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By Steve Baker | Feb 28, 2018
GMN's guide to capacitive touch technology

Does your device utilize mechanical buttons? Are you designing a new user interface device? Does your existing product’s interface need a facelift? No matter the question, capacitive touch technology is the answer. The arrival of smartphones and tablets has massively fueled the trend for capacitive touch. From our car dashboards, to industrial controllers, touch technology has truly invaded our lives. Unsurprisingly, more and more companies are steering towards incorporating sleek and non-tactile interfaces within their devices.

Compared to membrane switches and elastomer keypads, capacitive sensing technology offers several advantages including thinner stack ups, easy cleanability and improved durability. It brings together a blend of enhanced usability, modern aesthetics, and gives you the freedom to augment user experience by adding various visual and audio feedback mechanisms.

To jumpstart the development of your next user-interface, we have created the perfect guide for you to explore the essentials of capacitive touch. This guide sheds light on the many design possibilities you can adopt while integrating this dynamic technology in your device. It also talks about the potential applications of capacitive touch and provides you with important design considerations for performance optimization. 

To download the free guide, click here.

By Chris Doyle | Feb 13, 2018
This component was made using 3D electroform

If you’re interested in adding a new and stylish look to your nameplate or component, you may want to consider 3D electroform. Using this process, you can achieve many different intricate looks and design elements on one part. You can create contrast within the nameplate by using an array of textures, depths, and colors. In this blog we will use the Callaway Golf component as an example to highlight different techniques and elements you can achieve with 3D electroform.

In short, 3D electroforming is a process of chrome and nickel plating that forms in a steel mold. The process begins with making a custom tool, using a CNC milling machine to cut out the mold in a block of steel. During this step, textures, finishes, and other desired decorative elements are added within the tooling, creating a unique look for the finished parts. The tool is then dipped into a nickel bath with an electrical current running through it which causes the nickel to start building up on the mold. Then the mold is taken out and washed with water. Next, that mold is dipped into a second tank, a chrome bath, also with an electrical current running through it, to build up a thin layer of chrome around the mold as well. This thin layer of chrome gives the part a high cosmetic finish. Finally, the mold is taken out and cleaned to prepare it for painting or any other decorative elements that will be added.

Spin finish

There are several different finishes and decorative options available with 3D electroform. On the raised silver “V” shape of the Callaway component, you can see a spin finish was applied. Spin finishes are many lines moving in a perfect circle pattern, which can create a specific focal point on the component. Selective spin finishes can be applied so specified regions of the part reflect light in an appealing way.

Brush finish

On the silver streak running horizontally along the Callaway component, you can see a brushed finish was applied. Brush finishes are lines moving in the same parallel direction creating a consistent blanket of lines. They can also be added to selective areas of the component, and can vary from fine to heavy thicknesses.

You can make intricate patterns with 3D electroform

Many different patterns can be created using 3D electorm, and they can be used to achieve unique backgrounds and textures. An example of this can be seen in the black background of the Callaway component, with its deep crisscross pattern.

There is a wide variety of painting and coloring options for 3D electroform parts, which are added after the part is plated. In this component, we see a red gloss, black gloss and matte black applied to the component.

One thing to consider while using 3D electroform is the draft angle. The draft angle means it is difficult to create parts that have 90° perpendicular design elements in them, so they must be changed to greater than 90°. This is required because after a nameplate or component has been formed in the different liquid baths, you must remove it from the tool, and 90° elements are difficult to remove. Some features, like the large “V” of the component, can require 15-20° draft. But once you have this rule in mind, you can create almost any shape or pattern with different finishes and depths all in one nameplate, as it is formed from a machined tool.

The different depths created with 3D electroform is what makes these components stand out compared to nameplates made with embossing and forming tools, which have limitations on how much material can be formed. 3D electroforming also saves time and money by forming multiple finishes and raised areas in one process.

To learn more about this process, read our blog on 3D electroform nameplates for distinct & detailed branding.

 Many decoration options are possible with 3D Electroform

Chris Passanante, GMN
By Chris Passanante | Feb 6, 2018
3D laser scanner at GMN

Imagine that you need to precisely measure a custom machined wheel of a customized car. Which measuring tool would you use? You could use a standard industry equipment like the caliper, but that may result in several inaccuracies given the complex shape and inherent contours of the wheel. Alternatively, you could use a Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM), but that would be extremely time-consuming and the machine might fail to get into all of the crevices. At GM Nameplate (GMN), we would use our Faro arm 3D scanner to capture the wheel’s shape and create a file that can be used as a model for measurements, or even duplication to create a new wheel. Wondering why?

The Faro arm is essentially an advanced 3D scanning tool that uses a laser beam to precisely capture data points and digitize objects. To scan anything, you hold the laser gun and gradually move it over the desired object as if you were painting on it with the laser beam. The process is far more efficient than point-to-point measurements from a CMM or any other traditional measuring tools. The key advantages of this scanner are:

1) Advanced part evaluation - Capturing 560,000 points/second, the scanner is not only accurate, but also time-efficient. No matter how complex the shape of the object is, the laser technology accurately digitizes the exact size and three-dimensional form. It can easily measure data points from crevices, thru-holes or contoured profiles where a CMM would fail. It works seamlessly across all surfaces, be it wood, metal, plastic, or glass. Even dark and reflective surfaces do not affect the accuracy of the results.

2) Flexibility - The scanner works in conjunction with other measuring tools like the CMM or Optical Gaging Products (OGP). This implies that you can measure a few parts of a component on a CMM, complete the remaining measurements using the 3D scanner, and combine the data points from both machines in a single report. The scanner’s portability makes it easier to wheel it from one area of the factory to the other, thus expanding its floor coverage.  

3) Ease of implementation - While the scanner does require some initial programming and set-up to get started, the actual process of operating the scanner is fairly simple and straightforward.

The applications of this scanning technology go far beyond just measuring the dimensions of a component. With this scanner, GMN can now efficiently convert a physical object into a digitized form. This reduced time-to-measure has greatly enhanced GMN’s rapid prototyping process. It has also proved to be a great asset in achieving Computer Aided Design (CAD) to part analysis, quality control and inspection. GMN also employs the scanner to reverse engineer components to create replacement parts with extremely tight tolerances.

By capitalizing on advanced tools and technologies, GMN is always exploring innovative and effective ways to meet its customer’s manufacturing needs. The addition of the state-of-the-art 3D scanner at the Beaverton, OR Division has truly facilitated GMN in serving its vast customer base with the highest standards of quality and efficiency.