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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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[/caption]
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. 

Custom seven-colored steering wheel badge for Alfa Romeo
By Richard Smylie Oct 03, 2016
Screen printed steering wheel badge

Alfa Romeo, a car brand of the FCA Group, contracted GM Nameplate (GMN) to manufacture a steering wheel badge containing seven custom colors. When screen printing seven colors that border one another, color deposition registration is essential to ensure the colors do not overlap or gap, thereby changing the visual in the overlapped area or allowing the metal to be visible.

Important factors to consider when manufacturing such a detailed badge are selecting the right mesh, setting the correct pin registration for location accuracy, stretching the screen to the correct tension value, holding the sheet in the screen press stable so it does not move, and separating the colors. 

To test for color accuracy, GMN’s graphic artists created an inspection color bar. Having the color bar in the same size and location for each color deposited created a visual check that confirmed color to color registration. With the visual check, each color’s deposition accuracy could be validated by the screen print operator and in-process inspector. 

GMN’s own chemist and lab technicians color match all inks/coatings to meet the required visual and functional requirements - be it scratch, mar, chemical, gasoline, et cetera. Additionally, the inks were formulated to not crack during embossing, blanking and/or forming. 

In-house tool designers built the progressive die and secondary forming tools. The tooling allowed the ink to be stretched without fracturing, creating a seamless badge.   

These process steps insure the badge will maintain its beauty and functionality even in harsh environments. GMN’s process knowledge and capabilities allowed for the successful execution of the Alfa Romeo steering wheel badge.

GMN Automotive’s functional and visual coating and ink treatments
By Richard Smylie Aug 30, 2016
Custom coating and ink solutions

GMN Automotive offers performance-driven coating and ink solutions to protect branding components from the severe environments they are required to endure.

Whether a part resides on the vehicle’s interior, exterior, or under the hood, there are a variety of environmental conditions to consider to ensure the sustainability of a product over its lifetime. Within the automotive industry, coatings and inks have become a vital addition to prevent parts from yellowing, blistering, or cracking under extreme temperatures or caustic conditions. However, coatings used for parts exposed to high temperatures would not be appropriate for parts repeatedly subjected to salt spray. Therefore, GMN Automotive’s coatings and inks are custom-formulated by our in-house chemists and lab technicians in order to fit an application’s specific functional and visual requirements.

It is important to note that coatings and inks have both a visual and functional side. GMN Automotive offers a wide set of custom finishes and textures able to achieve any visual intent, including color, gloss, and hardness. However, coatings serve functional purposes as well, such as UV, superior scuff, mar, scratch, and chemical resistance. Additionally, GMN Automotive’s coatings and inks are durable yet flexible, which is extremely beneficial during the fabrication process.

Coatings and inks can be adhered to an array of different metal, sheet plastic, and glass materials. GMN Automotive can entirely or selectively deposit coatings and inks onto materials through a variety of methods including spray, screen printing, off-set printing, digital printing, and pad printing.

For more information about coatings and adhesives used on under-the-hood badging, check out this blog post.

Freightliner steering wheel badge
By Richard Smylie Aug 17, 2016
Custom steering wheel badging by GMN Automotive

With the introduction of a new European law requiring large trucks to have driver airbags (DAB), existing steering wheel badge constructions no longer comply with the law as they do not have a locking feature. The locking feature secures the decorative badge to the corresponding cover in the event of deployment.

GMN Automotive badges are in compliance with the new law as they are designed with tabs that:

  • Extend off the part’s perimeter
  • Are bent 90 degrees to the face of the part
  • Are invisible to the vehicle’s occupant when installed
  • Stay locked in place when crimped to the corresponding cover should the bag deploy

At GMN Automotive, our creativity combined with our engineering support allows us to be an industry leading solution provider. 

Backlit ornamentation for automotive interiors
By Richard Smylie Jul 28, 2016
Backlit sill plate by GMN Automotive

As the content of today’s automotive cockpits contain an ever increasing amount of backlit ornamentation, GMN Automotive capabilities have expanded to support this evolution. GMN Automotive is experienced in providing backlit ornamentation for automotive interiors, including displays and branded sill plates.

Backlit applications usually contain a shroud, a light pipe, and a light engine. A shroud is the exterior decorative element of a backlit application, which can be selectively or mechanically finished, custom decorated, and stamped out of aluminum or stainless steel. GMN Automotive provides custom decorating by color and finish. A light pipe contains a clear substrate in which the LED light shines through. Light pipes can be acrylic insert molded or custom sheet plastic decorated. When insert molding the light pipe, it becomes hermetically sealed, whereby preventing liquids from leaking into and short circuiting the circuit. Light engines, using LED or light guide film, are what drive the backlit application and allow for industry-leading thin constructions.  GMN Automotive has in-house testing to validate the part’s light capability to ensure the part meets light emission design intent.   

At GMN Automotive, the vertical breath of our manufacturing capabilities and experience of producing backlit ornamentation allows GMN Automotive to offer a broad range of construction possibilities to each component of your assembly.  The result of which allows GMN Automotive parts to be produced to exacting standards that will meet or exceed your constructions’ visual and functional requirements.

Todd Boedecker, GMN
Laser capabilities
By Todd Boedecker Jul 15, 2016
GMN’s laser capabilities

Upon hearing the word “lasers” many people think of an action-packed scene from Star Wars. The lasers used in manufacturing may not be of the lightsaber variety, but they do play an important role in production today. 

While there are many applications for lasers in the fields of research, law enforcement, and medical practices to name a few, we are going to focus on manufacturing in this article. GM Nameplate (GMN) is equipped with laser machines that are used for both cutting and etching. The first process is used to cut parts from sheets or rolls of material while the second typically provides a decorative function by engraving a piece or removing ink from a part.

Laser cutting is best used for applications including prototypes, program development, low volume production, parts with small or intricate features (such as interconnected holes for two-sided circuits), and materials that cannot be cut with a tool. The lead time for laser cutting is faster compared to die cutting and changes can be made quickly with programming instead of tool modifications. In contrast, cutting time is typically longer than punching time so piece price is normally higher with laser cutting. 

In addition to cutting, lasers are also used for etching. Through this technology, parts can be engraved or marked. One way etching is used is to remove paint or ink from the surface of a part to allow the material underneath to show through. For example, GMN has utilized laser etching capabilities for various automotive gear shift indicator parts by removing a top layer of paint to reveal various colors underneath. One of these programs can be seen in our case study. Laser etching can be done on a variety of materials including plastic, rubber, and metal. Laser etching is often chosen for its ability to achieve fine detail. It is an extremely accurate process and is repeatable to support high volume cycles.

GMN has decades of experience using lasers to fabricate a variety of products including overlays, nameplates, and circuits. Our understanding of laser cutting and etching along with the wide range of materials used in our production allows us to react quickly to our customers’ needs.  We are able output parts using lasers with visual aesthetics and tolerances that meet or exceed other fabrication methods.   

With world-class laser capabilities located at facilities around the globe, GMN is equipped with the technologies needed to meet customer needs wherever and whenever they arise.

Link to PRNDL case study

Badging treatments to withstand extreme under the hood conditions
By Richard Smylie May 26, 2016
The coatings, inks, and adhesives applied to under the hood badging are crucial to maintain the part’s intended design over time

Under the hood badges or emblems are the branding components applied to the interior surfaces of an automobile, such as the engine cover, that help your brand stand out and stay consistent. When designing badging intended for the inside of an automobile’s hood, it is crucial to understand the harsh environment that part will face. The protective coatings, inks, and adhesives applied to the badging must withstand the atmosphere to maintain various design elements such as color, brilliance, luster and gloss over time.

Common conditions under the hood include submersion in gasoline, heavy impact from flying debris, and exposure to extreme temperatures. To withstand all of this, superior performing coatings and inks can prevent your part from yellowing, blistering, or cracking. At GMN Automotive, our in-house chemists work with our customers to develop custom priority coatings and inks that will withstand the most trying environments, while still maintaining your part’s intended visual properties, color and gloss, and hardness.

In regard to selecting an adhesive, it is necessary to apply a solution that will maintain its bond to your substrate over the life cycle of your product. GMN Automotive’s in-house engineers and chemists partner to recommend an adhesive system that is suitable for your specific application. Whether the application is open or closed cell, or has a high or low energy level, we can recommend an adhesive system that will allow your design to adhere to the corresponding substrate. This means that the bond will meet or exceed required performance specifications regardless of how challenging the substrate is to bond to.

GMN Automotive has extensive process knowledge and experience with this type of ornamentation, which allows our team to develop solutions that will withstand the real world challenges that are faced in the environment under the hood.