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, 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.
Our video below provides a look into the spin finish process accomplished at GM Nameplate’s (GMN) Monroe, NC Division. 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 burning of the 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. There are two types of spin finishes that can be applied:
- Drag spin - 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 - 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 tailored 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, spin finish takes away the inherent protective layer from the surface of the metal and hence adding a top coat 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/or pad printing, along with embossed or debossed graphics, are often added to spin finished parts to further accentuate their beauty and allure.
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, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), and Vaio to create stunning spin-finished nameplates and components. Watch the video below to see the spin finish process in action.
Looking to add a subtle, yet eye-catching decorative element to your metal component? Look no further than brush finish! GM Nameplate (GMN) specializes in metal decoration, and one attribute we commonly add to metal is a mechanical 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 finishes are often combined with other decoration enhancements such as ElectraGraphics, embossing, and Lensclad, to name a few. Used in a wide range of products, brush finish is particularly prevalent in the electronics, home appliances, and automotive industries.
GMN recently created a video to demonstrate the brush finish process and give you a glimpse into the various looks that can be achieved. The video features our brushing line that’s operated at our Monroe, NC Division.
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 next process.
To see the brush finishing process, click on the video below.
Lensclad, also known as thin doming, is a proprietary solution by GMN that creates visually-striking and durable nameplates. Compatible with aluminum substrates, the process of Lensclad involves the application of a clear urethane topcoat that encapsulates the entire nameplate. The coating not only shields the nameplate from challenging conditions such as dust, gravel, temperature fluctuations, and humidity, but also adds significant scuff and mar resistance. It also acts as a lens, thus magnifying the underlying colors and features of the design.
Meeting at the crossroads of functionality and aesthetics, Lensclad is a self-healing technology. While all nameplates experience scratches, dents, or chip damage over time, this self-healing technology allows nameplates to absorb damages and restore itself back to its original form. The protective coating is formulated using UV inhibitors which helps it to stay clear and prevents it from yellowing. By enduring most of the “real world” harsh environments, Lensclad averts everyday wear and tear from deteriorating the overall quality of the nameplate.
Lensclad can be applied on flat or curved profiles, and embossed or debossed graphics, making it ideal for a diverse range of products and industries. The strength and durability of Lensclad doming enables the nameplate to withstand heavy impacts and corrosive environments. The technology also meets the rigorous requirements of automotive performance standards, making it a great choice for outdoor applications including cars, boats, and industrial equipment. Cosmetically speaking, Lensclad enhances the look of the nameplate, making it an equally great choice for indoor applications such as consumer goods, home appliances, cosmetic packaging, and car interiors.
Lensclad adds a thickness of 0.008” to the nameplate. This technology gives us the flexibility to vary the hardness of the urethane coating to fit the application. A thicker version of Lensclad, known as magni-lens, is also available, which adds a thickness of 0.060” to the nameplate. While the manufacturing process of magni-lens nameplates varies from that of Lensclad, it eventually offers the same functionality. For applying the thick doming, a nozzle filled with urethane coating applies the resin while moving across the surface of the nameplate. The resin gradually “wets out” the entire surface and dries over a period of 24 hours. The thickness of the nozzle head, the amount of resin it meters out, the direction in which the nozzle moves, and the time it takes to travel across the surface of the nameplate is customized and programmed for every unique application.
GMN has manufactured Lensclad nameplates for several well-known companies including Ford, MAC cosmetics, Honda, Excel dryers, and Estee Lauder to name a few. This performance-driven and cost-effective solution from GMN is truly a game-changer in elevating and preserving the look of your nameplates over time.
Many industries require the decorative elements of plastic to be highly durable. For instance, 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.
What is in-mold decoration?
In-mold decoration (IMD) is a process where a graphic overlay is physically fused to injection molded plastic to form one piece. It is a plastic decorating method that ensures the durability of the graphic overlays and allows for multiple design options for the overlays. 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, 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. To learn more about what the IMD process is, read this blog.
Advantages of in-mold decoration
In-mold decoration 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.
Explanatory video: In-mold decorating process
To watch the IMD process, click play on the video below.
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.
- 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
- 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.
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 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 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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.