, 2016

Wayne

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Has anyone considered going to the vehicle wrap folks and having a dash covering printed up that has everything printed as part of the single sheet? It would be easy to have your experimental aircraft warnining, n number, and switch directions, etc all done. As long as your measurements are close you'd have a pre-prepped sticky sheet that would cover the whole dash.

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5. Feb 27, 2016

Daleandee

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In my "squeak when I walk approach" I had the panel itself powder coated and then used a Brother label maker with black on clear tape:

Dale Williams
N319WF @ 6J2
Myunn - "daughter of Cleanex"
120 HP - 3.0 Corvair
Tail Wheel - Center Stick
Signature Finish 2200 Paint Job
116.2 hours / Status - Flying

6. Feb 27, 2016

SVSUSteve

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The clear label tape technique was my thought since that's how we're planning to label annunciator lights for Praetorian. The powder coating idea is a pretty good one too! Thanks for that.

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7. Feb 27, 2016

ultralajt

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If access to a guy with CNC router to engrave letters into an eloxied aluminum plate is available, it will be very nice to use this technique:
(Shut the speakers off! Music in the video is really annoying)

Mitja

Last edited by a moderator: Mar 20, 2019
8. Feb 27, 2016

gtae07

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I know a guy that has no labels on the panel; he just painted the toggle switches by their function. Blue is the boost pump, nav lights is red/green, strobes is a set of white dashes, etc. It works for him, but I don't think a DAR would pass it.

Then again, I think sometimes people go overboard on the labeling. Do we really need to label which direction the throttle moves? If so, what about the stick and rudder pedals?

If I wind up with time to kill on the build while I save up for engine/avionics, I might do a back-lit panel big-iron style.

9. Feb 27, 2016

TahoeTim

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i used a trophy shop to engrave my switch panels on my kitfox. The material is strong enough to mount the switches. Cut a rectangle in the panel and mount a gang of switches with 4 screws. Simple and accessible. I have room for indicator lights below each switch.

I used a premade panel from composite designs on my zenith.

I am currently working with a wrap shop to print the wrap of my entire dash with all labels in place on my ercoupe. They add a clear layer as the final step so it seems lime it will be durable. Yes, you have to do a layout.

10. Feb 27, 2016

Dana

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I still have and occasionally use a Dymo labeler, but not for the plane. On my plane the original builder used some kind of engraved green laminated plastic for labeling. I guess the cutter goes into a lower label of different color, but they're fading. I did new labels with a Brother label printer at work. They didn't have any clear background so I used white.

You can also buy various types of stick on materials for running through an inkjet or laser printer.

Another way is to inkjet print in reverse onto wax paper or backing paper, then place it over where you want the markings before it dries and squeegee it on with a credit card or similar (takes some practice but can come out very nice).

Do they still make Letraset (rub on letters)? We used to use that stuff back in the 70's on R/C models. Takes a bit of work, but looks beautiful if you're careful. Needs a coat of clear to protect the lettering, though.

Dana

11. Feb 27, 2016

TFF

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Go to Vans Airforce; they have it down to an art.

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12. Feb 27, 2016

SVSUSteve

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Most religions excel at art related to their beliefs. VAF is no exception.

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13. Feb 27, 2016

Marc Zeitlin

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I used these guys:

Front Panel Express: Front Panel Design Software and CAD Conversion Service: Home

for AL panels for customers. They have a free piece of software you download which can import IGES file outlines of the panel. You can then insert square, rectangular and circular holes, as well as labels which will be engraved and painted. They also have standoffs for mounting things on the backside. The panel can be powder coated or anodized (I like the anodizing - I worry about powder coating chipping over time). The software will tell you exactly how much the panel will cost as you insert things.

You can see an example of this panel at:

Gallery of Work

I was very impressed by their capability and the reasonable cost - IIRC, this panel was ~$250 plus shipping, with about a 2 week turnaround. SVSUSteve likes this. 14. Feb 27, 2016 narfi narfi Well-Known Member Joined: Feb 23, 2016 Messages: 783 Likes Received: 396 Location: Alaska You can get vinyl lettering done in reverse, then apply it to a price of clear lexan, then paint over it with a contrasting color. For instance white lettering painted over with black. (You can use colors that complement your panel or interror colors. Obviously you want the price to be the right size with clean rounded corners etc. Then use small interior screws or pop rivets to attach it to the panel. You end up with the clear unfinished part of the lexan out and the lettering protected from all scratching and filth. I like this because it ends up with a clean attractive look with no skill or artistic ability required. Or you can use anfc ugly label maker and replace it every gear or so because they didn't stick ;p On the exterior you can tape off your vinyl placards and spray (or even brush for smaller ones) with clear coat. That will protect them as well. Seems if you don't do something like that then placards only l99k nice the day installed and are an eyesore the rest of their lives. Battler Britton likes this. 15. Feb 28, 2016 Topaz Topaz Super ModeratorStaff Member Joined: Jul 30, 2005 Messages: 13,963 Likes Received: 5,577 Location: Orange County, California I like this one. Small label-printers like the Brother P-Touch are quite inexpensive, and do a nice job of block lettering in a variety of formats. You can get the tapes in a nearly infinite variety of background and foreground colors, or clear background as suggested here. Sure looks better than the old Dymo labelers, too! 16. Feb 28, 2016 choppergirl choppergirl Well-Known Member Joined: Jan 31, 2015 Messages: 1,606 Likes Received: 586 Location: Choppergirl's Flying Circus ★★☠★★ AIR-WAR.ORG I would trust anything that you peel and stick on, even Dymo labels, myself.... if they are paper, the glue gets old, and they literally just fall off. Avery paper labels are the worst at this. Its probably accelerated in a hot cockpit sitting in the sun or one roasting in a hangar. If I used Dymo labels, I'd drill a hole in each end and put the smallest rivet I had through it, for when the glue eventually wore out. https://www.google.com/search?q=21st+century+toys+aircraft I bought some 21st century toys WW2 aircraft models back when they were$15 each in Walmart... the detail was so amazing, I researched it. Something to do with a rubber sponge lifting the printed ink, then applied to the model around any possible curved surface. Forgot now how it was done or the processed used. Its probably some big huge expensive machine. But whatever method they used, if it could be hand done, would be gangbangers for any kind of printing on an instrument panel.

~

Another cool idea, would be to PCB etch an overlay, to go over your entire panel, then mount the instruments through that. All your text would be in shiny copper, on a PCB green (or whatever color PCB you chose... red... blue, etc... or reverse negative it, color lettering on shiny copper background) background... how's that for thinking outside the "box". PCB etching is pretty simple at home to do, and extremely precise. Like photo exact precise (they make billion transistor microprocessors with the same method). You're panel would be as high resolution as the b&w lasar printer could crank out... 300/600/1200 dpi...

Or you could experiment around, and acid bath etch your panel directly... and make raised, or lowered letters, or discolored metal, etc. They do it with knife engraving using electrolysis. That actually might be the gang bangers way to go, if those kind of letters would be readable enough for you...

If you really want to aspire to retrospectacular greatness, check out these pictures I took of a Swift Cockpit... It just screams 1950's Bakelite radio...

Last edited: Feb 28, 2016
17. Feb 28, 2016

Daleandee

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Following the lead of another builder I also used colors on my switches to note function. Having saved a bunch of money by using a Brother label maker, I splurged on different color switch covers i.e. red for master, black for ignitions, yellow for avionics, blue for strobes, white for the landing lights and the wig-wag function, and green for intercom:

I recently purchased, but have not yet installed, some switch guards:

I think these can be installed to both protect the switches from any item falling off the glare shield in turbulence, and allow me to insert an additional locking device to prevent the switches from being activated by unauthorized persons.

YMMV ... but I doubt it!

Dale WilliamsN319WF @ 6J2
Myunn - "daughter of Cleanex"
120 HP - 3.0 Corvair
Tail Wheel - Center Stick
Signature Finish 2200 Paint Job
116.8 hours / Status - Flying

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18. Feb 28, 2016

SVSUSteve

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Dale, you keep adding so many new ideas to my plan. You're a not so evil genius. Keep it up.

19. Feb 28, 2016

Rockiedog2

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Most want really nice, professional looking panels. I did too at one time so understand the urge. No problem. But as time marches on I have found that less is better, in my case anyway. So now rather than going with the ultra sophisticated Dymo squeeze handle stick on white on black labels which last a while before falling on the floor, I have gone to more contemporary means. So it's apply the color coat(Krylon) first. Then use the skinny tip black sharpie pen to write the labels on the base coat. Try to write it so most will be able to read it. Then fog a coat of clear coat(Krylon again or if on a tight budget Wal Mart) over the "labels" and let sit a while. We have to fog it on cause if we do a wet coat it will likely smear the letters we so carefully wrote on there. OK so fog it on. A couple x. Now we're ready to do the wet , gloss, finish coat of clear. Don't get carried away; it still might bleed thru and smear the labels. It's a little technique sensitive and may have a bit of a learning curve but when done we have a personalized(very) one of a kind panel. It'll also probably likely be a little bit primitive looking. Nice, depending on your point of view.

Note: Won't work on black base coat panels.

Last edited: Feb 28, 2016
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20. Feb 28, 2016

choppergirl

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I'm a huge fan of Sharpies myself. Use them for labeling everything.... everything. They come in lots of different colors too. My handwriting isn't the greatest though, so I wouldn't use them on a panel. I've rattle can clear coated them too and run into that same smear problem. Fog on the clear coat, huh, have to remember that next time I write on metal. Usually I'm too impatient to wait for the paint to dry when assembling parts I just painted. It can dry for eternity after I got it all back together ;-)

I'd still like to make my own radically different simplified panel using 3 number... LARGE 7 segment digit LEDs... all in a single vertical column, in different colors. Most important things to watch at top. Maybe airspeed, cht, egt, rpm, compass, altitude, fuel. Dunno how that will work out compared to analog dials, but I'd rather my brain get a 3 digit number at a glance then have to brain compute what a number is between two hash marks on a tiny dial with 10 hash marks between numbers...

Picture is worth thousands of words... I want these to be BIG LEDs... chose whatever colors you associate best with what, in this case, I was rather random...

That's it. That's my complete panel. Keep it Simple, Stupid. Probably like nothing any pilots ever seen before.

I probably will add a few more 3 digit gauges continuing at the bottom, like +/- climb/sink rate, percentage % fuel gauge, +/- front/rear inclindation and +/- left/right tilt (both in place of a \$ analog horizontal gyro, in case I inadvertently end up in a cloud or lose visual for whatever reason), or whatever is critical I missed here. X/Y/Z Inclination sensor chips are common in thinks like tablets now so should be dirt cheap.

Because the display would be rasterized, like a TV screen, via two numbers output from the board... 4 bit row select which row to update... and 12 bit +/- value... when filmed with camera, the whole panel would strobe, like when you film a tv screen with a camcorder. But to your eye, refresh will happen so fast, because of persistence of vision, it will appear continuous. If that can be done with... LED response time.

I wear glasses, so in the freak situation where I lost my glasses off my face (its happened before, when turning my head on a motorbike and the wind catching them) and they plummeted to earth, I could at least still read my numbers. After that, I now wear a full face helmet ;-) Never did find those glasses. Walked all up and down that highway :-/

Last edited: Feb 28, 2016