FAQs

What is the minimum order quantity?

We don’t have any minimum quantities; we can make as few or as many items as you require. However, typically, the more we can do at one time, the better the unit rate is.

What are the artwork requirements?

We can handle most graphics files you can throw at us. But there are a few things to keep in mind when supplying us with your artwork.

Vector Files

We prefer files to be supplied in vector format. Vector graphics can be scaled and rendered at any size without loss of quality, meaning we can reproduce very high-quality prints. We use Adobe Illustrator, so if you can supply Illustrator files, this is best. Otherwise, you can export your file to a vector-based PDF. Also, please make sure that you supply any fonts used in your design or convert all text to paths.

Pixel File

Common graphics formats, such as JPEG, TIFF, PNG, GIF and BMP, are compressed files, meaning that some of the information has been cleverly removed from the file to make it quicker to transport over the internet.

These ‘pixel files’ are generally not easy for us to work with as they’re not intended to be manipulated. They often can’t be enlarged without significant loss of quality. As a rough rule, the larger the file, the more detail it will contain and the better the result when it’s printed.

If you only have JPEG, TIFF, PNG, GIF or BMP files available, by all means send them through. However, please bear in mind that we may have to recreate them in a vector-based format.

CAD Files

We can import CAD files, such as DXF or DWG. But sometimes there can be some compatibility issues. Please give us a call to discuss this.

Can you put unique information, like a serial number, on a graphic overlay?

Yes, we can add variable data, such as a unique serial number or production tracking number to a graphic overlay. However, bear in mind that if you ever need to change the graphic overlay (or the serial number) you will need to replace it with a matching overlay. Generally, serial numbers are better placed on a dedicated serial number label.

Why is the number of colours used important when manufacturing a graphic overlay?

Screen printing is still the preferred process of choice when manufacturing membrane keypads and graphic overlays. Flatbed digital UV printing is versatile and dynamic, but it can be slow if the print run is large.

To achieve the best result, we generally screen print spot colours to produce a graphic overlay or membrane keypad. When using spot colours, we mix various inks as per the manufacturer’s specifications to achieve the colour, which is then printed with 100% coverage.

Spot colours are very opaque, give good solid colours and have proven to be very light fast. Each colour is printed one at a time, which requires a new setup up at each pass. Therefore, the more colours contained in the artwork, the more passes through the process.

I’m building a prototype – can you produce a one-off graphic overlay suitable for my product samples?

Yes, we have a couple of options. We can produce a mock-up of the final overlay using relatively low-cost laminated graphics. This is a good way to determine if you are happy with the layout and if the cut outs are positioned correctly. Alternatively, we can produce graphic overlays using a fully digital printing process.

Are there any standard label sizes?

Our labels are all custom made to meet your requirements, so we can make them any size up to a certain point. There are some maximum size restrictions, so give us a call for more details on sizing. But to give you an idea of how big we can go, we’ve produced graphic overlays for industrial applications as big as 645mm x 365mm (though this is not common).

Do you need special tooling set up to make a graphic overlay or membrane keypad?

Each graphic overlay or keypad is custom made for a specific application. There are possibly two pieces of tooling required before we can make your graphic overlay or keypad:

Embossing Block

If your overlay or keypad requires raised or embossed buttons, we will need to manufacture an embossing block. The block consists of a matching pair (male and female halves) of formed magnesium. Embossing is the process of pressing the film between the blocks. We can take care of setting up the embossing block for your project.

Die Cutting Forme

A die-forme is like a cookie cutter, though considerably more accurate and a lot sharper. We use this tool to cut the graphic overlay once it’s printed. We can set up the die-forme for your project, just ask.

We set up these tools once at the very start of the job. We then store them for future runs of the same work.

What material shall I choose for my graphic overlay – polycarbonate or polyester?

Our graphic overlays are made using two types of high-quality printing film; polycarbonate (Lexan) or polyester (Autotype).

Each material has unique properties, but if you don’t choose the one best suited to your application, it can have a detrimental impact on the life of your product and the graphic overlay.

Polycarbonate

Developed in the 1950s, polycarbonate is a thermoplastic that has been used in a diverse range of products, from fighter aircraft canopies and space suit helmets to the more down-to-earth applications of graphic overlays and control panels.

Generally used where no mechanical movement of the overlay is needed, and the possibility of chemical contact is low, polycarbonate is a polymer and as such is hard-wearing.

Made up of long polymer chains which make it shatter resistant, and fine, velvety films which make it difficult to scratch, polycarbonate is an ideal material for graphic overlays because it’s a durable and scratch-resistant. And when it’s combined with a high-quality adhesive, you get a robust graphic overlay that will withstand harsh conditions over time.

Polycarbonate films commonly used for graphic overlay production range from around 150-micron to 500-micron thick (0.15mm to 0.5mm).

Polyester

Polyester is strong, flexible and resistant to common chemicals. It’s also an excellent electrical insulator exhibiting a very high dielectric strength and resistivity, making it the film of choice for high-quality membrane keypads and graphic overlays.

Polyester’s durability and flexibility are a result of its biaxially orientated film. This means that the polymer chains in the material are aligned in multiple yet perpendicular directions, which dramatically increases the strength of the film.

Because of this biaxial nature, polyester is extremely strong compared to other commonly used substrates and has a superior ability to cope with flexing, making it ideal for embossed graphic overlays which are subject to repetitive use and thus significant mechanical flexing.

Polyester is also resistant to almost all common chemicals and is only susceptible to damage from strong acids. Despite this chemical resistance being a positive feature, it does make the film resistant to solvents in printing inks. So we use special keying agents on the film to promote good ink adhesion when creating our graphic overlays.