o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
Overview of the Process
First, a quick definition: A control panel is anything
that provides a human interface to the electronic guts of
your project. The panel can be comprised of a simple
sheet of plastic, metal, wood, or even foam board.
Switches, dials, indicator lights, and other control circuitry
that provide interactive feedback go on the panel.
Often, but not always, the active circuitry and wiring
of your project are directly attached to the back side of
the control panel. In some cases, the panel serves as a
kind of wired remote control. You hold the panel in your
hands. Wires — or even wireless signals — connect the
panel with the rest of your project.
For the sake of simplicity, I’m lumping all the various
ways you can bundle your project into a package and
calling the front of it a “control panel.” For this article, it
doesn’t matter whether the panel is just by itself or part of
a box or other enclosure, or even if it’s attached to a 19”
wide rack in your recording studio.
With that part out of the way, let’s look at what’s
involved in making functional and attractive control
panels. The basic steps are:
1. Decide what controls are needed for your project
interface. Does it need just an on/off switch and a
power light? Or, does it also require some
additional function switches, control dials, LEDs,
LCDs, bar graphs, or mechanical meter movement?
Laying Out the Design
To demonstrate how to use Inkscape to design a
control panel, I’ll show the process for a fictitious project
that uses the three most common control components:
toggle switch, LED, and potentiometer. The panel is for an
Intergalatic Interrogating Interocitor — a device that surely
has something to do with reading mind pulses, and
perhaps erasing them and melting the entire brain.
The Interocitor panel measures 3” x 4”, with holes at
the corners for mounting directly to a printed circuit
board. It just so happens that the 3” x 4” form factor is
common in many microcontroller project boards,
including the Parallax BASIC Stamp Board of Education, so
it’s a good size to practice with.
The following assumes you already have Inkscape
installed on your computer, and that you are at least
somewhat familiar with its overall features, menus, and on-screen interface. If not, take the time now to
download and install it to your PC; see the Sources
box for where to get Inkscape. Take a few hours
following the various tutorials for Inkscape. You can
access them in the Inkscape program by choosing
Figure 1. The finished Intergalatic Interrogating Interocitor panel,
ready for mounting on switches, potentiometers, and LED indicators.
Begin the process of creating the layout for the
Interocitor control panel by opening a new document.
For those in the US and other areas that use letter size
paper, select File->New->Letter; for those in countries
that use “A” size papers, choose File->New->A4. (The
document size is only really relevant for printing. If
you choose the wrong size initially, you can always
change it later.)
Note! I’ll be showing simple methods for using
Inkscape to create physical layouts. I will not be
showing how to use grids, snaps, guides, or other more
advanced features. These you can learn on your own,
and use whatever additional tools Inkscape offers to
help speed up your work.
Adjust the zoom control to 75% or more to make
the workspace a little larger in your monitor. Then:
1. Make sure that both rulers and the Tool