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Debbie-Anderson-GMN
By Debbie Anderson | Mar 15, 2018
Functional printed electronics inks at GMN

Functional inks are a cost-effective method to manufacture printed and flexible circuits. While the traditional technologies of etched copper flex circuits and printed circuit boards (PCBs) are still prevalent, functional inks have the advantage of being an economical alternative when it comes to printing on flexible substrates and mass-scale production of circuits. In this two-part blog series, we will broadly touch upon the essentials of functional inks employed by GMN in its wide-ranging manufacturing services.

Depending on the ink type and final product application, functional inks can be applied on a wide gamut of both rigid and flexible substrates using various printing techniques including screen printing (sheet-fed and roll-fed), aerosol jet printing, and gravure printing. Functional inks are undeniably more environment-friendly than the traditional technologies. While the subtractive process of etching copper on PCBs requires acid baths, the additive process of using functional inks does not produce any waste streams or involve any hazardous chemicals. Functional inks can be classified into two categories: conductive inks and non-conductive inks. In this blog, we will broadly explore the various conductive inks used in GMN, their properties and applications.

Conductive inks, as the name suggests, are inks that conduct electricity. They are commonly seen in capacitive and membrane switches, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags, touch screens, biomedical and electrochemical sensors, Positive Temperature Coefficient (PTC) heaters, electromagnetic interference/radio frequency interference (EMI/RFI) shielding, and more. Recent developments in stretchable conductive inks are also leading the evolution of wearable electronics.

For any given application, the two C’s that primarily govern the conductive ink selection process are cost and conductivity. Some other key factors that govern decisions include substrate compatibility, the ink’s molecular structure, final product application, and power efficiency requirements. Some of the conductive inks employed by GMN include: 

a) Silver and silver chloride inks: Silver inks offer superior conductivity and low resistance. They are compatible with a broad range of substrates including polyester, polycarbonate, glass, and vinyl, and are resistant to abrasion, folds, and creases. Their high adhesion, high flexibility and ease of printability have made them the ideal choice in medical electrodes and membrane circuits.

b) Carbon-based inks: Carbon inks offer higher resistance, lower conductivity, and superior durability as compared to silver inks. They protect silver inks from silver migration, shield circuits from shorting and are cheaper than silver inks. They also offer similar benefits as silver inks in terms of adhesion properties, ease of printability, and substrate compatibility. Carbon inks are often blended with silver inks to achieve the desired balance between resistivity, conductivity, and cost. Typical applications at GMN include cost-effective capacitive touch switches.

c) Gold and platinum inks: Given the huge cost hurdles associated with noble metals like gold and platinum, these inks are usually produced and utilized in very small quantities. GMN occasionally employs them in the product development stage or in applications where performance benefits outweigh the cost barrier. For example, gold is used in applications where high resistance to oxidation is crucial and platinum is seen in applications that demand high conductivity.

d) Other metal-based inks: Copper inks can be used as a cheaper alternative to silver inks, given its high conductivity, but its low stability often poses limitations on its use. While nickel offers high durability, it is more expensive than carbon inks.

To learn about non-conductive functional inks, stay tuned for our next blog.

By Jim Badders | Mar 7, 2018
Printing on flexible substrates for smart wearables

GM Nameplate (GMN) is excited to announce the opening of an additional bonding operation in Taiwan. This operation will consist of liquid optically bonding (LOCA) and integrating displays, touch screens, and decorative cover glass components with exceptional efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

By establishing an international bonding option in addition to our front panel integration services at our Seattle, WA Division, GMN can offer a larger breadth of integration solutions, enabling us to accommodate a wider range of customers and projects, and increasing our ability to meet our customer’s exact needs.

Advantages to global bonding operation

With this new bonding facility, customers will benefit from simplified logistics, shortened lead times, and a noticeable reduction in freight and labor costs. Most display and touch screen components are manufactured in Asia. Therefore, now manufacturing, bonding, and even assembly will all take place in the same vicinity, which will substantially reduce the current freight time and costs that exist between process stages, especially when leveraging an Asian-based assembly of the final product. This streamlined efficiency and reduction in costs will also residually lead to reduction in component costs and allow for customers to achieve faster time-to-market. 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.

Partnering for success

GMN pursues the best solutions for our clients’ global manufacturing needs, which sometimes involves getting creative to deliver the greatest overall value. In this case, GMN teamed up with Mildex Optical, a trusted, long-term touch screen partner. To create this well-rounded bonding operation, Mildex is supplying their world-class facility and highly-skilled workforce, while GMN is providing its state-of-the-art equipment and extensive technical know-how and engineering oversight. GMN will oversee the entire bonding process for its customers to ensure that every aspect is executed to best fit the needs of the application.

Same standard of quality and service

This bonding facility in Taiwan will provide the same level of quality and service that customers experience domestically. We hold decades of experience working with display integration and bonding technologies and applications for industries spanning from medical, to agriculture, to aerospace.

Working 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 through the addition of our new bonding and assembly operation in Taiwan.

For additional information about this new display integration and bonding facility, check out our press release.

By Steve Baker | Feb 28, 2018
GMN's guide to capacitive touch technology

Does your device utilize mechanical buttons? Are you designing a new user interface device? Does your existing product’s interface need a facelift? No matter the question, capacitive touch technology is the answer. The arrival of smartphones and tablets has massively fueled the trend for capacitive touch. From our car dashboards, to industrial controllers, touch technology has truly invaded our lives. Unsurprisingly, more and more companies are steering towards incorporating sleek and non-tactile interfaces within their devices.

Compared to membrane switches and elastomer keypads, capacitive sensing technology offers several advantages including thinner stack ups, easy cleanability and improved durability. It brings together a blend of enhanced usability, modern aesthetics, and gives you the freedom to augment user experience by adding various visual and audio feedback mechanisms.

To jumpstart the development of your next user-interface, we have created the perfect guide for you to explore the essentials of capacitive touch. This guide sheds light on the many design possibilities you can adopt while integrating this dynamic technology in your device. It also talks about the potential applications of capacitive touch and provides you with important design considerations for performance optimization. 

To download the free guide, click here.

By Chris Doyle | Feb 13, 2018
This component was made using 3D electroform

If you’re interested in adding a new and stylish look to your nameplate or component, you may want to consider 3D electroform. Using this process, you can achieve many different intricate looks and design elements on one part. You can create contrast within the nameplate by using an array of textures, depths, and colors. In this blog we will use the Callaway Golf component as an example to highlight different techniques and elements you can achieve with 3D electroform.

In short, 3D electroforming is a process of chrome and nickel plating that forms in a steel mold. The process begins with making a custom tool, using a CNC milling machine to cut out the mold in a block of steel. During this step, textures, finishes, and other desired decorative elements are added within the tooling, creating a unique look for the finished parts. The tool is then dipped into a nickel bath with an electrical current running through it which causes the nickel to start building up on the mold. Then the mold is taken out and washed with water. Next, that mold is dipped into a second tank, a chrome bath, also with an electrical current running through it, to build up a thin layer of chrome around the mold as well. This thin layer of chrome gives the part a high cosmetic finish. Finally, the mold is taken out and cleaned to prepare it for painting or any other decorative elements that will be added.

Spin finish

There are several different finishes and decorative options available with 3D electroform. On the raised silver “V” shape of the Callaway component, you can see a spin finish was applied. Spin finishes are many lines moving in a perfect circle pattern, which can create a specific focal point on the component. Selective spin finishes can be applied so specified regions of the part reflect light in an appealing way.

Brush finish

On the silver streak running horizontally along the Callaway component, you can see a brushed finish was applied. Brush finishes are lines moving in the same parallel direction creating a consistent blanket of lines. They can also be added to selective areas of the component, and can vary from fine to heavy thicknesses.

You can make intricate patterns with 3D electroform

Many different patterns can be created using 3D electorm, and they can be used to achieve unique backgrounds and textures. An example of this can be seen in the black background of the Callaway component, with its deep crisscross pattern.

There is a wide variety of painting and coloring options for 3D electroform parts, which are added after the part is plated. In this component, we see a red gloss, black gloss and matte black applied to the component.

One thing to consider while using 3D electroform is the draft angle. The draft angle means it is difficult to create parts that have 90° perpendicular design elements in them, so they must be changed to greater than 90°. This is required because after a nameplate or component has been formed in the different liquid baths, you must remove it from the tool, and 90° elements are difficult to remove. Some features, like the large “V” of the component, can require 15-20° draft. But once you have this rule in mind, you can create almost any shape or pattern with different finishes and depths all in one nameplate, as it is formed from a machined tool.

The different depths created with 3D electroform is what makes these components stand out compared to nameplates made with embossing and forming tools, which have limitations on how much material can be formed. 3D electroforming also saves time and money by forming multiple finishes and raised areas in one process.

To learn more about this process, read our blog on 3D electroform nameplates for distinct & detailed branding.

 Many decoration options are possible with 3D Electroform

Chris Passanante, GMN
By Chris Passanante | Feb 6, 2018
3D laser scanner at GMN

Imagine that you need to precisely measure a custom machined wheel of a customized car. Which measuring tool would you use? You could use a standard industry equipment like the caliper, but that may result in several inaccuracies given the complex shape and inherent contours of the wheel. Alternatively, you could use a Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM), but that would be extremely time-consuming and the machine might fail to get into all of the crevices. At GM Nameplate (GMN), we would use our Faro arm 3D scanner to capture the wheel’s shape and create a file that can be used as a model for measurements, or even duplication to create a new wheel. Wondering why?

The Faro arm is essentially an advanced 3D scanning tool that uses a laser beam to precisely capture data points and digitize objects. To scan anything, you hold the laser gun and gradually move it over the desired object as if you were painting on it with the laser beam. The process is far more efficient than point-to-point measurements from a CMM or any other traditional measuring tools. The key advantages of this scanner are:

1) Advanced part evaluation - Capturing 560,000 points/second, the scanner is not only accurate, but also time-efficient. No matter how complex the shape of the object is, the laser technology accurately digitizes the exact size and three-dimensional form. It can easily measure data points from crevices, thru-holes or contoured profiles where a CMM would fail. It works seamlessly across all surfaces, be it wood, metal, plastic, or glass. Even dark and reflective surfaces do not affect the accuracy of the results.

2) Flexibility - The scanner works in conjunction with other measuring tools like the CMM or Optical Gaging Products (OGP). This implies that you can measure a few parts of a component on a CMM, complete the remaining measurements using the 3D scanner, and combine the data points from both machines in a single report. The scanner’s portability makes it easier to wheel it from one area of the factory to the other, thus expanding its floor coverage.  

3) Ease of implementation - While the scanner does require some initial programming and set-up to get started, the actual process of operating the scanner is fairly simple and straightforward.

The applications of this scanning technology go far beyond just measuring the dimensions of a component. With this scanner, GMN can now efficiently convert a physical object into a digitized form. This reduced time-to-measure has greatly enhanced GMN’s rapid prototyping process. It has also proved to be a great asset in achieving Computer Aided Design (CAD) to part analysis, quality control and inspection. GMN also employs the scanner to reverse engineer components to create replacement parts with extremely tight tolerances.

By capitalizing on advanced tools and technologies, GMN is always exploring innovative and effective ways to meet its customer’s manufacturing needs. The addition of the state-of-the-art 3D scanner at the Beaverton, OR Division has truly facilitated GMN in serving its vast customer base with the highest standards of quality and efficiency. 

By Brad Root | Jan 30, 2018
GMN's new senior quality manager

To exceed customer satisfaction, GM Nameplate’s (GMN) has always employed total quality management principles to maintain the highest level of quality in all its products and processes. Michael Wodrich, director of quality for the Seattle, WA Division, who has played a crucial role in integrating a strong quality culture within the organization is now transitioning to a new role of director of program management. GMN is delighted to welcome on board Sam Allen as the new quality manager of the Seattle, WA Division.

An American Society for Quality (ASQ) certified quality engineer, Sam brings with him a breadth of knowledge in process product engineering, value stream management, and Continuous Improvement (CI) activities. He will be responsible for managing all aspects of quality, including quality assurance, quality control, and quality improvement. His decades of experience in high volume manufacturing facilities and global quality assurance management will be vital in strengthening the quality culture at GMN.

Focusing on the front end of the business, Michael Wodrich will now be working closely with new product development and emerging technologies. To read more about Sam and Michael’s new roles, read our press release here

By Kenny Pravitz | Jan 30, 2018
IMD allows different graphic overlays to be used in the same molded shape, giving  you customization.

Many industries require the decorative elements of plastic to be highly durable. For example, the aerospace, automotive, and medical industries have many high-wear applications that require strong, durable parts where printed icons won’t scratch off or fade away. Products that are decorated using first-surface decorating processes, where graphics are placed on the outermost layer (such as pad printing, screen printing, or hot stamping), wear out over time and aren’t suitable for these industries. Depending on the materials and processes used, the inks on plastic pieces can fade out over time, making it difficult or impossible to read indicators on those pieces.

In-mold decorating (IMD) is a plastic decorating method that ensures the durability of the graphic overlays and allows for multiple design options for the overlays. In brief, IMD is a process where a graphic overlay is physically fused to injection molded plastic to form one piece. Molten resin is injected either in front or behind the graphic overlay to form a bond between the two. Unlike pad printing, screen printing, or hot stamping – where inks and overlays are exposed to the user that can deteriorate over time – IMD parts have a layer of plastic that encapsulates the ink, protecting it from users and the outside environment.

GMN Plastics, GM Nameplate’s (GMN) plastics division in Beaverton, OR, recently created a video that demonstrates the IMD process. In the video, we see an end-of-arm tool pick up a graphic overlay and place it in the injection mold using a vacuum system, while simultaneously removing a part that was just molded. Both of these functions are completed in one cycle, allowing for faster and more efficient production. Locating pins in both the end-of-arm tool and injection mold itself allow for consistent placement of the overlay in the tool, which is critical for functional parts in regulated industries. If the overlays are not correctly and consistently placed in the mold, some portions of the overlay may not be fully encapsulated by plastic during the molding process.

IMD is ideal for higher volume projects that have stringent durability requirements, as there is more design engineering required up front than with a standard injection molded part. However, one advantage is that once the graphic overlay and molded part is designed, printed graphics on the overlay can be changed at any time to allow for customization and unlimited design options.

To learn more about what the IMD process is, read this blog.

To watch the IMD process, click play on the video below. 

By Neha Toshniwal | Jan 17, 2018
GMN exhibits at MD&M West Anaheim 2018

GM Nameplate (GMN) is excited to exhibit at the upcoming Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) West, the largest Medtech tradeshow in North America. The event will take place from February 6th to 8th at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, CA.

We invite you to visit our booth #1659 to explore our wide array of capabilities including technical printing, die-cut components, plastic injection molding, and front panel integration. You will also get to check out our capacitive switch unit and see how this evolving technology can enhance your device’s user interface.

To schedule a meeting with a GMN technical expert during the show, please email us directly at info@gmnameplate.com and we’d be happy to discuss your upcoming projects and manufacturing needs.  

By Neha Toshniwal | Jan 11, 2018
PTC heater guide

What are PTC heaters? How do they differ from traditional fixed-resistance heaters? Is the PTC heating technology right for my product? If you have the same questions swirling in your mind right now, this free guide is just for you.

Positive Temperature Coefficient (PTC) heaters are printed, self-regulating, energy-efficient heaters that run open loop. Compared to traditional heating technologies, they offer better strength and higher design flexibility. From car seats to surgical tables, they are well-suited for a wide range of applications. 

To discover the nitty-gritty of these safe heating solutions, download our free guide here.  

By Chris Doyle | Dec 20, 2017
Metal Decoration Guide

The use of metal components helps to add a sleek, stunning, and high-end aesthetic to any product. Metal nameplates, labels, and components have an influence on how your product is perceived and serve as a representation of your brand, which is why the design process for these components so crucial. Recently, GM Nameplate (GMN) hosted a webinar on decoration techniques that can be used to create a metal component that will stand out from the crowd. Following the webinar, we decided to compile the topics that were presented into a quick reference guide that you can use to aid you when designing your next metal component. This step-by-step resource will walk you through various eye-catching metal decoration techniques, from embossing and printing options to the latest industry trends, as well as provide you with essential tips and considerations to keep in mind throughout each stage of the development process.

To download this free reference guide, click here.

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