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Dean Karousos, GMN
By Dean Karousos | Oct 24, 2017
GMN created a metal nameplate for WFLIII Drums using diamond carving and embossing.

WFLIII Drums came to GM Nameplate (GMN) to develop an original nameplate intended to be the company keystone for their high-quality signature snare drum. Recently, WFLIII asked GMN to provide design modification considerations to help them redesign this nameplate.

The original design of the WFLIII nameplate utilized an ElectraGraphic process on stainless steel. With ElectraGraphic nameplates, even though the nameplate is flat, the letters and designs appear to be raised. But this time around, WFLIII wanted to create a truly embossed (raised) badge with a diamond carved finish.

WFLIII Drums decided to go with a black aluminum nameplate that would be embossed and diamond carved on the upper half of the badge. Diamond carving is when lines are brushed deeply into embossed metal to give it a textured look. The diamond carving for this nameplate was applied diagonally and had more than the typical spread in between each engraving.

The nameplate had a lot of detail on its lower half, which presented a challenge because fine details are hard to achieve through embossing and diamond carving. So GMN had to find a solution to make sure the fine details of the badge would stand out as well.

Therefore, GMN decided to “reverse out” the details on the lower half of the badge. This meant that the designs would be made by printing the black ink around the letters and drum image, making the details stand out with a metallic shine against the dark background.

WFLIII Drums worked closely with GMN’s sales representatives and the Monroe, NC Division to create this new and improved badge. GMN was able to provide a solution for WFLIII Drums to create a nameplate that met their specific needs. 

By Jason Herndon | Oct 20, 2017
The GMN advantage of PTC heaters

This blog is the last in our series on Positive Temperature Coefficient (PTC) heaters. In the previous blogs, we answered all your crucial questions - the what, why and where of PTC heaters. Today, we will be illustrating how GM Nameplate (GMN) can help you overcome all of your heating challenges and tailor these heaters specific to your needs.

As a vertically integrated custom-manufacturer of flexible electronic circuits, GMN has vast experience in printing conductive inks. Our PTC competencies encapsulate everything from heater design solutions, reel-to-reel printing, application engineering, to final testing. But why should you put your trust in GMN?

Experience + expertise - GMN brings together 60 years of custom-manufacturing experience across a wide array of industries including medical, aerospace and automotive. More than just experience, GMN has the state-of the-art equipment and technology to tailor unique solutions for all of your heating needs.

Our PTC experts not only have decades of first-hand experience with printed electronics, but also hold several patents in the PTC technology field. Their core strength lies in the knowledge and understanding of HOW to integrate the PTC technology into your product. This extensive application engineering experience is what results in a better performing heater.

Robust quality system - As an ISO 9001-certified company, our strict processes and quality controls allow us to produce PTC heaters with more uniformity and tighter temperature tolerances than the ones available today. Thanks to our on-site thermal analysis capabilities and environmental testing equipment, the PTC heaters rolling out of GMN factories are stable and uniform.

Customized solutions - Our PTC heaters are customized to meet your specific requirements in terms of shapes, sizes and heating configurations. One of our core strengths is translating concepts into concrete solutions. The GMN team provides support throughout the development process to convert your designs from a napkin-sketch through final production. Our process engineers will help you determine the feasibility of specific design elements, identify appropriate materials and processes, achieve performance requirements and optimize the workflow. With our in-house roll-to-roll screen printing equipment, GMN is ideally suited for high-volume production of PTC heaters.

No matter what your PTC needs are, GMN has the solution. We are a one-stop-shop that delivers a seamless development process, thereby streamlining your operations and boosting efficiency. It is the perfect synergy between expertise, experience and engineering that sets GMN apart from the rest and delivers a more stable and uniform heater product.

If you need to discuss your PTC needs or challenges, click here to request a consultation with our technical experts. Learn more about these self-regulating heaters by reading our previous blogs here:

By Brian Rowe | Oct 16, 2017
GMN’s customized LED solution and labels for eMW

eMotorWerks, Inc. (eMW), a California-based company, provides cloud-connected charging solutions for electric vehicles. While developing their first portable electric car charger called the JuiceBox, they approached GM Nameplate (GMN) for labels and a customized LED solution along with labels and overlay.

The initial and largest hurdle for eMW remained design development. They were entering a challenging territory of hardware design for the very first time and the nuances of product design can be extremely daunting. However, the engineers at GMN walked the extra mile to quickly fill that void with decades of experience and knowledge. They heard the needs and concerns of eMW and dug deeper into the applications of the final product to provide the best design considerations. eMW wanted the labels to be robust, water resistant and most importantly, UL-certified. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is a widely accepted certification mark verifying that the product has met UL’s safety standards and requirements. As a portable car charger, the JuiceBox would frequently shuttle between indoor and outdoor environments, which meant that the possibility of prolonged exposure to the sun had to be taken into consideration.

A handful of sketches and revisions later, GMN delivered a prototype within a compressed schedule. eMW’s idea was translated into a concrete creation - a customized non-tactile membrane with LED lights. This proposed solution was not only cost-effective, but also offered a range of performance and durability benefits. Currently, GMN manufactures four discrete parts for the JuiceBox – 1) printed circuit with surface-mounted LEDs, 2) UL-certified graphic overlay, 3) UL-certified warning label, and 4) UL-certified product label.

The flexible circuit that lies beneath the overlay is screen printed on a thin polyester sheet using silver conductive ink. It is then masked with an insulation layer to prevent any electrostatic discharge. This entire circuit construction occupies very little space and prevents moisture ingress. Instead of mounting the circuit on top of the bezel, it is mounted to the underside to keep the profile thin. Thanks to the design flexibility that printed circuits offer, it was possible to tailor the size and width of the circuit, length of the flex tail and exit point as necessary. LEDs are then mounted on the circuit layer. LEDs are a simple, long-lasting and economical solution for lighting up small indicators as required in this case. They are bright, energy efficient, light up quickly and emit very little heat. Three distinct colored LEDs - amber, blue and green - indicate the charging status, the Wi-Fi network, and the power status respectively.

The graphic overlay, acting as the face of the printed circuit, directly interacts with the final user. Hence, striking a synergy between aesthetics and functionality was crucial here. The overlay is printed on a highly-durable polycarbonate with a velvet-textured, anti-glare finish. The background is screen printed to provide opacity. The opaque layer reduces lighted halos of the LEDs by allowing light only through the designated indicators on the surface. The overlay is resistant to water, chemicals and abrasions. The chosen material also provides good UV (ultraviolet) resistance, making it ideal for outdoor settings.

The warning label is produced in the same manner as the graphic overlay, using the same materials, techniques and finishes. While the contrasting black-&-white color palette ensures good readability, the orange rim enhances the appearance of the label. 

The product label that sits on the anterior of the charger is digitally printed on polyester and then covered with a UV-resistant lamination. The protective layer makes the label resilient for its intended indoor & outdoor use by mitigating the fading of ink under the sun. The combination of material, inks, and construction will allow the UL-compliant labels and overlay to retain their appearance for years. 

From design consultation to final production, GMN walked hand-in-hand with eMW throughout the entire process. This fulfilling partnership allowed the timely delivery of a cost-effective, customized solution. To learn more about our custom-made membrane switch solutions, check out our capabilities page here

By Jason Herndon | Oct 13, 2017
What are the applications of PTC heaters?

This blog post is the third in our series on Positive Temperature Coefficient (PTC) heaters. In the previous blogs, we discussed the fundamentals of PTC heating system (read here) and their benefits over traditional fixed-resistance heaters (read here).

Bearing the hallmark of safety, PTC heaters are self-regulating, energy-efficient heaters that provide uniform heating. They have survived the rigors of the automotive industry for decades now. By thriving in an industry marked by extreme environment and tough conditions, PTC heaters have proven their robustness and reliability. From car seats to surgical tables, outdoor clothing to stadium seating, they are well-suited for a wide range of applications across several industries such as:

Transportation (automotive + aerospace) - In the automotive industry, PTC heaters can be used to improve the heating within the vehicle with applications including seat heating, battery thermal management, LDW (Lane Departure Warning) camera and sensor de-icing, steering wheel heating, rear-view and side mirror heating. PTC technology offers ease of integration for in-flight applications, making it a great choice to warm anything in the cabin like the seats, walls, or the floor panels.

Healthcare - As we turn the lens to the healthcare industry, safety is of paramount importance. PTC heaters are ideal for under-body heating solutions such as human and veterinary surgical tables, veterinary and patient beds, gurneys, and even over-body blankets and drapes. They can be used in dentist chairs, clinic chairs and mobility vehicles. The inherent safety of PTC heaters makes them extremely effective in applications involving direct contact to skin (via the peel-and-stick method). They are also well suited for fluid warming applications, drug storage and shipment solutions.

Recreational and outdoor clothing - PTC heaters are perfect for ‘people-heating’. The ability to run ‘open loop’ (without electronic controls), and their light weight makes them ideal for outdoor recreational jackets, vests, gloves, mittens, socks, leg warmers, shoes, etc.

Food & beverages + restaurants - PTC heaters can be effectively employed in an industry governed by strict Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. From food and fluid warming to food storage and shipment, they can be used in various stages of food processing and distribution. In the restaurant industry, they can be used in plate and countertop food warming solutions, and food delivery bags.

Public spaces and stadiums - PTC heaters are more energy efficient than the alternative technologies available today. They operate flawlessly in extreme environments and adapt to the shifts in temperature. They are well suited for mass production and can be deployed in outdoor venues like stadiums, amphitheaters, urban transportation stations, park benches, etc.

Miscellaneous - PTC heaters offer great design flexibility in terms of shapes and sizes. They can be integrated in a wide array of products like commercial bedding, camping tents, sleeping bags, carpets, rugs, baby strollers, towel warmer/drying rack, pet clothing, hand-held devices, and more.

PTC heating technology’s advantages far exceed the traditional heating systems available in the market. It’s safe, it’s efficient and it’s effective. In the next blog, we will illustrate the GMN advantage when it comes to PTC heaters. Until then, you can learn more by visiting our capabilities page here

By Jason Herndon | Oct 4, 2017
Benefits of PTC heaters compared to traditional heaters

This blog is the second in our series on Positive Temperature Coefficient (PTC) heaters. In the previous blog (read here), we learned about the fundamentals of this dynamic heating technology.

Meeting at the crossroads of safety and efficiency, PTC heaters provide more uniform heating than traditional heating technologies. Their inherent self-regulating nature results in fewer field problems and lowered warranty costs. Here are ten advantages of PTC heaters compared to traditional fixed-resistance heaters -

1) Improved safety - PTC heaters eliminate all the failure modes and pitfalls associated with resistive wire, etched foil and carbon fiber heaters. The PTC material acts as its own sensor, thus eliminating the risk of overheating.

2) Uniform heating - Every point on the PTC heating surface independently maintains its designed temperature. The even distribution of heat leaves behind no hot and cold spots.

3) Low power consumption - PTC heaters draw full power at colder temperatures to quickly reach the threshold temperature. Once they reach a steady state, they consume less power than traditional heaters, eventually saving more energy over the entire run time.

4) Better strength & durability - PTC heaters can endure mechanical abuse such as folding, creasing and piercing. They are also resistant to water, chemicals and corrosion, resulting in superior durability and prolonged life.

5) Design flexibility - PTC heaters can be produced in unlimited shapes and sizes, with custom holes and cutouts. They can be connected in parallel for large-area heating requirements. They can also be custom-designed to operate with multiple temperature zones and wattages.

6) Faster time-to-temperature - The optimum temperature is achieved in a very short period of time, especially at cold temperatures.

7) Fail-safe - Any failure will ‘fail to cold’, rendering them harmless. The failed portion will simply stop drawing more current, and the rest of the heater will continue to function safely.

8) No electronic controls - The heater self-regulates to its designed threshold temperature, thus wiping out the need for any diagnostic components or external control units.

9) Lightweight and thin - PTC heaters can be as thin as 0.005”, thereby taking up very little space. Their thin construction makes them lightweight and more flexible than silicone heaters.

10) Environment friendly - While the subtractive manufacturing of etched-foil heaters requires acid baths, the manufacturing process of PTC heaters does not produce or involve any hazardous chemicals.

In a nutshell, when it comes to safe and efficient heating solutions, PTC heaters will always emerge as the clear winner. Given the host of benefits they bring to the table, PTC heating systems are well suited for a wide range of applications across industries such as automotive, aerospace, and wearables. In the next blog post, we will dive into the applications of this heating technology. Until then, you can learn more by visiting our capabilities page here

By Jason Herndon | Sep 28, 2017
Self regulating PTC heaters

Has your heater ever stopped functioning when you needed it the most? Have you heard of car seats overheating or having hot spots? For decades, we have been relying on fixed resistance heaters for most of our needs. Safety remains an underlying concern when a single point sensor ‘assumes’ the temperature of the entire heater. Despite the various issues that have plagued traditional heaters, we continue to deploy them widely across industries. However, GM Nameplate now has the answer to overcome all of these challenges - PTC heating - a technology that puts safety in the front seat.

With this post, we are kicking off a new four-part blog series to answer your burning questions - the what, why, where and how of PTC heaters.

Positive Temperature Coefficient (PTC) heaters are self-regulating heaters that run open-loop without any external diagnostic controls. While traditional fixed-resistance heaters employ wires and coils to generate heat, PTC heaters use conductive inks printed on thin, flexible polymer-based substrates. Scoring high on reliability and efficiency, they are ideal for products that require safer, faster and more uniform heating. The properties of the material allow the PTC heater to act as its own sensor, eliminating the need for any external feedback controls. As a result, the heater inherently eliminates the risk of overheating.

PTC heaters utilize Positive Temperature Coefficient materials i.e. materials that exhibit a positive resistance change in response to the increase in temperature. As the temperature increases, the electrical resistance of the material also increases, thus limiting the current flow. Simply put, the material allows current to pass when it’s cold, and restricts current to flow as the threshold temperature increases.

PTC heaters draw full power initially to quickly heat up and reach the optimum temperature. As the heat increases, the power consumption simultaneously drops. This dynamic heating system is not only effective, but also time and energy efficient. PTC heaters can be designed to operate anywhere between -40°C and 70°C (-40°F and 158°F). The threshold temperature is customized during the design phase. Heaters with multiple temperature zones are achievable and watt density can be changed through simple modifications.

With a striking blend of performance and functionality, conductive inks are truly scripting the success story of printed electronics, such as PTC heaters. They give you the freedom to design intricate heating patterns. They are also abrasion resistant, cost-effective, and allow ease of production for large volumes. With PTC heaters, carbon conductive inks are screen printed on polymer-based substrates. While polyester is primarily used, other substrate materials can also be utilized. The PTC conductive inks can endure repeated cycles of heating and cooling. The printed circuits are sealed with an adhesive laminate to prevent the ingress of moisture as well as mechanical abrasion. The sealed construction can withstand extreme external conditions and the rigors of heavy usage.

PTC heating technology, a term synonymous with safety, utilizes best-in-class technology that surpasses the available options in the market today. In our next blog, we will elaborate on the benefits of PTC heaters versus traditional heaters. Until then, you can learn more by visiting our capabilities page here

By Steve Baker | Sep 21, 2017
Technical printing projects must face strict qualification procedures before moving into full-scale production.

In the final blog of our three-part series on technical printing, we will discuss the qualification procedures that technical printing projects endure.

In the last blog, we described the five phases of development for technical printing projects. Once that process is complete and stable, the project goes through qualification procedures as it moves on to production. GM Nameplate (GMN) carefully applies these procedures with technical printing projects, especially those belonging to highly regulated industries such as aerospace and medical.

There are three qualifications that projects must pass during production to be validated as parts ready to sell:

Installation qualification (IQ)

Correct installation of machinery is vital, because if the equipment isn’t properly installed, the parts it produces won’t be viable. IQ is typically conducted for new pieces of equipment purchased for a particular job. This involves testing the equipment and understanding the ins and outs of how it works. One of the most important factors when conducting IQ is learning the equipment’s variability when being used so we know the accuracy of the machine. With technical printing projects, only so much variability is allowed, and the variance of the equipment used must be carefully considered during production. If the piece of equipment has been used before, past qualification tests can be referenced.

Operation qualification (OQ)

This process is to ensure that variables and critical operational parameters are held constant throughout production. In the previous blog, we described the initial development process that technical printing projects go through when moving from concept to production. OQ is all about understanding variability in our operation processes and how to maintain consistency during large-scale production. This is essentially development on the production level, requiring testing of many variables to gain a better understanding.

Since technically printed parts belong to pieces of equipment like medical devices, many variables must be controlled strictly, such as drying temperature, ink dispensing, ink thickness, and substrate materials. During OQ, the parameter windows are set with a minimum and maximum level of variances allowed, and it is critical to stay within these throughout production. For example, once we know the optimal temperature at which the ink will cure, the optimal thickness of the ink, and which substrate material is best for the ink to adhere to, we can move forward with production knowing the variables will be held constant at the appropriate level.

Production qualification (PQ)

Production qualification is testing our production processes and the materials used when we manufacture parts (our suppliers’ control parameters). Since technically printed parts belong to highly regulated industries, we must make sure the substrates, dielectrics, carbons, silvers, and other materials are without defect and that our production processes are keeping the many variables in the middle of their parameter window. This process is done by doing three different runs/setups with different lots of materials during initial production. Once the parts are produced, each lot is examined to make sure it falls within the tight parameter windows. If it doesn’t, a root-cause analysis is conducted to determine whether the failure was due to poor materials, an issue with production setup, or another factor. This process is a final review which ensures that by the time the part is completed, it will be ready for the customer.

Since technically printed parts belong to highly regulated industries, they often go through this process when initially setting up for production. GMN employs an expert team of quality control inspectors and quality engineers and utilizes IQ, OQ, PQ processes to ensure quality and repeatability throughout production.

To learn more about technical printing, check out the other blogs from this series:

Bob Coyne GM Nameplate
By Bob Coyne | Sep 19, 2017
GMN will help guide the design and manufacturability of your product.

GM Nameplate’s (GMN) design support capabilities spread across a variety of technologies to meet the needs of a variety of industries. As a custom manufacturer, GMN has to be ready to accommodate a vast array of needs a customer has. Our specialties lie in graphic, industrial, mechanical, and electrical design support, providing design considerations for manufacturability, and managing projects in a coordinated and efficient manner to meet the agreed requirements of a project.

When supporting a customer’s design, GMN brings forth many departments to help provide input. These in-house experts make up our product development team which includes product line managers, the rapid prototyping group, graphic designers, design engineers, and the process engineering group. GMN can provide design support for all customers, and the extent of that support varies based on the customer’s specific requirements and information given to GMN on the project. 

In addition to developing a product, we construct the manufacturing process for the product as well. To produce a custom part, there must be a manufacturing process in place that is efficient, reliable, and repeatable and in alignment with the project requirements. The process begins by obtaining requirements from the customer with sufficient detail and specification (thermal management, moisture ingress, UV, chemical, or corrosion resistance, etc.). Then a development plan is created with assigned roles and timelines. Next, validation parts are built, parts are tested, revisions are made and updated, and then the production process for that specific part begins. Once that process is developed, it is tested and validated before starting production.

GMN is a vertically integrated manufacturer that offers a wide range of value-added capabilities and services under one roof. To continue to simplify the supply chain, GMN sources high quality materials from its extensive network of strategic partners and suppliers to ensure that we provide our customers with the best product possible.

Quality is key in manufacturing, and GMN is compliant to internationally recognized quality standards across several industries including aerospace and medical. Although quality standards are specific to each GMN facility, a few certifications maintained by GMN include: ISO 9001, ISO 13485, AS 9100, ISO 14001, China ISO/TS 16949, China ISO 14001, and OHSAS 18001. To learn more about our certifications, check out our quality and compliance page.

Our company has several facilities throughout the US and Asia. We are headquartered at our Seattle, WA Division, and other GMN divisions include: Monroe, NC Division, San Jose, CA Division, Beaverton, OR Division, China Division, and Singapore Division. Although many of our facilities share similar capabilities, each one also possesses unique capabilities specific to that plant.

If you would like more information about our processes and development capabilities for your company’s next product, please click here to request a consultation with one of our in-house technical experts.

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.

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.

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