Custom wall plates offer integrators a tidy solution for concealing cables and also present an easy way to make your brand more visible. Jacob Harris reports.
Custom wall plates are an integral, though often overlooked, part of any reasonably complex AV or data installation. Indeed, the last thing an integrator needs after completing a job is a nest of unsightly cables to contend with. Custom wall plates allow installers to streamline and tidy cables by tucking them neatly away and also provide an opportunity to display a company logo and contact details.
“We print a variety of things on our plates including text, logos and even small images when there’s an icon required – there is no limitation to what we can do as far as printing goes,” says Alectro managing director James Stubbs.
Alectro sees Clipsal as market leaders so has not tried to create its own product line and instead uses Clipsal plates wherever possible. This means the company is limited to Clipsal’s colour range for standard options but they do have the ability to print white onto coloured plates so can offer full colour, black, white or whatever the customer’s preference is for custom orders.
“Being able to use Clipsal 2000, Clipsal Classic, or any of the Clipsal blank plates or gang plates means that the product we create will fit in seamlessly with any plates in the Clipsal range. This does open us up to competing with other companies that offer a similar service but we’ve gone to the extent of creating a fully customisable range so integrators don’t have to go through the process of sourcing connections and getting the plate engraved and then populating it etc. — all that is done for you,” says James.
Alectro will customise wall plates in just about any configuration imaginable. Of course, the chosen configuration, and whether the plate is vertical or horizontal, will affect the size of the plate required. If it’s horizontal, James says, they’ll try to stick to a one or two line configuration and try not to squeeze too much onto a plate.
“It really does depend on the customer’s requirement. If they’re limited to a floor box where they can only use one plate, then we’ll go down that road. But otherwise, if it’s at all possible, we’ll try to use multiple plates – or go to a custom stainless panel where they can incorporate everything on the one plate and not have it look too congested.”
The stainless plates Alectro offers range in size from something very similar to a Clipsal wall plate (about 75mm x 130mm) to upwards of 500mm. The company uses 316 marine grade stainless steel, which is more scratch resistant than grade 304 stainless, but produces an otherwise similar product. If a panel exceeds 300mm in height or width they’ll increase the thickness of the stainless steel from 1.6mm to 2mm or 3mm, depending on the connections that are going on the plate.
“The thickness of the stainless is important. For example, if we used standard 1.6mm stainless on a panel that was 500mm by 500mm and fully loaded with XLR connections, when it came time to torque up all the opposing corners of the XLR connections the plate would start to warp. So just to make sure that doesn’t happen we always go to a thicker plate,” says James.
When it comes to putting text onto a stainless plate there are a couple of different methods and of these Alectro usually opts for laser etching. This involves a ceramic coating being sprayed onto the panel which is then engraved. This process creates a good contrast between the panel and the text and is the most cost effective method. Other options involve chemical etching and then paint filling, which is significantly more expensive.
The company has no minimum order quantity and, as James points out, is happy to produce one off plates as well as larger orders.
“We’ be happy to produce a single plate with just one connection and no text on it. If it was just a one off plate we could turn it around in an hour or so. We could comfortably produce about 20 or 30 plates for a single customer in a day but going beyond that we’d probably ask about two or three days,” says James.
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