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By Steve Baker | Sep 11, 2017
Technical printing projects are common in highly regulated industries

This blog is the second in our series on technical printing. In our first blog we gave an in-depth description of what technical printing is. In this blog, we will talk about how technical printing projects go from development to production.

How are technical printing projects started? At GM Nameplate (GMN), technical printing projects start in our development department. Here the design is scrutinized, reviewed, and tested. The goal is to produce development part designs and find out quickly whether the part is manufacturable or not. This department will provide design considerations and test reports until a conclusion is drawn. Once a batch of parts has a high yield per volume and a high success rate, the project can move onto full production.

There are five phases that technical printing projects go through during development before it can move on to full-scale production, each one with specific operations. These phases are particular to technical printing projects only because of the high level of scrutiny required in development.

Phase 1: Ideation

Ideation is an ongoing conversation between the customer and GMN to identify the areas of highest design risk. This allows both parties to define steps to test design assumptions and evaluate potential design and material solutions to help build confidence about the known challenges.

Phase 2: Risk mitigation

This phase is used to validate material stability and printability, explore material handling and registration options, review curing processes, and establish a planned production approach. Defining the risks and challenges that are likely to occur allows for a plan to be made accordingly. All challenges must be addressed with extreme scrutiny because technical printed parts require much tighter tolerances.

Phase 3: Low volume functional prototyping

Low-volume prototyping is used to create functional printed parts using the materials and preliminary product design planned for use during full volume production. This could take several rounds of prototype layouts and testing, and repeating this process until a high yield success rate is achieved. With technical printing, projects in this phase become more device-specific and are outside of typical production, development, and industry standards.

Phase 4: Production development prototyping

With a suitable design identified, GMN will work on transitioning into production manufacturing development. Larger quantities of parts will be printed and evaluated, with the goal of meeting customer specifications. The parameter window for meeting the customer’s specifications is very small in technical printing, and is why technically printed parts are evaluated so thoroughly.

Phase 5: Production validation

Once the parts have passed the previous phase, the project is handed to a production team and design engineer to apply to production volume quantities.

GMN’s expertise and strict quality systems allow us to work in these highly regulated spaces and gives our clients confidence in the parts we produce for them.

For an overview of technical printing, read our previous blog in this series.

Dan Swanson, GMN
By Dan Swanson | Sep 26, 2016
Thin aluminum drum badges for Monarch and RBH.

When determining the look and design for a custom nameplate or drum badge, a manufacturer must support the design as well as the manufacturing process.

These GMN manufactured Monarch and RBH drum badges are fabricated from thin aluminum and embossed to emphasize the edges and lettering to bring added dimension and pop to the nameplate. However, the challenge with embossing these printed aluminum drum badges was the ink’s tendency to crack.

GMN carefully reviewed this project and selected an appropriate ink system to avoid damaging the ink. Two ink systems are commonly used, UV and solvent-based. With solvent-based ink, the alcohol or solvent is baked out during the curing process, leaving a hard resin. For UV-based ink systems, the printing is subjected to ultraviolet light, catalyzing the ink and creating a robust and durable seal. UV and solvent-curing dries and hardens the printing in a controlled environment, maintaining the consistency and integrity of the final deliverable.

Tight registration is paramount when embossing and fabricating a nameplate. Loose registration can cause misalignment between the embossed features and the ink, creating a cosmetically unacceptable part. Without tight registration, the edges of the drum badges would bleed onto the blue or maroon color of the center and the lettering may appear fuzzy and out-of-focus. Consistent registration targets maintain precise alignment during printing, embossing and fabrication processes to ensure a beautiful product with very little waste.

To learn more about how GMN can work with a rough concept to create professional, high-value branding, check out our nameplate capabilities page.