Graphic Overlays: Essential for Industrial Applications – Melrose Nameplate & Label Co. | US Manufacturing Solutions

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Graphic Overlays: Essential for Industrial Applications

End-users perceive graphic overlays merely as interfaces to control devices or equipment. However, from a technical perspective, these overlays are multi-featured components providing protection, visibility, and functionality to a customer’s product.

The thin layer of plastic printed with text, symbols, and other graphics is popular for applications across diverse industries, including medical, automation, aviation, consumer electronics, etc.

Ensuring the safety and reliability of products requires careful consideration of graphic overlay design. In this article, you will discover seven key considerations that a manufacturer must keep in mind while developing a graphic overlay prototype.

Graphic overlay for industrial applications

7 key graphic overlay design considerations

Some challenges to be aware of when developing your next product may include harsh environments, extreme temperatures, chemical exposure, and abrasion. Solutions should be built around durability requirements, but also provide a user-friendly experience.

Size and Design Specifications

Size and design considerations are essential for graphic overlay manufacturing, impacting both functionality and aesthetics. The physical dimensions of the overlay influence how it fits and functions within the final product.

Think about not only the visual aspects but also user interaction. The layout, color scheme, and symbology must align with the intended user experience. Moreover, design choices influence manufacturing ability, with intricate designs requiring specialized processes.

Some of the factors that influence the size considerations are as follows:

  • Equipment dimensions: The overlay size must fit the equipment; any errors will result in an overlay that is too large or too small.
  • Aesthetic preferences: The overlay design must suit the design of the equipment, and brand styles, and be easy to use for its users.
  • Component arrangement: Buttons, labels, and other interactive components should be properly positioned to allow ease of use.
  • Clearance: Sufficient clearance must be left between the overlay and its underlying components to avoid interference.

Performance Capabilities

Graphic overlays must perform reliably under varying environmental conditions and operational demands. Performance capabilities should be carefully considered during the design process to ensure the overlay meets the specific application requirements.

Take a look at some key performance considerations for graphic overlays:

  • Durability: The overlay must be durable to withstand the exposed environmental and operational conditions, including factors such as temperature extremes, humidity, vibration, chemical exposure, and repeated cleaning.
  • Readability: The overlay must be readable under all lighting conditions. This includes factors such as font size, contrast, and glare resistance.
  • Optical Clarity: If the overlay covers displays or indicators, optical clarity is crucial to ensure that information is easily visible and legible.

Features and Functions

The features and functions of a graphic overlay have a significant impact on its design. The manufacturer must consider the needs of the user and the application specifications to create an overlay that is both functional and user-friendly.

Here are some key considerations:

  • Functionality: Achieved through the combination of necessary features and functions for users to operate the equipment or device, encompassing buttons, labels, indicators, and other interactive elements.
  • Safety: Overlays need to prevent accidental operation of the equipment or device. This may include features such as lockout mechanisms and warning labels.
  • Maintainability: For ease of maintenance, the overlay must allow quick removal and reinstallation. This may require features such as removable adhesive or screw-down mounting points.

In addition to these general considerations, various factors can influence the design of a graphic overlay, depending on the specific application. For example, graphic overlays used in medical devices must be designed to meet strict regulatory requirements.


In graphic overlay design, backlighting can influence various elements for both functionality and aesthetics. The following factors showcase how backlit features can shape the design, affecting material choices, visibility, color schemes, and overall illumination.

  • Overlay material: The overlay material must be able to transmit light evenly. Some common materials used for backlit overlays include polycarbonate, polyester, and acrylic.
  • Backlight type: There are a variety of backlighting technologies available, including LED, electroluminescent, and fiber optic. The best type of backlighting for a particular application will depend on the specific requirements and budget.
  • Overlay thickness: The overlay’s thickness will affect the backlighting’s brightness and evenness. Consider this carefully when selecting an overlay material.
  • Circuitry: The circuitry for the backlighting must be designed to ensure that it is reliable and durable.

Surface Finishes and Treatment

The impact of surface finishes and treatments on graphic overlay design is profound, influencing not only the visual appeal but also the durability and tactile experience.

Let’s explore how surface finishes and treatments play a key role in shaping the design of graphic overlays.

  1. Visual Aesthetics: Different finishes contribute to the overall look, from glossy to matte, impacting the design’s visual appeal.
  2. Durability: Protective treatments enhance resistance to wear, ensuring longevity.
  3. Tactile Experience: The texture of surface finishes influences the tactile feel, a crucial consideration for user interaction.
  4. Environmental Resistance: Certain treatments guard against environmental factors, ensuring resilience in diverse conditions.

Printing and Cutting Processes

Precision printing and intricate cutting techniques shape the design landscape of graphic overlays. From visual elements to functional intricacies, the combination of printing and cutting profoundly influences the outcome of these overlays.

Let’s see how these processes can influence graphic overlay designs.

  1. Visual Precision: Printing methods can significantly impact the clarity and detail of your graphics.
  2. Customization: Cutting techniques enable complex shapes and sizes, contributing to the overlay’s custom design.
  3. Alignment and Registration: Precise printing and cutting are important to ensuring alignment between the overlay and components such as dials, LEDs, buttons, etc.

Adhesive Choice

The selection of adhesive in graphic overlay design is critically important to function, reliability, and even aesthetics.

Let’s see how adhesive selection influences graphic overlay design.

  1. Surface Compatibility: Different adhesives are custom-made for various surfaces.
  2. Durability: Adhesive strength is crucial for ensuring the lifespan of the overlay in diverse conditions.
  3. Temperature Resistance: The right adhesive selection guards against extreme temperatures, which can be the difference between success and failure.
  4. Transparency: Clear adhesives provide a unique solution when requiring a combination of visual and bonding functions.

Focus on your project requirements, and decide from there.

There is no single perfect way to design a graphic overlay, everything depends on the equipment and its usage. These seven considerations help manufacturers in providing an accurate solution, customized to your project needs.

Each consideration has its role in balancing function, durability, and aesthetics. At Melrose, our team collaborates with you to build a custom solution. From consultation, through prototyping, and into mass production we are with you every step of the way. Talk with our experts and learn how our engineers leverage these design considerations to deliver unparalleled value to all of our customers.