MacDermid Autotype's Autotex Steel polyester film has enabled MAPP Systems to create tough, long-lasting yet cost-effective switch panels with the appearance of brushed stainless steel.
Since its foundation in 1989 MAPP Systems has provided other small and medium-sized companies with a number of services in die-cut labelling and membrane switch manufacturing. The company takes pride in offering customers cutting-edge products and bespoke services.
Having manufactured membrane switches for well over two decades MAPP Systems is familiar with the Autotex range of printable polyester films from MacDermid Autotype. The Autotex range is claimed to be the international yardstick for durable and screen-printable textured polyester films for membrane switch applications that, even when embossed, can give a switch life performance of over five million actuations. In addition to its outstanding flex life, attractive appearance, and resistance to scratching and chemicals, Autotex is compatible with Windotex, a screen-printable windowing lacquer that produces clear, scratch-resistant windows allowing the incorporation of LCD and LED displays without damaging the physical integrity of the front switch panel.
The secret of Autotex's success lies in the specialist coating technology applied by MacDermid Autotype. This process enhances the film's inherent features as well as allowing selective texturing to expand the range of possible applications. Recently MacDermid Autotype was able to add a new line to its Autotex family, with a film that closely simulates the texture of brushed steel. Called Autotex Steel, the latest film is easy to handle and uses a special primer layer, making it compatible with most screen inks and, in particular, the new range of mirror inks used to replicate the cosmetic features of steel.
Stephen Morse, MAPP Systems' Managing Director, was quick to identify the potential of this new product, introducing two of his clients to Autotex Steel: one for the production of a control panel on an amplifier system, and the other for a line of portable printers. The results were astonishing, as Stephen Morse explains: "When we presented the prototype to our clients they thought that we had used wafer-thin steel and simply could not believe that it was, in fact, a polyester film. The beauty of Autotex Steel is that it offers a number of advantages over conventional stainless steel materials. High-quality keyboard or graphics panels can be produced at a much lower cost and can be easily embossed, making them ideal for use in applications where keys or panel areas need to have raised edges or domed switches thanks to the material's excellent flex life. By comparison, applying buttons to a steel surface would require separate components, decreasing the number of potential applications as well as making the finished product more expensive. With Autotex Steel the operation is simple and the buttons are incorporated as one single part, making it easy to create a fully sealed fascia or keyboard panel."
Unlike stainless steel, Autotex Steel does not show fingerprints, does not dent easily and can effortlessly be printed with clear display windows or even secret-until-lit graphics. The film offers excellent colour rendition and light transmission in clear areas, with graphics being printed on the second surface, so are protected from wear and abrasion by the body of the substrate itself, which is textured and chemically resistant.
Paradoxically, Autotex Steel has greater scratch resistance and a more cosmetically long-lasting appearance than brushed stainless steel, without requiring specialist cleaning materials to return each part to pristine condition. With a lower weight, manufacturing and shipping costs of parts made using Autotex Steel can also be greatly reduced - the latter being a real bonus at times of ever-increasing transportation costs.
With a keen eye for detail and for providing its customers with the best possible solutions to problems, MAPP Systems was able to identify a winning product that once again exceeded expectations.