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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.

By Brian Rowe | Jul 17, 2017
BECO Dairy Automation overlay set

BECO Dairy Automation Inc. is a manufacturer of modern dairy equipment. BECO came to GM Nameplate (GMN) looking for several overlays for their Immix G2 machine, a dairy milking control module. The overlays had specific aesthetic requirements and also needed to be able to handle the harsh environment of milking farms.

There were six overlays made with each set: three labels, two control switches, and one large label with display windows to read measurements on the Immix machine.

The overlays were required to withstand one million actuations, frequent contact with chemicals, and being sprayed by powerful hoses on a daily basis. BECO also wanted the overlays to have a metallic look that was complimented by a red gradient.

GMN initially used its new digital THIEME printer for this project. The THIEME printer can run multiple colors and print the entire overlay in one run instead of having to switch colors with each run-through, which eliminates setup costs associated with other conventional printing processes. This printing process is best for low to medium volume products with multiple colors and gradients, such as the red gradient BECO wanted on their overlay.

Traditional digital inks aren’t very durable, but with this machine, GMN has the capability of digitally printing UV curable inks which can be used for overlays that will face a lot of actuations. With a suitable ink selection based on the substrate material, we are also able to perform additional post-printing processes, such as embossing, to enhance the product appearance and add additional value over an older digital press.

However, the biggest challenge was achieving the desired metallic look that could survive countless actuations. Most metallic inks aren’t durable enough to withstand the hundreds of thousands of actuations that the BECO overlays would endure. Therefore, GMN decided to use a silver ink that was slightly more opaque, but had a guaranteed long actuation life.

Once the overlay was designed and ready to print, BECO ordered a higher quantity of overlays than initially anticipated. In order to meet the timeline, GMN moved the printing process to an offset lithography printer, which is a more cost effective process for larger volumes while still maintaining the level of quality.

With years of experience in printing and manufacturing, GMN knows which production technique is most appropriate for each project. Through GMN’s diverse array of capabilities and equipment, we are able to use the most economical option that will get the job done to meet budget and time constraints.

By Sandy Dick | Jul 11, 2017
CONMED membrane switch assembly

CONMED, a global medical technology company, came to GM Nameplate (GMN) in need of a membrane switch for the control panel of their surgical generator. With diverse capabilities and decades of experience working with the medical industry, GMN was able to provide not only each component of the membrane switch, but the complete, value-added assembly of the part as well.

The graphic overlay was printed using a combination of screen and litho printing and included multiple display windows and LED indicators. The overlay’s background colors were screen printed to achieve a high opacity, which helped to prevent light bleed from the illuminated LEDs. Litho printing was used to apply fine details and halftone patterns to the part. A halftone dot pattern was printed on top of the background to create a gradient effect on the keys and along the top of the overlay. Creating a halftone pattern that achieved the customer’s desired aesthetic proved to be challenging, but the ideal look was reached after several trials of testing various pattern constructions (altering dot size and space between the dots). GMN also printed the membrane circuit that goes behind the overlay and connects to the LEDs and switches.

Another challenge faced during this project was choosing the correct snap domes for the different-sized keys to create a good tactile feel. The difficulty stemmed from the unusual shapes of the keys and various sizes of domes. As a consistent layer across the entire part, the spacer interacts simultaneously with every dome and affects each dome size differently. Therefore, GMN had to carefully review the stack-up to include a spacer layer with the optimal thickness to give every dome size enough room to provide a crisp tactile feel.

A variety of layers were required in the stack-up in order to ensure that the part would function properly. ESD shielding was placed under the circuit connector to protect from static discharge and an aluminum subpanel was added to support the otherwise flexible structure. A foam gasket surrounded the outside of the panel to seal the area from outside moisture and fluids. Finally, due to a concern of the closeness to the electrical components beneath the panel, an insulating layer was added to the backside of the subpanel to prevent the electrical components from shorting out against this metal layer.

From early development through full-scale production, GMN worked closely with the customer to develop this product and provide design considerations for part manufacturability. As a product used in the operating room, GMN held multiple pilot runs to ensure the part functioned as intended and met the customer’s standards. 

CONMED surgical generator with GMN's membrane switch assembly.

Rich Smylie, GMN
By Richard Smylie | Jul 6, 2017
Stainless steel: colors and textures

In the third and final part of our series regarding stainless steel, we will discuss adding colors and textures to enhance an applications’ visual beauty and tactile values. With an endless number of patterns and hues from which to choose, GM Nameplate (GMN) can support your development with virtually any desired combination.  

In addition to creating textures mechanically, GMN can also create textures organically to have linear, geometric and micro patterns. Linear patterns can be in the form of pinstripes with the lines varying in thickness for accent/highlight purposes, geometric patterns that are structured to have bold distinctive values or micro patterns that are subtle patterns of tightly aligned shapes and/or lines. Organic textures can also be natural patterns that look handcrafted, such as woodgrain.

Textures can be created to be transparent, tinted, opaque, or colored, with high or low gloss values and varying tactile values. All textures can be combined with custom colors that which can be overall or selectively deposited.

For subtle designs and harmony considerations, customers often lean towards choosing 430 stainless steel using a No. 4 brushed finish. Often times this is layered with black, silver, or grey tints and a fluid pattern such as a micro or organic texture. This muted tone finish is typically spotted in home appliance suites (such as a kitchen) used across multiple applications, such as on microwaves, dishwashers, washers, dryers, and refrigerators that are within view of one another.

For a modern look, customers frequently choose a higher gloss for a more brilliant finish. An example of this this would be 430 stainless steel with a No. 8 BA (bright annealed) polish. This finish is known for its blue hue, lack of visual grain structure, and reflectivity. With this particular finish, it is common to add white or black coloring and/or geometric texture accents.  Applying the brush in multiple directions can add gradation and a tactile value to the geometric pattern.

Colors applied selectively are used to offset sections of a pattern. GMN provides a variety of options for different looks and finishes to enhance the look of stainless steel applications’.

For more information, check out the previous blogs in the series on stainless steel.

Stainless steel alloys                                                                                                      

Stainless steel: brushed finishes

By Chris Doyle | Jun 28, 2017
Example of a Metalphoto nameplate

Are you in need of a highly durable and high-end looking nameplate? Look no further than Metalphoto. This incredibly dependable and innovative material is gaining recognition in its uses for nameplates, placards, serial plates, and asset tags.

What is Metalphoto?

Metalphoto is a specialized type of anodized aluminum used to make nameplates, labels and control panels. Developed for the US Navy in 1950 and specified by most major OEMs, it is one of the most durable identification materials available.

Metalphoto’s construction begins with pure 1100 alloy aluminum. The aluminum is then anodized, which creates a glass-like layer that is sapphire-hard on top of the metal. Next, the anodized layer is impregnated with an inorganic photosensitive compound. Using a computerized imaging machine, the artwork is then projected into the aluminum itself, rather than being printed on top of the metal. The graphics are exposed and developed like a true photograph inside of the anodized aluminum, which causes it to become a part of the nameplate. This is what makes Metalphoto so durable and extremely resistant to corrosion, sunlight/UV degradation, abrasion, high temperatures and chemical exposure. Finally, the parts are placed in a sealing tank to close and encase the graphics underneath the anodic layer.

Metalphoto comes in four different finishes: matte, satin, gloss, and a #4 brushed finish that resembles stainless steel. It ranges from 0.003” (.076mm) to 0.125” (3.175mm) in thickness.

Metalphoto images and text are primarily in black. Additional colors can be added, however there is only a set pallet of colors and they cannot be color matched.

The benefits of Metalphoto

Using Metalphoto rather than etched steel or printed stainless steel has many benefits. Metalphoto has unmatched durability and resistance properties. It can sustain an outdoor life of 20+ years, is resistant to over 7,000 cycles of abrasion, can withstand temperatures in excess of 750°F, and is specifically designed to be salt spray and chemical resistant.

In addition, the resolution of graphics on Metalphoto is significantly clearer than on etched steel. The method of using a projected image makes any letters, numbers, symbols and pictures extremely legible and appear as crisp and clean as a photograph.

Metalphoto is also less expensive than stainless steel in lower quantities, especially for variable data/runs. Unlike steel or other nameplates, it does not require individual engraving, punching, or laser marking for variability in images or information. Using the computerized imaging process also makes Metalphoto perfect for serialization, as it does not affect the process or price to make each Metalphoto plate different in image or serial number.

Examples of Metalphoto products

Inovus Solar asked GMN to create a high quality, high resolution nameplate that could last outdoors on their solar-powered street lights. This nameplate needed to be durable in all weather conditions and pliable enough to wrap around the light post, while still sustaining a clear image. Therefore, a thin Metalphoto nameplate was the perfect solution to meet the needs of Inovus Solar.

Another example is a nameplate solution GMN produced for Starbucks. Instead of withstanding extreme weather conditions, Starbucks wanted a high-end nameplate with higher resolution graphics for their coffee machines. The nameplate needed to project clear images while being able to withstand chemical corrosion from cleaning materials. Starbucks went with a Metalphoto nameplate to meet their high quality specifications.

Metalphoto’s durability and resolution makes for a great nameplate, placard, serial plate or asset tag for your product. Metalphoto nameplates are crisp, clear, and are easy to produce in high quantities with variable images/data.

GMN is a certified converter of Metalphoto and has been providing Metalphoto solutions for over 40 years. 

Chris Passanante, GMN
By Chris Passanante | Jun 23, 2017
ISO 13485

Due to our ongoing commitment to the medical device industry and growing demand, GM Nameplate’s (GMN) Beaverton, OR Division attained ISO 13485:2003 certification. The Beaverton, OR Division, GMN’s dedicated plastics facility, received this certification after auditing and approval by the Orion Registrar on May 9, 2017. This ISO standard is in regard to the quality management system requirements specific to medical device manufacturers. GMN’s Beaverton, OR Division is the third GMN division to obtain this quality certification.

What does this standard mean for GMN customers?

Meeting the strict standards of ISO 13485 assures that GMN can continue to support existing and future customers in the medical industry. ISO 13485 demonstrates that GMN meets regulatory standards and legal requirements to operate in the medical device industry, reduces risk effectively, and has systems in place to consistently yield safe and effective medical device components.

With little room for error in the medical industry, GMN has continually worked to uphold a quality system that meets the highest quality standards in order to produce best-in-class solutions. This certification validates the strength and sustainability of our processes which differentiates us from competitors.

Dedication to quality

For decades, GMN has shown commitment to the medical device industry and a dedication to creating quality products. Compliance with ISO 13485 ensures that the medical device components and sub-assemblies produced by GMN will meet or exceed thoroughly planned specifications every time, without exception.

As a company that supports multiple regulated industries, such as medical, we are committed to ensuring that our Quality Management System is robust and flexible enough to meet the variety of challenges presented by our wide range of customers and industries. With this new recognition, GMN’s Beaverton, OR Division shows its ability to handle increasingly stringent and diverse customer requirements. In addition, the ISO 13485 compliments ISO 9001, another quality standard that GMN has long been in compliance with, which reflects our continual efforts to broaden our quality system to better align with the current Good Manufacturing Practices.

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