If you think it’s only the exterior of the car that matters, think again! More and more people are shifting their focus to the interior. After all, that’s where we spend our maximum time. Decorative accents and trims breathe a new visual identity into the vehicle, giving it a distinct personality.
Armrests are a crucial element on the door panel that add style and comfort to vehicles. Their ergonomic design reduces fatigue, making the ride extremely relaxed and comfortable. A metal insert known as a door spear (or armrest insert) lends shape, strength and support to the armrest. Meeting at the crossroads of aesthetics and functionality, door spears hold up against heavy utilization. They endure the shifts in temperature, face ultraviolet rays from the sun and battle any scratches, chemicals and moisture that come their way. They stay put no matter how hard you pull or slam the door. To top it all, door spears add a dash of elegance to the armrest. However, choosing the right type of door spear is never easy. You also need to weave in several factors like utility, style, material, decoration and cost.
Whether it’s a commercial van or a tiny hatchback car, the type and utility of the vehicle will significantly impact your armrest design and style. In commercial vans, armrests often act as handles, supporting the entire weight of the passengers. Superior strength thus becomes a vital prerequisite. On the other hand, in a personal car, boundaries start to blur between functionality and appearance. The armrest needs to be durable, but also blend in beautifully with the car’s refined interiors. The utility of the vehicle steers the style of the armrest, and in turn dictates the design of the door spear.
The trends in door spears have evolved over the years and expanded to embrace different materials. Depending on your style inclination, they can be custom-manufactured in varied materials like aluminum or stainless steel. Molded plastic, fabrics, leather, vinyl and metals are extensively seen. While plastic can be cost-effective, metal inserts can be extremely elegant. Decorations on door spears are visually impactful, thus enhancing the aesthetics of the car. Be it a brushed or woodgrain finish, embossing or etching, door spears can be dressed in several textures and finishes to complement the material and design.
As a vertically integrated manufacturer, GMN Automotive can build door spears that fit all forms and functional requirements. From classy to flashy, our engineering support team can help you incorporate a multitude of materials and decorating options. Door spears might be small, but the creative flexibility at GMN Automotive is truly vast. Our decorative capabilities include custom roll-coated bases and top coats, and screen, digital, off-set and pad printing.
The printing process at GMN Automotive is supported by color chemists and lab technicians who custom color-match all applications. They ensure that the ink’s chemistry allows it to be flexible to match the tooling profiles it will be subjected to, yet remain hard for scuff and scratch considerations. Depending on the material and construction, appropriate coatings are applied at the end for door spears to retain their appearance and performance over years. For example - in the case of a metallic door spear, urethane, epoxy, polyester or hybrid topcoats can be considered. In a nutshell, GMN Automotive closely controls all the phases of production including material selection, printing and decorating.
Every good design needs a robust support. Injection molded backing for door spears offer support, strength and durability in tough environmental conditions. It is also resistant to chemicals and corrosion. Injection molding is a process where plastic is heated, melted and injected into a cavity to conform to the intended shape, and is later cooled. Even for large scale production, it allows design flexibility that most processes cannot. You can create complex forms containing sharp edges, curves and bends at competitive prices. Our extensive plastic molding capabilities allows us to construct this sturdy backing and the door spear under the same roof.
GMN Automotive’s in-house competencies encapsulate everything from decorative metal inserts (form) to injection molding backing (function), resulting in visually striking door spears. With rapid prototyping capabilities, in-house tooling services and robust quality systems in place, GMN Automotive excels at value added assembly. This holistic route allows GMN Automotive to be a one-stop-shop for all your decorative door trim needs. To learn more about our decorative accents, click here.
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:
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.
As GMN Aerospace continues to pursue plastic opportunities within the aerospace sector, we have become increasingly more involved with the upfront support efforts for a variety of testing applications. Our latest effort has been in response to a frequent request we receive from our customers: to provide molded placards that support Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR 25.853 and 25.856) flammability testing and requirements. Most common tests include heat release, smoke density, insulation flame propagation, and smoke toxicity. These are all regulations that are strictly enforced for aerospace interior applications.
FAR 25.853 is a safety measure that was implemented to ensure fire protection for compartment interiors, and FAR 25.856 was put in place to improve flammability standards for thermal/acoustic insulation materials. All aerospace interior products must pass the FAR ratings for products over three inches.
What does this mean to GMN Aerospace? Currently, we engage in continuous collaboration with our internal dedicated plastics facility and external AS9100 suppliers in order to provide molded plastic placards directly to our customers in a timely fashion. As a result of the large amount of activity and involvement this requires, we have taken the initiative to build our own injection mold that will now produce a 12.00x3.00x0.080” placard. These placards are molded to the specified Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) size requirement for flammability testing in approved labs. Owning our own tooling will allow our team to meet the expeditious timeframes that come along with existing opportunities and open the door for new prospects. We can now offer our customers flammability placards at a much more attractive price and lead time.
In addition, GMN Aerospace was recently invited by a large and local OEM to participate in the procurement of an alternative aerospace resin, which could open the door for additional opportunities. Without the addition of our new tooling, GMN Aerospace would not have been able to take part in this program.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Throughout the past 15 years, GMN Aerospace and GMN’s dedicated plastics facility in Beaverton, OR have worked together to support many different product lines for Garmin, a technology company that supplies GPS navigation and wearable technology to several industries, including aerospace.
Since both divisions put a great deal of effort into building these parts, a Garmin workshop was planned to take place at Elite Plastics. At this workshop, our partners at Elite Plastics were able to take a close look at the molding processes manufactured at the Seattle, WA Division. Leveraging lessons learned from similar focused workshops in the past, the GMN Aerospace team decided to travel down to the Beaverton, OR Division to take part in two days of the workshop. This provided another great opportunity for our two divisions to work closely and effectively towards the same common goal.
During GMN Aerospace’s visit, the entire team went on a factory tour. We had the honor of being toured by Dan Thurmond, President of Elite Plastics. Dan gave us an in-depth overview of their fascinating plant, the equipment, their capabilities, and the way the facility runs. Our team was even able to help put printed inlays into the injection molding tool. The opportunity to work with the machine operators closely really gave us a better understanding on how the processes work and various challenges can occur.
This workshop provided both educational and team-building opportunities for the GMN Aerospace team and our Beaverton, OR Division. We are proud to strengthen our intercompany relationships in order to continue to enhance our ability to work together effectively and efficiently.
Pictured above (from left to right): Aruna Raghuraman, Fran Newman, Reich Baltazar, Dave Hauskins, Paul Michaels, Mary Corrales, Jeff Root, Todd Boedecker, Chris Passanante, Jess Kriegel
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.