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Video: In-mold decorating process
By Kenny Pravitz Jan 30, 2018
IMD allows different graphic overlays to be used in the same molded shape, giving  you customization.

Many industries require the decorative elements of plastic to be highly durable. For example, the aerospace, automotive, and medical industries have many high-wear applications that require strong, durable parts where printed icons won’t scratch off or fade away. Products that are decorated using first-surface decorating processes, where graphics are placed on the outermost layer (such as pad printing, screen printing, or hot stamping), wear out over time and aren’t suitable for these industries. Depending on the materials and processes used, the inks on plastic pieces can fade out over time, making it difficult or impossible to read indicators on those pieces.

In-mold decorating (IMD) is a plastic decorating method that ensures the durability of the graphic overlays and allows for multiple design options for the overlays. In brief, IMD is a process where a graphic overlay is physically fused to injection molded plastic to form one piece. Molten resin is injected either in front or behind the graphic overlay to form a bond between the two. Unlike pad printing, screen printing, or hot stamping – where inks and overlays are exposed to the user that can deteriorate over time – IMD parts have a layer of plastic that encapsulates the ink, protecting it from users and the outside environment.

GM Nameplate’s (GMN) plastics division in Beaverton, OR, Elite Plastics, recently created a video that demonstrates the IMD process. In the video, we see an end-of-arm tool pick up a graphic overlay and place it in the injection mold using a vacuum system, while simultaneously removing a part that was just molded. Both of these functions are completed in one cycle, allowing for faster and more efficient production. Locating pins in both the end-of-arm tool and injection mold itself allow for consistent placement of the overlay in the tool, which is critical for functional parts in regulated industries. If the overlays are not correctly and consistently placed in the mold, some portions of the overlay may not be fully encapsulated by plastic during the molding process.

IMD is ideal for higher volume projects that have stringent durability requirements, as there is more design engineering required up front than with a standard injection molded part. However, one advantage is that once the graphic overlay and molded part is designed, printed graphics on the overlay can be changed at any time to allow for customization and unlimited design options.

To learn more about what the IMD process is, read this blog.

To watch the IMD process, click play on the video below. 

GMN Automotive’s new scuff resistant coatings
By Richard Smylie Dec 18, 2017
GMN10 scuff-resistant coatings

To maintain the beauty and functional integrity of your metal automotive trim ornamentation, including sill plates, liftgates, center stacks, steering wheel badges and/or door trim, it is essential to use coatings and/or screen printing inks having superior scuff resistance.

Currently, there are many scratch, mar, and scuff tests that are known throughout the industry and are employed by accredited testing laboratories. While these tests accurately gauge some real world environmental forces to which your ornamentation application will be subjected, they fall short of capturing the effects of one significant key real world destructive force: scuffing.

Therefore, to ensure that our customer’s products could maintain their beauty and functionality throughout their life cycle, GMN Automotive’s in-house chemists decided to formulate a proprietary anti-scuff family of custom coatings and inks identified as GMN10. Coatings and inks infused with GMN10 will withstand the real-world harmful scuffing forces that automotive trim components encounter regularly throughout their lifetime to preserve the original aesthetic and functional needs of the component for a prolonged period. GMN10 underwent a variety of qualitative and quantitative tests, such as subjecting GMN10 coatings/inks to testing protocols that use steel wool as the abrasive media at selected weights, in order to prove the superior scuff-resistant properties of this additive.

GMN Automotive’s new GMN10 scuff-resistant coatings are a significant improvement to our existing coating chemistry. Adding GMN10 to coatings and inks has no effect on the solvent resistance, stain resistance, or formability of your construction. This breakthrough coating technology can be applied to either aluminum or stainless steel constructions with low to high gloss without having any aesthetic effects, while maintaining its performance benefits in a wide variety of severe environments, from high heat to extreme cold. Our test results attained above using the above-mentioned steel wool test method showed that the average product will scuff when subjected to two to three double rubs of 000 steel wool pads when under a downward pressure of 3000 grams. Whereas coatings and inks with GMN’s new GMN10 additive could exceed 100 double rubs under the same conditions.

During our battery of tests, we were able to validate that the GMN10 meets the industry standard specifications for the following:

  • Has no detectable effect on accelerated xenon-arc exposure, which helps to predict the fading of color or gloss level over time.
  • Adhesion:

            - Humidity resistance (GM4465P) – a test where the sample is exposed to 100% relative humidity at 38°C (100.4°F) for 
               a specified time.

            - Impact cross-hatch tape pull (ASTM D-3281) – a one-pound ball or cone is dropped at a specified vertical distance to 
               an area that had been cut with a knife or crosshatch tool. The sample is tested with adhesive tape for any coating 
               removal.

  • Scratch and mar:

            - Taber abrasion (ASTM D4060-1) – test samples are placed on a Taber rotating plate with a grit wheel of a specified 
               grade and are abraded for a number of cycle turns with a given weight applied on each grinding wheel. The samples 
               are graded by number of cycles for wear through point of the coating.

            - A new type of scratch and mar test using steel wool – this test uses 000 steel wool that is rubbed back and forth with 
               the weight of 3,000 grams applied. The end point is measured by the number of “double rubs” the sample could 
               sustain before the coating began to wear through.

  • Solvent resistance (GM 9509P) – this is usually tested by using a solvent that is specified by the paint supplier (commonly MEK). A soft solvent-saturated cloth is rubbed back and forth on the sample a number of times using the firm downward pressure of a gloved finger. The number of “double rubs” specified for a “pass” varies, but it typically ranges from 10 to 50 rubs.
  • Improved film properties including:

            - High durability in all environments of radiation and moisture
            - Increased resistance to abrasion, scratching, and marring
            - Improved adhesion and film flexibility
            - Better impact resistance  

GMN Automotive has been supplying decorative metal trim ornamentation to the automotive industry for decades, which provided GMN with the insights, knowledge, and experience necessary to develop our GMN10 chemistry. GMN10 prolongs the integrity of your coating or ink, enabling your trim applications to visually maintain a mar-free appearance for a significantly longer period of time, and in doings so it prolongs the ornament’s functional life span as well.

If you are interested in learning more about our new improved scuff resistant coatings, please contact us here.

Clark Mehan
Laird Technologies' product options for die-cut components
By Clark Mehan Nov 09, 2017
GMN is a converter partner for Laird Technologies.

Do you need to protect your electronic device from overheating or reduce unwanted EMI noise? Do you need a gap-filling material to enable an electronic connection? If so, GM Nameplate (GMN) has the capabilities and knowledge that will help.

GMN has a strategic partnership with Laird Technologies as a designated converter partner. Laird is an industry leader in providing performance materials for the electronics market. Their product lines include silicone pads, thermal pads, absorbers, and adhesive foams. These materials can be used to reduce heat, reduce static, and create electrical connections.

Thermal pads

Thermal pads are used to transfer heat from a hot surface, such as an integrated circuit (IC) device or LEDs, to a heat sink in order to remove or evacuate heat to prevent damage to parts. Laird designs these pads in a variety of thermal conductivities and softness grades to provide gap filling for many situations. Laird’s Tflex™ thermal pads offer a high degree of “wet out,” or exceptional conformability even to rough surfaces, as well as the ability to transfer heat quickly.

Laird’s Tflex™ products come in silicone or non-silicone pads. Silicone thermal pads are great for electronic applications such as computers, front panel displays, handheld electronics, automotive electronics, and more. Non-silicone pads are ideal for cameras and any product with a lens because they don’t outgas, which refers to the process where trapped gas is released when the pad is heated or placed under a vacuum.  Outgassing from silicone pads produces fogging on a lens, so non-silicone pads are a great alternative while still providing the same qualities as the silicone pads.

Conductive foams

Conductive adhesive foams are compressible foam tapes that are electrically conductive and provide excellent cushioning and recovery properties. These foams are great for gap-filling while maintaining electrical grounding for your product. Laird’s compressible conductive foams also have excellent EMI/RFI properties.

Not only do Laird’s EcoFoam™ conductive adhesive foams provide conductivity along an XY plane, they can provide conductivity though the thickness or depth of the foam (Z direction) as well.

Absorbers

Absorbers are used to reduce or eliminate high frequency or radio frequency noise in electronic systems. GMN offers a variety of Laird’s line of absorbers, NoiseSorb™, that work across all frequencies.

GMN is committed to providing solutions to resolve your product’s specific design challenges with our die-cutting capabilities and strategic partnerships with companies such as Laird. To learn more about die cut solutions and what they can offer your application, please visit our Die-cut components capability page.

Decorated door spears
By Richard Smylie Oct 20, 2017
Armrest inserts by GMN Automotive

If you think it’s only the exterior of the car that matters, think again! More and more people are shifting their focus to the interior. After all, that’s where we spend our maximum time. Decorative accents and trims breathe a new visual identity into the vehicle, giving it a distinct personality.

Armrests are a crucial element on the door panel that add style and comfort to vehicles. Their ergonomic design reduces fatigue, making the ride extremely relaxed and comfortable. A metal insert known as a door spear (or armrest insert) lends shape, strength and support to the armrest. Meeting at the crossroads of aesthetics and functionality, door spears hold up against heavy utilization. They endure the shifts in temperature, face ultraviolet rays from the sun and battle any scratches, chemicals and moisture that come their way. They stay put no matter how hard you pull or slam the door. To top it all, door spears add a dash of elegance to the armrest. However, choosing the right type of door spear is never easy. You also need to weave in several factors like utility, style, material, decoration and cost.

Whether it’s a commercial van or a tiny hatchback car, the type and utility of the vehicle will significantly impact your armrest design and style. In commercial vans, armrests often act as handles, supporting the entire weight of the passengers. Superior strength thus becomes a vital prerequisite. On the other hand, in a personal car, boundaries start to blur between functionality and appearance. The armrest needs to be durable, but also blend in beautifully with the car’s refined interiors. The utility of the vehicle steers the style of the armrest, and in turn dictates the design of the door spear.

The trends in door spears have evolved over the years and expanded to embrace different materials. Depending on your style inclination, they can be custom-manufactured in varied materials like aluminum or stainless steel. Molded plastic, fabrics, leather, vinyl and metals are extensively seen. While plastic can be cost-effective, metal inserts can be extremely elegant. Decorations on door spears are visually impactful, thus enhancing the aesthetics of the car. Be it a brushed or woodgrain finish, embossing or etching, door spears can be dressed in several textures and finishes to complement the material and design.

As a vertically integrated manufacturer, GMN Automotive can build door spears that fit all forms and functional requirements. From classy to flashy, our engineering support team can help you incorporate a multitude of materials and decorating options. Door spears might be small, but the creative flexibility at GMN Automotive is truly vast. Our decorative capabilities include custom roll-coated bases and top coats, and screen, digital, off-set and pad printing.

The printing process at GMN Automotive is supported by color chemists and lab technicians who custom color-match all applications. They ensure that the ink’s chemistry allows it to be flexible to match the tooling profiles it will be subjected to, yet remain hard for scuff and scratch considerations. Depending on the material and construction, appropriate coatings are applied at the end for door spears to retain their appearance and performance over years. For example - in the case of a metallic door spear, urethane, epoxy, polyester or hybrid topcoats can be considered. In a nutshell, GMN Automotive closely controls all the phases of production including material selection, printing and decorating.

Every good design needs a robust support. Injection molded backing for door spears offer support, strength and durability in tough environmental conditions. It is also resistant to chemicals and corrosion. Injection molding is a process where plastic is heated, melted and injected into a cavity to conform to the intended shape, and is later cooled. Even for large scale production, it allows design flexibility that most processes cannot. You can create complex forms containing sharp edges, curves and bends at competitive prices. Our extensive plastic molding capabilities allows us to construct this sturdy backing and the door spear under the same roof.

GMN Automotive’s in-house competencies encapsulate everything from decorative metal inserts (form) to injection molding backing (function), resulting in visually striking door spears. With rapid prototyping capabilities, in-house tooling services and robust quality systems in place, GMN Automotive excels at value added assembly. This holistic route allows GMN Automotive to be a one-stop-shop for all your decorative door trim needs. To learn more about our decorative accents, click here.

PTC heaters: the GMN advantage
By Jason Herndon Oct 20, 2017
The GMN advantage of PTC heaters

This blog is the last in our series on Positive Temperature Coefficient (PTC) heaters. In the previous blogs, we answered all your crucial questions - the what, why and where of PTC heaters. Today, we will be illustrating how GM Nameplate (GMN) can help you overcome all of your heating challenges and tailor these heaters specific to your needs.

As a vertically integrated custom-manufacturer of flexible electronic circuits, GMN has vast experience in printing conductive inks. Our PTC competencies encapsulate everything from heater design solutions, reel-to-reel printing, application engineering, to final testing. But why should you put your trust in GMN?

Experience + expertise - GMN brings together 60 years of custom-manufacturing experience across a wide array of industries including medical, aerospace and automotive. More than just experience, GMN has the state-of the-art equipment and technology to tailor unique solutions for all of your heating needs.

Our PTC experts not only have decades of first-hand experience with printed electronics, but also hold several patents in the PTC technology field. Their core strength lies in the knowledge and understanding of HOW to integrate the PTC technology into your product. This extensive application engineering experience is what results in a better performing heater.

Robust quality system - As an ISO 9001-certified company, our strict processes and quality controls allow us to produce PTC heaters with more uniformity and tighter temperature tolerances than the ones available today. Thanks to our on-site thermal analysis capabilities and environmental testing equipment, the PTC heaters rolling out of GMN factories are stable and uniform.

Customized solutions - Our PTC heaters are customized to meet your specific requirements in terms of shapes, sizes and heating configurations. One of our core strengths is translating concepts into concrete solutions. The GMN team provides support throughout the development process to convert your designs from a napkin-sketch through final production. Our process engineers will help you determine the feasibility of specific design elements, identify appropriate materials and processes, achieve performance requirements and optimize the workflow. With our in-house roll-to-roll screen printing equipment, GMN is ideally suited for high-volume production of PTC heaters.

No matter what your PTC needs are, GMN has the solution. We are a one-stop-shop that delivers a seamless development process, thereby streamlining your operations and boosting efficiency. It is the perfect synergy between expertise, experience and engineering that sets GMN apart from the rest and delivers a more stable and uniform heater product.

If you need to discuss your PTC needs or challenges, click here to request a consultation with our technical experts. Learn more about these self-regulating heaters by reading our previous blogs here:

Lauren Rowles, GMN
Developing backlit graphic overlay solutions
By Lauren Rowles Jun 12, 2017
Backlit graphic overlay

Backlit graphic overlays have become one of GMN Automotive’s core competencies. The utilization of backlit graphic overlays within your vehicle can add a dramatic visual effect or distinctive style to the interior environment. Applying the correct backlighting technologies to a graphic overlay ensures the illumination of the graphics and icons meet their design intent even in low-light conditions. Typical examples of backlit graphics overlay applications within in the automotive industry include the PRNDL or the instrument cluster. 

When approaching a backlit graphic overlay project, it is instrumental to define the light transmission value(s) required on all areas of the part and the corresponding color requirements for the inks used. First, you have to determine which light engine would work best with your application. Once you have selected the desired light engine, a spectroradiometer is used to measure the light value that the light engine emits across the part in question, taking into consideration the size of the part, thickness, and clarity of the material through which the light is to pass. This is a significant step because every light engine varies depending on the light engine construction (which backlighting technology is used).

After the light emission is measured, the ink can be developed to achieve the correct color and opacity/transparency. The inks are screen printed and can be applied to materials as thin as .127mm/.005” and as thick as 3MM/.120,” and on substrates that are flat or have a compound radii. Common materials graphic overlays are printed on include polyester, polycarbonate, or acrylic. It is important that this aspect of the process is handled with precision so that when the light engine is engaged, the desired light color and emission value is achieved.

At GMN Automotive, our comprehensive in-house capabilities allow us to cover everything required to execute a backlit graphic overlay construction, from ink development and deposition, to supporting light engine solutions from conception through full assembly.  Our industry-leading breadth of backlighting technology offerings allow you  to choose the backlight technology that is best suited for your application, including LEDs, light guide film, clad flat fiber, and more. Furthermore, we can measure every backlit graphic overlay produced to ensure it conforms to the required light emission values, at either single or multiple points of reference. In addition, our in-house chemists can formulate custom inks, conventional or UV, to ensure that the emissions’ color and values are properly attained when the ink is deposited onto the diffuser.

If you would like to know more about developing a backlit graphic overlay solution, click here to request a consultation with one of our in-house experts.

Stainless steel: brushed finishes
By Richard Smylie Jun 09, 2017
Brushed finish on a stainless steel sill plate

GM Nameplate (GMN) offers vast stainless steel and aluminum decorating capabilities including, custom coatings, graphic printed images/patterns and mechanical finishing. In part two of our series regarding stainless steel, we will discuss the options available when choosing a brushed finish on stainless steel. Brushed finishes distort the light reflection pattern and in doing so can increase the perceived value of a part to which it is affixed.

Brushed metal finishes are produced by polishing or wearing away the outer surface of the metal. Brush finishes can be applied overall or selectively, in one or multiple directions. To create a selective mechanical brush or a spun finish, a screen printed resist ink is applied to the metals’ surface prior to it being subjected to the mechanical brushing wheel. In doing so, the area protected by the resist ink will maintain its original brilliance, as it will not come in contact with the mechanical brushing wheel.

Brushed metals finishes for both stainless steel and aluminum can be linear or oscillating (overlapping). Brushed stainless steel finishes are particularly prevalent in the home appliance and automotive industries. The most common finish call-offs for stainless steel are BA for bright finish applications and No.4 for brushed.

A BA (bright annealed) finish is a high luster brilliant chrome finish that is frequently employed in the automotive industry. A  No. 8 BA finish is the most reflective finish call-off. This finish is created by treating the surface with a series of fine abrasives, and then buffing to create a mirror like appearance. The buffing finish improves the corrosion resistance of the No. 8 finish because it polishes away any minor surface imperfections where particles may stick and initiate the corrosion process. With this corrosion resistant property, the No. 8 finish is commonly used for exterior application requiring brilliant highly reflective surfaces.

A No. 4 brush finish is commonly employed by the appliance industry for applications that include ranges, washers, dryers, and refrigerator trim. The appeal of the No. 4 brush is the uniformity, and the highs and lows of the elongated brush pattern.

Brush patterns, when combined with colors and/or textures; add even more contrast to the aesthetics of the part. The next blog in our stainless steel mechanical finishes series will cover colors and textures.

For more information, check out our previous blog on stainless steel alloys

Dan Swanson, GMN
Rapid prototyping for tradeshows
By Dan Swanson May 09, 2017
Rapid prototype of a nameplate.

Substantial planning and thought go into manufacturing a custom nameplate – development, sourcing material, setting up the build plan, scheduling, and full-scale production. Therefore, companies typically find themselves in a tough position if they need last minute nameplates to show off at a meeting or tradeshow in the near future. In time sensitive situations, rapid prototyping services are extremely effective in providing quick-turn proof-of-concept solutions.

Through rapid prototyping, a physical representation of a product concept is brought to life. The prototype will essentially have the same form and fit of the desired product, but may not include complete intended functionality. Customers can explore innovative ideas and multiple design considerations with accelerated leads times and reduced costs compared to full production parts. Prototypes of functional products, including membrane switches and functional overlays, can be made as well. Prototyping services not only provide quick-turn solutions, but also offer design support to help customers develop a path towards production.

Kenworth, a heavy-duty truck manufacturer, came to GM Nameplate (GMN) in need of a prototype for an upcoming tradeshow. They wanted to be able to showcase an example of a new nameplate for their limited edition ICON 900 truck. GMN’s rapid prototyping team worked closely with Kenworth to leverage production processes to manufacture the part. The nameplate was selectively chrome plated, which gave the part a modern, high-end automotive look. Then a urethane dome and an aggressive adhesive were placed on the nameplate for added durability.

In addition, GMN’s rapid prototyping team also provides pre-production services as well. Pre-production is best suited for customers who need low volume, quick-turn parts that are more representative of complete functional production parts for purposes such as qualification and testing. This process utilizes all of the production equipment and processes that would be used during the full-scale production of a program, but still involves the development of new products.

To learn more about GMN’s rapid prototyping capabilities, visit our rapid prototyping page.

To request prototypes, fill out our request prototypes form.

Stainless steel mechanical finishes: brushing
By Richard Smylie Apr 12, 2017
Selectively brushed stainless steel sill plate

GMN Automotive’s selective mechanical finishing capabilities include brushing, spinning, and texturing. Mechanical finishes are used to create contrast that can increase the perceived value of a part. In this blog, we will discuss the options available when choosing a brushed mechanical finish on metals such as stainless steel.

Brushed metal is produced by abrading the surface of a metal with a brushing wheel. Brushed finishes can be applied selectively or overall, in one or multiple directions. To create a selectively brushed finish, a screened-printed mask is applied to the area where the brush is not to come in contact with the metal, leaving only the non-masked areas to be abraded. Although selectively brushed stainless steel finishing is a very rare capability to come by, it has become one of GMN Automotive’s core competencies.

However, most finishes on metal – for both stainless steel and aluminum – are applied to the part overall. The most common finish used is a wet number four polish. The uneven brush strokes of a number four polish/brush highlight the metal’s brilliance on stainless steel. An ideal construction for stainless steel is one that requires the brilliance of a metal finish and superior structural performance. Common applications include automotive trim such as sill plates and arm rest trim.

Alternatively, the number eight mirror finish is highly reflective. This finish is created by treating the metal surface with a series of fine abrasives and then buffing it to create a mirror-like appearance. In contrast to the finish mentioned above, the number eight finish improves corrosion resistance. This is due to the polishing process that eradicates any cracks where particles can stick. Because of this corrosion-resistant feature, the number eight finish is commonly used for mirrors and wall panels.

In addition, brushed finishes can be combined with colors to add even more contrast and light movement to the aesthetic of the part. 

Stainless steel alloys
By Richard Smylie Mar 31, 2017

As the preferred material for parts used in extreme environments, stainless steel has applications in industries including automotive and home appliance. With extensive experience working with stainless steel, GM Nameplate (GMN) can help customers choose the correct stainless steel alloy for their application.

Each stainless steel alloy is unique in element composition and elongation, resulting in differing performance capabilities, visual characteristics, cost profiles and elongation ratios. Elongation is the amount of expansion a metal under stress can endure given its original length. The two most common alloys employed in automotive and major appliance parts are the 300 and 400 series.

With superior elongation, the stainless steel 300 series is non-magnetic and employed where severe metal forming is required.  Prevalent in the automotive industry, the 300 series is also known for extreme corrosion resistance, crack resistance, and non-yellowing when subjected to high temperatures and brilliance. The automotive industry favors the 300 series for sill plates, liftgate trim and other vehicle accents that are exposed to extreme environments. For its durability under high temperatures, the 300 series is used in ranges for the home appliance industry as well.

The stainless steel 400 series is magnetic and has a smooth surface finish that is ideal for home appliance products. A disadvantage to the 400 series is that it is more susceptible to corrosion than the 300 series as it has less chromium and nickel. As a result the 400 series is more cost effective than the 300 series. The 400 series is the alloy of choice for cost-sensitive appliance applications such as dish washers and refrigerators.

After choosing the right stainless steel alloy, GMN can provide customers with industry-leading, metal decoration capabilities including selective mechanical finishing on stainless steel. GMN’s mechanical metal finishing capabilities include but are not limited to brushing, spinning, and tooled patterns.

In addition to mechanical finishing, GMN offers graphic finishing including premium coatings and inks. For more information on custom-engineered coatings and inks visit our previous blog post.