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Types of cover glass for display modules
By Jim Badders Jul 15, 2021
Hand holding piece of display cover glass

When developing a new product, the cover for a display is just as critical as the display itself. The actual display component typically does not arrive with any kind of protection, leaving it susceptible to environmental factors and damage from continued use. Depending on product requirements, it is often necessary to add a glass cover to protect the display from impact or scratches while still maintaining optical quality. However, not all glass is created equal. The cost, strength, color options and available thicknesses can impact the decision on which cover glass to use.

Common types of cover glass materials

  • Soda-lime glass

Soda-lime glass, also known as soda-lime float glass, is the most frequently used type of glass in display modules. It is ideal for any application where cost is a concern, but impact resistance or specific coloration may not be. Due to the high iron content in soda-lime glass, it tends to have a subtle green hue. While this isn’t noticeable when printed on with dark colors, it can give any lighter color (such as white) an unwanted green tint. However, because it’s the least expensive and easiest to attain of all the glass options, it’s omnipresent in display applications.

  • Low iron soda-lime glass

The same in terms of strength and slightly more expensive than conventional soda-lime float glass, low iron soda-lime glass is a more transparent glass that is almost tint-free. This glass is commonly used as a cover for any product that needs to have a lighter or pure white color around the display, since there’s no green hue to distort the coloring.

  • Aluminosilicate glass

Aluminosilicate glass, commonly known as Corning Gorilla Glass™ or Dragontrail™ glass by Asahi Glass Co., is a very thin, chemically strengthened glass. One of the strongest types of glass available, aluminosilicate glass has a higher impact resistance than other types of display glass. A few drawbacks to using this glass are that it tends to be much higher in cost to produce and more difficult to attain than other glass options and it is limited in maximum thickness to two millimeters. However, due to its strength and thin profile, it is a popular choice for smartphones and handheld consumer devices.

Comparing different types of cover glass

The table below compares the above three types of cover glass:

A table comparing the types of cover glass*price varies with the thickness of glass

Whether your biggest concern is cost, thickness, color, or any other combination of factors, GMN’s experts can help you find the perfect cover glass for your display. Find out more about our display integration capabilities or set up a consultation with our experts.

Different ways of enhancing display modules
By Jim Badders Jul 13, 2021
Display module enhancement solutions

When it comes to selecting a specific display to use with your product, it is important to realize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Whether you’re designing a user interface for the automotive, medical, appliance, or any other industry, GM Nameplate (GMN) has several different ways of enhancing display modules to suit your unique needs. While display enhancements usually bring to mind a myriad of visual upgrades, these enhancements are also often used to improve the functionality of the device.

Display enhancement and protection solutions 

Some of the most common types of display module enhancement include:

  1. AF or AS coating: Anti-fingerprint (AF) coating and anti-smudge (AS) coating are two of the most common front surface display enhancements utilized today. They help protect the surface from situations where visibility may be hindered with repeated use. Applied via a spray coating, these enhancements are popular in industries where the front surface may be subject to smudging or be repeatedly interacted with and operated by the user.

  2. AR or AG coating: Anti-reflective (AR) coating and anti-glare (AG) coating are both frequently used in industries where visibility is critical. Both can be applied to the front surface of the display module to allow for better visibility in direct sunlight or any other harsh lighting conditions. The coatings boost the apparent luminance and contrast of a display by mitigating the loss of light via reflection or glare.

  3. Decorative cover lens or glass: The front surface of a display module is the first thing a user sees and interacts with, making it an ideal place to have information about the function of the device. Decorating the cover lens or glass is essentially the process of printing colored graphics, logos, or other product information directly onto the rear surface of the lens or glass. It can not only highlight selective parts of the display, but also enhance the look of the module and improve user experience by providing helpful information. This can be employed in a wide range of applications as it can add style and function to any device.

  4. Enhancing the backlight assembly: Inside most display modules is a small strip of LEDs that surround the LCD to illuminate the display. These LEDs are typically housed in a thin metal railing called a light rail and can be enhanced in various ways. The LEDs can be replaced by brighter or dimer LEDs depending on the visibility requirements. Alternatively, a dual-mode light rail can be employed where different forms of lighting, such as night vision, can be implemented by alternating the different kinds of LEDs along the light rail. This kind of enhancement is particularly suited for the military or other outdoor environments where readability is crucial regardless of the ambient lighting.

  5. Tempering cover glass: Tempering glass is a popular enhancement to add strength to the cover glass. It can be done chemically or via heat, allowing the display structure to withstand more force and improve impact resistance. There are also other kinds of material with varying levels of strength that can be used for covering displays, such as Gorilla Glass or PMMA (acrylic). Even bonding the display glass through an optical bonding process can significantly improve impact resistance. This display enhancement technique is particularly suited for devices that may be exposed to a rugged environment or repeated impact.

The different display enhancements and protection solutions are often be mixed and matched depending on the product and performance requirements. Learn more about a few of the different display module enhancements offered by GMN in our video below.

Video: A look into the brush finish process
By Richard Smylie Jun 17, 2021
Brushed finish sill plate

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.

 

Exploring the spin finish process
By Richard Smylie May 27, 2021
A drag spin finish nameplate manufactured by GMN

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. 

Chris Beason
BAE Systems honors GMN with a Bronze Tier Supplier Award
By Chris Beason May 06, 2021
GMN Aerospace employees with the Bronze Tier Supplier award

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.

Chris Beason
GMN supports aerospace students through 2021 PNAA scholarship
By Chris Beason Apr 08, 2021
A group of aerospace students learning

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.

PNAA scholarship award

Mike Sorrels
Video: Understanding steel rule die-cutting
By Mike Sorrels Mar 30, 2021
Clamshell press at GMN's fabrication cell

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.

How to select the right touchscreen technology
By Jim Badders Mar 10, 2021
A finger touching a capacitive touchscreen

As touchscreens continue to grow in popularity as a part of user interface systems, choosing the right touchscreen technology is becoming a critical design decision. Each type of touchscreen, resistive or projected capacitive (PCAP), offers a host of different advantages. Given the wide variety of touchscreen options out there, how do you select the one that provides the optimal user experience? 

Six things to consider when choosing a touchscreen technology

In this blog, we’ll be going over six key questions you should be asking at the onset of your product development phase that will help you select the ideal touchscreen technology for your next project.

1) What is the intended use of the device?

The first step is to specifically define what the device will be used for, as this can dictate which touchscreens are feasible. For instance, will your display be used for a military application where it may be subject to harsh conditions, or is the screen intended for an inexpensive toy where durability may not be a huge concern? Both situations would require screen technologies with different functionality, durability, input registration, and pricing. Once you’ve narrowed down the intended use for the display, the next step is to figure out which functionalities are necessary.

2) Which touch features are required?

On your device, will users only need to select single inputs with one finger? If so, a standard 4-wire resistive touchscreen may be a perfect option, as its simple construction handles this without adding much cost. However, if users need to zoom, scroll, or activate features with multiple touchpoints, that will narrow the selection down to screens with multi-touch functionality, such as a projected capacitive (PCAP) or a resistive multi-touch screen (RMTS).

3) How will the touchscreen be activated?

Given the different ways that touchscreens register inputs, the way that the screen will be activated is an important consideration. Will the user be wearing gloves or using another object (such as a pencil or stylus) to touch the screen? If so, specific types of touchscreens might be necessary for those inputs to be registered. While the sensitivity of a projected capacitive touchscreen can be adjusted to register certain styluses and gloves, the object used must be able to disrupt the capacitive field. For applications where other input devices can be used, a resistive touchscreen is a more optimal choice as it can register inputs from nearly any object.

4) What is the environment in which the touchscreen will be used?

Another crucial factor to consider is where the touchscreen will be activated. Will it be subject to harsh cleaning agents in a medical setting? Will it be used in an industrial environment, where it may be subject to repeated impacts? If durability or cleanability is a critical concern, PCAP technology is ideal given that damage to the cover glass doesn’t alter its ability to register inputs correctly. For gentler environments, resistive screens may meet performance requirements without adding additional cost.

5) What is the price point?

While the cost of PCAP touchscreens continues to go down as the technology becomes more popular, resistive touchscreens still tend to be the cheaper option. If you are looking for a touchscreen for a simple toy, game, or other inexpensive application, anything more than a simple 4-wire resistive touchscreen may add unnecessary cost to the device. However, in the case of a computer, smartphone, or other expensive application that requires a high-end look and feel, a projected capacitive screen may be worth the additional cost.

6) How many actuations does the touchscreen need to handle?

Different touchscreen constructions are rated for different numbers of actuations. A 4-wire or 8-wire resistive touchscreen may be optimal for a device that only needs to remain accurate for a few thousand actuations, whereas a 5-wire touchscreen is a better choice if the device will require significantly more usage. However, if a display needs to handle millions of actuations, a projected capacitive screen would be ideal as it can maintain its accuracy over nearly infinite inputs.

While these questions are a great start, this is far from an exhaustive list of variables to consider when deciding on the optimal touchscreen technology. To discuss your project needs and to talk about custom solutions, schedule a consultation with our experts.

Chris Beason
April O’Donahue honored by Leading Ladies of Aerospace
By Chris Beason Mar 04, 2021
April O' Donahue speaking at 2019 PNAA conference

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.

Pam Hane
GMN named Preferred Converter by Laird
By Pam Hane Jan 28, 2021
Laird Preferred Converter

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.