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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.

Chris Passanante, GMN
Plastic decorating: painting & laser etching
By Chris Passanante Mar 27, 2017

In part five of our plastic decorating series, we will discuss painting and laser etching. Painting is another standard plastic decorating option and is widely utilized across different industries. Painting employs multiple process methods including robotic painting and hand spray painting. The differentiator between these two options is the program volume. High volume production shifts towards automatic processes while lower volumes lean towards manual painting.

There are many benefits of painting. First, painting can achieve highly specific colors that are crucial for customers’ branding. Next, painting allows for multiple colors to be applied to a part. This process also has the ability to hide mold flow lines, knit lines and other molding imperfections that are sometimes inevitable in production. Additionally, painting can offer a textured effect with soft touch paint that provides a rubber feel, clear coat, or protective coating depending on program requirements.

As a decorative option, painting can be costly and masking can be labor intensive depending on the part. Painting requires a clean environment and sometimes the curing time is longer than for other decorative technologies.

Oftentimes, painting processes are used in collaboration with laser etching. Laser etching is a technology that uses a laser to burn away the paint in specified areas on a part. Laser etching can achieve very fine detail and can be utilized on multiple materials including silicone, hard thermoplastics, as well as metal. Along with removing paint, laser etching can permanently engrave and etch plastic. One aspect of production is to optimize cycle time by fixturing multiple parts at once during laser etching.

It is important to consider that with laser etching, the initial programming can be timely and the masking needed is labor intensive throughout the process.

Rubber keypads are a good example of the collaboration between painting and laser etching that has been utilized for years. This combination of technologies is also very popular in the automotive industry, especially in gear shift indicators, and it’s likely that these processes were utilized on a plastic piece within your vehicle.

In our final plastic decorating article, we will discuss insert mold decorating.

To learn more about the plastic decorative options offered at GMN, please visit the rest of our blog series by clicking here

Value-added assembly with GMN Automotive
By Richard Smylie Feb 13, 2017
Value-added assembly for PRNDL

The various steps and processes that go into developing a product require companies to outsource numerous parts and services from several outside suppliers. Working with multiple suppliers can be challenging and expensive, with inconsistencies in quality standards, lead times, and communication methods. GMN Automotive can help you avoid this hassle with value-added solutions that limit the number of suppliers involved.

With a broad spectrum of in-house capabilities and a world-class quality system, GMN Automotive helps customers streamline their supply chain. We can take ownership of the entire manufacturing process from early development through final assembly. Our expertise in a variety of technologies allows us to supply diverse solutions to the automotive industry including custom metal and plastic sheet decoration, adhesive lamination, bonded electronic displays, and many more.

Vendor consolidation not only saves time and money, but increases efficiency, predictability, and control. Having one centralized communication channel with a single company versus scattered conversations with multiple vendors, means your vision won’t get lost. This integration allows customers to see how each component will work together beforehand to ensure that the final product will function as intended.

Recently, an interior trim Tier 1 company was in need of an armrest application. They wanted a base and a highline armrest, but each required different process constructions. The base model required an injection molded construction, while the highline model called for the base model to be wrapped in metal with a custom color and finish. The company could’ve contracted two different vendors to take care of each process, but GMN Automotive was able to produce both models, which streamlined operations, reduced costs, and optimized communication.

Instead of creating one component or taking care of one process, GMN Automotive can provide comprehensive solutions that deliver a fully functional, plug-and-play tested device.  GMN Automotive will continue to grow our complimentary capabilities to bring customers high-quality, value-added products. To learn more about our value-added capabilities, check out our value-added assembly page.

Chris Passanante, GMN
GMN provides nameplates for Rockford Fosgate
By Chris Passanante Jan 25, 2017
GM nameplate provides hot stamping for Rockford Fosgate

GM Nameplate was able to provide Rockford Fosgate with a durable nameplate for their car stereo speakers that met all of their environmental and design requirements. The nameplate must achieve a bright metallic color and the strength to withstand foot traffic or any impacts interior car doors face. GMN found that applying the hot stamping process and using a chrome foil would best meet these requirements.

Hot stamping uses heat and pressure to transfer dried ink or foil from a roll of film to a plastic part. In this case for Rockford Fosgate, GMN used a high endurance chrome foil that is well suited for automotive applications due to its increased abrasion resistance. The chrome foil was then pressed onto a black plastic part, which was molded using resin, a thermoplastic polymer.

With the ability to decorate a two-color, two-tone part, hot stamping is less time consuming than masking or painting. Additionally, hot stamping saves production time because the dried ink or foil doesn’t need to be placed in an oven after it’s already been cured when it was transferred via heat.

No adhesive was applied to the back of the nameplate. The nameplate is developed with a few snap features that allow it to lock into the speaker.

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An aluminum fixture holds the base component, which is molded using resin.

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Metallic chrome foil is rolled as aluminum stamp presses down on the base component.

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Lauren Rowles, GMN
General Motors' footrest and gas pedal sporting enhancement
By Lauren Rowles Oct 13, 2016
Custom sporting enhancement

When General Motors needed to add a sporting enhancement to their footrest and gas pedal, they selected GMN Automotive to supply the decorative stainless steel overlay. GMN Automotive is well-versed in decorative and sporting enhancements and is a trusted brand among the industry’s top car manufacturers.

Footrest and gas pedal sporting enhancements are often seen in muscle cars due to their polished, sleek and sophisticated look. Stainless steel footrests are often employed in high-end OEM muscle cars and in the automotive aftermarket. 

To adhere this particular part to the low energy molded rubber, GMN Automotive employed an acrylic pressure sensitive adhesive. Bonding the two dissimilar materials in concert with the molded rubber extruding through the stainless steel piercings resulted in a performance driven and visually striking overlay.