Getting artwork onto the enclosure has always been a big challenge for me and it probably the hardest thing to do yourself. I started out with bare boxes, later using dymo tape, ink stamps, toner transfers and finally etching. I have never liked waterslide decals, especially the way it looks after a bit of wear and tear (even with several layers of clearcoat). I know some people use epoxy to cover the enclosures to create good protection and a shiny look, but that is too time consuming and messy for me. Etching is great, because it will never wear off, but that is also very time consuming and the result is kinda hit and miss for me (I guess I need more practice). It also involves chemicals that can stain you favourite clothes...
For my Arcadiator builds I outsourced the faceplates (which were silk screened), but the fiberglass material used was not very scratch resistant and the quality of the silk screen was poor. I probably had to throw away about half of them...
All this considered, and since i'm not longer building pedal for myself only, I decided to buy a laser - The Emblaser by Darkly Labs is a cheapest laser avaliable on the market (around $1000 AUD + shipping and import taxes and about $100 more in software if you will be using raster based graphics) and was first made possible through kickstarter. The laser comes in parts and you have to assemble it yourself. Many of the parts are 3d-printed and you can see where Darkly Labs had cut corners to be able to offer a laser at this price.
Unfortunatley my laser came with several bad parts with misdrilled holes, which led to days of frustration because of alignment issues. I contacted Darkly labs and they sent me new parts that solved my problems. Next up was actually getting artwork done with the laser. It's was a very steep learning curve, but luckely my friend Jimmie at Reaper Pedals made me a very helpful instructional video. Thanks!
One of the bad parts I revieced
Making faceplates for Into the Unknown
Jimmie's instructional video (in swedish)
For the faceplates i'm using a two layer plastic material called laserply. The actual engraving time is about two hours for engraving and 12 minutes for cutting. The engraving leaves a horrible smell of burnt plastic, so I will probably build some kind of box with air conditioning that goes outside.
VERDICT Good things: Good results, cheap (for a laser), small footprint Bad things: Poor quality control, weak laser, steep learning curve, limited use of colours
I wouldn't recommend it for the average hobbyist, but it's a decent alternative for a small company, if you have the patience.