Cutting panels

I think HF is "OK" -- if your expectations are "suitably adjusted".

A friend has a hammer drill and set of bits from HF that I have used several times with great success:

- holes in the slab to support new walls

- holes in the wall/fence surrounding the property to support pipes

- holes through the concrete block to get wires in/out of the house

[Actually, as of an hour ago, I appear to have inherited this toy! Yay! If it was 100 degrees cooler, I might think it was Christmas!!]

Damn thing makes these task almost enjoyable! Really cool to be able to drill a 1" hole through concrete without breaking a sweat!

OTOH, I certainly wouldn't want to depend on it if that was the essence of my *livelihood*!

Likewise, I need a tile/wet saw and a drywall lift. I am leary of HF as the quality issue *can* have repercussions in each of these scenarios.

E.g., if you have to "fight" the saw to get it to do the job, you are more likely to end up with unacceptable results. (tile tends to be located in highly visible locations!) And, if the drywall lift opts to *slip* under load, you end up with a broken back!

Reply to
Don Y
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There is. More or less a spin-off of the laser transfer system used to prepare PCBs for hobby etching.

I have used their green stuff for PCB layouts (ages ago). Have not tried making the DIY dry transfers.

Reply to
Rich Webb

Hi, Don:-

Protocase does this sort of thing at a fairly reasonable price- they'll put markings on too. I think frontpanelexpress.com as well, but never tried them. They use CNC punching so you get almost smooth edges (a bit of a burr where the successive punch hits overlap, which could be smoothed off with a file, but is usually unnecessary).

You could also make a relatively crappy panel with a scroll saw and file (lots of light, magnifier lamp or safety glasses up close, and clear the chips often), and cover it with a (eg. plastic) bezel that is thin enough to cut with an Xacto(tm) knife. I assume you're using something like 3mm hard Al so hand punching or pneumatic nibbling would be a bear. Oh, and use appropriate file sizes and the type with no teeth on the sides so as to get sharp corners. A skilled person can do wonders with a file. ;-) Supposedly one 'hiring' test for machinists was to make a square peg and square hole with nothing more than a file and a hacksaw. Had to fit within a thou or two to pass.

Best regards, Spehro Pefhany

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"it's the network..."                          "The Journey is the reward" 
speff@interlog.com             Info for manufacturers: http://www.trexon.com 
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Reply to
Spehro Pefhany

Try Front Panel Express

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Peter Bennett, VE7CEI  Vancouver BC 
peterbb (at) telus.net 
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Reply to
Peter Bennett

Ah, so they sort of tackle it like an oversized "nibbler"?

Yes. I think this is the right approach. Separate the cosmetic from the structural/functional.

In my case, I can take a pair of panels and cut each slightly beyond the halfway point. E.g., given something LIKE:

imagine cutting vertically, halfway between the "13" and "14" markers. So, you end up with as much "panel" extending to the right of the 12th (and 36th and 60th) connectors as you do to the left of the *1st* connector. This acts as an "ear" with which the panel can be mounted to .

[You must cut *outside* the "black dots" that mark the locations of the studs/standoffs/bosses onto which the PCB *behind* the panel is fastened. And, still leave enough material to provide a mounting surface]

But, cutting at the 13-14 point leaves you with a real mess! I.e., the right edge of this new panel now has these big cutouts into it (for connectors #13, #37, #61, #85).

If, however, you can apply some thin sheet of plastic (0.062") over the whole thing, it *appears* to be a much finer product.

[The connectors can be coaxed into protruding further through the panel -- to align with the outer surface of this plastic overlay -- by trimming down the standoffs on the rear of the panel]

Exactly. Trying to "machine" it turns it into a project of its own! (sort of like making your own spark plugs *before* you start on that tune-up!)

I'd rather come up with a solution that lets more folks achieve "acceptable" results than require people to expend a lot of effort in something as "unimportant" (?) as a "device to hold connectors". I think the more you can do to cause "good" results encourages people to undertake projects that by which they might otherwise be intimidated. E.g., the "Photoshop overlay" lets folks feel like they've done something completely unique -- without having to understand some other (more important!) detail...

This also lets folks adapt the solution to their particular needs and the materials that they have available to them. E.g., I also have a bunch of 12-port panels intended for vertical orientation. Rotate them 90 degrees and slap something on top and no one knows that the *obscured* legend is now "sideways".

Keep cool! Regards to wife.

--don

Reply to
Don Y

Well, at those prices you could have one or two spares on the truck. But for serious hammer drilling I've got a Bosch Bulldog. That thing is next to indestructable.

I bought an $88 wet tile saw from Home Depot, then a professional-grade "Mad Dog" blade to replace the cheapo blade that came with it (that's key), and it served me well for almost 1000 sqft of quite complicated tile laying. We have a Frank Lloyd Wright style house where hardly any wall is right-angle.

It was hot, and sometimes I'd just let it run, stand in front of it and let it rain on me. Poor man's evaporative cooling.

--
Regards, Joerg 

http://www.analogconsultants.com/
Reply to
Joerg

No, no, this is the _excuse_ to buy it ... "Honey, I really needed to have this". Of course you could have easily made the piece by hand if it's a one-off, but she doesn't have to know :-)

[...]
--
Regards, Joerg 

http://www.analogconsultants.com/
Reply to
Joerg

I *crudely* threw together a minimalist panel design just to get an idea as to what their pricing was likely to be. I.e., I just set out to reproduce the existing panel -- trimmed down to 3x12 instead of 4x(12+12). Recall I will need two that are that size...

This results in a panel 5.25 x 10.5 x 0.125. I chose black anodized aluminum as it seemed to be close to the cheapest option ("natural" would require painting)

The panel with three 7.5 x 0.625 slots was $43.

Adding the 72 countersunk holes that allow the PCB's located behind the panel to be attached to the panel increased this to $72.

Adding 6 countersunk mounting holes to mount the panel to increased this to $96 (OK, maybe I could omit two of those holes... perhaps this saves $5-10?).

Lettering the 36 connector positions with simple numeric designators (i.e., 1-36) brings the price up to $118.

[Perhaps there are cheaper options that I didn't explore?]

Repeat for the second set of 36 means we're in the $230+ ballpark. For essentially a blank sheet of aluminum with a few holes in it (surely no descriptive legend... that would have to be written on a sheet of paper taped to the wall by the panel? :> )

I can't imagine many folks going this route. Esp when you see how many PC's have replaced/added optical drives that don't bother to "match" the original color scheme of the machine! :>

--don

Reply to
Don Y

Grrr... typo. sb "24" holes (8 for each group of 12 connectors); $72 for the new price.

Reply to
Don Y

There are various manufacturers that make unpopulated rack panels punched for Keystone RJ-45 jacks. For example: I couldn't find one in 3x12 but there may be other configurations that are suitable.

Also, search for "blank rack panels". They're not really "blank" but that's what seems to produce the most hits for unpopulated panels.

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Jeff Liebermann     jeffl@cruzio.com 
150 Felker St #D    http://www.LearnByDestroying.com 
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Reply to
Jeff Liebermann

You're looking for a "panel punch". A quick Google didn't find me a good RJ-45 one, although there are a ton of rectangular sizes available, presumably one ought to fit an RJ-45.

I've personally only used some DB style ones. Details vary, but usually you drill some holes, fit the bolts that connect the front and back dies together, tighten things up, and then crank the punch screw until you've made a hole. I own one of these:

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Reply to
Robert Wessel

This I printed on paper, and then put some stikcy transparent over it. The rectangular hole was made with a jigsaw.

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The LEDs are behind holes in the alu, you only see those when on.

It needs a LCD bezel and a new printout and foil glued, but it seems to work this way too ;-) But if you do this right it can look cool, print text in color too (inkjet), and the transparent foil makes it shine, shine sells.

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I messed up the foil when sliding it in, was too thick... else it is really flat.

Reply to
Jan Panteltje

You're suggesting "nibbling" away the long slot "one connector-width at a time"? Then, coming along afterwards with a file to trim the spots where they overlapped?

Greenlee makes great punches! Years ago I had access to a large set of their punches along with the "hydraulic" actuator (so you don't have to crank down on the bolt to drive the punch through the material). I recall using them to punch 2.5" dia holes in a panel for some analog panel meters in a power supply I was designing. Talk about "labor saving"... :> I started *looking* for extra uses for the punches: power inlets, fuse holders, etc. Things that *could* have been done with oversize drill bits but much more fun to do with the punch set!

--don

Reply to
Don Y

For a professional-looking panel that ain't bad at all. Just think about what your own time is worth per hour, and then you still need to buy the stock somewhere. Which probably means another hour just for the drive into town, plus 2-3 gallons of gas at $4 a pop.

--
Regards, Joerg 

http://www.analogconsultants.com/
Reply to
Joerg

If plastic would do, try laser cut acrylic (=Perspex, is that the same as lexan?) Then use clip-in patch sockets. The main difficulty would be the robustness of the plastic, plus finding sockets designed for a thick (4mm?) panel rather than 1mm steel.

Tooling charges for a laser cutter should be minimal as there's almost no setup, just draw something in a vector graphics package and that should suffice. Ask your laser cutting shop what's their preferred program.

Theo

Reply to
Theo Markettos

For 2-D, almost everyone can work with a DXF file.

Reply to
Spehro Pefhany

How many folks, realistically, do you think would drop that sort of money on a "piece of metal"? You can buy 3 or 4 quality security cameras for that price. Or, several of the little satellite processors that I use. I.e., things that give you functionality ... not just cosmetic.

As I said elsewhere, think of how many folks with "black" color scheme PC's have added/replaced CD/DVD drives and used *white* ones... because the *black* ones weren't on sale? Or, a brandX keyboard on a brandY computer? Or, who label things with pen/pencil instead of a real "labeler" (or, don't bother to label at all!! :> )

And, that's just a "generic" panel. I.e., *exactly* what I already HAVE... all it's buying me is "cut it in half" and don't make it

*look* like it has been cut in half! And, it still doesn't really legend the connections (other than numbering them).

E.g., with a graphic overlay, I can put pictures (icons) of cameras with "NNW", "NNE", "SSW", "SSE", etc. to identify the various security camera connections; icons of speakers with "N Kit" (kitchen), "S Kit", "NW Fam", "SE Fam", "SW Fam", etc. to identify each of the network speaker connections; little "antenna beacon" icons legended to identify the connections associated with the beacons; icons of "CRTs" legended to identify the connectors associated with the various control panels; a bell to mark the connector for the alarm system; a big "drip" for the irrigation system; etc. (I have mixed feelings about icons. But, you could also arrange the connectors in *groups* and use the space below each group to identify the group -- "Security Cameras" -- with shorter indications to further qualify each individual connector: NNW, NNE, SSW, etc.)

Shirley, trying to do anything like this on that "custom" panel from fabricator is going to be outrageously expensive (and, if it is engraved, probably pretty unusable, visually).

And, if you change some wiring or add some new connections, you just print a new overlay!

Also, if you've screwed up *measuring* the locations of the various mounting studs, etc. *required* to make the custom panel usable, you don't learn $100/200 later! Screw up a graphic overlay and you're out $2. It doesn't *care* where the studs are located because the studs are already present on the panel *beneath* the overlay!

It's called a photograph. You buy them at Walgreens, Target, Costco, Walmart, etc.

With the custom panel, you still are spending time. And, waiting days/weeks to see if you've screwed up.

Some of us have indoor plumbing, Joerg (i.e., we don't live 35+ miles from ) :> Even a thin sheet of rigid plastic can be purchased from any of the local craft stores. Remember, it doesn't have to *do* anything -- just cover some holes that we want to pretend don't exist and "support" a photograph.

I think the graphic overlay would appeal to the sort of person who *isn't* going to just settle for "using an equipment rack". (I know several folks who *will* go the equipment rack route!) It's a very low bar to cross -- low cost of admission. And, very low cost for failure (print paper copies until you are sure all is correct). And, lets them point to something that is exclusively *their* creation -- since so much else *won't* be!

And, hey, if he wanted to spend extra money on a fancy piece of metal, there's nothing to stop him! He can even machine it out of

*platinum* if he wants! :> (chances are, that sort of sod would not be doing *anything* himself so I won't worry about him!)

--don

Reply to
Don Y

Hobbyists won't, of course. But I can see myraid uses in the professional world. For example, when you present an idea to venture capitalists (just did that recently) there will often be demo hardware you have built. A professional front panel versus a "duck tape and Sharpie" approach can make all the difference. Well worth $100.

Man, you guys must have a full-blown NSA setup going there :-)

Sure, if you need flexibility you can't have things engraved. In that case it is better to have slots for paper strip, like the quick-dial numbers on a fax machine.

You plan to screw the panels straight onto the studs? That sure is a true minimalist approach.

Yeah, but those photos don't last.

Ain't no crafts store in this here town. But we can get saddles, boots, spurs, and glow plugs for the John Deere.

For hobby or residential use it can be ok. But not really in the pro world, like industrial of when looking for venture funding.

--
Regards, Joerg 

http://www.analogconsultants.com/
Reply to
Joerg

No just punching the holes you need. I was under the impression you wanted to put something like this:

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or a collection of single ports through a panel.

For a 2x6 block of RJ-45, like the one above, you'd need an (approximately) 26x87mm rectangular punch. One that size didn't leap out at me on Greenlee's site, but I did see one that looked sized for a 4x6 block of RJ-45s.

Another alternative is to find someone who does waterjet cutting in your area, and send them the appropriate CAD file.

Reply to
Robert Wessel

Ah, sorry. We're speaking under different assumptions. :<

*I'm* talking about someone trying to reproduce my system and facing the same sorts of challenges: a variable number of "connections"; servicing a variety of *different* purposes; with an *individual's* budget; etc.

E.g., patch panels make sense fabricated the way they are when they are being used to connect a bunch of "computers" together. You probably already *have* several equipment racks for your network switches, UPS, servers, patch panels, etc. This is where the patch panel "belongs".

And, "1" means just as much as "37" as far as identifiers are concerned. And, having a cheat sheet that expounds on those identifiers is almost a requirement as you typically are describing a sh*tload of drops in a variety of different offices throughout a building. "Workstation 3 in Electronics Lab", "Supervisor's Office", "Cubicle 3B77A2 South", etc. So, the 0.625" of horizontal space available for a "label" can suffice to carry

*just* a number.

OTOH, when you (me) are using the panel to interconnect a bunch of different *systems* (HVAC, Irrigation, Surveillance Camera 3, Hot Water Heater, Garage Door Opener, Weather Station, etc.) then its more helpful if you can indicate what each connector services *on* the panel (since people misplace cheat sheets; businesses tend to have *staff* responsible for tracking what's where on their patch panels!).

You probably *don't* have an equipment rack anywhere in your home. And, probably don't want to see a mess of cables and equipment. Or *hear* them (fans, etc.). Instead, you want to tuck it all into some corner where it is just barely accessible. "Make it fit".

E.g., here, I have the various processors, switches, UPS, etc. hiding in the bottom of a "closet" off the kitchen. Space that isn't easily used for anything that we would want to get at often (because it's too low to the ground).

I can imagine others wanting to put it all in a big box and hide it in a bedroom closet. (I'm not sure I would recommend locating it in "non-living" space -- reliability! :< ) My goal is to shrink things to about 10U -- I'm about double that, currently (because I have lots of COTS components in the current implementation)

I'd like to come up with a "solution" that lets folks figure out how best to package/deploy their own version instead of imposing a solution. You want to use an equipment rack? Fine! *You* figure out where to put it... (I have a friend with one of these

5,000sq ft palaces that *likes* making his toys visible. He'd probably set it in a 42U rack with glass doors sitting in a corner of his living room! "Conversation Piece" :-/ Sheesh!)

The idea of "custom panels" IN GENERAL makes perfect sense (e.g., the examples you cite). I just don't think many would pursue it for *this* project (which would already be hard to get past your S.O. -- regardless of how many shoes she has!! :> )

Yeah. Wanna know what the neighbors had for breakfast this morning?

[Actually, I haven't deployed the cameras outside the house, yet, as that's going to usher in a bunch of "tricky" conversations. Esp from folks who will think *I* should now monitor activities outside *their* houses and be willing to sit through hours of footage trying to identify someone who drove through the neighborhood squealing their tires, etc.]

Little paper strips fall out and get lots. Writing *on* the unit ensures it stays *with* the unit. But, then you're screwed when you want to change a label (recall, you only have 0.625" to make your annotation!).

Given that the wiring isn't likely to change often (unless a connector fails or a cable "in the wall" breaks), simply replacing the entire overlay seems a good approach.

Of course, folks with larger/wider panels will be stuck having to get their overlays printed "elsewhere" (unless you have a B size printer). But, even that isn't a real hassle since it is so infrequent.

Not sure what you mean.

The panel consists of a sheet of aluminum, a set of PCBs (onto which are mounted the connectors and punch-down blocks), and a set of studs/standoffs that "float" the PCBs behind the aluminum sheet.

Opening ===== ========== S CCCCC S S CCCCC S S CCCCC S --------------- B B B B

Viewed sighting *down* the edge so the connectors are stacked normal to the page

Where: == aluminum sheet

-- PCB CC connector body (soldered to PCB) S standoff/stud (fastened to panel and PCB) B punch-down block (soldered to PCB)

So, the locations of the studs as they meet the panel are significant. Drill the hole in the wrong place (assuming you are machining a piece of metal -- or, having someone else do it for you) and you can't line up the PCBs/connectors with the slots ("opening") in the aluminum plate.

Since these studs don't appear on (or through!) the graphic overlay, that's one less (actually, 24 holes) thing to worry about screwing up!

[Remember, I'm thinking about *other* people trying to make such things!]

Laminated they will last damn near forever. Remember, you aren't poking at this every hour/day/week. You plug stuff in and forget it. Until something stops working or you want to add some capability.

How often do you have to replace the labels on your fuse box outside (?) your home? And, I suspect you spend far more time in there (resetting breakers, etc.) than you ever would, here!

(E.g., how often do you reconfigure the cables going to your network switch(es)?)

Ah. Perhaps that's why I thought you lived further out (east)! [I've had an image of a spot near Lake Tahoe in my mind -- even though I know you don't live in Tahoe!]

I can walk to a Kinkos in less than 15 minutes. E.g., I am planning on taking my first pass of this "panel overlay" there, tomorrow, to get it laminated. I used heavy card stock to print it on one of the Phasers (gives it a high sheen, "magazine page" finish) to increase it's "rigidity" and I'm hoping the plastic lamination will make it even stiffer. If it works out, then I'll spend a bit more time to pretty-up the thing (actually, have to make the second one as well -- different legend) and call it "done"! :>

Agreed. As I tried to clarify above: I'm concerned with folks who are trying to do this "for themselves". A commercial offering would be far less "custom": "This is the Model X. And here is the Model Y. Which one do you want?"

And, commercial offerings tend to be *less* concerned with cost than someone who's trying to bankroll a gizmo like this for themselves...

E.g., we've dropped about a kilobuck into *just* the irrigation system -- with none of that spent on "labor" or "profit". We could never have justified what it would have cost to *contract* that job out! If I'd *tried* to contract *this* project out, neither of us would *ever* retire (to enjoy it!) :>

--don

Reply to
Don Y

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