In 2012, GM Nameplate (GMN) was approached by General Dynamics, a defense company, to produce a switch panel for a military part called the Commanders Smart Display Unit (CSDU) for a new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) that the military was developing. GMN was entrusted with this project based on our reputation for high-quality display integration and optical bonding solutions.
Known as the GD 8012 Panel, the switch panel would be placed on the passenger or commanders’ side of the JLTV’s interior. At the start of the project General Dynamics gave GMN a quick sketch of the product and a long list of requirements that the solution needed to adhere to. However, the customer had no preference on which switch technology to utilize for the panel, and trusted GMN to choose due to our expertise in the area.
The switch technology chosen was elastomer keypads because it provided all the qualities a military part needed. Elastomer keypads are highly durable, great for backlighting, and have a responsive feel.
The part was constructed of a black aluminum bezel and four elastomer keypads. The different layers that made up the keypads consisted of a printed circuit board assembly (PCBA), metal domes, and then an elastomer layer placed on top. The keypads were inserted within and sealed to the bezel using Room Temperature Vulcanizing silicone, which is a self-leveling rubber that hardens at room to create an airtight seal. The keypads were backlit with blue LEDs so the operator could correctly identify the button icons in darkness. In the back of the part, there were four copper flex tails that connect each of the four elastomer keypads to the electronics. The part also contained EMI shielding, to protect the JLTVs from potential radio interference.
Additional elements of this part included an air vent on the bottom left of the bezel that is covered with Gore Tex, a material that lets in air but not liquids, therefore protecting the device from potential water ingress. The indicator light at the top left corner of the panel is a bi-color LED, which alerts the operator if the display is working or not based on the color that is displayed.
Initially, GMN was asked to deliver 1000 panels a year, but that has since been increased to 2000 panels a year. The final part delivered by GMN was the first ever to pass every preliminary test by the customer on the first try. Our success with this project has now led to several other opportunities with General Dynamics as well.