Are you looking to add a subtle yet eye-catching decorative element to your metal component? Look no further than brush finish! GMN specializes in metal decoration, and one attribute we commonly add to metal is a mechanical brush finish.
What is a brush finish?
Performed at the front-end of the manufacturing process, a brush finish consists of many unidirectional lines creating a clean, consistent blanket over the surface of the metal. Applied to either stainless steel or aluminum, brush finish is often combined with other decoration enhancements such as ElectraGraphics, embossing, and screen printing, to name a few. Used in a wide range of products, brush finish is particularly prevalent in the electronics, home appliances, and automotive industries.
The metal brush finish process
As you can see in the video, sheets of raw metal are fed into a machine having a large abrasive brushing wheel over it. The brush creates many fine linear abrasions on the sheet, reflecting light in a unique way. There are many design options to consider as well, including selecting a brush texture ranging from fine to heavy or applying the finish to the metal overall or selectively. For selective finishes, a resist ink is screen-printed onto the metal sheets before the metal is brushed. The resist protects the desired area from being brushed, thus creating an interesting contrast within the design. The contrasting look results solely from the difference in the textures and the way light reflects off of the surface.
After brushing, the metal sheet is washed and dried to remove any residue or oil, and then an operator quickly inspects the sheet for any apparent defects as it continues down the line. A roll-coater can also be set up to apply a tinted or clear coating in-line onto the metal to enhance its durability or appearance. In the video, a tinted coating is applied to the aluminum to make it look slightly grayer. Since stainless steel can be more costly at times, this is a cost-effective way to make aluminum mimic the appearance of stainless steel.
Finally, the sheets go through an oven and are again visually examined for any imperfections. This final inspection marks the completion of applying the brush finish, and the metal is now ready to move onto the subsequent process.
Brushed metal finishes at GMN
To catch a glimpse of the various looks that can be realized with brush finishing and see the brush finish line in action, you can watch our video below.
A spin finish, also known as spotting or engine turning, is a mechanical metal decoration technique that creates visually striking and repetitive circular patterns. The unique interplay of light as it reflects off the finished metal surface adds movement and enhances the aesthetic appeal of the part. Rising to popularity in the 1920s and 1930s, the spin finish was frequently seen in the automotive industry, especially on dashboards and instrumentation panels. However, in recent times, this decorative finish has expanded its reach to include a broad range of industries such as aerospace, appliance, electronics, and more.
The spin finish process
Primarily performed on aluminum or stainless steel, a mechanical spin finish is always applied on a flat sheet of raw metal. The metal sheet is first lubricated with oil to facilitate uniform spinning and prevent the burning of metal when the abrasive pad is applied. The abrasive pads are mounted on single or multiple spindles that descend on the flat surface to skin the metal in a circular, overlapping pattern. The extent to which the patterns overlap each other can be easily adjusted and altered.
Types of spin finishes
The two types of spin finishes that can be applied are:
- Drag spin finish - Once the spindle(s) descends on the metal, it literally drags across the surface while continuously blading the metal and creating overlapping swirls.
- Spot spin finish - Once the spindle(s) descends, it blades the metal from a targeted spot, ascends, and then descends again on a spot next to it, creating overlapping or isolated patterns.
The computer numerical control (CNC) spin finish machines at GMN can hold up to seven spindles at a time, and the diameter of each spindle can vary from a minimum of 0.5” to a maximum of 20”. The distance between each spindle and the speed at which they travel across the metal surface can be customized to achieve different looks. Depending on the design intent, the swirling pattern can range from fine, to heavy, to coarse. Spin finishes can also be applied overall or selectively. For selective finishes, a resin is screen-printed on the metal, which protects the desired areas from the abrasive pad, thus creating contrasting looks within the design. Offering a range of sizes, depths, and pattern intensities, the cosmetic variations that spin finish can produce is truly vast.
Once the spin finish is applied, the metal sheet is run through a washing line to remove the oil from its surface. The sheet is cleaned, dried, and a clear or tinted coating is applied to the surface of the metal. As a subtractive process, the spin finish takes away the inherent protective layer from the surface of the metal, and hence adding a topcoat is extremely crucial to seal the exposed metal for performance considerations. The sheets are visually inspected and then are ready to be formed into the desired shape. Decorative accents such as lithographic, screen, digital, and pad printing, along with embossed or debossed graphics, are often added to spin finished parts to further accentuate their aesthetic appeal.
With decades of custom manufacturing experience and printing capabilities under its belt, GMN has worked with several leading companies including Dell, Ford, Callaway, General Motors, Keurig, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to create stunning spin-finished nameplates and components.
To see the spin finish process in action, watch the video below.
We are excited to announce that GM Nameplate (GMN) was recently recognized as a Bronze Tier Supplier for exceptional performance and contributions to supply chain success in 2020 for BAE Systems, Inc.’s Electronic Systems sector. GM Nameplate was honored at a virtual ceremony and was selected from the pool of suppliers that worked with BAE Systems in 2020.
“At GMN Aerospace, we operate in an environment where meeting increased efficiencies and customer’s cost objectives are front and center,” said Mary Corrales, New Product Manager at GMN Aerospace. “We celebrate this achievement as a team as we continue to focus on always getter better and taking care of our customers.”
Jeff Lee, New Product Manager at GMN Aerospace added, “To receive this recognition is the result of our entire organization’s commitment to excellence and to our strong collaboration with BAE Systems. On behalf of all of us at GM Nameplate, thank you!”
BAE Systems’ Partner 2 Win program is designed to achieve operational excellence and eliminate defects in its supply chain by raising the bar of performance expectations to meet the demand of current and future customers. As part of the program, BAE Systems meets regularly with its suppliers to transfer best practices to ensure that the components and materials that compose BAE Systems products meet the highest quality standards.
“We are proud of the partnership we have with companies like GM Nameplate that delivered the highest quality products on-time, despite the challenges presented by a global pandemic,” said Kim Cadorette, vice president of operations for BAE Systems’ Electronic Systems sector. “We recognize that our suppliers are critical to our company’s success. We are grateful for this year’s outstanding effort, and we look forward to future collaborations.”
GMN is proud to be recognized by BAE for our continued support of their manufacturing needs. For more information on this recognition, read our full press release here.
For the 7th year in a row, GMN Aerospace is proud to share that we have once again donated to the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA) scholarship fund. As a long-standing aerospace supplier, we understand how important it is to support the next generation in this exciting field.
Each year, GMN Aerospace’s donation helps fund scholarships for students pursuing aerospace education at an accredited college or university in the Pacific Northwest. This year’s scholarship recipient is Daniel Beeson, a student in the Aeronautics and Astronautics program at the University of Washington. The scholarship was awarded during a virtual reception at the 2021 PNAA Aerospace conference.
Once Beeson obtains his degree, he plans to serve as a pilot for the United States Air Force before becoming a test pilot in the future. When asked about how the scholarship helps him, Beeson stated “In the uncertain times of COVID-19, many people and families have been experiencing financial difficulties. My family and I are not excluded from this crisis. This scholarship means more than just money. It means I don’t have to worry about my rent payment or my parent’s mortgage. It means I don’t have to calculate how much money I can afford to spend on food at the store.”
GMN makes the donation each year in the name of longtime employee Brent Sletmoe, who worked for many years as part of the GMN Aerospace team. We are proud to support local students like Daniel Beeson as they pursue their dream of working in the aerospace industry.
In the manufacturing landscape, die-cutting is an indispensable fabrication process used to convert a wide range of materials into specific shapes and sizes. Whether you wish to utilize a custom-shaped silicone foam into a gasket, require a panel filler for a medical device, or simply need to cut out labels and adhesives, die-cutting allows you to efficiently cut materials in large volumes with increased consistency and accuracy.
While there are several die-cutting methods such as laser cutting, water-jet cutting, and rotary cutting, our video below offers a glimpse into steel rule die-cutting, one of the most common cutting methods utilized at GMN.
Steel rule dies and clamshell die-cutting press
Made of steel, the die is formed by bending, curving, cutting, and shaping a straight steel rule in the required pattern. Once the rule is mounted and secured on a laser-cut wooden board, the die is ready to use. The lead time to make a steel rule die ranges between one to three days, depending on the complexity of the design.
Steel rule die-cutting is typically performed on a clamshell press. Comprised of two platens – one stationary and one movable – the press in different tonnages can support varied sizes and materials. As seen in the video, the die is installed on the stationary platen and the material to be cut is placed on the movable platen.
The precise alignment of the material is ensured with one of the following ways:
- 3-point registration system - This consists of two grips to hold the material in place and one guide mark to accurately align it with the die.
- Pin-register system - Pre-punched registration marks on the substrate itself that can be aligned to the die position.
The movable platen is pressed against the stationary one to complete the cutting process. Although most of the steel rule die-cutting is performed on a clamshell press, GMN also utilizes vertical, cylinder, horizontal, roll-to-roll, and hydraulic punch presses to cut a broad array of materials such as polycarbonate, paper, foam, Lexan, and aluminum. The hardness of the material directly influences the maximum material thickness that the presses can accommodate.
Advantages of steel rule die-cutting
With the versatility to accommodate varying shapes, sizes, materials, and designs, steel rule die-cutting is undoubtedly one of the most popular die-cut fabrication methods to meet your unique needs. Steel rule dies allow up to 10,000 hits approximately, and therefore, can be used for medium to high production volumes. In addition to achieving tolerances as low as 0.01”, steel rule die-cutting offers you the flexibility to accomplish kiss cuts, custom-shaped die-outs, clean cuts, scoring lines, and perforations.
Limitations with steel rule die-cutting
One of the limitations with steel rule die-cutting is that the steel rule has a minimum bending radius of 0.03” which means that any designs with square corners or the ones that require the steel rule to bend less than 0.03” are not suited for this technique. Nonetheless, it is a highly preferred solution due to its cost-effectiveness when compared with chemical etch dies and Class A tools.
To see some of the clamshell presses at GMN in action, watch our video here.
GMN is proud to share that our very own April O’Donahue, Senior New Program Manager - GMN Aerospace, was recently recognized by the Leading Ladies of Aerospace organization as part of their weekly “Wonder Women” series. Each week, the series features an influential woman in aerospace who has broken barriers and serves as an inspiration to others.
April began her career in the aerospace industry in 1993, but her ties to the industry date back further. April’s grandmother worked for Boeing in the 1950s, and she still has family members that continue to work in the field today. Having been so closely associated with the industry, pursuing a career in aerospace was a natural fit.
Since first joining GMN in 1996, April has held a multitude of different roles within the organization. Beginning her career as a quality inspector, she is now the Senior New Program Manager. Over the years, April has supported projects for hundreds of companies, ranging from simple products for small aeronautics start-ups to large, complex projects for global companies like Boeing.
When April began her career, she was one of only a few women on the team. Since then, she has seen an increase in the presence of female leadership not only at GMN, but across the entire industry. Current estimates suggest that around 24% of aerospace employees are women, which is a staunch increase from when April started her career. The Leading Ladies of Aerospace “Wonder Woman” series highlights women like April who are improving female representation in the aerospace industry by acting as role models for future generations.
As part of her “Wonder Woman” feature, April recalled that her favorite career moment was when she was asked to speak at the 2019 Women in Aerospace Conference. She added, “I never thought someone like me would have the opportunity to speak at such an amazing and important event. I hope being featured inspires other women to get out of their comfort zone and go for their goals, regardless of what they think is holding them back.”
GMN is thrilled to have employees like April leading the charge to make aerospace a more inclusive and diverse industry.
We are happy to share that GMN has been honored by Laird Performance Materials as a Preferred Converter for Performance Excellence. Only a select group of organizations throughout North America rise to the level of Preferred Partner.
Laird Performance Materials is a market leader for advanced protection solutions for electronic components and systems. The Preferred Converter status gives GMN direct access to Laird’s performance-critical solutions including, thermal interface materials, EMI suppression, and absorption materials. It also allows GMN to offer custom engineered solutions to our customers at competitive prices and faster time-to-market.
To learn more about this strategic partnership with Laird Performance Materials, read our press release here.
Pad printing is an offset printing process where ink is transferred from a cliché to the required component via a pad. Bringing together a blend of consistency, repeatability, and durability, pad printing can help you achieve intricate patterns and designs. While most decorative techniques such as screen and lithographic printing require a flat surface, pad printing is one of the very few processes that is well suited for decorating gently curved, irregular, textured, and/or cylindrical surfaces. Predominantly seen in the automotive, electronics, appliance, personal care, and medical industries, pad printing is often chosen for applications that will endure significant handling and need to withstand the test of time.
Custom pad printing process
Our latest video was created to not only equip you with the essentials of pad printing, but also to walk you through the step-by-step pad printing process.
- The artwork is etched onto the cliché (flat plate), and ink is deposited into the etched recess.
- A silicone pad picks up the inked image and descends onto the part to transfer a clean, crisp, and lasting image.
- The pad is pressed on a polyester film to remove any excess ink. Comprising of a low-tack pressure-sensitive adhesive, the polyester film removes any residual ink from the pad prior to the next printing cycle.
From standard to programmable multi-axis printers, the video below offers a glimpse into the different pad printing presses utilized at GM Nameplate (GMN). Armed with a rotating fixture, the programmable multi-axis printer is capable of numerous hits in multiple color combinations on different axes, all in a single set-up. This capability eliminates the need to transfer the part manually from one station to the other, resulting in significant time and cost savings.
Pad printing on different substrates
Pad printing is compatible with a broad range of substrates including stainless steel, polycarbonate, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), glass, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), acrylic, and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). Very few plastic materials such as low (LDPE) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and polypropylene aren’t cohesive with pad printing inks and require a pre-treatment to ensure good adhesion.
Pad printing considerations
For every project, custom fixtures are designed and built to register the component to the pad printing head. The alignment of the ink pad with respect to the size and geometry of the part is specifically engineered to ensure exact registration. As seen with the Nissan badge in the video, the pliability of the silicone pad allows for printing with extreme precision, preventing the ink from coming in contact on the inside walls of the recessed letters. Maintaining the viscosity of the ink is extremely crucial to ensure the ink deposition accuracy and consistency. While the ink needs to be fluid enough to deposit on the substrate, it should not bleed out of the impression area. Thinners and adhesion promoters can be added to inks to achieve the desired viscosity level. Most of the inks used for pad printing at GMN are air-dried and are usually cured in conveyor ovens. Several other factors including the shape, material and durometer of the pad, location and color of the etched artwork, and tilt of the ink pad, are critical to the success of any project.
To see the pad printing process in action, watch our video here.
Bacterial growth is a constant concern for high-trafficked areas such as hospitals, offices, restaurants, and other businesses, especially in times of the global Coronavirus pandemic. As we scour for new ways to effectively clean high-touch surfaces and mitigate the chances of contamination, 3M has a promising solution to the mounting concerns of cleanability and safety.
Last month, 3M launched two new Durable Protective Films as follows –
- 7750AM – 2-mil clear PET film with permanent adhesive
- 7760AM – 2-mil clear PET film with removable adhesive
Adding an extra layer of protection between cleaning cycles, both the films are resistant to scratches, abrasion, and various cleaning agents such as bleach, soap, disinfectant wipes, and hydrogen peroxide. The top hard coat is treated with an EPA-registered silver ion antimicrobial additive that impedes the growth of bacteria, mold, and mildew within the film itself. Designed for smooth surfaces, the protective films can be applied to several substrates such as metal, glass, and plastic. The films also offer excellent UV resistance, durability, and can be customized to any shape or size.
Applications for 3M’s Durable Protective Film
3M’s Durable Protective Film enhances surfaces and features 3M adhesive technology for both short-term and long-term applications. Given the current need to reduce risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19, these films can be employed at schools, hospitals, gyms, food processing plants, public transit services, and retail shops. They are exceptionally beneficial for frequently touched surfaces such as touchscreen displays, medical devices, light switches, point-of-sales systems, fitness equipment, control panels, and user-interfaces.
Want to incorporate 3M’s Durable Protective Films in your products?
As a Preferred Converter of 3M, GMN can help you add this extra layer of protection to your products. Reach out to our experts to discuss your unique needs.
We are extremely happy to share that Paul Michaels, Director of Aerospace Operations at GMN, has been appointed to the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA) Board of Directors.
A graduate from the University of Washington, Paul Michaels, joined GMN in 2002. Today, he oversees all aerospace operations and supports over 300 aerospace and defense companies globally. Over the years, he has consistently focused on a culture of world-class customer support and service within the aerospace supply chain. He has also been recognized as the Aerospace Executive of the Year by the PNAA in 2016.
GMN congratulates Paul Michaels on his appointment to the PNAA Board of Directors. We are confident that the Pacific Northwest aerospace community will greatly benefit from his extensive knowledge, experience, and invaluable insights. Please read our entire press release here.