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Making Backlit Panels Laser vs CNC Engraving


-Are there other processes I should consider?

Cheap and actually rather attractive way for a hundred years has been to make up the art by printer, hand lettering, wax transfer, later Pee Cee print onto ignorant white paper for a "master'.

And then.. contact print - handy if you knew a photolithographer - onto sheet film of the sort our 14" Roberston through the wall darkroom camera used to make negatives and positives for burning plates for sheet-offset lithographic printing presses.

We'd do these "backwards" so the labels around switches and dials all read "right" when the tough mylar backing was the fingernail-scratch working side, more fragile emulsion side sandwiched against thin opal or milky acrylic that distributed the backlighting. Photo "trade" was again tapped for thin but intense coloured "filter" films where colours were needed - whole panel, or selectively.

If no need of through-lighting, we'd use "metalphoto", and that, too, comes in colours now.

Resolution and great complexity were scary good at "no extra cost", volume production silly fast and cheap - we are talking one SHOT and done photography, after all, so even a rasterized laser-beam printer has to run hard to beat the processing time and CNC pushing a cutter might never if the panel was at all complex as to text and numbers, worse had lots of radial lines around dials to do.

End product had NO resemblance to print and laminate DIY at all. Very "factory" professional looking, rather. First glance, it was presumed to be flat-finished anodized 'loominum. Until the backlights were dialed-up in a darkened ground control room.

It was good enough and durable enough for NASA, COMSAT, NOAA, some other Fed agencies whose initials don't even have names. Replacements for scratched panels were in the envelope with the rest of the docs or invoice. Equipment generally went obsolete and off to scrap before they were ever needed.

Avionics march to their own sets of regs, but those are wotever they are.