Expert Graphic Overlay Printing

Design Mark’s graphic overlay printing techniques and materials ensure long-lasting durability

A graphic overlay may be the first thing your customer or end user sees when interacting with your product. It must be durable, attractive, and functional.

Thanks to our graphic overlay printing expertise, Design Mark can manufacture your custom graphic overlay in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials to ensure durability. In fact, with sub-surface graphics, printing is done on the inside of the overlay, so your overlay’s graphics won’t degrade from use or cleaning.

Graphic Overlay Materials: Polycarbonate vs. Polyester

Design Mark offers a variety of overlay materials with thickness ranging from 7 mil to 30 mil. Selecting the graphic overlay material depends on the end user application and the environment in which it will be used, including exposure to sunlight and chemicals. Cost is also a consideration. Polycarbonate and polyester are the most commonly used materials for graphic overlays.

  • Polycarbonate overlays – Also known as PETG or Lexan, polycarbonate overlays are easy to die cut, print, and texture. However, they may show signs of wear after 100,000 actuations. If the environment is subject to chemicals, a hard coat should be used for protection. Polycarbonate overlays are optically clear at any thickness and provide a crisper emboss. Polycarbonate is lower in cost than polyester. Most users prefer the look of polycarbonate overlays versus polyester.
  • Polyester (PET) graphic overlays – This material is thinner and more resilient. It shows no sign of wear after 1,000,000 actuations. It also has superior resistance to chemicals and harsh environments. Polyester is more expensive than polycarbonate. (This material is perfect for industrial and military graphic overlays.)

Control panel overlays

Graphic overlays are a vital part of any modern control component for human-machine interface. Also called “operator interface panels,” a wide variety of industries use control panel overlays. A few examples include:

  • Manufacturing and industrial machinery
  • Construction equipment
  • Service equipment such as elevator controls
  • HVAC and refrigeration equipment
  • Transportation and marine
  • Military

Clearly, every control panel overlay must be custom designed to allow an operator to accomplish a specific task. This means attention to detail and intuitive graphics are critical factors to create a long-lasting graphic overlay that delivers a solid user-interface experience. At Design Mark, our core competence is designing, engineering, and manufacturing custom graphic overlays to meet the unique interface needs for your product – and for your users.

We offer 3 key benefits:

  1. Exceptionally streamlined process – Our state-of-the-art equipment and ISO-certified procedures provide a highly efficient development process for control panel overlays. This results in reduced lead times, enhanced quality control, and extremely competitive pricing.
  2. Sub-surface printing for durability – Printing is done on the inside of the graphic overlay, so buttons and branding won’t degrade from use or cleaning.
  3. Short lead times – Turn-time is approximately 3 weeks after artwork is approved.

Take advantage of rapid prototyping

Do you need a sample graphic overlay pronto? You might need a functional or non-functional prototype to:

  • Evaluate size and appearance
  • Test ergonomics and user experience (UX)
  • Display in a marketing campaign
  • Demonstrate at a tradeshow

Our designers and engineers will team with you to accommodate your critical path. We can screen print visual elements of the graphic overlay, and we can laser cut internal, adhesive, or switch layers. If you are evaluating different designs for your product’s look-and-feel, we can digitally print variations. This enables you to review several prototypes as well as verify product placement and appearance.

Keep in mind, you can work with Design Mark at various stages of your product development process, from prototype to production. We offer design and engineering support for early-stage product development, or we can simply provide a quote for the desired quantities of fully engineered, ready-to-manufacture graphic overlays.

Design & color matching for graphic overlays

When it comes to creating graphic overlays, Design Mark’s graphic design team is backed by decades of experience. Plus, our designers understand how to maximize the legibility of text and symbols, which maximizes usability. Here are helpful notes on design and color matching for graphic overlays. We encourage you to contact our designers to discuss your project’s details.

  1. Materials overview – The graphic layer of the membrane switch should be aesthetically pleasing, and it must endure use in its environment. Since environments vary greatly, the proper overlay materials must be chosen. We offer a variety of materials fully tested and categorized for diverse and demanding environments. Our experienced designers consider the following questions when specifying materials for your graphic overlay and the layers beneath:
  • Will the graphic overlay be exposed to sunlight?
  • Will it be exposed to household chemicals?
  • Will it be exposed to industrial chemicals?
  1. Color matching – Our comprehensive ink lab drives consistency to ensure we match the target color for your graphic overlay, every time. Design Mark can match to Pantone, Federal Standard, RAL, Munsell, or your color sample. While PMS colors are a common color reference, we can match any color specified. If you provide a color sample, we’ll match its pigments with our computer-controlled, color-matching technology.
  2. Artwork – Our graphics team prepares accurate files to exactly represent your vision of how the graphic overlay should appear. We team with you to clarify the product use and objectives; specify type styles, colors, and dimensions; and then provide artwork created in a vector-based computer program. Finished drawings clearly show all physical characteristics and elements on the switch such as windows, keys, and through holes.
  3. Drawings – We use AutoCAD to quickly generate drawings for our customers. Some customers prefer to provide a file to begin the design process. Be sure to include all dimensions on drawings to expedite your design.
  4. Customer-supplied samples – If no drawings are available, we can duplicate your sample part. We will measure and document your part, match the colors, and produce new artwork. When screen printing begins, colors are carefully formulated and tested for accuracy. Our expert screen printers have extensive experience printing on the substrates used for graphic overlays and have acquired a library of color matches.

Custom Graphic Overlay Options:

  • Custom graphic overlay printing
  • Textured surfaces
  • Color matching
  • Embossing – pillow embossing or ridge embossing
  • Adhesives customized for what it will stick to:
  • High mass – for heavily textured surfaces
  • Low surface energy – for powder-coated or low surface energy plastics
  • High strength – as required for the surface
  • Chemical resistant surfaces
  • Ultraviolet (UV) hardcoats
  • Graphic overlay prototypes
A graphic overlay applied onto the final product