Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Panel layout

Over the past few days I've worked mostly on panel layout and templates.  This is arguably an important but not 100% straightforward step.  You have to keep in mind several things - the size you want to hit, the size of the devices you're using, both in terms of panel penetrations and final dimensions on both sides of the panel.  A toggle switch can have a very small size on one side of the panel but large on the other, and you need to leave adequate space on both sides.

Jeff's design didn't have dimensions, but a 6"x6" base panel block seemed about right, as I described earlier.  The central blocks for the mission sequence and timer/display were both larger, at 6" x 12" and 12" x 12", respectively.  Using this, layout is simple in theory, but as always, can be troublesome.  I didn't have a good drawing program available, but I could sketch the designs with the draw tools in Excel and Word.  This is semi-problematic, though, thanks to Microsoft.  I find it easier to get parts sized and connected in Excel, but Excel has two nasty tendencies :  First, it tends to resize things even when you don't want it to, and even if you have the drawings locked and set to not resize with cells.  So you can, for example, copy a component drawing on one sheet, and paste on another and find out that it has resized the drawing for you.  So you end up constantly resizing your drawings.  And then when you go to print the design, it has a nasty tendency to change your aspect ratios - so that round switch is now slightly oblong.  Either of these can essentially ruin your work if you don't stay on top of it.  So if you have a better drawing program, I'd use it.  However, if you want to use the design I created, you are more than welcome to:

Panel layouts in Excel

When it comes to printing them, you'll need to fix the aspect ratio problem.  For this, the solution is actually pretty simple - copy the entire layout for a panel, and do a paste special op in Word to paste it as a jpg.  The aspect ratio issue is fixed by this.  Once the design is pasted in Word, simply select it , choose format, and flip horizontal - you'll want the entire thing reversed because you're going to be gluing it to the backside of each panel and cutting from that side. 

Reversed jpg images of the templates

You can use the same templates later for printing the front side label of each panel, but you'll need to remove some portion of each design - you only really need the marks that you want to show and any cutting lines for the perforations through the panel.  I'd recommend still leaving the front side label as a backwards print - the inked side would then be protected by the transparency film, or you can choose to try an ink transfer - I'm not sure if ink transfer will work, but I'm going to give it a shot once the panels are cut, primed, and painted.

One final note about using my panel templates above - I still don't have the round arcade buttons in from the supplier yet, so the dimensions for the cutouts may not be accurate.  And PLEASE double check dimensions before printing or using them - I doubt all are ok as is - but I'll update them if I find issues as I start printing and using them.

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