MESA Laboratories, Inc. was developing a new digital dialysate meter with another vendor. They quickly ran into difficulties that led unwanted moisture ingress into their membrane switch.
GMN’s engineering experts always love a new challenge! GMN’s technical know-how and rapid concept prototyping services enabled MESA Labs to conceptualize a new design. The proposed solution not only eliminated the device’s sealing issues, but also provided enhanced design and functional features.
To learn how GMN fulfilled the project needs and requirements, read our case study here.
GM Nameplate (GMN), along with its plastics division - Elite Plastics, will be exhibiting at the NW Electronics Design & Manufacturing Expo (NEDME) in booth #M103. The event will take place at Tektronix in Beaverton, Oregon on October 3rd, 2018.
GMN will be showcasing a wide array of our capabilities ranging from injection molding to front panel integration, and plastic decoration to capacitive touch. Our onsite technical experts will also be sharing the latest technological developments at GMN. One of our core strengths lies in translating concepts into concrete creations. From development and production of individual components to complete value-added assembly, GMN provides a holistic approach by delivering a plug-&-play user interface.
We are happy to set up one-to-one meetings to discuss how GMN can support your varied manufacturing needs. To schedule a meeting with a technical expert, please reach out to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In March, The Boeing Company celebrated the production of its 10,000th 737 aircraft. This incredible milestone was commemorated at Boeing’s Renton, WA facility, which is also where the airplane was manufactured. A 737 Max 8, the 10,000th 737 was destined for Southwest Airlines, which was extremely fitting as Southwest is the leading customer for and top operator of the 737.
This monumental feat set a new Guinness World Record title for the “Most produced commercial jet aircraft model,” meaning that Boeing had topped itself, as this was a title that the company had already secured in 2006. In production for over 5 decades, the 737 airplane is the best-selling commercial passenger airplane of all time. Even with the remarkable number of planes delivered, over 4,600 737s still remain on order for Boeing, and this year, Boeing increased their 737 production from 47 to 52 airplanes per month.
With a partnership lasting over 20 years, GMN Aerospace has continually worked alongside Boeing to maintain our alignment with cost-down initiatives and production increases, as well as ensure on-time delivery with unparalleled quality and speed. Over the past two years, GMN Aerospace has provided the 737 program with several thousands of orders at over 99% quality.
Therefore, GMN Aerospace was honored when Boeing asked us to produce a commemorative placard for this event. This custom stainless steel placard was placed within the historic aircraft to immortalize this accomplishment.
Diamond carving, also known as diamond drag engraving, is a common metal decoration technique that enhances metal components by adding a unique texture. Performed at the back-end of the manufacturing process, this technique creates extremely fine, sharp, and crisp lines on an embossed aluminum surface, which cannot be achieved through any other decoration process. These deeply carved lines on the metal surface also provide a tactile feel, further augmenting the appearance of the component.
Our latest video features the diamond carving operation from our Monroe, NC Division. Illustrating the process of diamond drag engraving in detail, the video also dives deeper into the various textures, patterns, and looks that you can achieve with this technique.
Decorative enhancements if any, such as screen printing or brush finishing, are always applied on the metal before the carving process. Once the aluminum sheet is decorated, the area to be diamond carved is embossed or raised to a height ranging between 0.015” to 0.018”. The embossed sheet is then cut into strips and held in-position on a flatbed table by vacuum. The strips are lubricated with oil to enable smooth and uniform engraving of the metal without galling. The strips are fed into a machine that consists of a large 12” rotating wheel, also referred to as the platinum. A small industrial-grade diamond chip, approximately 0.125” in diameter, is mounted to the platinum. As the wheel spins, the diamond chip abrades the aluminum surface with every rotation, thereby creating parallel lines at a depth of 0.003”. Diamond, being the hardest mineral, works flawlessly to create the desired pattern. In addition, the height of the wheel from the flatbed table can be adjusted vertically to compensate for metals with varying thicknesses and/or embossing heights.
The spacing between the lines is determined by the speed of the wheel. The slower the speed, the broader the gap between each line, and the faster the speed, the lesser the gap. The number of lines per inch and the angularity of the lines is often customized according to the design intent. The texture or pattern can vary from extremely fine textures that create a subtle shimmer to coarse lines that add a more jagged look.
While diamond carving has been a popular technique for several decades, GM Nameplate (GMN) brings a creative twist to the process. GMN’s expertise and capabilities allow you to apply a layer of transparent ink of any color to the diamond-carved surface. It not only adds a unique look, but also retains the beauty and texture of diamond carving. The ink is always transparent to enable one to see the scribed lines below. Once the ink is screen printed, the ink is cured by baking the component in strip form.
Seen largely on electronics and handheld appliances, GMN has developed diamond-carved nameplates for numerous companies including Mitsubishi, Philips, Bose, and Lincoln. To see the process of diamond carving, watch our video below.
Introduction: A hero emerges!
Meet Gary! Gary hails from a proud species of creators, merchants, and manufacturers who are overflowing with passion to improve society through providing products of immeasurable value. Gary loves his job and takes great pride in his reputation as an environmentally-conscious, efficient, and compliant provider of high-quality goods.
But on August 30th, new revisions to California’s Proposition 65 (or Prop 65 for short) are being released, and since many of Gary’s customers reside in California, he knows that some of his products may be impacted.
Background: The hero’s challenge
In 1986, California enacted Prop 65, ensuring that businesses provide “clear and reasonable” warnings before “knowingly and intentionally” exposing the public to a certain list of substances which are known to cause cancer or reproductive harm.
To become compliant, companies had to make a choice: either redesign their products to reduce their exposures below the “safe harbor levels,” or commit to displaying complaint warnings that inform consumers of the possible risks before they buy. The substance list is updated yearly by California legislature and consists of over 900 chemicals, including many commonly found materials such as wood dust, aspirin, and gasoline.
Since its enactment, Prop 65 has challenged many companies. In 2016, there were 760 in-court litigation settlements totaling in approximately $30,000,000, and 339 out-of-court settlements totaling in approximately $10,000,000, averaging to over $36,000 per case. Furthermore, all cases related to Prop 65 are open to the public, which can threaten to hurt Gary’s hard-earned reputation!
The Problem: New changes effective August 30th, 2018
Starting on the 30th of August, companies will have new standards to meet under Prop 65. Among other things, the new revision of Prop 65 establishes new formalized labeling requirements for:
- Foods and alcoholic beverages
- Certain specific products such as furniture
- Certain specific environments such as enclosed parking areas
It also adds new requirements including:
- For products to display warnings in all languages that are already on the label
- The statement of the specific substance names on the warning signs at each location that the product is on display
- Presence of the Prop 65 website link on the warnings (www.P65Warnings.ca.gov)
- Placement of the triangular yellow warning symbol (⚠) on most warnings
- New requirements related to online sales and catalogues
- Changes to the language that goes on the labels
Faced with these new changes, Gary has quite a lot on his plate. Not only will Gary be forced to review all his products for the existence of Prop 65 substances and perform scientific tests to assess the exposures they can cause, but he also must overhaul and relabel many of his products, so they meet the new standard.
Luckily for Gary, his loyal friend GM Nameplate (GMN) is just one phone call away.
The stress-free solution: Call the labeling experts
So, without hesitation, Gary makes the call to GMN to find a solution.
GMN Rep: “Hi old friend. How can we help you today?”
Gary: “My team just informed me that 40% of our inventory is affected by the new language requirements of Prop 65. We need to relabel our products to give warnings in Spanish, French, and Japanese, and include a yellow warning signal. We’d also like to reconsider our materials and replace our color palette for a more vibrant shine. The labels need to be scratch proof and heat resistant, and we need them all by the end of next week. Do you think you could help us?”
GMN Rep: “Absolutely! Fear not! We’ve got just the thing!”
The GMN team immediately got to work, and by the end of week, the problem was solved. Now Gary’s team can rest easy and go back to focusing on their true objective of creating amazing products.
If you are like Gary and need to print new custom labels to comply with the changes in Prop 65, request a quote from GMN and we’ll get started on your solution today.
A US-based medical company was developing a wearable cardiac telemetry device to monitor the ECG signals of a patients’ heart. They approached GM Nameplate (GMN) to develop the electrode (circuit) that would be embedded in the low-profile, wireless device that measures, records, and transmits physiological data. In addition to the specific needs regarding the circuit’s slender shape and size, the customer had three crucial requirements:
1) The electrode should have a tight tail pitch - Given the slim shape of the electrode, the customer wanted to use a small connector to the motherboard, and therefore, required the circuit to be fine pitch. Although printing tight pitches can be extremely challenging, the experts at GMN met this requirement by meticulously designing the 0.5 mil tail for the circuit.
2) The silver conductive inks and dielectric inks couldn’t touch the patient’s skin - To meet this requirement, GMN designed the circuit on a polyester substrate. The silver silver chloride pads were printed on the side that would directly stay in contact with the patient’s skin, and the dielectric inks and silver conductive inks were printed on the other side of the substrate. With the polyester substrate acting as a divider, the inks on both sides were connected through via-holes.
3) The electrode needed to meet a target resistance - As a device that would be picking up even the weakest ECG signals, the electrode’s ability to meet a targeted resistance from the silver silver chloride pads to the tail end was extremely critical. This necessity primarily dictated the design of the circuit pattern. Since the traces had to be of a certain length to meet the targeted resistance, GMN elongated the circuit by creating utility loops. The final circuit design was a perfect amalgamation of the customer’s specifications for the part’s shape and GMN’s ability to meet the resistance requirements. During the design development phase, multiple other factors including sheet size, sheet layout, print volumes, tolerances, and ink layers were also taken into account.
Later, the project went through qualification procedures to ensure quality and repeatability throughout production. After a few rounds of prototyping and testing, the parameters for Operational Qualification (OQ), including the ink type, drying temperature, drying capacity, curing process, and print speed, were defined. First part development and manufacturing efficiencies were taken into consideration to develop different print pattern layouts, which eventually caused the most optimum solution to make its way to production. The nominal settings from OQ were run with different material lots on three different setups through the entire production process. All three outputs were measured and evaluated to ensure that all the critical performance parameters were within the window of minimum and maximum levels of variances. After the electrodes were printed and sheeted, they were precisely die-cut with a steel-rule die on a clam shell press.
The high volume of production quantities and the flimsy shape of the electrode made it extremely difficult to handle and test each individual part manually. To address this issue, GMN automated the inspection process by employing a robotic arm. The arm would pick up one circuit at a time and place it in a test fixture where it was tested for continuity and broken traces. The resistance was tested from the end of the fine pitch tail to every individual silver silver chloride pad. The pieces that passed the inspection were sorted to one tray and the defective parts were delivered to another. Automating the final inspection process not only led to faster turnaround, but also resulted in improved consistency and reliability. To dive deeper into the robotic automation at GMN, watch our short video here.
With decades of technical printing experience in highly regulated industries, GMN partnered with this medical customer from the early development phase through multiple design cycles to manufacture a product that met all of their technical specifications. Our rapid prototyping capabilities also enabled the customer to seamlessly transition from concept to high-volume production. Since functional printing projects require extremely tight tolerances, rigorous printing and testing procedures were set in place to ensure that every element of the electrode was carefully controlled. To learn more about the printed electrodes at GMN, read our capabilities page here.
When it comes to custom manufacturing, prototyping remains an integral part of the design process. Whether you are testing the fit, form, and functionality of a new product, evaluating the feasibility of a unique material, or simply experimenting with novel ideas and concepts, prototyping enables us to venture into new territories. The prototyping services at GM Nameplate (GMN) not only provide quick-turn solutions, but also offer design support to help customers navigate a path towards production.
The prototyping solutions offered by GMN can be briefly divided into the following three types -
1) Quick-turn prototypes - Quick-turn prototypes, also known as rapid concept prototypes, put the focus on speed. This program aims to deliver a product into the customer’s hands as quickly as possible, which in turn takes them a step closer to production. Customers can assess multiple design considerations with accelerated lead times and reduced costs compared to full production parts. While rapid concept prototypes are not intended for qualification testing, they facilitate customers to experiment, refine, evaluate, and validate designs while making swift iterations. So, if you are looking to assess different material options for a gasket or compare a satin finish versus a gloss finish, then rapid concept prototyping is the way to go!
GMN has a dedicated product development team and manufacturing equipment that operates outside of regular production schedules, which helps us stay agile and accommodate varied needs. While developing prototypes, GMN utilizes digital printing for parts that will often use alternate printing processes in final production to remain cost and time efficient. Similarly, for die-cut prototypes, GMN often uses materials specified for the final product, but utilizes laser cutting and other “soft tooling” methods before transitioning to hard tooling for production. This allows customers to compare multiple design options without investing in the appropriate production tooling.
2) Conceptual development prototypes - Conceptual development prototypes focus on translating concepts into concrete solutions. This development process optimizes ideas to achieve a viable product by evolving designs towards production-friendly solutions. By letting us perform quick risk mitigation testing on new materials or designs on the front-end, it reduces unexpected challenges later in the design process. While, this prototyping solution often comes into play while working with unique materials, it can also be helpful if a design is ahead of the technology curve. When a customer approaches GMN with a unique material, we can address the unknowns associated with processing the material. This includes testing ink adhesion, verifying substrate compatibility with the manufacturing processes, optimizing processing parameters, and testing new design applications before engaging in larger production runs.
GMN’s customers bring a variety of cutting-edge products to market and the complex nature of these projects requires a focused and methodical approach to development. Conceptual development prototypes are often accompanied by a formal development proposal including a statement of work with discrete milestones that allow GMN to periodically regroup with its customers to determine the design or processing solution that best meets their needs.
3) Pre-production development prototypes - Pre-production development prototypes bring a design concept to a repeatable and robust production solution. Pre-production prototyping ensures that regulatory requirements, including Design Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (DFMEA), Process Failure Mode Effects Analysis (PFMEA) or Production Part Approval Process (PPAP), are met. Pre-production development prototypes lay emphasis on establishing process capabilities, improving yields, and optimizing designs for high-volume manufacturing. Since this approach utilizes all of the standard full-scale production equipment and process controls, it is best suited for products that are ready to transition into volume production and can be used for purposes such as final qualification and testing.
To learn more about our rapid prototyping lead times and pricing, visit our capabilities page here.
A spin finish, also known as spotting or engine turning, is a mechanical metal decoration technique that creates visually-striking and repetitive circular patterns. The unique interplay of light as it reflects off the finished metal surface adds movement and enhances the aesthetic appeal of the part. Rising to popularity in the 1920s and 1930s, spin finish was frequently seen in the automotive industry, especially on dashboards and instrumentation panels. However, in recent times, this decorative finish has expanded its reach to include a broad range of industries such as aerospace, appliance, electronics, and more.
Our video below provides a look into the spin finish process accomplished at GM Nameplate’s (GMN) Monroe, NC Division. Primarily performed on aluminum or stainless steel, a mechanical spin finish is always applied on a flat sheet of raw metal. The metal sheet is first lubricated with oil to facilitate uniform spinning and prevent burning of the metal when the abrasive pad is applied. The abrasive pads are mounted on single or multiple spindles that descend on the flat surface to skin the metal in a circular, overlapping pattern. The extent to which the patterns overlap each other can be easily adjusted and altered. There are two types of spin finishes that can be applied:
- Drag spin - Once the spindle(s) descends on the metal, it literally drags across the surface while continuously blading the metal and creating overlapping swirls.
- Spot spin - Once the spindle(s) descends, it blades the metal from a targeted spot, ascends, and then descends again on a spot next to it, creating overlapping or isolated patterns.
The computer numerical control (CNC) spin finish machines at GMN can hold up to seven spindles at a time, and the diameter of each spindle can vary from a minimum of 0.5” to a maximum of 20”. The distance between each spindle and the speed at which they travel across the metal surface can be tailored to achieve different looks. Depending on the design intent, the swirling pattern can range from fine, to heavy, to coarse. Spin finishes can also be applied overall or selectively. For selective finishes, a resin is screen-printed on the metal, which protects the desired areas from the abrasive pad, thus creating contrasting looks within the design. Offering a range of sizes, depths, and pattern intensities, the cosmetic variations that spin finish can produce is truly vast.
Once the spin finish is applied, the metal sheet is run through a washing line to remove the oil from its surface. The sheet is cleaned, dried, and a clear or tinted coating is applied to the surface of the metal. As a subtractive process, spin finish takes away the inherent protective layer from the surface of the metal and hence adding a top coat is extremely crucial to seal the exposed metal for performance considerations. The sheets are visually inspected and then are ready to be formed into the desired shape. Decorative accents such as lithographic, screen, digital, and/or pad printing, along with embossed or debossed graphics, are often added to spin finished parts to further accentuate their beauty and allure.
With decades of custom manufacturing experience and printing capabilities under its belt, GMN has worked with several leading companies including Dell, Ford, Callaway, General Motors, Keurig, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), and Vaio to create stunning spin-finished nameplates and components. Watch the video below to see the spin finish process in action.
Lithographic printing, an offset printing technique, is based on the basic principle that oil and water do not mix. It is a process in which ink is transferred from a photographic plate to a rubber blanket, which then presses the image onto the printing surface. Allowing for extremely tight tolerances and consistently high-quality images, GMN’s sheet-fed lithographic process is frequently utilized for printing graphic overlays and labels.
While lithographic printing is often performed on standard substrates such as paper and vinyl, GMN walks the unbeaten path by predominantly using materials including polycarbonate, polyester, and aluminum. Lithographic printing at GMN utilizes UV-cured inks. GMN also offers custom color matching services to help customers achieve their exact specifications and uphold brand consistency. To formulate a custom color, the different colored inks are meticulously weighed, poured over a flat glass surface in carefully measured proportions, and mixed together using a putty knife. With projects requiring custom color matches, a small sample sheet is first tested on a machine called the orange proofer. This counter-top machine is simply a condensed version of the actual printing press, that allows GMN to test the color and make necessary alterations before the final production run.
The first step in lithographic printing is creating the artwork on a photographic plate through a chemical process. Similar to the process of developing photographs, lithographic printing also requires the creation of a “negative” and a “positive” image. First, a thin aluminum plate is coated with a hydrophobic material so that it attracts oil (ink) and repels water. The plate is then selectively exposed to light, thereby curing the hydrophobic coating only in areas comprising the artwork. Finally, the coating from the remaining areas is chemically stripped off and the plate is ready for use.
The lithographic printing press consists of a series of rollers laid next to each other. The foremost roller transfers water, placed in a tray beneath it, to the photographic plate. The ink is manually applied to the second roller with a putty knife, which then wets out to the entire cylindrical surface as the roller spins and transfers the ink to the plate. The photographic plate, carrying the artwork, is wrapped around the next roller in the series. Given the immiscibility of ink and water, the ink adheres only to the artwork on the photographic plate, while the water adheres only to the remaining background.
On the other side of the photographic plate are two other rollers called the blanket roller and the impression roller respectively. The blanket roller simply acts as a medium to transfer the artwork from the plate to the substrate. When printing, a stack of printing sheets is placed on the top tray of the machine. A gripper grabs one sheet at a time and wraps it around the impression roller. The artwork on the photographic plate is imprinted on the rubber blanket roller, which in turn transfers it to the substrate on the impression roller. Then, the ink is cured by exposing the printed sheet to UV light. The process is repeated for every unique color in the image.
Ideal for high-volume manufacturing, a lithographic printer can run from 3,000 to 6,000 impressions per hour, with the largest sheet size being 18”x24”. It can produce detailed and intricate artworks with half-tones, gradients, or a four-color process (a four-color process uses a CMYK color module to create four separate dotted patterns, which when printed on top of each other, yield the required color). However, lithographic printing comes with its own limitations. It can only accommodate substrates with thickness ranging from 0.003” to 0.020”. The printing system is not compatible with metallic or conductive inks. Also, the ink used is very transparent, and typically requires extra layers of printing for opacity.
As multiple factors go into consideration before selecting a suitable printing technique, GMN works closely with each customer to understand the project needs and requirements to determine the best printing solution for every unique application. To learn more about our other printing technologies, visit our blog on GMN’s printing capabilities.
GMN recently opened a new, cutting-edge bonding and integration operation in Taiwan. Located in the Kaohsiung Science Park, this 322,000-square-foot facility offers liquid optical bonding (LOCA) and integration for any display, touch screen, or decorative cover glass component, with exceptional efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
We pursued this expansion of GMN’s global services to better align our supply chain with our customer’s bonding and integration needs. To bring this well-rounded and highly-skilled operation into existence, GMN teamed up with Mildex Optical, a long-term touch screen partner. On top of GMN’s existing domestic front panel integration services in Seattle, WA, the addition of this international bonding option allows us to deliver an even more diverse spectrum of solutions for projects that are best suited for bonding in Asia. As a result, we can accommodate a wider range of customers and projects, and better cater to the exact needs of our customers.
Advantages to GMN’s international bonding operation
Since most display and touch screen components are manufactured in Asia, this Taiwan operation allows for manufacturing, bonding, and even assembly to all take place within a close vicinity. Through GMN’s new bonding and integration facility, our customers can take advantage of several benefits including:
- Simplified logistics
- Shortened lead times
- Reduced freight, labor, and component costs
- Accelerated time-to-market
- High-volume production
- Supply chain optimization
GMN pursues the best solutions for our clients’ global manufacturing needs, which involves driving affordability within the supply chain. In addition, by eradicating the need for multiple shipments of materials internationally, this new operation will help to reduce carbon emissions and lower the carbon footprint of a project.
Unwavering quality and service
GMN is fiercely dedicated to providing superior quality and service to our customers, and at this new Taiwan facility, our customers can expect the same level of quality as they experience domestically. For decades we have worked with display integration and bonding technologies for applications in industries spanning from medical, to agriculture, to aerospace. Additionally, as a licensed converter of DuPont’s Vertak® bonding technology, GMN can supply customers with the latest in LOCA display enhancements.
This new venture enables GMN to offer customers the convenience of local service, with the worldwide access to custom solutions. We will work with our customers to select and integrate the most fitting touch screen, display, or decorative cover glass for their application. GMN continually strives to go above and beyond to meet the needs of our customers, which we will continue to do with the addition of our new bonding and assembly operation in Taiwan.
For more information on our front panel integration and bonding capabilities, click here.