When an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) was redesigning the metal trim for one of its premium refrigerator brands, they knew it would require a combination of aesthetics and durability. The trim would be featured on the interior shelves, so it had to meet strict visual standards and pass several performance tests to ensure it maintained its integrity under heavy use.
The original refrigerator trim utilized a chrome-plated, die-cast metal construction. While the trim met the visual specifications, the manufacturing process was expensive, and the chrome finish was prone to damage from handling or contact with food products. This drove the OEM to evaluate alternative constructions that not only looked high-end, but were also more robust while cutting down on production costs.
After consulting with GMN’s engineers, it was decided that the best approach would be to use GMN’s pre-decorated aluminum with a proprietary protective topcoat and custom adhesive backing. Using pre-decorated, bright-finish aluminum would ensure that the trim achieved the desired levels of brilliance and reflectivity while resulting in significant cost savings when compared to the original die-cast metal. The protective topcoat would protect the metal trim from everyday handling and food stains, and the custom adhesive would permanently secure the trim to the shelves.
When beginning to develop the custom protective coating, GMN’s engineers had to keep a few crucial requirements in mind. First, the metal trim had to withstand frequent contact with dishes, cutlery, and other kitchen items without scuffing or marring. The coating also had to protect the trim from staining caused by acidic foods or abrasive cleaning agents. Given that the trim would be located inside of the refrigerator, it would additionally need to pass hot and cold cycle testing. Relying on their vast knowledge and experience in the appliance industry, it wasn’t long before GMN’s chemists designed a custom roll-coat topcoat and adhesive that perfectly met the needs of the project.
To ensure the part profile remained consistent throughout production runs, an automated fabrication cell was developed. The aluminum initially arrived in the form of a coil, which was cut into sheets before receiving a basecoat and the protective topcoat. After baking and curing the coatings, a protective film was laminated to the face of each aluminum sheet, and the proprietary adhesive was added to the underside. Next, the stacked sheets were placed onto a rack and fed through the progressive die where they were cut to size. A robotic arm picked up the die-cut parts and transferred them to the forming station where each piece received two precise 90° bends. Finally, the finished trim was transferred to an inspection station where every part was carefully examined for potential non-conformities.
Capped with the roll-coat, the custom metal trim successfully passed all necessary environmental tests while maintaining its premium look. This is another example of GMN leveraging its metal decoration and fabrication capabilities to solve tough design challenges and optimize manufacturing processes.
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