Outsourcing panels produces professional quality, especially for small scale analog-synth manufacture. Some of the firms listed here have been successfully used by well know synth brands.
Cutting, drilling and inscribing
- Schaeffer AG, well-known maker of low-production metal front panels, provides the free Front Panel Designer program. Engraving and paint-filling are available.
- ALCO Metal Fab Inc., electronic sheet-metal specialist. Can do powdercoating and screenprinting.
- Cam Expert, as good as Front Panel Express, 30% cheaper and they can do work that FPE cant like anodizing after machining.
- Epinasty Metal Works
- Front Panel Express LLC, and Canada. Well-known maker of low-production metal front panels, provides Front Panel Designer program free. Engraving and paint-filling are available. Is a division of the German firm Schaeffer, which offers a similar service in Europe.
- Metalphoto of Cincinnati
- Pretty Lil Panels
Painting and printing
Metalprint is a commonplace process that prints color ink on aluminum, which is then anodized into place. The result is a very high-resolution artwork, better than screenprinting, and tougher than other methods because the anodized oxide coating is very tough and protects the artwork. Many companies offer this service. They typically do not perform drilling, punching, or other sheet-metal fabrication; such operations would have to be performed by a sheet-metal specialist or by the manufacturer. Most Dotcom and all Doepfer module panels are made with the metalprint process.
- Bay Photo
- Image Wizards
- Metal Mural
- Nor-Cal Powder Coating, powder coater with considerable experience in electronic sheet-metal coating.
- Chemi-Graphic, offers screenprinting and chemical etching on metals or other materials.
Far cheaper than aluminium, use a PCB fab house to produce 3 mm FR4 panels. Also fiberglass is lighter and stiffer than aluminium. BugBrand synths panels were manufactured using this method, the copper layer and soldermask to the front, with silk-screened labeling. PCB front panels need to be designed for normal PCB fabrication.
PCB fab houses known to have been used for PCB front panels
- ^ Who does silkscreened panels in the US?, Muff Wiggler forum, Aug 2011, reply by ersatzplanet
- ^ Manufacturing by Eric Barbour, Muff's Modules & More wiki, Jan 2012
- ^ Grant Richter on Cutting Down Modular Costs, Matrixsynth, March 2007
- ^ OldBlue Overview (archive)
- ^ PCB front panels, Muff Wiggler forum, Oct 2015
- Front Panel Designer
- Schaeffer, Front panel Designers tips and tricks, electro-music.com forum, Oct. 2007
- The Holy Grail of Front Panels?, YouTube, economical aluminium front panel production by pcbway.com
- PCB material front panels advice, Muff Wiggler forum, Jul 2013