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By Sandy Dick Jun 18, 2019
General Dynamics Switch Panel

In 2012, GM Nameplate (GMN) was approached by General Dynamics, a defense company, to produce a switch panel for a military part called the Commanders Smart Display Unit (CSDU) for a new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) that the military was developing. GMN was entrusted with this project based on our reputation for high-quality display integration and optical bonding solutions.

Known as the GD 8012 Panel, the switch panel would be placed on the passenger or commanders’ side of the JLTV’s interior. At the start of the project General Dynamics gave GMN a quick sketch of the product and a long list of requirements that the solution needed to adhere to. However, the customer had no preference on which switch technology to utilize for the panel, and trusted GMN to choose due to our expertise in the area.

The switch technology chosen was elastomer keypads because it provided all the qualities a military part needed. Elastomer keypads are highly durable, great for backlighting, and have a responsive feel.  

The part was constructed of a black aluminum bezel and four elastomer keypads. The different layers that made up the keypads consisted of a printed circuit board assembly (PCBA), metal domes, and then an elastomer layer placed on top. The keypads were inserted within and sealed to the bezel using Room Temperature Vulcanizing silicone, which is a self-leveling rubber that hardens at room to create an airtight seal. The keypads were backlit with blue LEDs so the operator could correctly identify the button icons in darkness. In the back of the part, there were four copper flex tails that connect each of the four elastomer keypads to the electronics. The part also contained EMI shielding, to protect the JLTVs from potential radio interference.

Additional elements of this part included an air vent on the bottom left of the bezel that is covered with Gore Tex, a material that lets in air but not liquids, therefore protecting the device from potential water ingress. The indicator light at the top left corner of the panel is a bi-color LED, which alerts the operator if the display is working or not based on the color that is displayed.

Initially, GMN was asked to deliver 1000 panels a year, but that has since been increased to 2000 panels a year. The final part delivered by GMN was the first ever to pass every preliminary test by the customer on the first try. Our success with this project has now led to several other opportunities with General Dynamics as well.

Patrick Wu
By Patrick Wu Jun 06, 2019
Qiantu K50 steering wheel badge

Qiantu Motors, a China-based automotive company, is at the forefront of the development and manufacturing of New Energy Vehicles (NEV) in China. Making waves in the global automotive market, the Qiantu K50 model is China’s first electric supercar.  

When Qiantu Motors was bringing the K50 to life, they approached GMN to create a steering wheel badge. Looking for a distinguishing decorative solution, they wanted the badge to resonate with the clean and contemporary style of the sportscar. As the badge would sit on the steering wheel, merely a few inches away from the driver, it was extremely crucial to have an eye-catching design with crisp finishing. From aluminum to plastic badges, GMN proposed different solutions to match the project needs and requirements. Qiantu Motors was instantly drawn to one solution that brought together two of GMN’s visually striking capabilities - 3D electroform and in-mold decoration (IMD).

After a few rounds of fine-tuning the details, GMN established the final look of the badge that was comprised of two distinct parts: a dragonfly logo and a body. The dragonfly was achieved through 3D electroform, an electroplating process where nickel and chrome were plated onto a bronze mold to create the three-dimensional structure. Electroforming enabled GMN to construct a detailed, elegant, jewel-like logo that is unobtainable by any other manufacturing or decoration process. Merging aesthetics with functionality, the stainless steel logo offers superior resistance to corrosion and dents. The intricate, grooved patterns seen on the dragonfly fitted seamlessly with Qiantu’s needs.

The body of the badge was realized through the unique process of in-mold decoration. First, a flat sheet of polycarbonate was screen printed with a checkered pattern and a clean silver rim on the edges. Then, the decorated sheet was physically fused into injection molded plastic, forming a rigid, three-dimensional unibody. Suited for high-wear applications, in-mold decoration imparts unparalleled durability and strength to the badge. It not only makes the badge scratch resistant, but also protects the printed graphics from fading over time. 

The carbon fiber unibody and the dragonfly logo were assembled together with a two-part assembly kit. Registration marks on both parts ensured the precise registration of the two distinct components. The combination of electroform and IMD enables the badge to withstand fluctuating temperatures and ultraviolet rays for elongated periods of time. GMN’s China Division rolled out an automotive badge that was not only visually appealing, but also resistant to chemicals, heavy impacts, and abrasion. Before making its way to the steering wheel of the K50, the badge needed to successfully pass a series of rigorous testing including collision, thermal shock, and environmental tests.

The entire manufacturing solution for the K50 badge was conceived and fabricated by GMN’s automotive engineering group. As NEV startups continue to mushroom in China, we look forward to partnering with several other companies to offer truly unique decorative capabilities to fit their needs. To learn more about GMN’s  automotive trims, accents, and badging solutions, visit our GMN Automotive website here.

By Richard Smylie May 31, 2019
Nissan

Tooling a part to size remains integral to the metal fabrication process. While there are several tooling possibilities including steel-rule and rotary die-cutting, laser and water jet cutting, and compound tools, which method do you employ for efficiently performing multiple operations on a metal component? The answer lies in our newest video. By offering a peek into the functioning of progressive dies, this video clearly illustrates the many advantages of utilizing progressive die-cutting to drive productivity.

To cement our understanding of progressive die-cutting, let’s delve deeper into the Nissan automotive badge featured in the video. Made from aluminum, the badge requires a flat, coiled metal strip to undergo blanking, pre-forming, forming, lancing, debossing, and cutting. If we were to perform each of these operations individually with separate stand-alone tools, it would not only be tedious, but also time-consuming and expensive. Progressive die-cutting, also referred to as progressive stamping, is an effective and efficient way of performing multiple operations under a single die set. A die set comprises of multiple individual dies (or stations) that sequentially perform the desired processes on the metal. The minimum and maximum number of stations in a die set is dictated by the design and part geometry.

The fabrication process begins with mounting the die set on the stamping press and feeding the metal in a coil or sheet form to the press. Registration marks or holes on the metal allow for its precise alignment with the die’s progression. Even the slightest mis-orientation of the substrate with the die set can negatively impact the entire output and hence, remains a crucial factor in the fabrication process. As you can see in the video, the press progressively transfers the metal sheet in the web from one die station to the next through an automated feeder mechanism. The six individual dies in the die set perform the following functions –

  • Die #1 - Cuts the outer circular shape of the badge
  • Die #2 - Lances the part to relieve the metal, thereby preventing it from being deformed in the later stages
  • Die #3 - Pre-forms the middle portion of the badge
  • Die #4 - Pre-forms the edges of the badge
  • Die #5 - Cuts out holes from the center of the badge
  • Die #6 - Debosses, forms, and cuts out the badge, all at the same time

At the end of the progression, the web and finished parts are separated from one another by a lance operation and the final parts slide down a conveyor belt. An operator at the end of the belt inspects and organizes the output. Once the progressive die-cutting process is completed, the Nissan badge undergoes anodizing and pad printing. Anodizing is an electro-chemical process that converts the aluminum surface into a durable, corrosion-resistant, and high-energy surface. Pad printing, an offset printing technique, transfers black ink into the recessed letters of the anodized badge. To learn more about pad printing, learn our blog Fundamentals of pad printing.

Suited for high production volumes, progressive stamping is particularly favored for its efficiency and reduced cycle times. The form, profile, and size of the part play a critical role in determining it’s fit for progressive stamping. This cutting method is ideal when project volumes are high and registration requirements are feasible. To watch the progressive die-cutting press in action, watch our video here.

 

Zhou Jian
By Zhou Jian May 28, 2019
Corporate social responsibility

At GMN, we are not only committed to providing a safer and cleaner workplace for all our employees, but also to protect and preserve the environment for future generations. In addition to creating the highest quality products and offering outstanding service to our diverse customers, GMN also shoulders the responsibility to create a better social environment. With sustainable development forming one of the core pillars of our value system, GMN’s China Division joined hands with the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), now known as the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA). Entering its tenth consecutive year of membership with the EICC this year, GMN’s China Division has marked a decade of positively contributing towards its goal. 

But, what is the EICC and what does it entail? In 2004, leading electronics companies in the United States, such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard (HP), developed a code of conduct for corporate social responsibility and governance. Highly representative of international human rights standards such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the EICC code of conduct is a social, environmental, and ethical norm for the global supply chain. While this code had its origin in the electronics industry, it was soon embraced by other industries. Reflecting its growing influence worldwide, the EICC rightfully changed its name to Responsible Business Alliance in 2017, which is no longer limited to the electronics industry today.

The EICC code of conduct covers five broad areas, namely labor, health and safety, environment, ethics, and management systems. Aimed at safeguarding employee rights, the labor code includes various parameters such as fair wages and compensation, non-discrimination, and anti-child laws. While the objective of the health and safety code is to address occupational safety, hazards, and workplace injuries, the other codes encapsulate other business practices and conditions including legal accountability, material handling, managing wastes and pollution prevention, fair trade, business integrity, and more. GMN’s China Division operates under the outlined social, environmental, and ethical framework through training and assessment provided by the EICC. GMN’s China Division passes an audit every year to demonstrate its adherence to the EICC code and maintain its membership status.

As a proud member of the EICC, GMN continues to create a positive impact on its community and environment while safeguarding the rights and benefits of its workforce in the electronics industry supply chain.

April O'Donahue
By April O'Donahue May 13, 2019
April PNAA Women's Conference

This year, I had the opportunity to speak at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA) Women in Aerospace Conference on May 2nd. Accompanied by nine of my teammates, the overall conference had approximately 300 attendees and 23 speakers from over 108 companies. This marked the first time that a member of the GMN Aerospace team has spoken at this event. My speech was centered around the topic of “Expanding your horizons – Getting outside your comfort zone.” 

I’d like to thank GMN for letting me show my determination to go after what I may not be qualified for on paper but have a willingness to learn and be coached on to reach my goals, even when they are outside of my comfort zone or not listed in my job requirements. The more we grow, so does our value. Make a list of your experiences and post it somewhere you can see it daily to remind you of where you’ve been and where you’re striving to go and use that motivation to make it happen.

GMN Aerospace at PNAA Women in Aerospace Conference
GMN Aerospace team at the PNAA Women in Aerospace Conference.
Mike Sorrels
By Mike Sorrels May 07, 2019
Clam shell press in fabrication cell at GMN

In the manufacturing landscape, die-cutting is an indispensable fabrication process used to convert a wide range of materials into specific shapes and sizes. Whether you wish to utilize a custom-shaped silicone foam into a gasket, require a panel filler for a medical device, or simply need to cut out labels and adhesives, die-cutting allows you to efficiently cut materials in large volumes with increased consistency and accuracy.

While there are several die-cutting methods including laser cutting, water-jet cutting, and rotary cutting, our latest video offers a glimpse into steel rule die-cutting, one of the most common cutting methods utilized at GMN. Made of steel, the die is formed by bending, curving, cutting, and shaping a straight steel rule in the required design. Once the rule is mounted and secured on a laser-cut wooden board, the die is ready to use. The lead time to make a steel rule die ranges between one to three days, depending on the complexity of the design.

Typically, steel rule die-cutting is performed on a clam shell press. Comprised of two platens – one stationary and one movable - the press in different tonnages can support varied sizes and materials. As seen in the video, the die is installed on the stationary platen and the material to be cut is placed on the movable platen.

The precise alignment of the material is ensured with one of the following ways -

1) 3-point registration system - This consists of two grips to hold the material in place and one guide mark to accurately align it with the die.

2) Pin-register system - Pre-punched registration marks on the substrate itself that can be aligned to the die position. 

The movable platen is pressed against the stationary one to complete the cutting process. Although the majority of the steel rule die-cutting is performed on a clam shell press, GMN also utilizes vertical, cylinder, horizontal, roll-to-roll, and hydraulic punch presses to cut a broad array of materials such as polycarbonate, paper, foam, Lexan, and aluminum. The hardness of the material directly influences the maximum material thickness that the presses can accommodate.

Steel rule dies allow up to 10,000 hits approximately and therefore can be used for medium to high production volumes. In addition to achieving tolerances as low as 0.01”, steel rule die-cutting offers you the flexibility to accomplish kiss cuts, custom shaped die-outs, clean cuts, scoring lines, and perforations. One of the limitations with this method is that the steel rule has a minimum bending radius of 0.03” which means that any designs with square corners or the ones that require the steel rule to bend less than 0.03” are not suited for this technique. Nonetheless, it is a highly preferred solution due to its cost effectiveness when compared with chemical etch dies and Class A tools. 

With the versatility to accommodate varying shapes, sizes, materials, and designs, steel rule die-cutting is undoubtedly one the most popular die-cut fabrication methods to meet your unique needs. To see some of the clam shell presses at GMN in action, watch our latest video here.

Al Steiner
By Al Steiner May 02, 2019
Tool room at GMN Plastics

There are several factors that dictate the type of mold or tool that is best suited for producing complex injection molded plastic parts. Understanding the requirements for part design, material type, and product life cycles are essential to evaluating and selecting the optimal mold type. In order to define standards for injection mold construction and corresponding life expectancy, the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI), now known as the Plastics Industry Association, has established the following mold classifications -

1) Class 101 - This class of tooling offers the highest quality molds compared to its counterparts. When production exceeds one million cycles, Class 101 is chosen for its ability to support high volumes. Designed for extreme durability, the mold base is made with heat-treated stainless steel that is hardened to a minimum of 280 BHN. Other molding surfaces, including the cavities and cores, also offer very high wear resistance and can withstand resistance from abrasive additives in the plastics.

2) Class 102 - Supporting medium to high production volumes (ranging from 500,000 to 1 million parts), Class 102 molds work best for abrasive materials and/or parts requiring tight tolerances. Similar to Class 101, the mold base and surfaces under this classification are also made with heat-treated tool steel to effectively combat premature wear and tear.

3) Class 103 - Class 103 tooling is typically made with P20 steel and is commonly used for low to medium volume programs, ranging between 250,000 and 500,000 cycles. While only some tools are heat-treated for wear resistance, the mold base is made with a minimum hardness of 165 BHN. Since the base is softer as compared to Class 101 or 102, these tools aren’t recommended for fabricating parts with stringent tolerances. Striking a balance between quality, performance, and cost, Class 103 molds usually fall within the average price range.

4) Class 104 - Moving a degree lower, Class 104 tools are good for manufacturing parts with non-abrasive materials. With the mold base and cavities constructed of either mild steel, aluminum, or alloys, this classification supports low-cost projects and low-volume production, not exceeding 100,000 cycles.

5) Class 105 - Known as prototype tooling, Class 105 is suited only for quick-turn prototypes or volumes under 500 cycles. The molds are made with extremely fragile materials including soft aluminum, epoxy, cast materials, or any other alloys suitable to produce minimum quantities. These tools exhibit accelerated wear and tear, low strength, and minimal durability.

While GMN Plastics utilizes class 101 through 103 for the majority of its production, it usually steers clear of Class 104 and 105 tooling. Utilizing the above SPI mold classification to determine the correct mold type for your project is crucial to ensure process repeatability, minimize production downtime, and reduce defects and scrap rate. With extensive experience and technical know-how, the engineering team at GMN Plastics can help guide you through the unique parameters for each classification to select the best mold type to meet your quality, production, and cost objectives. To learn more about our tooling and tool room services, visit our website here.

By Neha Toshniwal Apr 23, 2019
Backlit car dashboard

Backlighting is the simplest way to lend unparallel style and functionality to your devices. It can be integrated in a broad array of applications including user interfaces, integrated displays, and product branding. But, what are the most popular backlighting technologies available in the market today? What are the differences between each technology? How do you approach a backlighting project? We at GMN understand that evaluating backlighting options and selecting the most optimal solution can be difficult. That’s why we have created a guide for you to explore in detail the various backlighting technologies, and understand their working principles, benefits, limitations, applications, and more!

So, if you are looking to boost your product’s user experience without tipping the scales off your budget, look no further. Download our free guide to backlighting solutions here.

Taichi Nakahara
By Taichi Nakahara Apr 08, 2019
UL Listed and UL Classified labels

Have you ever noticed the label on a computer, pressurized tank, or any other electrical appliance? The likelihood of that label bearing one of the safety marks namely UL, CSA, or the likes of it, is extremely high. But, what do these marks and symbols signify and why are they so important? When it comes to electrical devices, some of the most important attributes from an end user’s point of view remain product quality and safety. Keeping this in consideration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has identified and accredited a few independent labs, referred to as Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTL), to perform product safety testing and certification. Some of the widely recognized NRTLs include the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Intertek Testing Services NA Inc. (formerly known as ETL), MET Laboratories, and NSF International.

While there are almost 20 NRTLs globally, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is one the most popular and leading certification companies in North America. Any product bearing the “UL” mark signifies that it has been tested and certified to a specific UL standard. Similarly, all labels bearing the “UL” mark have been tested and certified under the UL 969 label and marking standard. Although UL certification is not required by federal law in the United States, it assures consumers that the electrical product is compliant with the stringent safety guidelines and specifications outlined by UL.

UL labels can be classified into the following types -

a) UL Listed – indicates that the product has been tested towards a safety standard recognized by OSHA.

b) UL Classified - implies that product is certified to strict standards created by UL, but not recognized by OSHA.

c) UL Certified - also known as Enhanced mark, is gradually bridging the gap between UL Listed and UL Classified labels. Often accompanied with a smart mark or a 2D bar code, a UL Certified label can be scanned by consumers to look up the safety standards that the given product has been tested and certified against.  

UL works directly with the customer to designate the appropriate label classification for their products. However, all of the above label types require a UL-approved construction. A “construction” lists out in detail all the key elements of the label including the substrate, inks, printing processes, application of the product that the label is designed for, decorative finishes, and manufacturing location.

With three UL-approved facilities in Asia and America, GMN offers over 40 types of UL-approved constructions. GMN routinely utilizes screen, flexographic, and digital printing to print UL labels on different substrates including white or clear silver polyester, polypropylene, polycarbonate, and more. UL conducts multiple random facility audits and sample testing throughout the year to ensure compliance of the label construction and manufacturing processes with the set guidelines.

In addition to the above label types and classifications, there are some labels that bear the “Recognized Components” mark. These labels go on individual components that are part of a larger product or system and hence, they are barely seen by end consumers. Although labels with “Recognized Components” mark are not required to be made by a UL-certified construction, it is highly recommended and often fabricated under the UL standards.

In our extensive label-manufacturing experience, GMN has worked with a wide array of industries and companies, including Hewlett Packard, Eaton, Megadyne, and Flextronics, to create custom UL label solutions. From material selection, to artwork approval, to proper documentation, GMN can help you navigate the complexities of creating a UL label that fits your exact needs. To learn more about our other decorative and functional label solutions, visit our capabilities page here

Paul Michaels
By Paul Michaels Mar 29, 2019
GMN Aerospace maintains 99% quality ratings in 2018

Within the competitive landscape of the aerospace industry, GMN Aerospace constantly strives to meet our commitments to our customer’s specifications and quality standards. After experiencing an increase in our statement of work over the past year, about 25% of the work produced by GMN Aerospace was supported by short-flow and aircraft on ground (AOG) requests. This translated to our team delivering over two million parts to more than 300 customers in 2018. During this time, the GMN Aerospace team is proud to have maintained a consistent quality rating of 99%.

GMN Aerospace is always looking for ways to improve our internal processes to better meet our customer’s needs and produce products of the highest quality. That’s why we invest heavily in lean manufacturing initiatives such as our Value Stream Team (VST) events and collaborative customer engagement.

In addition to the insights gained from listening to our customers, our team is extremely thankful for the collaboration and teamwork that we experienced with our customers throughout the past year, which played a role in our ability to sustain high quality ratings. As we look to the year ahead of us, we are excited to continue to uphold strong quality ratings and grow our relationships with our customers.