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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 | May 9, 2017
Rapid prototype of a nameplate.

Substantial planning and thought go into manufacturing a custom nameplate – development, sourcing material, setting up the build plan, scheduling, and full-scale production. Therefore, companies typically find themselves in a tough position if they need last minute nameplates to show off at a meeting or tradeshow in the near future. In time sensitive situations, rapid prototyping services are extremely effective in providing quick-turn proof-of-concept solutions.

Through rapid prototyping, a physical representation of a product concept is brought to life. The prototype will essentially have the same form and fit of the desired product, but may not include complete intended functionality. Customers can explore innovative ideas and multiple design considerations with accelerated leads times and reduced costs compared to full production parts. Prototypes of functional products, including membrane switches and functional overlays, can be made as well. Prototyping services not only provide quick-turn solutions, but also offer design support to help customers develop a path towards production.

Kenworth, a heavy-duty truck manufacturer, came to GM Nameplate (GMN) in need of a prototype for an upcoming tradeshow. They wanted to be able to showcase an example of a new nameplate for their limited edition ICON 900 truck. GMN’s rapid prototyping team worked closely with Kenworth to leverage production processes to manufacture the part. The nameplate was selectively chrome plated, which gave the part a modern, high-end automotive look. Then a urethane dome and an aggressive adhesive were placed on the nameplate for added durability.

In addition, GMN’s rapid prototyping team also provides pre-production services as well. Pre-production is best suited for customers who need low volume, quick-turn parts that are more representative of complete functional production parts for purposes such as qualification and testing. This process utilizes all of the production equipment and processes that would be used during the full-scale production of a program, but still involves the development of new products.

To learn more about GMN’s rapid prototyping capabilities, visit our rapid prototyping page.

To request prototypes, fill out our request prototypes form.

By Sandy Dick | Nov 4, 2016
Adaptive Interfaces overlay produced by GM Nameplate.

Adaptive Interfaces came to GM Nameplate (GMN) to manufacture six different overlays for instruments used in aircraft cockpits. The six overlays had the same shape and colors, but varied in text according to the overlay’s purpose. GMN manufactured overlays for the decoder, encoder, electrical status, oil status, engine temperature, and engine performance monitors.

With GMN’s rapid prototyping capabilities, Adaptive Interfaces was able to receive prototypes quickly to use as a visual for board meetings and discussions. The prototypes were digitally printed using a textured substrate, allowing for fast delivery.

For the production run, the overlay was screen printed. The overlay’s graphics were printed with translucent ink for illumination in dim lighting, and the windows were printed using transparent ink so that the display behind the overlay could readily show through. The adhesive was laser cut and later lined up and adhered to the overlay before fabrication with a steel rule die. The lettering was backprinted and an anti-glare finish was applied the entire overlay.

At GMN, we provide design solutions to help customers navigate through any hurdles to ensure the production of high quality products. 

Anna Minzel, GMN
By Anna Minzel | Jul 7, 2016
Fluke graphic overlay

The Fluke Corporation, a manufacturer of electronic test tools, was in need of a graphic overlay for their latest communication tool. The overlay contained a unique combination of characteristics that made Fluke’s originally desired printing method costly. Due to GMN’s rapid prototyping services, an alternative printing solution was quickly uncovered that met Fluke’s distinct color, time, and cost requirements. Learn more about this program by reading our case study here.