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By Sandy Dick | Jul 12, 2018
Value-added assembly for iSolved's time clock

iSolved, a US-based company providing scalable solution to human capital management needs, was developing a series of backlit time clock devices. However, they quickly ran into problems with LED hotspots and approached GMN to develop a graphic overlay prototype to get rid of the lighting issue.

Developing a product with multiple suppliers and manufacturing facilities can be a time-consuming and expensive ordeal. But, GMN’s holistic approach to building devices and its reputation as a one-call, one-stop-manufacturer allowed iSolved to bring substantial cost and time savings to the project, while meeting all of their functional and cosmetic requirements.

GMN not only manufactured a scratch-resistant overlay to mask the hotspots, but also streamlined the project using its varied capabilities including capacitive touch circuit, backlighting, die-cutting, LCD display, and touchscreen.

To learn more about how GMN delivered a value-added, cost-effective solution, download our case study here.

By Steve Baker | Jun 16, 2017
GMN's membrane switch assembly for Welch Allyn.

GM Nameplate’s (GMN) Singapore Division supported Welch Allyn, a medical company, to develop and manufacture a membrane switch panel with backlit indicators for their resting electrocardiogram (ECG) device. As a device used to test a patient’s heart activity, it is critical that the backlighting appropriately indicates how much battery power the device possesses.

GMN offers an array of backlighting options including discrete LEDs, fiber optic weave, light guide film, and electroluminescence. The part had strict spacing requirements between its tactile buttons, which influenced GMN to choose discrete LEDs. Discrete LEDs are cost-effective and ideal for lighting up small indicators.

Instead of using three different colored LEDs, GMN installed one bi-color LED to occupy as little space as possible and reduce costs. The two colors within the LED were green to indicate the battery was charged, and red to indicate the battery was dead. To create the amber color that indicates when the device needs charging, the LED was positioned off-centered from the indicator window to effectively blend the red and green colors together.

Another factor GMN had to consider was the material for the overlay. GMN utilized polyester (PET) film, a common overlay material for devices in the medical industry due to its resistance to abrasion and harsh chemicals. As an extremely durable, long-lasting material, PET film is ideal for applications with tactile switches because it’s abnormal for the material to crack. 

By Maeghan Callegari | Feb 7, 2017

LEVL, a health and wellness company, asked GM Nameplate (GMN) to manufacture a backlit user interface for their medical device. LEVL wanted a cost-effective solution and small, backlit indicators that could light up independently. During prototyping, GMN found that using white, discrete LEDs and a printed graphic overlay with transparent colors would be the best solution for their device.

Learn more about how GMN supported LEVL by reading our case study.

By Steve Baker | Nov 16, 2016
Learn about how to approach your next backlighting project at GMN's free backlighting webinar.

Are you looking for a way to make your products stand out?

Backlighting is the perfect solution for instantly improving the look and functionality of your device. Although, with so many backlighting technologies available, it can be hard to determine which technology is best suited for your device.

What are the different backlighting technologies available? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each technology? Where does one begin when approaching a backlighting project?

You need answers and we’ve got them. GMN is hosting a free live webinar about backlighting technologies on Wednesday, December 7, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. PT/1:00 p.m. ET.

Want to ensure backlighting success for your next project? Join our webinar to learn:

  • An overview of current popular backlighting technologies
  • How to choose which technology is right for your device
  • Questions & concerns to consider during development
  • Tools to overcome common design challenges

Click here to register for GMN’s upcoming backlighting webinar.

By Steve Baker | Nov 1, 2016
GMN's capacitive switch demo unit allows you experience capacitive switch technology firsthand.

In today’s world, consumers interact with touchscreen devices on a daily basis. As a result, consumers have started to expect the presence of non-tactile technology in a growing number of products. This has caused the demand for the use of capacitive switch technology to rapidly increase.

Capacitive switch technology provides a cost-effective solution for sleek, modern product designs that match current market expectations. Providing thinner, cleaner, and more sealable solutions, capacitive switches have numerous advantages over more mature technologies such as keyboards and membrane switches. To learn more about capacitive switch technology, visit our capacitive switches page or past blog entry.

As experts in this cutting-edge technology, GM Nameplate offers a wide and unique range of capacitive switch capabilities. From early development to final production, GMN can support customers throughout the entire manufacturing process. We are currently working on several capacitive switch projects such as user interfaces and safety mechanisms for a variety of industries including appliance, heavy equipment, and wearable device. GMN also has the ability to incorporate capacitive switches into many of the products we already produce.  

Therefore, GMN is excited to announce the release of our new capacitive touch demonstrator. This innovative demo unit allows customers to experience firsthand the variety of capacitive switch options that GMN has available, including rotary and linear sliders and integration with curved surfaces.

Click here to learn more about our new demo unit!

Co Nguyen, GMN
By Co Nguyen | May 18, 2015
Electroluminescence backlighting

Electroluminescence (EL) is a backlighting technology that was first popularized in the 1980s.  It works by sending an electric current through phosphorous that then emits light when charged.     

While a mature technology, Electroluminescence is one of the best backlighting options for giving very even lighting across a large area. Like light guide films and fiber optics, the colors can be controlled via the printed overlay that covers the lit area so there are many options. A drawback to this is that EL is dependent on the color of the printed overlay, while light guide films and fiber optics have the option of changing colors by switching the LEDs used.

There are drawbacks that are also unique to electroluminescence.  There is a half-life of the 4,000 before the phosphorus begins to degrade and the backlighting starts to dim.  In addition, it requires a DC to AC power conversion which can be difficult with many designs. This typically means that it needs to be designed for from the very beginning and is not a last minute drop in feature.  Lastly, it is an expensive option.  Considering the limited life span of the backlighting solution and the price point of this mature technology, it is only a viable backlighting solution in very special cases.  Most new designs are incorporating more advanced backlighting technologies.

To learn more, visit our webpage on backlighting or read our other blogs in this series:

Co Nguyen, GMN
By Co Nguyen | May 15, 2015
Fiber optic weave backlighting

Another common backlighting solution is fiber optic weave.  Similar to light guide film, it takes LED light and distributes it across a larger area.  In fact, it usually only requires a single LED to backlight an entire assembly. It should be noted that the LED used is a bullet LED, which requires a PCB as a base because we cannot place bullet LEDs onto our printed membranes.  Using only a single LED, this leads to one if its greatest drawbacks; it isn’t very bright and may not be a good solution if the device will primarily be used in ambient light. 

There are other important considerations as well.  First, the fiber optic weave and fiber optic bundle are quite large and need to be accommodated in the design. In addition, the thick construction diminishes the tactile feedback of buttons.  Combined with the weak light, there are few projects to which this backlighting technology is suited.  While we see this option to continue in existing models, we anticipate that this solution will soon give way to thinner backlighting solutions as devices become smaller and lighter.  

Read our other backlighting blogs: 

Co Nguyen, GMN
By Co Nguyen | May 13, 2015
Keypad with light guide film backlighting

If you have read our previous posts in this backlighting series, you should already know what questions to ask before starting a backlighting project as well as when to use discrete LEDs.  Now we’re going to go over the next backlighting technology, light guide film. 

Light guide film, much like it sounds, uses a thin film to guide the light from LEDs to the areas that need to be lit.  The film is has a reflective coating on a bottom and top layer of film.  The top layer is laser etched/abraded in the areas that you want light to escape and light your overlay. The etching pattern can be altered to control and allow certain areas to be brighter or dimmer, helping to eliminate hotspots.

Right angle LEDs are used when using light guide film. The right angle LEDs need to be butted up against the edge of the light guide film (whether the actual edge of the light guide or an edge inside a cutout in the light guide). Placement of the LEDs depends on several factors and will be determined by the engineer and vendor.  

Though it can be a more expensive backlighting option, light guide film may soon become the standard backlighting option because it has many advantages.  It can be designed very thin so it works well in small, light devices, and it has limited impact on the tactile feel of buttons. It is also a great solution for lighting large areas while still maintaining a mid-range price point. 

Some common challenges with light guide film can be light leaks around part edge and hot spots around the LED area. Light leaks can be overcome by using an opaque panel filler around the light guide. Hotspots around the LED can be avoided by making adjustments to the printing process of the overlay.

Light guide film generally struggles with lighting the same icon multiple different colors due to placement of the LEDs. Regardless of the drawbacks, we anticipate that light guide film with continue to grow in popularity and that the challenges will be minimized as the technology evolves.  

Read our other backlighting blogs: 

Co Nguyen, GMN
By Co Nguyen | May 11, 2015
LED backlighted membrane switch

Last week we began a five-part blog series on backlighting.  Now that you have read the blog on getting started, we’ll jump into the first backlighting technology; discrete LEDs. 

Discrete LEDs are SMD (surface mounted) LEDs that are lit individually or together to illuminate a small area.  They are ideal for lighting small icons and indicators (e.g. a small circle that lights up next to some text to indicate on or off).  They are popular because of their low cost, thin construction and no impact on the tactile feel of buttons. 

However, there are situations when discrete LEDs are not a good choice.  The biggest issue is that they can create hot spots (bright areas) over or near the LED.  As a result, they aren’t a good fit when lighting large areas because the backlighting is often inconsistent with some areas brighter than others. 

One way to overcome hotspots, is through the use of an elastomer/rubber keypad for larger areas with discrete LEDs. For this reason, it is common to see discrete LEDs being used with elastomer keypads. Elastomer keypads allow for good even light across a large area using discrete LEDs. The draw back to them is it needs to be designed for from the beginning, adds cost, has a different feel than a polyester overlay and adds thickness to a part.

If you need to backlight a larger area and elastomer is not possible, you may want to consider light guide film or fiber optic weave technologies, which will be covered in our next two articles. 

Read our other blogs in this series: 

Co Nguyen, GMN
By Co Nguyen | May 5, 2015
Backlit touchscreen

This month we are kicking off a five-part blog series on backlighting.  The series will begin with an overview of how to approach a backlighting project and then each subsequent blog will review one of the four most popular options in backlighting: discrete LEDs, light guide film, fiber optic weave and electroluminescence.  

GMN frequently works with customers to integrate backlighting solutions into products including membrane switches, displays, and even branding pieces such as nameplates. We’ve developed applications for industries as diverse as appliance, medical, automotive, and more.

To establish the best backlighting solution without hotspots (uneven brightness, usually due to the location of LEDs) or light bleed (light coming through where it shouldn’t), the first step is to create a list of necessary requirements and assess the proposed design.  Start by asking these questions:

  • In what type of light will the device be used? Will the backlighting need to be visible in bright sunlight, the ambient light of offices, dark hospital rooms, etc.?
  • What needs to be backlit?  Is it a full screen, keypad, specific buttons, status or discrete indicators, a combination?
  • What colors will be used and where? 
  • What are the power requirements? 
  • What are the space constraints?
  • If there is a keypad or buttons, what type of tactile feedback is required? 

Based on the responses to these questions, you should be able to evaluate which backlighting solution, or combination of backlighting solutions could work with your device. 

Learn more about backlighting from one of our other blogs: