Overlays/Panels Explained

What is the difference between an overlay and a panel?

Panels generally can be thought of as a protective covering that may or may not have cut-outs for buttons, switches and windows. Overlays on the other hand have a component of interactivity with the piece. You will “press” the physical panel to push a button. Due to the material components and printing methods used, a graphic overlay or panel offers more protection than a label. Sub-surface printing protects your panel or overlay from scratching, chemicals, moisture or general wear and tear.

If you are in an industrial environment a large button that extends beyond a panel will make the job easier for someone to visually see or feel the button. However, medical equipment benefits from having a flat external surface with the buttons hidden behind a graphic overlay.

What is the difference between a label and a graphic overlay or panel?

Most of it is based on the size of the piece or the manner in which it will be used. Generally speaking, a panel or overlay will be the unit that integrates the needs of your equipment with the experience of your customers or employees.

How do I decide if I need a panel or an overlay?

You need to consider the physical needs of the equipment or device when choosing a panel or an overlay. They include such things as:

  • Does your equipment use a button or a switch?
  • Are you concerned about dust or debris interfering with your button?
  • How much pressure needs to be applied to depress a button?
  • What do you want your panel to look like?
  • Is there other activity that could accidently interfere with the button depression?
  • Is the application area raised or recessed?
  • What kind of durability is needed?
  • Will any strong chemicals or processes be applied or exposed to the panel?

These types of panels and overlays have many names, including: faceplate, graphic overlay, control panels, LED window displays, keypad overlays, subpanels and many more.

The Benefits of Overlays:

Overlays provide a flat surface that protects buttons and retail displays behind the protective overlay. This is helpful in industries or products that will experience cleaning on a regular basis, exposure to dirt or chemicals, and provide a clean, flat look from a design perspective. Embossing the overlay will provide textural context to the user. This enables a designer to provide emphasis to a particular section or button.

Polycarbonates and polyesters are the material of choice when designing an overlay panel.
Polycarbonates offer high impact resistance.
Polyesters are an excellent choice for harsh environments.

The Benefits of Panels:

Panels can be quite large in size with or without cut-outs for switches, buttons and displays. Aluminum, stainless steel and polycarbonates are excellent material options for panels. Panels are ideal for situations where products are exposed to chemicals, high temperatures, or cleaning solvents. A metal panel is the solution for recessed moldings, adding embossing as an information or decorative source, or as a front panel. Our UV tested, screen printed color system means we can match any corporate color and provide color stability in harsh conditions.

Common Industries that use Overlays and Panels:

  • Construction Machinery
  • Vending Machines
  • Coffee Makers
  • Sound Systems
  • Medical Equipment
  • Appliance Manufacturers

Mcloone will work with your designer or engineer to create a custom overlay or panel that precisely matches your specifications, corporate color, and logo. Whatever you need for standard or custom overlays, Mcloone can produce tailor-made solutions to meet your specific needs.