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By Brian Rowe | Jul 17, 2017
BECO Dairy Automation overlay set

BECO Dairy Automation Inc. is a manufacturer of modern dairy equipment. BECO came to GM Nameplate (GMN) looking for several overlays for their Immix G2 machine, a dairy milking control module. The overlays had specific aesthetic requirements and also needed to be able to handle the harsh environment of milking farms.

There were six overlays made with each set: three labels, two control switches, and one large label with display windows to read measurements on the Immix machine.

The overlays were required to withstand one million actuations, frequent contact with chemicals, and being sprayed by powerful hoses on a daily basis. BECO also wanted the overlays to have a metallic look that was complimented by a red gradient.

GMN initially used its new digital THIEME printer for this project. The THIEME printer can run multiple colors and print the entire overlay in one run instead of having to switch colors with each run-through, which eliminates setup costs associated with other conventional printing processes. This printing process is best for low to medium volume products with multiple colors and gradients, such as the red gradient BECO wanted on their overlay.

Traditional digital inks aren’t very durable, but with this machine, GMN has the capability of digitally printing UV curable inks which can be used for overlays that will face a lot of actuations. With a suitable ink selection based on the substrate material, we are also able to perform additional post-printing processes, such as embossing, to enhance the product appearance and add additional value over an older digital press.

However, the biggest challenge was achieving the desired metallic look that could survive countless actuations. Most metallic inks aren’t durable enough to withstand the hundreds of thousands of actuations that the BECO overlays would endure. Therefore, GMN decided to use a silver ink that was slightly more opaque, but had a guaranteed long actuation life.

Once the overlay was designed and ready to print, BECO ordered a higher quantity of overlays than initially anticipated. In order to meet the timeline, GMN moved the printing process to an offset lithography printer, which is a more cost effective process for larger volumes while still maintaining the level of quality.

With years of experience in printing and manufacturing, GMN knows which production technique is most appropriate for each project. Through GMN’s diverse array of capabilities and equipment, we are able to use the most economical option that will get the job done to meet budget and time constraints.

By Rachel Wienckoski | May 18, 2017
Polyester and polycarbonate are both popular overlay materials.

Have you ever walked up to an ATM machine or gas pump and noticed the cracking, fading numbers on the keypad? This is a prime example of why material selection is vital for graphic overlays. At GMN, the two most common materials used for graphic overlays are polyester and polycarbonate. Depending on the application, there are advantages and disadvantages for both materials.

When evaluating overlay materials, one of the most important factors to consider is durability. Polyester and polycarbonate are both extremely durable materials, but polyester is generally known as the more durable option. Polyester has a longer actuation life (over 1 million actuations vs. 200,000 actuations), meaning that it can endure more switch actuations before the overlay will start to crack or deform. As a result, polyester is a great choice for membrane switches and overlay designs that include embossed buttons. Polycarbonate has a wider thickness range, and increasing the thickness of an overlay can help make it more durable. However, polycarbonate is best suited for applications with minimal flex requirements because continual flexing can cause stress fractures over time. Therefore, in the scenario above, polycarbonate was likely chosen for those overlays, when polyester would’ve been a better choice.

In addition, polyester is resistant to abrasion and significantly more resistant to acids and chemicals, making it an ideal substrate for the medical, industrial, and appliance industries. Polycarbonate is flame retardant while polyester is flammable, making polycarbonate perfect for industries in which safety is of high importance, such as the aerospace industry. Alternatively, hard-coating can be used to significantly improve the durability of either material.

While polyester has an edge in terms of durability, polycarbonate has some cosmetic advantages over polyester. Polycarbonate offers a wider range of textures and finishes, which can be attractive when design is the most important factor. It also has very high clarity and color brilliance. If an overlay is being used purely for appearances and won’t be exposed to frequent use, polycarbonate may be the most appropriate substrate choice.

In terms of production, polycarbonate tends to process easier than polyester. It’s very easy to cleanly print on polycarbonate of all thicknesses. Polycarbonate is also easier to die-cut and emboss, which can help to reduce cost.

The cost difference between the two types of materials is minimal, so the application and use considerations are typically the main factors to consider. However overall, polyester is slightly more expensive than polycarbonate.

Polyester and polycarbonate are both excellent material choices for overlays. Ultimately, the choice between the two will depend on the overlay’s design requirements and environmental conditions. For more information on how polyester and polycarbonate compare, visit GMN’s graphic overlays page.