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Teresa Synakowski, GMN
By Teresa Synakowski | Sep 7, 2017
HTC Star Palette

Metal has a richness and elegance that is hard to match. Real metal has a different feel than plastic and has a high-end look to it. You can capitalize on the elegance of your metal component by adding decorative features as well. Although metal decoration can be a tricky process, GM Nameplate (GMN) has the experience and the skill set for the job.

HCT Europe, a luxury beauty product manufacturer, was working on a project for their client Alcor & Co. They began working with GMN to manufacture the aluminum outer shell of a new beauty color palette named the “Star Palette.” The designer of the palette, John Galliano, wanted it to have the appearance of an antique cigarette case from the 1920’s. On each side of the case, Giliano placed the images of two different “paper dolls” that would be embossed. The background of the palette was to be matte black, while a high-gloss black would be applied to the areas of the embossed artwork. GMN worked with the customers to provide design considerations for manufacturability of the metal shell that aligned with the intended design. In addition, this product was on a tight schedule and needed a quick turnaround for launch, which proved difficult for such an intricate part.

GMN’s Monroe, NC Division was tasked to print, emboss, and form the decorated aluminum shell. To produce this part, first the artwork was printed onto a flat sheet of hi-brite aluminum. The areas that were to be embossed were printed with a transparent high-gloss black ink, which allowed for the brilliance of the aluminum to show through, while the background was printed with a matte black ink for contrast. Using progressive Class A tooling, the aluminum shell was embossed in great detail to bring out the design of the two paper dolls, which can be challenging. GMN was able to achieve the intricate embossing on the part through extremely tight art and print registration. The press closely registered to the lines of the design in order to precisely emboss the desired area, leaving the matte finish flat and the doll designs raised. Finally, the metal sheets were formed to the shape of the palette, creating a clean and rounded edge around the entire shell. The customer wanted the artwork to come all the way down to the edge of the part, which is difficult when stretching the metal during the forming process. But after a few rounds of testing, a process was established that allowed for the part to be consistently formed without distorting the embossing or inks.

After this initial project was completed, GMN provided the customer with several prototypes we created of the same part design but with a variety of color and texture combinations. These samples provided physical representations that exemplified how you can completely transform the look of a current design just by applying different ink processes and decorative finishes.

To learn more about embossing options, check out our blog: Tooling for embossed nameplates.

Prototype samples of the HTC palette's original design using different decorative finishes.

By Chris Doyle | Jan 20, 2016
Embossed nameplate

As a nameplate manufacturer, GM Nameplate provides a wide range of decorative texture options. One component of building nameplates is embossing; the process of adding raised features to a part for either aesthetic or functional purposes. Cosmetically, embossing can add a 3 dimensional look and feel to the part. Functionally, this process can also add structure and texture to the nameplate. In order to emboss a part, the piece must be tooled and GMN offers three types of tooling to meet a variety of project needs. These three types include etch die tooling, cut die tooling, and coin embossing. Throughout this article, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each process.

To begin, an etch die is a chemical or laser etch done on metal, typically brass, magnesium or steel. This is a common method of tooling at GMN because it is fairly inexpensive, typically costing under $1000 for the tooling equipment. It also has a relatively quick lead time and isn’t limited in the amount of characters that can be embossed on the part. This means that it can handle a wide variety of project requirements. On the other hand, the etch die is limited in how high it can emboss characters. It is also 2 dimensional, meaning that all embossed features will be the same height, and is limited to thinner materials and smaller runs of 10,000 parts or less.

Next, the cut die is typically CNC cut or a pantograph on heat-treated steel, which is also known as class A or steel tooling. The advantages of cut die tooling include 3 dimensional capabilities and the technology to emboss smaller features with sharper radiuses. This method also allows for a long production life of over one million parts. With these advantages come a higher cost and longer tooling lead times depending on part complexity. The cut die can also cause the part material and top coat to stretch which can potentially create sharp embossed edges.

The third method of tooling is known as coin embossing, a process in which only one half of a tool has the part design and is used with a high-tonnage press. The advantages of this process include a lower tooling cost and the ability to use normal PSA adhesives because the part back is solid. This process is typically used for very specific applications because it is limited in decorative options.

Embossing is an important technology when building nameplates to add both texture and structure. Because our business was founded on the creation of nameplates, GMN is proud to provide a variety of embossing options. Stay tuned for another article featuring different nameplate finishing options to enhance part aesthetics.

Learn more in our next blog article: Nameplate decorating options