Using a 3D Printer to make plane decals / placard for home cockpit

To make your home cockpit feel more authentic, you need some placards with warnings etc.

This would probably be easier and prettier with some kind of laser cutter / CNC thingy, but I don’t have that. So I have to make do with what I have, and that’s a consumer-grade Ender 3 S1 3D printer.

Look at the above image, it has 3 examples on how to make such placards using a 3D printer. The MacBook in the left is “for scale”, but to be precise, these placards are each 78mm wide and 28mm tall. I have no idea if these measurements are realistic or not, but they felt right to me.

All 3 placards were originally designed in Tinkercard. It’s a free online service to design stuff, very easy to use. I basically made a 1mm thick background, then wrote some text that were increased with 0.5mm height.

The top placard, which has the most “patina”, is made like this:

  • 3D printed in white PLA, on a somewhat slow speed.
  • Then spray-painted black.
  • When paint dried, I sanded (or used a dremel with a small sandpaper bit) the characters to reveal the white.

The 2nd placard was made like this:

  • In Prusa Slicer, where I slice the STL file into Gcode for the printer, I put in a “filament change” just when the printer would begin printing the text.
  • Then I printed the base with black PLA.
  • The printer then prompted me to switch PLA, so I switched to white PLA and continued.
  • The printer started in the right side of the placard and I felt like it was printing a bit too fast. So I slowed the print speed down to around 50%.
  • After slowing down to 50%, you can see that the left side of the text is readable, while the right side (printed too fast) is gibberish.

The 3rd placard is made exactly like the 2nd, except:

  • I set the printing speed to around 25% as soon as it started printing the text. All the text is readable, but it doesn’t really look better than the 75%-speed text from placard 2.

Here’s how it looked in Tinkercad before printing:

I also made a “CAUTION”-placard for fuel switching:

Finally, it’s also possible to make knobs with a similar process. This one is spray painted and sanded though, but I intend to re-make it using the “black PLA + white PLA”-method. This knob is mounted on my “sliding potentiometer”-thingy, which I’ll probably post more about later.

Here’s some testing of “filament change” with various size letters:

I may end up simply printing black knobs and putting a Dymo label (white text, transparent background) on top of it. Unfortunately my Dymo labels doesn’t stick well onto PLA, so it needs a drop of glue as well. While the “filament change”-trick on 3D printer does work, it’s also a bit more hassle and doesn’t print as well unless the letters are of a certain size. So yeah, I might just go with a label for now. We’ll see.


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