Laser etching and "drilling" on Pactec PT-10 metal plates

by rcl on Thu Sep 23, 2010 2:22 pm

Hi,

I'm putting together a design and I'm trying to figure out the enclosure part. It's got a bunch of knobs and is not unlike the x0xb0x, and I'm leaning towards using that same Pactec enclosure with it's "front" and "back" metal plates.

I want to have many holes cut in these plates, all round except maybe 1 or 2; like 50 holes. I want to have labeling on all the knobs and labels concerning groups of knobs. Different groups of knobs would IDEALLY have some kind of visual representation that they're grouped.

For instance, I have groups of knobs "foo" and "bar". Maybe I'd like foo to have light vertical lines in an outlined rounded rectangle around it. Maybe bar has polka dots in a similar rounded rectangle. Each knob would have a label under it like "Cool Knob" and above it may have some sort of graphic indication such as clockwise indication of "less cool" and "more cool"

I'm looking to start with maybe a 1-shot prototype just to make sure it works followed immediately by enough to make an order of 5. Then orders either stop or continue. So, "small run" with long leadtime being acceptable and possibility for a lot of work if I succeed. I'd sign a contract to stay locked with the etcher in event of more work

My INITIAL plan was to go with having the metal plates drilled and then maybe screen printed or get some 'sticker' type things made up. But it's really really expensive to have that done. Especially for qty 1, 5.. etc. Especially if I want it to actually turn out nicely

So - can I have this done via laser? How feasible is this? [edit: looks like laser etching can be done to result in black, would this technology work on the 'dull' metal included with that Pactec enclosure? If I sourced other more attractive metal would it work too? Could I etch the entire panel black and leave just a bit of relief (basically etch my image's inverse)] Who can do this? How much will it cost? What will raise/lower costs? Does adafruit still have a laser etcher (edit: yes they do, adafruit would you be willing to do this type and quantity of work?)


I'm basically trying to achieve the results of drilling and silkscreening panels, but doing it all in one fell swoop with laser, for hopefully less money and hopefully with people less expensive than typical metal shops.
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Re: Laser etching and "drilling" on Pactec PT-10 metal plates

by adafruit on Fri Sep 24, 2010 1:27 pm

we dont do laser services. check out front panel express & friends. you can etch anodized alum nicely or of course use the somewhat pricey cermark
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Re: Laser etching and "drilling" on Pactec PT-10 metal plates

by mikeselectricstuff on Fri Sep 24, 2010 4:27 pm

In my experience (here in UK), prices for lasercut/printed metal panels vary hugely.
I recently did a simple 100x170mm flat panel with a couple of dozen cutouts, powder coated & silkscreened in one colour & had prices quoted from GBP8 to 25 each (50off).
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Re: Laser etching and "drilling" on Pactec PT-10 metal plates

by rcl on Fri Sep 24, 2010 5:58 pm

mikeselectricstuff wrote:In my experience (here in UK), prices for lasercut/printed metal panels vary hugely.
I recently did a simple 100x170mm flat panel with a couple of dozen cutouts, powder coated & silkscreened in one colour & had prices quoted from GBP8 to 25 each (50off).


So it's possible to cut holes in metal with the lasers?

Between the powder coat, laser cut & I assume etch, and silkscreen I'm having issues imagining this. Do you have pictures of the result or similar?

100x170, I'm only a bit larger than that on front panel, plus a back panel.. those prices sound very reasonable

Could you pm me a couple of the lower priced but good quality places if you don't mind?

Ladyada I'll check out FPE thank you!
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Re: Laser etching and "drilling" on Pactec PT-10 metal plates

by mikeselectricstuff on Fri Sep 24, 2010 7:11 pm

So it's possible to cut holes in metal with the lasers?

<Dr.Evil> With a big enough laser you can cut anything...</Dr.Evil>
Laser cutting is a very standard process in the metal-bashing industry, using lasers in the kilowatt range.
I used Allbart (UK). I'm sure will be similar outfits in most civilised countries. And doubtless a few uncivilised ones.
The challenge is finding one that has the right attitide to smaller jobs, and doesn't have high "get-out-of-bed" charges.
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Re: Laser etching and "drilling" on Pactec PT-10 metal plates

by 250 Coupe on Sat Sep 25, 2010 11:24 am

CO2 lasers, the type most small shops and hobbyists would have, don't cut metal until you get to a ridiculous power level. My 70 watt machine will just cut aluminum foil.

Generally, you will want to avoid lasering large areas to create contrast. By that, I mean that you should start with a black background if you want a black background. My experience has been that you will get banding and uneven shading and the lasered surface is much more susceptible to discoloration than the unlasered areas.

That said, you could try AlumiMark. The color change occurs subsurface and it's supposed to hold enough detail to handle photographs but I've never tried it.

If I were to do something like this, I'd chose anodized aluminum, make a template from steel and drill the holes on my floor standing drill press. Then I'd laser the artwork onto the aluminum. Anodized aluminum turns a silvery white, regardless of it's original color.

Cermark would work if you wanted black marks on silver but the base metal cannot have a coating or the cermark will have bonding issues.

For one offs and short runs, I generally charge $60/hour or $1/square inch. That comes down pretty fast if all I have to do is feed precut sheets to the machine.

I do all the laser work on these, including the granite and marble and of course the letters on the rings.
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