First appearances could be misleading. Consider the graphic overlay, for example. At first glance, this could appear like a simple part or component. However, there are many aspects to take into consideration and decisions to consider, when creating an individual graphic overlay.
We’ll discuss the key areas in order to design the perfect graphics overlay to your project.
What is a graphic overlay?
Graphic overlay (also known as a nameplate, facia or faceplate) is the thin upper part of a switch that is placed on top of a control panel or electronic controller. Overlays are widely used for input devices like membrane keypads and switches. The graphic overlay serves a variety of tasks, including protecting delicate electronic circuitry as well as providing the user with guidance for control, improving the aesthetic appearance of the device and much more.
Graphic overlays: Design considerations
1. Dimensions and design specifications.
The option of incorporating the custom overlay of graphics into your product will give you a lot of versatility and a variety of possibilities. However, you must decide on the specifications prior to going too deep in the process of designing. This includes the graphic overlay’s dimensions, the shape as well as thickness and position.
These specifications could be determined by the location where the overlay is placed in the device and the space available for the connection to the circuitry that is underneath. The fundamental specifications may also affect other decisions including circuit layout, button placement and the other options for overlays.
2. Durability depends on the conditions and usage
The location and the way in which the final product is used will affect the performance and longevity of the graphic overlay. Here are some factors to take into consideration:
Extremely fluctuating or extreme temperatures
Exposure to liquids or water chemicals
The exposure to ultraviolet light
Dust or dirt
Potential for impact, vibration or friction
Frequency of use
Understanding the conditions of the environment and the type of use can influence the choice of raw materials of the graphic overlay. For instance, graphics made of polyester tend to be the most durable when exposed to extreme conditions and will last for more than one million switches. On the other hand, overlays made of polycarbonate can allow for 100,000 switch actuations and have the advantage of flame resistance and a simpler production (such as cutting and printing).
3. Add-ons, features and options
Custom graphics overlays may include different add-on features to enhance capabilities or enhance the user experience. The most common features are:
Embossing – Raised areas on the faceplate which may be used as a decorative (for borders or logos) or buttons (for keys)
Tactile switches– are a type of embossing that creates buttons which can be pressed down or “clicked,” creating a user experience similar to that of a mechanical switch. Know the difference between tactile and non-tactile switches in membrane keypads.
Windows– Clear areas that are made for LCDs, LEDs as well as indicator lights, etc.
Cutouts – Holes inside the faceplate as well as switches are needed to accommodate displays, lenses, mounting screws, or any other type of hardware.
Dead-front panels – A symbol which is not evident on the overlay graphic until it’s backlit.
There are two kinds of light sources you need to be aware of. The first is light from outside that is related to the environmental elements we have discussed previously. The extreme conditions of lighting such as low light levels and intense glaring, can make the graphic overlay difficult to read and more difficult to operate. Fortunately, there are solutions to each of these problems.
The second kind of lighting is internal. Backlighting can be integrated into an overlay graphic to enhance appearance, include functions such as status indicators or even provide light for better accessibility. If you want backlighting within your user interface, it must be included in the layout of the overlay graphic.
5. Surface treatments and finishes
A variety of treatments and coatings can apply to the upper layer of the overlay graphic. These finishing techniques can enhance the appearance, durability, or ease of use for the graphic overlay. Some of the most popular options are:
Matte or gloss finishes
Patterns or texturing
6. Printing and cutting techniques
Engaging your vendor or manufacturer at an early stage of the conversion process could assist in optimizing the design, assure manufacturing capability, and eliminate unexpected issues. The specifications of the graphic overlay and the materials used can influence cutting or printing process to ensure the highest quality product.
7. Selection of adhesive
Although, the primary focus has been on optimizing the overlay however, it’s important to think about how the overlay can be integrated into the control panel or controller housing. Selecting the best adhesive will speed up installation and provide a durable bond. When choosing an adhesive to cover your graphic, there are a few things to consider: the bonding material, surface energy as well as the conditions of the surface (textured smooth, polished, smooth powder coating and so on)
Vendor-cum-manufacturer for graphic overlays
In the process of creating an easy but successful graphic overlay, you need to consider more to it than what you see. This is why it’s important to have a skilled manufacturing partner to ensure that all of these crucial aspects are not overlooked.
At Linepro, we have a vast experience in the design and production of high-quality graphic overlays that are suitable for many different industries. Our entire R&D and designing team can assist to take your faceplate from idea to finalization – which includes the selection of materials, design consultation and printing using advanced technology for color matching, as well as advanced quality control department.
We are always ready to assist you!
With more than 30 years of manufacturing expertise, Linepro works with product teams to tackle issues, design products and enrich the quality of life. Share your project details now and we will start guiding you!