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#4483335 - 07/19/19 08:22 AM Making Cockpit Panels PLOG  
Joined: Apr 2014
Posts: 5
Tekadept Offline
Junior Member
Tekadept  Offline
Junior Member

Joined: Apr 2014
Posts: 5
Hi All,

I thought I would go through my process of manufacturing some plates / Panels for various Fighters, and hopefully somebody can get something from my experiences, and provide some feedback.

First thing I am working on is panels for F/A-18C for DCS.
Firstly I have sourced some Tiff Images, and tweaking my sizes from that 146mm standard width, DZUS 9.375mm Spacing for holes.

One thing I am not a fan of the F16 or MS 33558 Font. I am going to be use a Gorton Heavy font which looks far better to me with less work required for letter spacing etc and I’m happy with.

Firstly everyone seems to use acrylic, so I have gone through and done some various testing and picked up some Clear and White acrylic. I did my first test on clear acrylic, got some rattle can Rustoleum 2X paint, and gave it 2 coats.

This is the Result
[Linked Image]
https://i.imgur.com/8GcbBQD.jpg

Now this doesn’t look to bad at first glance, the text is a bit fuzzy, the white frosted look from the engraving is visible but not vibrant. The Spray can on inspection is a gloss which doesn’t look that great either.

So now I throw some lights behind this bad boy to see how it backlights.
[Linked Image]
https://i.imgur.com/CdT5PhN.jpg
Oh yeah serious problem right here, Despite 2 coats light leaks like crazy and would require 3 or 4 coats..
Lets scrap that idea.

Now I move on to a White Acrylic, this time the ExtPower Panel. Instead of using the Rattle can paint, I use some acrylic Primer, and crank out the spray gun and use a Flat black Water Based enamel 2 coats.
[Linked Image]
https://i.imgur.com/bwbg9Hi.jpg

Now this looks better already, the text engraves crisper, the white shows through and looks a bit better, and I also like that flat black vs the cans gloss.

Lets see how this backlights?
[Linked Image]
https://imgur.com/uq3ffDd.jpg

I think this looks much better, still a bit of light leakage but nowhere near as bad, and I think that’s because I did not have a even spray. With a better even spray job I feel the 2 coats would suffice.

Definitely getting some hotspots through with the LEDS so that is not the best.
Lets try a Different panel see if the results get better.. This time the Snsr Panel, I took more time with spraying, still only 2 coats, but making sure I got better coverage.
[Linked Image]
https://imgur.com/oG2k1Lv.jpg

The light leaks are no longer there, but still getting the hotspots, and looking at the non-lit version below the surface does look ok, but it is VERY easily scratched and they show up quote noticeable (this is light fingernail rubbing over it).
[Linked Image]
https://imgur.com/llqmtxG.jpg

So far I am getting good coverage, but I don’t think the acrylic is going to work for what I am after.

Now this is a bit of a DUH moment. But I have experience doing X55 plates out of an engraving ABS, and was thinking why the hell am I doing all this spray painting… I guess just because that is what other people have done.

I have found out I can get that in 3mm, so I have ordered some of that thickness and will post my results of that. This will minimise the amount of painting I need to do and give a nice consistent finish. And HOPEFULLY backlight well.
Post some results soon

Last edited by Tekadept; 07/19/19 09:01 AM. Reason: Imagesize

"Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way" (Gen. George Patton)
https://www.tekcreations.space
Inline advert (2nd and 3rd post)

#4483462 - 07/20/19 09:38 AM Re: Making Cockpit Panels PLOG [Re: Tekadept]  
Joined: Apr 2014
Posts: 5
Tekadept Offline
Junior Member
Tekadept  Offline
Junior Member

Joined: Apr 2014
Posts: 5
Ok after some rather unsatisfactory Results using Painted Acrylic, I have picked up some 3.2mm Engravable Black on White ABS with a Matt Black finish.
This time I did the Ext Tank F18 Panel. I already use this material for Making Saitek Plates so I know what settings I need to use for engraving, but I just had to adjust the speed for cutting as it is twice the thickness, and MAN it made a LOT more smell with fumes.

[Linked Image]

Straight Away it is a remarkably better finish, the engraving is actually pure white which is good, not the dulled off white of the engraved acrylic.

Below is a comparison of 2 plates, the bottom being the ABS which looks much better. Also the black is a nice consistent colour, and is MUCH more hardy. Perhaps hard to tell with the photo but definitely superior.
[Linked Image]

Time to have a look at this with some Back lighting.
Definitely very lackluster barely anything coming through, the extra thickness of the ABS is just too much for light to penetrate. So Now I flip the plate over and engrave some notches out where the text is.

[Linked Image]
[Linked Image]
[Linked Image]

Now that has definitely made a difference, you can see the WING is backlit now, but still not stellar results, and I don't want to go etching the back of every plate as that will be painful.
Where to from here? Ok I am now going to do this with my 1.6mm ABS material, I know it backlights well, but the reason I went to 3.2 as I was only planning on having 2 plates, the bottom 3mm, and the top 3mm.
Now in Hindsight, I am seeing a problem with this plan. Pic Below.

[Linked Image]

Without a Plate in the middle, my screw for toggle switches is going to be on the top. which looks bad. So I mocked up an idea out of MDF to save acrylic, I would "rebate" the bottom plate to allow the nut to sink into that before the top plate, IE below.

[Linked Image]

Now it does work, but again extra work required on each plate.
So the only alternative to this is going to the 3 plate design after all!
Also as a note, my back lighting I am currently using is LED green strips. a Mix of 5050 and 3528. I have been using the White acrylic as the backing, but its still not letting as much light as I would like.

Now I have discovered some acrylic called OPAL 445. this has a light transmission of 50% as is designed to diffuse light efficiently for the signage industry.

Now I have picked up some Opal today, and plan on doing some more cutting tonight and see how it goes, utilising the 1.6mm Engraving with a 3 plate design.

I Will post those results when finished.


"Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way" (Gen. George Patton)
https://www.tekcreations.space
#4485325 - 08/06/19 11:55 PM Re: Making Cockpit Panels PLOG [Re: Tekadept]  
Joined: Apr 2014
Posts: 5
Tekadept Offline
Junior Member
Tekadept  Offline
Junior Member

Joined: Apr 2014
Posts: 5
After previous attempts, I have now refined what I am doing from a design standpoint and I am now sticking with a material that I know 1.6mm Engraving ABS.

I have done the F18 Hornet Sensor Panel below
[Linked Image]
[Linked Image]

The Whites are nice and bright unlit, and the black that nice even finish.. Just wondering with the Rotaries whether I really need the white circle… that will all depend on if I can come up with some illuminated knobs, probably best to include it now as it is only an extra 20 seconds of engraving time.

Now what I have done as mentioned before, I am sticking with a 3mm Base plate, this time using the new Opal 445 Acrylic. Putting this and and doing some back lighting the difference is quite remarkable. Below is a shot illuminated with 5050 SMD LED strip through a layer of 2 x 3mm layers Opal and with a ambient light on in the room.

[Linked Image]
And Below is a shot with the light turned off and only light from the monitor.


[Linked Image]

There is nice even light transmission and no hotspots. Now there is brighter spots, but that is because I am literally just placing 2 strips of LED’s underneath with no thought to placement like I will will the final panels. With proper placement I am confident everything will be evenly illuminated. I also have a 3528 strip to trial later on.

Next its time to go through and do cuts and determine what panel layout I will use between the 3mm and the 2mm.. Doing some Math, the base and middle as 3mm with the 1.6mm top makes it 7.6mm overall (which I think is getting a bit on the high side (although close to the real overall height of a set of panels according to my research). If I go the 2mm that makes it 6.6 which I think is a nicer overall height.

Will post some pics once I finish off and put some switches in to see how they sit.


"Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way" (Gen. George Patton)
https://www.tekcreations.space
#4486048 - 08/13/19 02:29 PM Re: Making Cockpit Panels PLOG [Re: Tekadept]  
Joined: Apr 2014
Posts: 5
Tekadept Offline
Junior Member
Tekadept  Offline
Junior Member

Joined: Apr 2014
Posts: 5

Below is a screenshot of the Bottom 3mm plate with the switches screwed in tight.

[Linked Image]
Then we get the middle 2 mm plate and place it on top and it looks like the below. This is the plate with the larger holes to accommodate the nuts.The nut sits nice and flush with it the plate.
[Linked Image]
Once we have done that, its a matter of sticking on the Laser Engraved top plate (Ignore the off centre circles.. The dog decided to bump my laser mid job which moved the stock.. Grrr time to lock the door!

[Linked Image]
I give the baseplate a quick mask off and hit with spray to show the below

[Linked Image]
When we have a close look at the profile of the 3 plates it looks like below.
Overall I’m quite happy with it.

[Linked Image]


"Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way" (Gen. George Patton)
https://www.tekcreations.space
#4486077 - 08/13/19 05:53 PM Re: Making Cockpit Panels PLOG [Re: Tekadept]  
Joined: Dec 2009
Posts: 552
AndyB Offline
Member
AndyB  Offline
Member

Joined: Dec 2009
Posts: 552
Ayrshire, Scotland
Hi Tekadept,

Panels are looking very good. I assume you are going to paint the edges of the top two as well to avoid light bleeding out.


Keep up the great work.

Andy

Last edited by AndyB; 08/14/19 06:00 PM.

Andy's simpit: http://www.simpit.me.uk

Moderated by  RacerGT 

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