eMotorWerks, Inc. (eMW), a California-based company, provides cloud-connected charging solutions for electric vehicles. While developing their first portable electric car charger called the JuiceBox, they approached GM Nameplate (GMN) for labels and a customized LED solution along with labels and overlay.
The initial and largest hurdle for eMW remained design development. They were entering a challenging territory of hardware design for the very first time and the nuances of product design can be extremely daunting. However, the engineers at GMN walked the extra mile to quickly fill that void with decades of experience and knowledge. They heard the needs and concerns of eMW and dug deeper into the applications of the final product to provide the best design considerations. eMW wanted the labels to be robust, water resistant and most importantly, UL-certified. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is a widely accepted certification mark verifying that the product has met UL’s safety standards and requirements. As a portable car charger, the JuiceBox would frequently shuttle between indoor and outdoor environments, which meant that the possibility of prolonged exposure to the sun had to be taken into consideration.
A handful of sketches and revisions later, GMN delivered a prototype within a compressed schedule. eMW’s idea was translated into a concrete creation - a customized non-tactile membrane with LED lights. This proposed solution was not only cost-effective, but also offered a range of performance and durability benefits. Currently, GMN manufactures four discrete parts for the JuiceBox – 1) printed circuit with surface-mounted LEDs, 2) UL-certified graphic overlay, 3) UL-certified warning label, and 4) UL-certified product label.
The flexible circuit that lies beneath the overlay is screen printed on a thin polyester sheet using silver conductive ink. It is then masked with an insulation layer to prevent any electrostatic discharge. This entire circuit construction occupies very little space and prevents moisture ingress. Instead of mounting the circuit on top of the bezel, it is mounted to the underside to keep the profile thin. Thanks to the design flexibility that printed circuits offer, it was possible to tailor the size and width of the circuit, length of the flex tail and exit point as necessary. LEDs are then mounted on the circuit layer. LEDs are a simple, long-lasting and economical solution for lighting up small indicators as required in this case. They are bright, energy efficient, light up quickly and emit very little heat. Three distinct colored LEDs - amber, blue and green - indicate the charging status, the Wi-Fi network, and the power status respectively.
The graphic overlay, acting as the face of the printed circuit, directly interacts with the final user. Hence, striking a synergy between aesthetics and functionality was crucial here. The overlay is printed on a highly-durable polycarbonate with a velvet-textured, anti-glare finish. The background is screen printed to provide opacity. The opaque layer reduces lighted halos of the LEDs by allowing light only through the designated indicators on the surface. The overlay is resistant to water, chemicals and abrasions. The chosen material also provides good UV (ultraviolet) resistance, making it ideal for outdoor settings.
The warning label is produced in the same manner as the graphic overlay, using the same materials, techniques and finishes. While the contrasting black-&-white color palette ensures good readability, the orange rim enhances the appearance of the label.
The product label that sits on the anterior of the charger is digitally printed on polyester and then covered with a UV-resistant lamination. The protective layer makes the label resilient for its intended indoor & outdoor use by mitigating the fading of ink under the sun. The combination of material, inks, and construction will allow the UL-compliant labels and overlay to retain their appearance for years.
From design consultation to final production, GMN walked hand-in-hand with eMW throughout the entire process. This fulfilling partnership allowed the timely delivery of a cost-effective, customized solution. To learn more about our custom-made membrane switch solutions, check out our capabilities page here.