- Written by Jon Chandler
I needed panels for my FAA project. The original plan was to use aluminum panels supplied by one of the FAA support groups, but that proved to be unreliable. At this stage of the project, the FAA was ordering in lots of ten, and the future of the project was uncertain. I never knew if an order for ten units might be the last-ever order, and there wasn't enough money in the job to buy in quantity, not knowing if extra parts would be used.
I looked at Front Panel Express. They will make small lots of custom-designed panels. I quickly drew up the panel I needed using their software, and found the price. One panel would cost a hundred bucks to make! Buying 10 at a time brought the price down to $80 each. Ouch. This is for an aluminum panel, powder-coated, engraved and back-filled with paint, so it's probably not an unreasonable price, but it wouldn't fly for my project. My contact at the FAA wanted a target price of $300 per unit. The heavy duty industrial switches cost nearly $100 by themselves and the other parts costs were not small since each unit has two circuit boards of about 150mm x 100mm. The Front Panel Express software is nice in that it shows you the cost of every operation; you can decide if that extra hole is worth the cost.
In this article, I'll share my exploration of using laser-cut acrylic panels as a cost effect alternative.Discuss this article in the forums (0 replies).