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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.

Clark Mehan
By Clark Mehan | Sep 6, 2017
Die-cut adhesives

Mechanical fasteners and liquid adhesives have been used to fasten and hold two materials together for centuries. However, this does not mean that they are the best or most cost-effective option out there. These traditional practices are quickly being replaced by a superior alternative: die-cut adhesives. In this blog, we will help you understand how strong double-sided tapes and VHB (very high bond tapes) can be, and how they can save your manufacturing process time and money.

Two of the most common examples of die-cut adhesives are double-coated tapes and VHB. Both are products offered by companies such as 3M and can be die-cut and converted by GM Nameplate (GMN).

Problems with mechanical fasteners

Mechanical fasteners such as screws, nuts, bolts, and rivets, are often visible and distracting on a device and prevent it from having a smooth, sleek appearance.

Mechanical fasteners require holes to be drilled in your product. The holes made for these fasteners can accelerate corrosion, and therefore decrease the life of the product. When fasteners are under stress or vibration, they can loosen or slide, which exposes unattractive unpainted areas and speeds up the corrosion process even further.

In addition, if the product is used outdoors and subject to rain or other forms of moisture, the fastening holes can also cause leaking. Leaking can allow moisture and other unwanted materials to enter into your product and cause damage.

Problems with liquid adhesives

During the application process, liquid adhesives can be irritating to the eyes and skin, and produce nauseous fumes. In environments like this, respirators and gloves are often needed during the manufacturing process which can be cumbersome.  

When applying two substrates together with a liquid adhesive, such as metals, the bond line thickness can be inconsistent; this can weaken the strength of the bond, as well as alter the true dimension of the part. Push out or “squeeze out” of adhesive can occur, which creates a mess and adds extra time for unnecessary clean up. Liquid adhesives also need time to dry, which holds up the manufacturing process and causes bottlenecks. Lastly, equipment for dispensing liquid adhesives is very expensive and adds extra manufacturing costs.

Solution: Die-cut adhesives

GMN and 3M provide die-cut solutions that can replace mechanical fasteners and liquid adhesives in many scenarios. VHB and double-coated tapes are generally water-resistant and can provide solutions for gap-filling, bonding irregular surfaces, cushioning and dampening vibration, sealing, attaching and hanging lightweight objects, and providing long-term durable bonds. The viscoelastic properties of the adhesives can help to reduce stress, squeaks, rattles, and noise vibrations as well. These adhesives are a great fit for small electronic devices, metal skins, bonding decorative metals, and assembly of devices such as computers, tablets and cell phones.

Assembly is made quick and easy by just peeling off a few release liners, and attaching the two substrates together. These tapes are highly effective in hot, cold, and even humid conditions. Being U.V. resistant, die-cut adhesives can maintain strength and withstand all outdoor conditions for up to 35 years.

Tapes can also be easily placed in areas where it’s difficult to utilize mechanical fasteners. An example of this is in the placement of a small cooling fan in an electrical device. It is easier and more efficient to use small die-cut pieces of tape such as VHB to fasten the cooling fan in place. This can also help dampen the noise from the fan. 

GMN is a preferred converter for 3M products. Contact GMN to discuss how die-cuts can replace your mechanical fasteners, thus reducing your manufacturing costs, bonding issues, and improving the appearance of your product. 

By Bronson Berry | Aug 29, 2017
The iViz is a portable ultrasound device that is used from hospitals to remote locations

After working with GM Nameplate (GMN) several times in the past on front panel integration projects, Fujifilm SonoSite came to us for help with manufacturing their new portable ultrasound device, the iViz. The device needed to be lightweight and thin to maximize portability, but also needed to be tough and durable if accidentally dropped. GMN successfully achieved both of these goals through careful material selection and by utilizing a new technology during the bonding process: vacuum lamination.

To learn more about how GMN supported Fujifilm, read our case study.

To learn more about the vacuum laminator that was secured for this project, read our press release.

By Josh Dunahoe | Aug 28, 2017
Twister T6 aluminum nameplate by GMN

Keirton Inc., a Canada-based company, is a leader in specialty crop harvesting solutions and product engineering. Following a rewarding relationship in the past, they reached out to GM Nameplate (GMN) for another project. This time it was a nameplate for their latest small-capacity trimmer called the Twister T6.

Keirton’s main requirement was that the T6 nameplate should speak the same design language as their existing products. Since this new portable trimmer was primarily designed for the countertops at home, Keirton wanted the nameplate to be slender, sturdy and easy to clean. Keeping these requirements and final product application in mind, an aluminum embossed nameplate emerged as the clear winner.

Aluminum nameplates are lightweight, durable, and scratch-resistant and open up an entire world of textures and finishes. The Twister T6 nameplate was set on a black background with a hint of gradient green on top. Although the color gradation was extremely fine, the most demanding task was to hit the precise shade of green. It took rounds of color development and testing to finally hit the bull’s eye. Thanks to GMN’s decades of experience with brand identity products, our color experts truly understand the significance of a perfect color match and leave no stone unturned to achieve it.

Once the colors were approved, GMN cruised through the production process. First, a thin aluminum sheet was covered with a primer and then litho-printed (also known as off-set printing) with black ink. Halftones were then used to produce the gradient green. Halftones are a pattern of tiny dots, squares or any other shape that gradually fade out, ultimately giving the impression of gradation. Even the slightest change in the size, shape and spacing of the pattern can affect the final outcome, making it extremely tricky to achieve a specific color. If you zoom in on a T6 nameplate, you can decipher the use of halftones by spotting the small dots.

The words ‘Twister’ and the rectangular block of gradient green were embossed in-house to accentuate the details and add texture to the nameplate. Eventually, the entire sheet was blanketed with varnish to hold the inks in place and prevent them from chipping or cracking. A cross hatch test (also called paint adhesion test) to inspect the adherence of the ink to the substrate was conducted and positively concluded.

As a custom-manufacturer of nameplates, GMN brings together a blend of expertise, quality and manufacturing capabilities. From domed to electroformed nameplates, the possibilities of shapes, sizes, materials, finishes and textures are endless. When it comes to nameplates at GMN, you are only limited by your imagination.

To learn more about the different types of nameplates, check out our capabilities page here

By Steve Baker | Aug 11, 2017
Printed electrodes are often used for electrochemical test strips and devices.

This blog is the first in our new series on technical printing. Throughout this series, we will describe the procedures involved in creating technical printing solutions, from start to finish. To begin, this blog will focus on defining what technical printing is and what it’s used for.

Technical printing is a generic term used for functional printing projects that fall outside of industry standards, materials, processes, and specifications. These projects require extremely tight tolerances and critical product specifications, typically belonging to highly regulated industries, such as the medical industry. The processes follow current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP), which are regulations enforced by the FDA to ensure products are consistently produced and meet quality standards. Technical printing and functional printing are both used for similar applications, such as for membrane switches. However, they differ in that functional printing has more forgiving specifications and technical printing has much tighter specifications.

A common example of technically printed parts is printed electrodes, which are strips manufactured for electrochemical analysis. This involves technical printing because they are typically used in the highly regulated medical field, in applications such as diabetic test strips. When manufacturing printed electrodes, conductive lines are finely printed in great detail on polyester substrates, typically using conductive inks including carbons, silvers, and silver-silver chlorides.

With technical printing, applying a conductive ink to a surface is similar to how you would apply frosting to a cake. When you squeeze a bag of frosting, a controlled amount comes out of an opening at the end. This same process is how conductive inks are applied as circuit lines on polyester substrates during technical printing.

GMN frequently manufactures electrodes for electrochemical test strips and devices, such as diabetic test strips or quick diagnostic labs. GMN prints electrodes with silver, carbon, or various conductive inks in order to measure a current or other signal. Our customers will then apply a reagent on top of the electrodes. When those reagents are exposed to bodily fluids such as blood, a chemical reaction takes place, and the electrodes will detect that reaction and send the signal to the device it is powered to. This is done on a very small scale, and the readings of signals must be completely accurate, which is why this part requires technical printing with a high degree of scrutiny. Because it has such a small trace, you can’t afford to have large variances in the circuit itself, which is why the tighter tolerances are so necessary.

Many variables go into technical printing projects, such as the curing times and quality of inks, as well as the substrates and thicknesses used. These variables are controlled closely, especially when making electrodes for medical equipment. These parts go on very important equipment and could mean life or death in certain situations, such as buttons for a medicine administration device used for hospital patients or printed electrodes used in diagnostic labs for diseases. With years of experience in the medical industry and other highly regulated industries, GMN is a trusted manufacturer for technical printing projects.

Our next blog will explore the development of technical printing projects. For more information on printed electrodes, click here

Anna Minzel, GMN
By Anna Minzel | Jul 26, 2017
Magni-lens doming can increase the life of a nameplate tenfold

GM Nameplate (GMN) worked with Elkhart Plastics to create a nameplate for one of their products: Kong Coolers. After several months of back-and-forth communication, GMN and Elkhart Plastics went from a rough design of the logo to the finished part that is now being manufactured and placed on all Kong Coolers.

Elkhart Plastics had a list of things they wanted for their part, but some ideas were too intricate to manufacture and wouldn’t fit their budget. However, GMN’s knowledgeable team knew how to achieve the desired look the client wanted. GMN’s wide set of capabilities allowed for all of the different processes required to make this nameplate to be done under one roof: embossing the base layer, screen printing the various logo colors, and affixing the urethane dome (Magni-lens).

Kong Coolers are positioned as one of the most durable coolers in the market and are built for harsh environments. That being said, the nameplate required for this cooler also needed to be durable. The initial design had an aluminum base to achieve a metallic look. However, there was concern for the first design of the nameplate: the adhesive on the embossed regions of the nameplates wasn’t touching the cooler, which left a little amount of surface area to adhere to the cooler.

GMN solved this issue by using silver Mylar instead of aluminum. Silver Mylar is a much more flexible material, so the embossed regions were able to make contact with the cooler. Silver Mylar still gave the logo a metallic look, but was a less expensive option that already came with an aggressive adhesive on the back.

To increase the logo’s durability, GMN applied a Magni-lens layer to the nameplate. Magni-lens is a clear urethane dome that is capable of tremendous impact resistance, while still maintaining a modern look. With the stronger adhesive and the domed urethane cover, this nameplate can survive anything Kong Coolers can survive.

GMN helps customers with design considerations for manufacturability to create superior products. With years of experience, our team knows the best processes to accomplish desired aesthetics while producing the part as economical as possible. In addition, we are able to get samples out quickly for testing to ensure they have the highest degree of quality before going into full production.

For another example of a Magni-lens cooler nameplate, check out this previous blog.

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