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By Dan Silva | Mar 15, 2019
Roll label printing

GMN’s San Jose, CA Division recently installed a new flexographic roll label press in the printing department. For years, GMN has utilized flexographic printing for projects across a variety of industries, products, and applications, from the medical industry, to agency labels, to shielding, and much more. This new piece of equipment will enable GMN to carry out the same printing functions as before, but in a better, easier, and faster manner.

Equipped with cutting-edge technology, the new flexographic press is easier to operate and possesses a higher the level of control automation, causing for the entire process to be markedly more precise. It is a 100% servo-drive press with finitely regulated motion control and improved management of web tensions. In addition, the press contains a “pre-registration” feature that enables the machine to put jobs into registration before the press is even turned on by using cameras to align to registration marks. This capability results in reduced waste by saving on the amount of set-up material that is required and increased efficiencies overall.

GMN is constantly looking for ways to improve our manufacturing processes and reduce our carbon footprint. Similar to GMN’s other flexographic presses, the new press uses ultra-violet (UV) radiation to cure the printed inks. Other types of flexographic presses commonly employ medium-pressure mercury lamps to generate the UV radiation needed to cure the inks. Many of these lamps use heavy metals – such as silver, mercury, etc. – and other non-environmentally friendly components. This method also demands large amounts of power and emits high levels of heat.

Whereas this new flexographic press operates using UV LED technology, generating the UV radiation from LED lights. As a result, it consumes about 80% less electricity than the preceding process. This noteworthy characteristic played a critical role in GMN’s decision to invest in this piece of equipment as it aligns with our continuous efforts to be a greener and more environmentally-conscious company.

The excessive amount of heat yielded by the mercury lamps has always been a limiting factor for the curing process. However, our new press’ enhanced heat management of the moving web turns what once was a major drawback into an advantage. By utilizing less electricity, the new press’ curing system produces significantly reduced amounts of heat. With this minimal amount of heat present, the press is able to process heat-sensitive materials such as polystyrene and polyethylene, which are commonly used in the medical and packaging industries.

GMN is always working to find new and different ways to grow and evolve our manufacturing abilities. With the acquisition of this new flexographic printing press for our San Jose, CA Division, GMN can continue to employ the latest innovative technologies and equipment to ensure that we are providing our customers with the highest-quality solutions.

Rich Smylie, GMN
By Richard Smylie | Mar 6, 2019
Stainless steel fabrication

From the automotive to appliance industry, whenever a design demands a blend of functionality and aesthetics, a stainless steel construction is commonly given significant consideration. With three times the density of aluminum, stainless steel exhibits superior structural integrity and dent resistance. It not only offers overall brush patterns and brilliant finishes like 2BA, but also provides substantial formability and hardness. Thanks to its unmatched versatility and corrosion resistance, stainless steel is heavily employed in both indoor and outdoor environments.

Our latest video, featuring a stainless steel Lincoln liftgate part, demonstrates one of the many stainless-steel parts fabricated at GMN. As the thickness of the metal primarily drives the tonnage of the press use, the featured liftgate part is processed in a 200-ton press. The fabrication process begins by setting the press with a tool to form the flat, pre-decorated steel sheet. After the sheets are formed, the same press is set with another tool to blank the parts to size, and eventually set with a third tool to create a curved skirt around the edges of the part. In a nutshell, three different dies are sequentially installed one after the other on a single press to form, punch, and finish the flat metal sheet.

In addition to the manufacturing process showcased in the video, GMN also utilizes progressive dies to efficiently fabricate large and complex parts that require more tooling. Depending on the design intent and part size, stainless steel can be fabricated in one progressive die and/or supported with multiple secondary operations sequentially set-up on the same press to bend, coin, blank, or fold the metal. As a part of the post-fabrication process, nickel or chrome plating is frequently applied to stainless steel surfaces and edges to protect the part from harsh environmental conditions.

Whether it is a ferritic (magnetic) or austenitic (non-magnetic) alloy, GMN specializes in the fabrication of different grades and alloys of stainless steel including type 200, 304, and 430. With the ability to fabricate parts up to 40 X 15 inches and up to 1mm thickness, GMN frequently works with steel of different shapes, sizes, and tensile strength. As your one-stop-shop for metal fabrication and decoration needs, GMN also has the capability to emboss, deboss, apply selective or overall mechanical finish, and print patterns or textures before fabricating metal sheets. With global resources in supporting medium to high volume production, you can rely on GMN to help you select the most optimum alloy, process, and equipment to meet your custom metal fabrication needs.

To see the stainless steel fabrication process in action, watch our latest video here.  

By Steve Baker | Feb 27, 2019
Capacitive touch sensor

Adopting new technologies can be extremely demanding and daunting. At GMN, we not only understand your vision, but also have the capabilities and global resources to bring your ideas to life.

When a commercial appliance manufacturer wanted to make a fundamental shift in their product’s user interface from mechanical switches to touch technology, the engineers at GMN brought their years of experience, technical know-how, and vast capabilities together to design an optimal solution. From circuit tracing to utilizing clear polymer inks, GMN developed a capacitive touch solution that fit every need and requirement.

To learn more about the evolution of this project and how GMN overcame its many challenges, read our case study here.

Lauren Rowles, GMN
By Lauren Rowles | Feb 21, 2019
CAMPS 2018 Manufacturer of the Year Award

We are excited to announce that GMN was recently honored with the Manufacturer of the Year Award from the Center for Advanced Manufacturing Puget Sound (CAMPS). This award was accepted at CAMPS’ 2018 Award and Recognition Banquet, an event that celebrates a variety of manufacturers from all over the Puget Sound region.

The CAMPS Manufacturer of the Year Award highlights companies that exhibit unmatched success in the areas of company profitability, innovation, community impact, CAMPS participation, and leadership.

GMN has been a CAMPS member for over a decade and has worked to participate and add value in any way possible, from presentations, to hosting meetings, to serving on panels. We are also greatly appreciative of the programs and support that we’ve received through CAMPS and member companies, which have helped GMN continue to grow and flourish. This award recognizes GMN for being a consistent, long-time contributor to CAMPS as well as an outstanding manufacturer and representative for the Puget Sound region.

To learn more, please read our press release here.

By Josh Dunahoe | Jan 24, 2019
GMN fabricates custom silicone foam gasket

A US-based customer of GMN was designing an electrical connection between two plastic housings for an outdoor application. In order to establish the connection, it was vital to achieve a permanent, air-tight seal between the two housings. Given the nature of the design, even the slightest ingress of moisture or foreign particles would hinder the optimal performance and durability of the product. Hence, shielding the seal from dust and water was critical. Additionally, the seal also needed protection from extreme temperatures and flames.   

Originally, the customer utilized a bead of silicone (silicone rubber paste) on the edges of the two housings that hardened over time to form a seal. However, this approach presented several manufacturing challenges and shortcomings. Dispensing a uniform layer of silicone rubber was not only cumbersome, but also inconsistent, leading to an uneven bond line. As the paste became rigid upon drying, it formed a seal that was susceptible to breaking under stress, thereby producing cracks and weakening the bond strength. The drying and curing of the silicone rubber paste also spiked up the processing time, creating a bottleneck on the assembly line.

The customer approached GMN to achieve a better form-fitting solution to prevent moisture ingress. After learning about the environmental conditions that the seal was required to withstand, GMN proposed a custom-fit Roger’s BISCO® silicone foam gasket. From the extensive range of BISCO® silicones available in the market, GMN narrowed it down to HT-800 family to strike the right balance between seal-ability and compressibility. As a Preferred Converter of Rogers Corporation, GMN delivered a high-performance solution with accelerated lead time and competitive pricing.

Roger’s BISCO® silicone, with its high flame resistance, seamlessly fit the needs of the project. In addition to excellent viscoelasticity, it provided high dimensional stability and sealing capability. Contrary to the previous solution, BISCO® silicone foam does not break under stress or pressure. It allowed for quick and easy application, eliminating the extra processing time associated with bead of silicone.

Although, selecting the right material wasn’t enough. Creating a custom shaped gasket to fit the exact configurations of the housings was equally important. Since the customer had initially planned to utilize silicone paste, they did not have the dimensions of the housings readily available. Based on the customer’s sketch and 3D file of the housings, GMN developed a CAD file for the laser tool to fabricate the gasket. By flowing into every nook and cranny of the surface area, the gasket flawlessly married the two housings together to achieve an enhanced seal.

With the help of GMN’s dedicated rapid prototyping team and equipment, we then created two distinct prototypes of custom BISCO® silicone foam HT-800 gaskets in two different thicknesses and durometers. It enabled the customer to test compression and seal strength of the two different gaskets and choose the most optimal solution.

GMN’s ability to determine and source the right material and create a tailored-fit gasket allowed the customer to meet the functional requirements of the project without compromising on the aesthetics. Given our extensive experience and technical expertise with die-cut components, customers can truly rely on GMN to efficiently provide quick design fixes and improvements.

By Steve Baker | Jan 17, 2019
MD&M West at Anaheim Convention Center

It’s that time of the year again when the medical manufacturing community comes together to showcase its latest products and technologies at Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) West. Attracting professionals across the country, this premier MedTech event also provides unparalleled networking opportunities and a platform to share new ideas and developments.

From February 5-7th, GMN will be exhibiting in booth #1659 at the Anaheim Convention Center. As a custom manufacturer of medical device components and sub-assemblies, GMN will be featuring its most recent user-interface solutions and varied capabilities including plastic injection molding, capacitive touch sensors, die-cut components, value-added assembly, and more! Aligning with the leading trends, our newest samples on display will help you discover the many ways you can integrate popular technologies to make your products pop.

Our team of experts will be on site to discuss your upcoming projects and toughest manufacturing challenges. To schedule a personal consultation with a GMN representative, reach out to us directly at info@gmnameplate.com

Rich Smylie, GMN
By Richard Smylie | Dec 18, 2018
Pad printing at GMN

Pad printing is an offset printing process where ink is transferred from a cliché to the required component via a pad. Bringing together a blend of consistency, repeatability, and durability, pad printing can help you achieve intricate patterns and designs. While most decorative techniques such as screen and lithographic printing require a flat surface, pad printing is one of the very few processes that is well suited for decorating gently curved, irregular, textured, and/or cylindrical surfaces. Predominantly seen in the automotive, electronics, appliance, personal care, and medical industries, pad printing is often chosen for applications that will endure significant handling and need to withstand the test of time.

Our latest video was created to not only equip you with the essentials of pad printing, but also to walk you through the step-by-step process. First, the artwork is etched onto the cliché (flat plate), and ink is deposited into the etched recess. Next, a silicone pad picks up the inked image and descends onto the part to transfer a clean, crisp, and lasting image. Then, the pad is pressed on a polyester film to remove any excess ink. Comprising of a low-tack pressure-sensitive adhesive, the polyester film removes any residual ink from the pad prior to the next printing cycle.

From standard to programmable multi-axis printers, this video offers a glimpse into the different pad printing presses utilized at GMN. Armed with a rotating fixture, the programmable multi-axis printer is capable of numerous hits in multiple color combinations on different axes, all in a single set-up. This capability eliminates the need to transfer the part manually from one station to the other, resulting in significant time and cost savings.

Pad printing is compatible with a broad range of substrates including stainless steel, polycarbonate, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), glass, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), acrylic, and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). Very few plastic materials such as low (LDPE) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and polypropylene aren’t cohesive with pad printing inks and require a pre-treatment to ensure good adhesion.

For every project, custom fixtures are designed and built to register the component to the pad printing head. The alignment of the ink pad with respect to the size and geometry of the part is specifically engineered to ensure exact registration. As seen with the Nissan badge in the video, the pliability of the silicone pad allows for printing with extreme precision, preventing the ink from coming in contact on the inside walls of the recessed letters. Maintaining the viscosity of the ink is extremely crucial to ensure the ink deposition accuracy and consistency. While the ink needs to be fluid enough to deposit on the substrate, it should not bleed out of the impression area. Thinners and adhesion promoters can be added to inks to achieve the desired viscosity level. Most of the inks used for pad printing at GMN are air-dried and are usually cured in conveyor ovens. Several other factors including the shape, material and durometer of the pad, location and color of the etched artwork, and tilt of the ink pad, are critical to the success of any project.

To see the pad printing process in action, watch our video here.

By Steve Baker | Nov 30, 2018
Flexible substrates for smart wearables

The multi-billion-dollar industry of smart wearables is becoming ubiquitous and witnessing revolutionary developments each day. From smart tattoos that track sunlight exposure to smart insoles that monitor your footsteps, smart technological advancements are clearly pushing the boundaries of innovation. As the wearable technology industry is still at a nascent stage of its development curve, the consortium of functional printing professionals including the technical printers, designers, engineers, and system integrators, are working together to investigate new processes, materials, technologies, and testing methods.

Aside from the dominant world of smart watches, there has been a significant growth and interest in smart clothing, electronics, and sensor solutions. Some of the common considerations that need to be addressed before developing a wearable solution include:

  • Biocompatibility - Since most wearables come in direct or close contact with skin, biocompatibility is of paramount importance to ensure user safety. Depending on the intended use of the device, compounds in wearable substrates and construction layers can potentially be exposed to sweat, rain, humidity, sunscreens, and insect repellants. A comprehensive understanding of the interaction of various external factors is crucial towards eliminating unwanted risks such as skin sensitization, allergic reactions, and irritation. While there are no industry standards governing biocompatibility across all wearable devices, ISO 10993 provides a framework for wearable medical devices.
  • Power management - Effective power management still remains a significant hurdle in developing wearable solutions. Thin and compact batteries often translate to shorter battery life and companies are continuously struggling to extend the battery life for devices to last at least one cycle of usage. While space is a huge constraint when working with small and lightweight devices, companies are harvesting energy by employing solar cells or powering batteries using the body movement and body heat of the wearer. Companies are actively trading Wi-Fi connectivity with Bluetooth communication modules for efficient power consumption and pivoting towards wireless power supplies through inductors. For most wearable garments intended for long-term use, the batteries must be easily replaceable or rechargeable.
  • Flexibility and stretchability - Smart wearables, especially garments, are susceptible to a great deal of stretching. Flexibility, the basic form factor of wearables, has made flexible printed electronics be actively pursued as an alternative to costly silver threads and yarns sewn into apparels. Depending on the final application, wearable substrates need to strike the right balance between flexibility, stretchability, and stability. In addition to experimenting with new substrates, the industry is currently leveraging medical-grade materials including polyether-based thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), polyester-based TPU, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and fabrics such as spandex, nylon, elastane, and cotton. Functional inks are often printed on flexible substrates and as the user wears or moves with the garment, there is a certain amount of stretch that occurs. Therefore, inks need to exhibit acceptable change in resistance with repeatable stretch and recovery cycles.
  • Sealing - Conductive epoxies, typically used to apply components on to circuits, are often not a feasible solution when dealing with wearable applications, as they tend to break under stress. Hence, applying additional components such as surface-mount LEDs and active PCBs can be very challenging. The ability to incorporate electronic components smoothly into apparels whilst ensuring strong adhesion during bending, creasing, and flexing is key to the success of smart wearables.

 In addition, wearables intended for long-term use must be safe to submerge under water without damaging the circuitry, and physically endure multiple wash cycles. Achieving a water-tight seal and protecting the power source from environmental factors is vital for ensuring optimal performance and durability of the device. For electronic equipment, Ingress Protection (IP) rating specifies the degree of protection from solids and liquids including dust and water. Whether it is fusing stretchable materials with thermoplastic-adhesives backing or applying hot-melt adhesives to polyester circuits, thermal bonding is one of the most common sealing approaches in wearable solutions. Pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA) lamination is another approach that requires a medical-grade adhesive to apply a patch directly to the skin of the user. TPU overlaminates, printable insulators, and PET overlaminates are often used for sealing and potting.

The wearable technology industry is migrating towards a “smart system”, a world where all devices from head to toe communicate with each other to create a single ecosystem. As existing technologies and processes evolve, new norms, standards, and specifications for the industry will gradually develop. With a promising future in sight, the widespread adoption and integration of smart wearables in our daily lives is almost inevitable.

By Steve Baker | Nov 6, 2018
High-volume technical printing equipment

In this second blog of our series on high-volume technical printing, we will be discussing the various screen printing equipment options GM Nameplate (GMN) has available for technical printing. We will examine the different attributes of each type of printing press and assess how they can influence your projects. If you missed our first blog in this series, we encourage you to take a moment to read it here to gain a preliminary understanding of GMN’s technical printing methods and their implications for high-volume programs.

As previously mentioned, there are two main screen printing processes used by GMN for technical printing – sheet-fed and roll-to-roll – and as we’ve already established, roll-to-roll printing is better suited for high-volume technical printing projects. The reasons for why this is will become clearer as we go through the characteristics of GMN’s printing equipment.

Before getting into the specifics, an important concept to understand in general about all the presses is that the run rate is set by the dryer capacity. The attributes of the dryer as well as the project influence the run rate that can be realized. For example, functional inks often require longer to cure, therefore if a technical printing program utilizing functional inks is run on a press with limited drying capacity, it will need to go through the dryer at a slower speed to properly cure. However, if the same project was run on a press with a large drying capacity, it would be able to run at faster speeds since it would be in the dryer for longer. For every new project, the drying parameters must be developed according to that project’s specifications, which ultimately determines speed.

Sheet-fed presses

As with all screen printing equipment, the distinct capabilities and constraints offered by each of GMN’s sheet-fed printing presses determine the viability of the equipment for a potential project. Sheet-fed presses yield varying print area dimensions, for example, from 22” x 30” to 48” x 98”. Another critical feature to be aware of is the run rate for these presses, which on average can range from 160 – 225 impressions per hour. Finally, the dryers that accompany the sheet-fed printing presses at GMN include thermal UV dryers.

Roll-to-roll presses

For roll-to-roll printing, GMN employs four presses with varied capabilities that enable them to fulfill an assortment of technical printing project requirements.

  1. Via printing

    The most noteworthy feature about two of the screen printing presses utilized by GMN for roll-to-roll technical printing is the presses ability to print vias (also known as through-hole printing). When printing vias, after the vias are lasered into the material, ink is then printed on both sides of the roll, forcing the ink through the vias to create a circuit. But the pushing of the ink through the holes leaves excess ink behind on the print bed. If using the sheet-fed method, the operator would have to clean the print bed after every pass, adding additional steps and time to the process. However, GMN’s presses eliminate the need for this added step because they have blotter paper positioned on top of the print bed to absorb all the leftover ink. This blotter paper advances along with the roll of material to ensure that the ink doesn’t smear as the sheet moves forward. In general, these presses print one color at a time, maintain a print area of 20” x 20”, and can accomplish tolerances around .007”. Using UV and thermal dryers approximately four meters in length, the run rate for these presses is about 500-800 impressions per hour.

  2. Tight tolerance printing

    Another roll-to-roll printing press at GMN also only prints a single color at a time, yet it has a print area of 19” x 31”. But the major advantage of this press is printing parts with extremely tight tolerances. This press can reach tolerances within .001” – .002” of the original specifications. To produce these tolerance levels, the press utilizes optical registration cameras to repeatedly establish precise registration for each part and attain the most accurate stacking of ink layers. The machine first pulls the printing image in and then adjusts the screen to achieve a careful stack-up tolerance. In addition, this press uses a 20-foot tower dryer. Tower dryers are beneficial because they make efficient use of their space by having the material serpentine up and down across the body of the equipment, allowing for the parts to stay in the dryer for longer and run at faster speeds. With these elements working together, our tight tolerance printing press offers a run rate of around 200 – 300 impressions per hour.

  3. Efficient run rates & multi-color printing

    The last press at GMN’s disposal offers a print area of 18” x 19.5” and meets tolerances within .007” – .010”. This press’ most significant benefits include its two print stations and substantial drying capacity, which allows it to produce parts at a much higher speed. With both a 40-foot and a 60-foot tower dryer, this press employs dryers that are much larger than our other presses. Again, the tower dryers allow for each part to stay in the dryer for longer, therefore permitting the part to run through the process at a faster rate. The other advantage of this press is that it’s a two-color press. The printing process begins by laying down the first color, followed by the punching of a fiducial next to the image for registration, and then the sheet runs through the first tower dryer. Next, utilizing the registration punch to align with the first ink layer, a second color can be laid down, ending with the sheet going through the second tower dryer. These two capabilities are what make our final roll-to-roll technical printing press the fastest print line at GMN with a run rate of 800 – 1,000 impressions per hour.

When comparing the characteristics of the sheet-fed presses to the roll-to-roll presses, it is apparent why roll-to-roll printing is more suited for high-volume technical printing projects. Not only can these presses achieve much higher run rates, but they can also produce parts at much tighter tolerances and accomplish efficient through-hole printing. With our selection of technical printing equipment, GMN aims to provide our customers with the printing technology that best fits their project’s specific needs. GMN is equipped to accommodate technical printing projects with a vast array of requirements and volumes ranging from low to high. To learn more about our technical printing capabilities, click here.

Lauren Rowles, GMN
By Lauren Rowles | Nov 1, 2018
GMN Halloween

At GM Nameplate, we believe that companies that have fun together, thrive together. Every year, GMN employees have a great time getting into spirit when Halloween rolls around. Once again, GMN celebrated Halloween with style and enthusiasm by showcasing some amazing team and individual costumes, as well as inventive decorations. We hope you enjoy this peek into a couple of the costumes that were featured.

Halloween celebration 2018Halloween 2018

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