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, 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, 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:
*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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Versatile and durable, Magni-lens doming is a water-clear urethane enhancement that creates a self-healing dome on a substrate. Standing tall at 0.06” (1.5mm), a unique feature of Magni-lens doming is that it functions as both - a visual and performance enhancement. Visually, it adds richness and a depth of field to the graphics below, and from a performance standpoint, it can withstand the most extreme environments.
Magni-lens (urethane) doming process
To begin the doming process, the individual components are staged on sheets so that they register precisely with the doming machine’s dispensing nozzles. As seen in the video, the dome is created with a nozzle or a hose that meters out a clear urethane coating. As the nozzle glides over the part, it dispenses the urethane polymer across the entire surface. The parts are always placed at a well-maintained distance from each other to avoid ruining the neighboring part in case of an overspill. While the featured Excel dryer part in the video has seven nozzles operating at once, different projects require different settings. Multiple nozzles correspond to the number of components that are getting domed at a given time.
After the urethane is dispensed, the parts are inspected to ensure that the resin has traveled all the way up to the edges of each part. The viscus resin gradually “wets out” the entire surface, and the parts are placed on leveling pads to air dry. Although the coating starts to harden with the “skinning of the urethane surface” in about four hours, it technically takes about a week for the part to be completely cured. Selective doming can also be achieved by using a dam to contain the resin to a specific area. The entire process of Magni-lens doming is performed in a semi-clean room to mitigate dust and foreign particles from entering the water-clear dome.
The size of the part determines the amount of resin dispensed. Since parts come in varying sizes, each of them requires differing amounts of coating. For every project, the machine is uniquely programmed where it measures the length of the part to determine the space necessary between each component in the set-up stage. Other elements such as pour speed and the length to which the nozzle travels vertically above the parts are also customized.
Benefits of Magni-lens (urethane) doming
The Magni-lens dome construction is extremely robust, chemical and moisture resistant, easy to clean, and doesn’t deform under high heat or fluctuating temperature. It is compatible with a wide range of substrates such as polycarbonate, polyester, vinyl, aluminum, and stainless steel. Its versatility, functionality, and compatibility to adhere to different substrates make it an ideal choice for indoor and outdoor applications.
Explanatory video: Magni-lens (urethane) doming technology
Bringing you a step closer to the Magni-lens technology, the video below provides a glimpse into the process of creating the urethane dome and the broad spectrum of industries that have embraced Magni-lens doming. It will also give you a glance into some of the nameplates created by GMN over the past few decades. To see the doming process in action, watch our video below.
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.
Land Rover is a luxury British automotive company of predominantly four-wheel drive, off-road capable vehicles, owned by multinational car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). In a joint venture with Chery Automobile Co., their assembly plant in Changshu, China, has been manufacturing Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles since October 2014. GMN China has been part of this supply chain since 2015, supporting the airbag emblems on the steering wheels of Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles.
In the continuous push for localization, Land Rover China collaborated with GMN China on the front grille badge of its 2nd generation Land Rover Evoque (L551), a model built for rough terrain and extreme weather conditions. In addition to the cosmetic requirements, the front grille badge had to pass stringent exterior automotive specifications set up by Land Rover that demanded testing to the highest performance standards.
The grille badge was created with mirror-finish aluminum that was screen printed with Land Rover’s corporate color (British Racing Green). A subtle emboss was applied to the perimeter of the letters, followed by a thin doming on the badge. These processes, along with the mechanical spin finish on the aluminum badge, rendered an understated luxury finish.
Ultimately, GMN China’s proprietary topcoat ensured that the badge successfully passed the following performance tests and requirements -
- Filiform corrosion test on the aluminum substrate (11 days)
- Neutral salt spray test (42 days)
- Cyclic corrosion test (42 days)
- Accelerated weathering (50 days)
Matching up to Land Rover’s slogan, GMN China went “Above & Beyond” from prototyping through full-scale production to deliver a custom solution that met Land Rover’s needs. The partnership with GMN has put in place a domestic manufacturing solution for Land Rover that doesn’t require them to source components from overseas manufacturers. The exterior grille badge has been in production on the L551 assembly line in the Changshu factory. There are evolving plans to bring the badge onto other exterior usages and global Land Rover platforms.
The automotive badge is a prime example of GMN’s total solution to successfully integrate various processes to create a unique look for our customers. To learn more about our automotive capabilities, visit our website or schedule a consultation with our experts.
From enhancing the visual characteristics of a part to shielding it from environmental damage, protective coatings have become a vital part of metal fabrication and finishing. While there are several different ways to apply a coating to metal, one of the most efficient and commonly used methods is roll coating.
Roll coating is the process of applying a base, intermediate, and/or topcoat coating to a flat substrate with a series of rollers. But how exactly does roll coating work?
What is the process behind roll coating?
Roll coating is a process that uses three rollers to apply a coating to a flat substrate: a soft application roll, a highly polished steel roll, and a metering (or doctor) roll. Firstly, the substrate travels between the soft application roll and the steel roll. The application roll picks up the coating as it rotates, and subsequently transfers the coating to the flat sheet of metal as it passes through. The metal sheets are then transferred to an oven where the coatings are baked and cured.
Roll coating offers a few benefits over other metal coating technologies. When applying a coating to a flat metal substrate, ensuring that the coating is deposited uniformly with the exact required thickness is critical. With roll coating, the amount and viscosity of the liquid deposited on the substrate can be precisely controlled by the metering roll. The closer the metering roll is to the application roll, the thinner the coating, and vice versa. This makes roll coating one of the most precise coating methods currently available.
Another reason why roll coating is so frequently employed is that its deposition time tends to be faster than other coating technologies, such as spray application or screen printing. In addition, the coatings used can help protect metal from harsh environments while enhancing ink adhesion prior to any embossing or other finishing steps.
What makes roll coating at GMN unique?
To meet a variety of project needs, GMN has two roll coaters; one that does direct roll coating, and the other that can do both direct and reverse. Reverse roll coating works roughly the same way as direct, the only difference being that the application roll rotates in the opposite direction of the substrate’s travel. Due to the different travel direction, reverse roll coating can apply a thicker coating than direct. This additional coating thickness is useful when the design intent requires a greater depth of color and environmental durability.
GMN’s coating family includes acrylic, polyester, and urethane coatings, each offering a different level of thickness, malleability, and resilience against heat and UV radiation. Each coating employed at GMN is custom formulated by our chemists to meet a wide array of project needs.
At GMN, we have years of experience using roll coating for products in a variety of industries, such as automotive, appliance, and personal care. To learn more about GMN’s custom roll coatings and how they can help your next project, schedule a consultation with our experts.
Tooling a part to size remains integral to the metal fabrication process. While there are several tooling possibilities including steel-rule and rotary die-cutting, laser and water jet cutting, and compound tools, which method do you employ for efficiently performing multiple operations on a metal component? The answer lies in our video below. By offering a peek into the functioning of progressive dies, the video clearly illustrates the many advantages of utilizing progressive die-cutting to drive productivity.
Progressive stamping process
To cement our understanding of progressive die-cutting, let’s dive deeper into the Nissan automotive badge featured in the video. Made from aluminum, the badge requires a flat, coiled metal strip to undergo blanking, pre-forming, forming, lancing, debossing, and cutting. If we were to perform each of these operations individually with separate stand-alone tools, it would not only be tedious but also time-consuming and expensive. Progressive die-cutting, also referred to as progressive stamping, is an effective and efficient way of performing multiple operations under a single die set. A die set comprises of multiple individual dies (or stations) that sequentially perform the desired processes on the metal. The minimum and the maximum number of stations in a die set are dictated by the design and part geometry.
Progressive die-cutting fabrication process
The fabrication process begins with mounting the die set on the stamping press and feeding the metal in a coil or sheet form to the press. Registration marks or holes on the metal allow for its precise alignment with the die’s progression. Even the slightest misorientation of the substrate with the die set can negatively impact the entire output and hence, remains a crucial factor in the die-cutting fabrication process. As you can see in the video, the press progressively transfers the metal sheet in the web from one die station to the next through an automated feeder mechanism. The six individual dies in the die set perform the following functions:
- Die #1 - Cuts the outer circular shape of the badge
- Die #2 - Lances the part to relieve the metal, thereby preventing it from being deformed in the later stages
- Die #3 - Pre-forms the middle portion of the badge
- Die #4 - Pre-forms the edges of the badge
- Die #5 - Cuts out holes from the center of the badge
- Die #6 - Debosses, forms, and cuts out the badge, all at the same time
At the end of the progression, the web and finished parts are separated from one another by a lance operation, and the final parts slide down a conveyor belt. An operator at the end of the belt inspects and organizes the output. Once the progressive die-cutting process is completed, the Nissan badge undergoes anodizing and pad printing. Anodizing is an electro-chemical process that converts the aluminum surface into a durable, corrosion-resistant, and high-energy surface. Pad printing, an offset printing technique, transfers black ink into the recessed letters of the anodized badge.
Advantages of progressive die-cutting
Suited for high production volumes, progressive stamping is particularly favored for its efficiency and reduced cycle times. The form, profile, and size of the part play a critical role in determining its fit for progressive stamping. This cutting method is ideal when project volumes are high and registration requirements are feasible.
To watch the progressive die-cutting press in action, watch our video here.
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.
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.