Blog

Paul Michaels
By Paul Michaels Oct 17, 2019
GMN supports the PNAA scholarship program

This morning, GMN had the pleasure of hosting Brian Canfield, CEO of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA), at our Seattle, WA Division. During the meeting, Brian Canfield recognized GMN’s continued support and contribution to the PNAA’s scholarship program.

PNAA is a non-profit organization aimed towards promoting and strengthening the Pacific Northwest aerospace community. Committed to workforce development, PNAA’s scholarship program gives wings to eligible students in pursuing their careers in the aerospace industry. Sharing the same vision with PNAA, GMN has been a donor to the scholarship fund since 2016. Every year, GMN donates in memory of our long-time employee, Brent Sletmoe, who worked on the GMN Aerospace team for several years.

In a closely-knit industry such as the aerospace, GMN realizes the importance of supporting the next generation and helping build the future workforce. GMN’s donation in 2019 has helped qualified students from accredited universities in paying for books, supplies, tuition, and other college expenses. The students are currently pursuing varied careers within the aerospace industry including supply chain management, air traffic control, engineering, and design. 

GMN is truly honored to support PNAA’s vision of a brighter future and looks forward to a fruitful partnership in the years to come.

Rudy Vital, GMN
By Rudy Vital Oct 14, 2019
A photo of an elastomer keypad

One any user interface, the keypad is often the first element that a user interacts with. Great user experience is paramount to a great product and it all starts with customizing your keypad so that it looks, feels and behaves the right way. When it comes to customization, almost no other keypad can provide as many options as elastomer keypads. Made from a flexible polymer, elastomer keypads are a reliable and durable choice for a wide range of industries and applications.

The tactile response, appearance, and construction of the keypad can be effectively tailored to fit your exact product specifications. Elastomer keypads offer the following benefits:

  1. Tactile feedback: Tactile feedback is one of the most important considerations for any switch construction. With elastomer keypads, the actuation force required to press a key can be tailored between 100g to 300g of force. The keys can also be configured to make an audible snap sound via an inserted metal dome to provide instant feedback to the user. In addition, each key can be assigned to varying levels of hardness or resistance to indentation.

  2. Look: The visual appearance is yet another crucial element for any keypad. While elastomer arrives as an off-white color, there is a wide array of color options available to choose from during the molding process. Colored text, symbols, or iconography can be printed via pad or screen printing. There are a variety of finishes available, such as a silicone or polyurethane coating, to help alter the feel and protect the printed graphics from wearing off after repeated use or from cleaning solutions.

  3. Selective backlighting: Elastomer keypads can be backlit over the entire surface or specific areas can be laser etched to allow for selective backlighting. To backlight an entire button on an elastomer keypad, the base of the button can be molded with translucent material, allowing a direct LED underneath the button to give the whole button a glow. Alternatively, elastomer buttons can be painted to be completely opaque, where the iconography can then be laser etched into the paint. When an LED shines under the button, only the laser etched area of the icon will allow light through, illuminating just the iconography.

  4. Cost-effective tooling and construction: While plastic keys and buttons are often injection molded, elastomer keypads are compression molded since the keys and the mat are one single piece. As a result, the tooling for rubber keypads costs significantly less when compared to other popular switch options. Elastomer keypads also tend to be much simpler to tool and to assemble due to the one-piece construction, leading to quicker prototyping and faster lead times.

  5. Durability: Elastomer keypads are completely sealed and offer unparalleled cleanability. They are ideal for any application where they might be subjected to liquids, chemicals, or unwanted moisture. They can endure temperatures ranging from -30° C to 80° C.

Ultimately, elastomer keypads are one of the most customizable types of switch design, offering a host of different options to make sure it fits your unique product perfectly. To learn more about your possibilities with elastomer, check out our elastomer page or schedule a consultation with our experts.

By Sau Mei Chia Sep 30, 2019
Man working in manufacturing facility

GM Nameplate (GMN) is strongly committed to improving its work environment and protecting the health and safety of all associates. Taking a step further towards that goal, GMN’s Singapore division recently received the ISO 45001:2018 certification.

What is ISO 45001:2018?

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is a universally recognized standard-setting board adopted by over 160 countries. ISO 45001:2018 is an ISO certification that involves putting in place a thorough occupational health and safety management system for the entire division. It is a framework that systematically reduces workplace accidents and injuries by ensuring every employee is trained and actively involved in mitigating and abating workplace risks. ISO 45001:2018 is valid for three years and requires annual audits to verify the standards are being followed.

What is new about ISO 45001:2018?

ISO 45001:2018 replaces the previous Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series (OHSAS) 18001. The new standard involves more managerial involvement and a greater focus on evaluating and proactively addressing any possible health or safety risks in the workplace. The new standard also emphasizes employee participation and providing employees with extensive training to help identify and mitigate any workplace risks.

GMN’s commitment to safety

GMN Singapore’s division held several comprehensive consulting sessions on the new safety standard to ensure all employees, as well as management, are well acquainted with the requirements. Striving for continuous improvement, the internal auditing teams also ensure adherence to the strict guidelines established in the standard. The new ISO 45001:2018 certification is just another example of how GMN not only meets the rigorous Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) standards, but also relentlessly strives to create a better and safer work place.

To learn more about quality systems and compliance at GMN, visit our website here. 

By Jim Badders Sep 16, 2019
Finger touching enhanced display module

When it comes to deciding on the specific display to use with your product, it is important to realize that no one size fits all. Whether you’re designing a user interface for the automotive, medical, appliance or any other industry, GM Nameplate (GMN) has several different ways to enhance display modules to suit your unique needs. While display enhancements usually bring to mind a myriad of visual upgrades, these enhancements are also often used to improve the functionality of the device.

Some of the most common types of display module enhancement include:

  1. AF or AS coating: Anti-fingerprint (AF) coating and anti-smudge (AS) coating are two of the most common front surface display enhancements utilized today. They help protect the surface from situations where visibility may be hindered with repeated use. Applied via a spray coating, these enhancements are popular in industries where the front surface may be subject to smudging or be repeatedly interacted with and operated by the user.
  2. AR or AG coating: Anti-reflective (AR) coating and anti-glare (AG) coating are both frequently used in industries where visibility is critical. Both can be applied to the front surface of the display module to allow for better visibility in direct sunlight or any other harsh lighting conditions. The coatings boost the apparent luminance and contrast of a display by mitigating the loss of light via reflection or glare.
  3. Decorative cover lens or glass: The front surface of a display module is the first thing a user sees, which makes it an ideal place to have information about the function of the device. Decorating the cover lens or glass is essentially the process of printing colored graphics, logos or other information about the product directly onto the rear surface of the lens or glass. It can not only help highlight parts of the display, but also enhance the look of the module and make for a better user interface by providing helpful information. This can be employed in a wide range of applications as it can add style and function to any device.
  4. Enhancing the backlight assembly: Inside of many display modules, there is a small strip of LEDs that surround the LCD to illuminate the display. These LEDs are typically housed in a thin metal railing called a light rail and can be enhanced in various ways. The LEDs can be replaced by brighter or dimer LEDs depending on the visibility requirements. Alternatively, a dual-mode light rail can be employed, where different forms of lighting, such as night vision, can be implemented by alternating the different kinds of LEDs along the light rail. This kind of enhancement is especially important in the military or other outdoor environments where readability is crucial regardless of the ambient lighting.
  5. Tempering cover glass: Tempering glass is a popular enhancement to add strength to the cover glass. It can be done chemically or via heat, which can allow the display structure to withstand more force and improve impact resistance. There are also other kinds of material with varying levels of strength that can be used for covering displays, such as Gorilla Glass or PMMA (acrylic). Even bonding the display glass through an optical bonding process can significantly improve impact resistance. This display enhancement technique is particularly useful for devices that may be exposed to a rugged environment or repeated impact.

The different display enhancements can often be mixed and matched depending on the product and performance requirements. Not sure about the best way to enhance your display module, or curious about all the different options that GMN offers? Request a consultation with our experts today to find the perfect solution for you.

By Richard Smylie Sep 12, 2019
Ford steering wheel badge

Ford Motor Company, a leader in the automotive industry, was remodeling its 2020 Ford Explorer SUV and one of the main decorative accents they were looking to refresh was their Class-A steering wheel badge. Since the Explorer is one of Ford’s flagship vehicles, Ford wanted the badge to be built to world-class standards, capturing both the visual craftsmanship and performance functionality of the design intent. Ford chose GMN Automotive (GMN) for its industry-leading craftsmanship, design execution, and functionality of the coatings.

Our latest video illustrates the many steps involved in the manufacturing of the steering wheel badge. The process begins with a coil of aluminum being cut into 24”x 20” sheets. The sheets are washed in an alkaline bath and dried to ensure that they are clean, thereby preventing any issues in the subsequent production steps. Next, the sheets are fed into a roll coater that deposits a primer coating. It not only promotes better ink adhesion but also helps protect the finished badge from any environmental challenges it will face on the steering wheel. The sheets are then baked in a flatbed oven to partially cure the basecoat. The aluminum sheets are sent from the oven to the screen printer, where the iconic Ford blue color is deposited onto them along with a corresponding small bullseye registration mark that is utilized during embossing and blanking at a later stage. 

As seen in the video, the sheets are sent back to the roll coater where a topcoat is applied. This shields the primer coating and ink below, resulting in enhanced durability and depth of field for the logo. The fully decorated sheets are laminated with a protective film to minimize handling and tool-related issues. After lamination, the sheets are moved to fabrication where an optical registration system aligns with the printed bullseye mark to accurately emboss the Ford logo. The logo and the encircling racetrack are raised by .003”.

Next, the decorated and embossed sheets are blanked and formed to size and shape in a progressive tool. The machine utilizes the same registration mark employed in the embossing process to ensure extreme precision and uniformity. In the end, the badges undergo a rigorous visual inspection to guarantee that they are free of non-conformities before they are securely packaged and shipped out.  

To see the entire production process of the Ford steering wheel badge from start to finish, watch our video below. 

Marc Doan
By Marc Doan Sep 04, 2019
Digital press in GMN's Seattle division

With lead times getting shorter and customer demands constantly evolving, it is more important than ever to improve efficiency and remain agile. Keeping on pace with the latest technology, GM Nameplate's (GMN) Seattle, WA division recently installed a new, state-of-the-art digital printing press. Born out of the strategic collaboration between Ricoh Company, Ltd. (Ricoh) and Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG (Heidelberg), this technologically-advanced press allows GMN to undertake projects that weren't possible on other printers.  

Printing up to 90 sheets per minute, the digital press scores high on efficiency, consistency, and repeatability. It can print on several substrates such as paper, vinyl, polyester, and polycarbonate, up to 13"x19" in size. Unlike the previous digital printers at GMN, the new press doesn't require any stock preparation or special coatings on substrates, thereby making it seamless to switch between different projects. Using a four-color process, it produces extremely crisp, high-resolution images. In addition, it is also equipped with the Heidelberg color-matching system, which allows the press to read and precisely match any color. It also has an internal system to ensure the color stays consistent even over the largest print runs.

With other popular printing techniques, the printing process can be quite cumbersome. For instance, lithographic printing requires creating the artwork on a photographic plate, storing the plate, and curing each color in the image individually. Similarly, screen printing requires preparing separate screen meshes for every color in the design, manually mixing inks, and printing one color at a time. However, with this new digital press, all you need is a digital art file. As a result, it not only eliminates all the time-consuming practices associated with other print methods but also produces significantly less waste.

Much of the non-metal work that was previously accomplished with screen printing or offset printing has migrated to the new digital press. Ideal for quick-turn prototyping and high-volume projects, the press is primarily used for markers, graphic overlays and labels. The press can also print variable or serialized data.

By embracing cutting-edge technologies and equipment, GMN aims at meeting the most nuanced needs of its diverse customers. The addition of the new digital press has truly enabled GMN to provide the highest quality solutions to a wide variety of industries. 

By Neha Toshniwal Aug 27, 2019
GMN receives Boeing Performance Excellence Award 2018

GMN Aerospace announced today that it has received the 2018 Boeing Performance Excellence Award (BPEA). The BPEA is The Boeing Company’s annual program that recognizes suppliers who have demonstrated high-performance standards.

In accordance with Boeing’s Supplier Performance Measurement rating system, all suppliers were rated on key parameters including delivery, quality, engineering, cost, and support services. Among its vast network of over 13,000 global suppliers, The Boeing Company recognized 382 suppliers this year who achieved either a Gold or Silver level BPEA. With a quality and delivery rating of over 99 percent, GMN Aerospace maintained a Silver composite performance rating for each month of the 12-month performance period, from October 2017 to September 2018.

The 2018 BPEA award is GMN Aerospace’s eleventh consecutive time receiving the prestigious recognition. Over the past year, GMN Aerospace has delivered over 1.5 million pieces to The Boeing Company, supporting all their commercial programs, as well as Boeing Defense, Space & Security and Boeing Global Services (BGS). GMN supplied over 70,000 unique part numbers including interior and exterior mandatory markers and placards, injection molded plastics components, and other integrated assemblies.  

“Receiving this recognition from The Boeing Company for the eleventh consecutive time is truly momentous. It lucidly reflects GMN’s unwavering commitment to exceeding customer expectations,” said Daniel Munson, Aerospace Fabrication Lead at GMN Aerospace. “It requires a genuine team effort to achieve this level of quality, service, and support for Boeing. I feel so fortunate to work with such passionate and creative people who continue to improve and innovate each day.”

As a proud partner of The Boeing Company for over 50 years, GMN Aerospace is honored to be able to contribute to the success of one of the largest and most influential aerospace companies in the world.

Pam Hane
By Pam Hane Aug 20, 2019
Thermal conductive pads

As electronic devices are getting smaller, a major concern that largely looms over engineers and designers is the dissipation of heat. All electronic devices emit heat, which without a proper outlet, could lead to a spike in the internal temperature of the device, ultimately resulting in its failure. Trapped heat in a device can not only damage critical internal components but can also negatively impact the performance of the device. To lower the temperature of the device, it is essential to dissipate the heat from the heat source to a heat sink (air duct or vent). Thanks to thermal interface materials, engineers have one less reason to worry now. Often integrated into devices at varying stages of product development, thermal materials enhance the thermal conduction between two components to facilitate the transfer of heat away from the heat source.

Measured in watt per square meter of surface area for a temperature gradient of one Kelvin for every me­ter thickness (W/m-k), thermal conductivity is the rate at which heat passes through a material. When an integrated circuit (IC) in a device gets hot, a thermal material drives the heat in a vertical direction away from the heat source. W/m-k is the measurement of how fast the heat is transferred from the IC to the heat sink. However, if the thermal material doesn’t intimately marry with the IC, it creates air bubbles. These air bubbles can slow down or disrupt the transfer of heat, known as impedance. A thorough understanding of conductivity and impedance is vital towards selecting the optimal thermal material for any given application.

Fortunately, companies such as 3M, Laird and Bergquist, have opened doors to several thermal management solutions in the form of thermal pads and conductive tapes. Designed in a variety of thermal conductiv­ities and softness grades, these materials flow into the nooks and cran­nies of the heat sink and IC to offer a high degree of “wet out” for more efficient heat transfer. Available in different thicknesses, they also provide excellent gap filling proper­ties in most cases. Some of the core advantages of thermal materials include:

  • Enhanced thermal coupling between the heat source and heat sink
  • High conformability to uneven and irregular substrates
  • Quick and easy application

Suited for diverse applications such as handheld electronics, notebook and desktop computers, memory mod­ules, telecommunications hardware, and flat panel displays, thermal materials can significantly enhance the durability and performance of the device. To discover how die-cut components can improve the way we design products and overcome last-minute design hurdles, download our free guide here.     

By Leanne Coffroth Aug 15, 2019
ElectraGraphic nameplate for Wahl Clipper

Wahl Clippers Corporation (Wahl), a leader in the professional and hair grooming industry, approached GMN to create a nameplate for its 100-year special edition cordless hair clipper. To mark its centennial anniversary, Wahl was looking for an elegant, jewel-like nameplate that embodied the aesthetics of the early 1900s.

GMN not only proposed different solutions and materials but also created a few prototypes. However, one solution that instantly caught Wahl’s attention was ElectraGraphics - the process of electroplating of stainless steel with chrome to achieve a low-profile nameplate. Meeting at the crossroads of elegance and durability, ElectraGraphics offered the best choice for creating a crisp, corrosion-resistant nameplate. 

To begin with the manufacturing process, a brush-finished stainless steel sheet of 0.018” thickness was screen printed with the desired colors. Then, the metal sheets were electroplated by submerging them sequentially into five separate chemical tanks consisting of an acid dip, nickel wood strike, copper, nickel sulfate, and chrome. The electroplating process is extremely critical to the aesthetics and longevity of the nameplate. Even the smallest variation in the temperature, chemical composition, voltage, and length of immersion in any of the plating tanks can result in unwanted chipping, peeling, or flaking of the plated layers. The Wahl project was one of the largest ElectraGraphics orders in GMN’s history, requiring the plating tanks to operate at their highest capacities. To meet the high volumes with the utmost consistency, the technical experts at GMN meticulously monitored and controlled the entire electroplating process. In the end, the metal sheets were die-cut into the required medallion shape. 

Despite a few challenges, GMN was able to timely deliver a high-quality nameplate to Wahl for their commemorative clipper. The sleek nameplate was mechanically attached to the metal housing of the clipper with two rivets. GMN’s extensive experience, in-house capabilities, and technical expertise in ElectraGraphics allowed for expanded partnerships in the personal care and cosmetics industry.

By Steve Baker Aug 12, 2019
Capacitive touch technology

In today’s touch-centric era, consumers have not only adapted to non-tactile technologies, but also expect a broader range of devices to offer this functionality and user experience. Capacitive switches do not have any moving parts or mechanical components, resulting in superior durability and prolonged life. Since these devices do not have any crevices, they reduce tooling costs and also do not allow any ingress of moisture, dirt or dust. Their flat surface also makes it easier to clean them regularly. While mechanical buttons can attract dust and tend to wear after repeated use over the years, capacitive technology can replace buttons with a clean and crisp user interface.

Compared to other mature user-interface (UI) technologies, capacitive switches have a thinner stack-up, resulting in sleek, elegant and compact designs. They eliminate many design layers and components from the circuitry, thereby reducing the cost of the device. The images below provide a comparison between the stack-up layers of the most common UI technologies available in the market today.

Comparing stack-up layers for common user interface technologies

 

Although the early development of capacitive switches utilized only printed circuit boards (PCBs), the design possibilities have greatly expanded by employing flexible printed circuits. By detecting and utilizing changes in the projected capacitive field, capacitive sensing technology allows you detect touch and thereby, spin a wide gamut of contemporary touch interfaces and design layouts. Capacitive sensor technologies also give you the additional freedom of enhancing the user experience by integrating feedback mechanism like backlighting or haptics.

The key advantages of capacitive touch technology are:

  • No moving mechanics
  • Thinner stack-up
  • Sleek and modern aesthetics
  • Easy cleanability
  • Higher durability and improved reliability
  • Design flexibility
  • Backlighting and haptics capability

With the shift towards touch technology, an increasing number of companies are flocking towards integrating capacitive touch in their products. Common applications of capacitive touch technology include smartphones and tablets, home appliances and electronics, medical devices, car consoles, ATM machines, gaming consoles, vending machines, security and communication systems, hand-held devices, electronic sensors, fluid-level sensing machines, proximity sensors, and even airplane cabins.

To learn more about the fundamentals and integration of capacitive touch technology, download our guide here.