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Rich Smylie, GMN
By Richard Smylie | Jun 28, 2018
Brush finished sill plate

Looking to add a subtle, yet eye-catching decorative element to your metal component? Look no further than brush finish! GM Nameplate (GMN) specializes in metal decoration, and one attribute we commonly add to metal is a mechanical brush finish. Performed at the front-end of the manufacturing process, a brush finish consists of many unidirectional lines creating a clean, consistent blanket over the surface of the metal. Applied to either stainless steel or aluminum, brush finishes are often combined with other decoration enhancements such as ElectraGraphics, embossing, and Lensclad, to name a few. Used in a wide range of products, brush finish is particularly prevalent in the electronics, home appliances, and automotive industries.

GMN recently created a video to demonstrate the brush finish process and give you a glimpse into the various looks that can be achieved. The video features our brushing line that’s operated at our Monroe, NC Division.

As you can see in the video, sheets of raw metal are fed into a machine having a large abrasive brushing wheel over it. The brush creates many fine linear abrasions on the sheet, reflecting light in a unique way. There are many design options to consider as well, including selecting a brush texture ranging from fine to heavy, or applying the finish to the metal overall or selectively. For selective finishes, a resist ink is screen-printed onto the metal sheets before the metal is brushed. The resist protects the desired area from being brushed, thus creating an interesting contrast within the design. The contrasting look results solely from the difference in the textures and the way light reflects off of the surface.

After brushing, the metal sheet is washed and dried to remove any residue or oil, and then an operator quickly inspects the sheet for any apparent defects as it continues down the line. A roll-coater can also be set up to apply a tinted or clear coating in-line onto the metal to enhance its durability or appearance. In the video, a tinted coating is applied to the aluminum to make it look slightly grayer. Since stainless steel can be more costly at times, this is a cost-effective way to make aluminum mimic the appearance of stainless steel. 

Finally, the sheets go through an oven, and are again visually examined for any imperfections. This final inspection marks the completion of applying the brush finish, and the metal is now ready to move onto the next process.

To see the brush finishing process, click on the video below.

By Kenny Pravitz | Jun 12, 2018
Plastic decorating options at GMN

What makes plastic decoration at GMN unique? Along with dedicated engineers to support your projects from concept to creation, state-of-the-art equipment, a robust quality system, and complementary capabilities to plastic injection molding like value-added assembly, GMN provides all the decorating options for plastics under a single roof.

To determine the most appropriate plastic decoration technique for any application, there are multiple factors that go into consideration, including the plastic type, environmental requirements (exposure to fluctuating temperatures, humidity, and moisture), component dimensions, cosmetic requirements, regulatory requirements, and production volume. In this blog, we will be skimming over all the plastic decorating options available at GMN to understand their core advantages and pitfalls.

1) Pad printing - In this printing process, the image is engraved on a plate which is then coated with ink and transferred to the desired surface via a silicone pad.

Advantages:

    • Same set-up for multi-color
    • Can accommodate fine artwork and detailed graphics

Disadvantages:

    • Difficult to print on heavy textures or surface finishes
    • Cannot pad print on swooping or curved surfaces
    • Cannot use metallic inks
    • Size restrictions

 

2) Screen printing - In this method, the artwork is transferred on to the plastic surface using a mesh screen and a squeegee.   

Advantages:

    • Quick set-up time
    • Can accommodate larger artwork
    • Ideal for high-volume production

Disadvantages:

    • Can only be performed on flat surfaces
    • Needs different screens for different colors
    • Longer curing times
    • Challenging to achieve finely detailed graphics

 

3) Hot stamping - This dry printing technique utilizes heat and pressure to transfer colored foil onto the plastic surface.     

Advantages:

    • No ink-mixing or curing of part required
    • Can accommodate metallic colors

Disadvantages:

    • Ribbon can be expensive due to the minimum order of quantity (MOQ)
    • Raised surfaces only
    • Size restrictions

 

4) Laser etching - As the name indicates, this technique employs a laser beam to etch a design on the plastic surface which would have otherwise been difficult to mark mechanically.

Advantages:

    • Details are permanently etched into the surface of the part
    • Ideal for products with barcodes, lot numbers, backlighting, or intricate artwork

Disadvantages:

    • Longer cycle times depending on size and detail of the image
    • Size restrictions

 

5) Spray painting - Often used in conjunction with laser etching, spray painting utilizes either an automated robotic spray or manual hand-spray method to apply the ink on the desired parts. 

Advantages:

    • Can hide flaws on the plastic surface
    • Can utilize the manual method for low-volume to mid-volume production and utilize the automated method for high-volume production
    • Can accommodate multiple colors and materials

Disadvantages:

    • Detailed masking may be required, making the process labor intensive
    • Requires a clean environment
    • Requires longer lead time

 

6) In-mold decoration (IMD) - This advanced technique allows for the printing of highly durable and complex three-dimensional shapes.  

Advantages:

    • Can achieve compound curves and complex 3D forms
    • Well suited for designs incorporating small windows or backlighting  
    • Offers versatile decoration options
    • Ideal for high-wear applications

Disadvantages:

    • Development phase can be long depending on the design
    • Automation can be expensive