front panels

Control panels – from design to finished product

21 Oct 2021 - Tomasz Gałecki

Each new product, regardless of whether it is an entire appliance or just its component, requires a thorough design preparation, technical analysis, selection of appropriate materials and technology for its implementation. The same concerns launching the production of sub-assemblies or housings for electrotechnical devices and household appliances. One of such significant components of household appliances, e.g., refrigerators or washing machines, are control panels which serve decorative and informative functions and enable the user to interact with the appliance and control its functions.

Before the first new control panel is installed in an appliance and leaves the assembly line together with it, it must go through a number of design and implementation stages. Its shape, functionality, colours, or assembly method are determined and developed at the stage of designing the entire appliance and making its prototype. Then, detailed technical drawings of particular components together with designs made in special 3D programmes go to subcontractors such as Etisoft. On its example, we can track the whole implementation process of a new project.

Control panels – how we produce it

In the case of a typical control panel, the first step is usually to make an injection mould on the basis of the designs received. However, before it reaches the Etisoft injection moulding plant, it must undergo a number of technical trials, tests, and measurements of the first trial injections. Once the maker of the mould has conducted all the tests and the results are positive, the mould can be fitted to one of Etisoft’s injection moulding machines and trial production can be launched. The received semi-finished products, the so-called raw control panels, again undergo detailed measurements and tests for compliance with the customer’s design and expectations. If the result of the first production are components compliant with the assumptions, you can proceed to the next steps. All parameters and settings of the injection moulding machine are saved in the product sheet so that they can be easily recalled at the next production launch.

Control at every stage of production

The next essential implementation step is to prepare the moulds and conduct test printing. Graphic design of the control panel overprint is usually carried out by the customer’s design team, and in the form of ready graphic files is sent to Etisoft or directly to Graffiti Studio, the screen-printing house associated with Etisoft. This is where the right paints and printing technology are selected and printing moulds (in this case special screen-printing mesh) are prepared.

panele kontrolne

Graffiti Studio makes the first prints using target technologies and printing machines on the raw control panels received from Etisoft. The first finished products are assessed here for dimensional and graphic compliance using specialist vision measuring systems. The colour of the print is also checked by a spectrophotometer. The next stage is to carry out a number of tests evaluating print durability and its resistance to mechanical damage and other factors, or substances specified by the customer. Once the expected result is achieved and/or possible corrections are made, a sample production run is made. As samples they are later evaluated and approved by the customer. Samples from this production together with the parameters and settings of the printing machine saved in the product sheet are stored in the archive. They will serve as models for future production.

Summing up the above, different implementation stages can be distinguished:

  • manufacturing of an injection mould or taking it over from the customer
  • conducting of a series of test injections
  • tests and measurements of raw workpieces
  • selection of printing technology and paints
  • preparation of printing moulds – screen printing mesh
  • test printing and measurements, and tests of print durability
  • manufacturing of a series of samples.

After the official positive evaluation and the absence of customer comments, the implementation stage of the new control panel is completed. Then, serial production and order processing can begin.

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