Wahl Clippers Corporation (Wahl), a leader in the professional and hair grooming industry, approached GMN to create a nameplate for its 100-year special edition cordless hair clipper. To mark its centennial anniversary, Wahl was looking for an elegant, jewel-like nameplate that embodied the aesthetics of the early 1900s.
GMN not only proposed different solutions and materials but also created a few prototypes. However, one solution that instantly caught Wahl’s attention was ElectraGraphics - the process of electroplating of stainless steel with chrome to achieve a low-profile nameplate. Meeting at the crossroads of elegance and durability, ElectraGraphics offered the best choice for creating a crisp, corrosion-resistant nameplate.
To begin with the manufacturing process, a brush-finished stainless steel sheet of 0.018” thickness was screen printed with the desired colors. Then, the metal sheets were electroplated by submerging them sequentially into five separate chemical tanks consisting of an acid dip, nickel wood strike, copper, nickel sulfate, and chrome. The electroplating process is extremely critical to the aesthetics and longevity of the nameplate. Even the smallest variation in the temperature, chemical composition, voltage, and length of immersion in any of the plating tanks can result in unwanted chipping, peeling, or flaking of the plated layers. The Wahl project was one of the largest ElectraGraphics orders in GMN’s history, requiring the plating tanks to operate at their highest capacities. To meet the high volumes with the utmost consistency, the technical experts at GMN meticulously monitored and controlled the entire electroplating process. In the end, the metal sheets were die-cut into the required medallion shape.
Despite a few challenges, GMN was able to timely deliver a high-quality nameplate to Wahl for their commemorative clipper. The sleek nameplate was mechanically attached to the metal housing of the clipper with two rivets. GMN’s extensive experience, in-house capabilities, and technical expertise in ElectraGraphics allowed for expanded partnerships in the personal care and cosmetics industry.
In today’s touch-centric era, consumers have not only adapted to non-tactile technologies, but also expect a broader range of devices to offer this functionality and user experience. Capacitive switches do not have any moving parts or mechanical components, resulting in superior durability and prolonged life. Since these devices do not have any crevices, they reduce tooling costs and also do not allow any ingress of moisture, dirt or dust. Their flat surface also makes it easier to clean them regularly. While mechanical buttons can attract dust and tend to wear after repeated use over the years, capacitive technology can replace buttons with a clean and crisp user interface.
Compared to other mature user-interface (UI) technologies, capacitive switches have a thinner stack-up, resulting in sleek, elegant and compact designs. They eliminate many design layers and components from the circuitry, thereby reducing the cost of the device. The images below provide a comparison between the stack-up layers of the most common UI technologies available in the market today.
Although the early development of capacitive switches utilized only printed circuit boards (PCBs), the design possibilities have greatly expanded by employing flexible printed circuits. By detecting and utilizing changes in the projected capacitive field, capacitive sensing technology allows you detect touch and thereby, spin a wide gamut of contemporary touch interfaces and design layouts. Capacitive sensor technologies also give you the additional freedom of enhancing the user experience by integrating feedback mechanism like backlighting or haptics.
The key advantages of capacitive touch technology are:
- No moving mechanics
- Thinner stack-up
- Sleek and modern aesthetics
- Easy cleanability
- Higher durability and improved reliability
- Design flexibility
- Backlighting and haptics capability
With the shift towards touch technology, an increasing number of companies are flocking towards integrating capacitive touch in their products. Common applications of capacitive touch technology include smartphones and tablets, home appliances and electronics, medical devices, car consoles, ATM machines, gaming consoles, vending machines, security and communication systems, hand-held devices, electronic sensors, fluid-level sensing machines, proximity sensors, and even airplane cabins.
To learn more about the fundamentals and integration of capacitive touch technology, download our guide here.
Whether it’s etching, engraving, or cutting materials, laser technology plays an integral role in the fabrication and decoration of various components. But how does laser technology exactly work? Which materials can a laser cut? What are the key advantages of utilizing lasers in the manufacturing industry? By demonstrating the working of a few laser cutters at GM Nameplate (GMN), our recent video will answer all the above questions.
As seen in the video, a laser is mounted on an X-Y motion stage of the cutting machine. Installed perpendicular to the substrate, the laser moves across the surface to heat, melt, and vaporize the material. As opposed to a standard flashlight, the light released here is coherent, monochromatic, and directional. The core cutting characteristics, such as depth, speed, and power, are dictated by the wavelength and the frequency of the laser light.
The laser cutters at GMN can be categorized into the following three types -
- Fiber laser – Creating light by banks of diodes, fiber laser channels and amplifies light through a fiber optic cable. The wavelength created by a fiber laser is ideal for marking and etching intricate patterns.
- CO2 laser – Utilizing CO2 as the amplifying medium, CO2 laser uses an electrical charge to excite the gas in a discharge tube to emit light. The frequency of this laser is ideal for cutting a broad range of substrates.
- Nitrogen laser – Similar to a CO2 laser, it uses nitrogen as the lasing medium to produce the cutting beam. At GMN, a nitrogen laser is employed for cutting aluminum and stainless steel.
To control the quality of the output, the above laser cutters can also be accompanied by an assist gas such as nitrogen or air. The assist gas curtains the laser beam to swiftly vaporize the material after cutting, ensuring smooth and unblemished edges. Nitrogen gas assist is particularly suited for projects where upholding the aesthetics of the material is critical. By creating an inert field around the laser, nitrogen gas protects the substrate from unwanted flaming or burning. For any given application, it is the interplay of several factors such as design specifications, anticipated volumes, tolerance requirements, and cost restrictions, that determines the most appropriate laser type to utilize.
With machines ranging from 30W to 400W, GMN employs low-powered fiber lasers for etching and engraving. High-powered CO2 and nitrogen lasers are typically reserved for cutting thicker materials and metals. The wide array of laser machines allows GMN to cut numerous substrates including 3000 and 5000 series aluminum, magnetic (430) and non-magnetic (304 stainless steel) alloys, Lexan, acrylic, foam, polyester, polycarbonate, and vinyl. During laser cutting, calibrating the focus point of the laser beam is extremely crucial to achieve the utmost precision. Most machines at GMN are equipped with a computerized calibration system, where a focal arm travels closer to the material, gauges its thickness, and automatically adjusts the focal length of the laser.
Versatile and easy to use, laser technology is extensively utilized at GMN for fabricating materials with extreme accuracy. When compared to other die-cutting techniques, the lead time for laser cutting is extremely short and last-minute changes to artwork can be quickly accomplished. Ideal for rapid prototyping and low-volume programs, laser technology is well suited for cutting complex shapes, creating registration holes, engraving intricate patterns, etching serial numbers, and more.
To see some of the laser cutters at GMN in action, watch our video below.
This blog is the third in our series on statistical process control (SPC). In the previous blogs, we discussed the basics of statistical techniques and process capability indexes. In this blog, we will be focusing on control charts and their core benefits in the manufacturing landscape.
The control chart is a very helpful tool in identifying unwanted variation in a production process. The goal of statistical control is to identify process variation and to determine which variation is beyond our control. While some variations are inherent to the process, others are special or assignable. These deviations are outside of the “normal” variation that we typically see in a process. It can be identified using statistical tools to be reduced or eliminated from the normal process.
To understand control charts, let’s first discuss variation. In a perfect world, there would be no variation. Whenever we turn on a machine, it would produce the exact same part every time. However, we don’t live in a perfect world - machines fail, internal parts abrade, molding tools wear out, temperatures change, and materials subtly change from one production badge to the other. There are several inputs to a given production process that must work together to produce parts that meet customer requirements. By measuring key characteristics of the finished part, we can evaluate the manufacturing process. Using control charts, we can identify inherent variations from special variations (e.g. an injection mold wearing off or an improper machine setting). By eliminating these unique discrepancies, we can return the process to “normal”.
The two types of control charts that are regularly used at GMN Plastics are individual charts and x-bar R charts. As seen in the below example, both these charts feature two elements – 1) a center line which is the mean (average) for the particular data set being studied, and 2) upper and lower control limits which are statistically calculated from the same data set. Measurement data for key characteristics are collected and entered at regular intervals over time.
The control limits, calculated statistically, represent plus/minus three standard deviations from the average (mean). These lines represent the threshold at which the process output is considered to be statistically “unlikely”. In other words, the control limits represent the division of the natural variation of a process from the “unlikely” variation, occurring due to special or assignable causes, that can be eliminated from the process. Data points that appear outside of these control limits or unusual data runs (data increasing or decreasing over six or more successive measurements) should be investigated to determine and eliminate the source of the assignable variation.
One of the biggest advantages of identifying and addressing variations early in the production cycle is to prevent problems before any out-of-specification parts are produced. It maximizes machine and material efficiency, which in turn lowers production cost and time. The various statistical tools employed by the process engineers at GMN Plastics continue to play a pivotal role in meeting customer demands and consistently building high-quality parts.
This blog is the second in our series on statistical process control (SPC). In the previous blog (read here), we learned about the fundamentals of statistical tools and techniques. In this blog, we will be focusing on one of the most commonly employed statistical tools in the manufacturing industry – process capability indexes (Cpk).
Process capability index is an indicator of how the production process is performing with regards to key process control parameters and customer specifications. Besides the obvious reason of satisfying customer requirements, there is another reason to develop and use capability indexes. They can be critical predictors of future performance and a robust method of measuring the ability of production processes to produce high-quality parts consistently.
The letter “C” in SPC stands for control. But, what are we controlling? Statistical analysis of a production process is all about controlling and reducing variation in the process. It aims at identifying and separating the natural causes of variation, that are inherent to the process, from the special or assignable causes that can be controlled, adjusted, and/or eliminated. Process capability is the ability of a process to produce a product that is both accurate and precise. The accuracy and precision of a set of measurements can be illustrated as follows:
Cpk takes into account both the accuracy and the precision of the measurement around the average. Statistical software takes measurement data and shows the process capability as a single number that represents the process’ ability to provide both – an accurate and precise product. At GMN Plastics, we aim for a Cpk of 1.33 or greater for most of our customers. The core benefits of creating a process that delivers high-level capability include optimizing manufacturing time and materials, reducing scraps and re-work, and equipping the production system to create more products in the least amount of time possible.
Ultimately, process capability is all about creating products that meet customer specifications with a minimum variation over time. Stay tuned to learn more about control charts in our next blog. Until then, check out our other blog on Qualification process: Four parts to ensure part consistency.
As customer needs become more nuanced, it is incumbent on us, as injection molders, to continually innovate and improve our processes to meet their evolving demands. The tools of statistical process control (SPC) are critical in understanding process capabilities, identifying unwanted variations, and refining manufacturing processes. Overall, it enables us to efficiently and consistently meet our customer’s sophisticated needs for quality, lead time, tolerances, delivery, and cost.
Primarily developed by Walter Shewhart at the Bell Labs in 1920s, statistical techniques have been around for decades. Competitive companies worldwide have implemented a wide array of statistical tools to help reduce costs by mitigating scraps, re-work costs, and variances in production processes. These tools range from simple graphing to more complex analysis including Pareto analysis, histograms, capability analysis, fishbone charts, and control charts.
In recent times, advanced statistical software has made “data crunching” easy and efficient. At GMN Plastics, it provides us with a quick overview of how our injection molding processes are performing by analyzing data from internal product characteristics and/or customer-driven product features. This data can be viewed in several forms - as a line graph (Individuals data charting), or by stratifying data into a histogram (including process capability indexes), or a control chart (typically x-bar/R). These tools allow us to understand process conditions and provide actionable data to our engineers in the event of an unforeseen production issue or bottleneck.
We, at GMN Plastics, work with a broad spectrum of part sizes, shapes, forms, and complexities every day. When manufacturing a wide array of components for diverse customers and industries, it is critical to identify machine capabilities and production processes. Being able to make prompt decisions based on statistical data, developed during both initial qualification and in-process production, gives us flexibility in production and allows us to develop sound process controls.
In our upcoming blogs, we will discuss two of the most commonly used statistical tools at GMN Plastics – capability indexes (Cpk) and control charts. Until then, stay tuned and visit our website to learn about our plastic manufacturing capabilities.
GM Nameplate (GMN) recently added design and development authority to its AS9100D certification. Overall, the AS9100D certification is a Quality Management System (QMS) standard that is specific to meeting the rigorous needs and requirements of the aerospace industry. GMN has been certified under the AS9100 QMS standard since 2007, but the addition of the design and development authority included within our certification as well is a newer development.
So, what does this design and development certification mean to our customers? It means that we are not only in compliance with the latest set of stringent aerospace quality standards, but we are also now certified to take on design ownership of your graphic and functional products.
This certification ensures that we have a robust quality system in place to manage your new project from the quoting process, to design, manufacturing, final testing, inspection, and delivery. Before receiving this design authority, GMN was still qualified to handle all aspects of customer’s projects throughout the entire manufacturing process, however, we were limited to only providing design support and guidance. Customers would come to us with a pre-determined design or concept and we would offer direction on how to manufacture the product. Now, GMN is certified to offer full-scale design and product development services to our customers. Customers can come to us with a rough napkin sketch or basic performance specifications and we can partner with them to design and develop their desired product from scratch. With the high stakes that come with aerospace manufacturing, GMN has the experience, knowledge, and capabilities to aid our customers in designing high-quality products and is confident in our ability to drive and take ownership of that process from conception through final production.
To quickly summarize how this process unfolds, we start with our quoting process, gathering customer input to perform an in-depth design review. We then decide on what processes and materials will be needed, followed by verification and validation of the final design. Once our engineering team has verified that we’ve met all the customer’s requirements, a manufacturing package is assembled and forwarded to the customer service team for entry into our production process for manufacturing. The product is then built, tested, inspected, and delivered!
For any aerospace product, the design phase is undoubtedly the most crucial phase of the manufacturing process because that’s where instrumental specifications for quality, safety, design, and functionality are determined. If the proper quality planning and control systems are not established during this stage, it can have adverse effects on the rest of the manufacturing process. With this new design and development certification, GMN has proven that we have the necessary quality system and design procedures in operation to effectively and repeatedly meet the strict standards expected within the aerospace industry.
If you have an upcoming project that you’d like to explore with GMN, contact us today to meet with our in-house experts.
In 2012, GM Nameplate (GMN) was approached by General Dynamics, a defense company, to produce a switch panel for a military part called the Commanders Smart Display Unit (CSDU) for a new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) that the military was developing. GMN was entrusted with this project based on our reputation for high-quality display integration and optical bonding solutions.
Known as the GD 8012 Panel, the switch panel would be placed on the passenger or commanders’ side of the JLTV’s interior. At the start of the project General Dynamics gave GMN a quick sketch of the product and a long list of requirements that the solution needed to adhere to. However, the customer had no preference on which switch technology to utilize for the panel, and trusted GMN to choose due to our expertise in the area.
The switch technology chosen was elastomer keypads because it provided all the qualities a military part needed. Elastomer keypads are highly durable, great for backlighting, and have a responsive feel.
The part was constructed of a black aluminum bezel and four elastomer keypads. The different layers that made up the keypads consisted of a printed circuit board assembly (PCBA), metal domes, and then an elastomer layer placed on top. The keypads were inserted within and sealed to the bezel using Room Temperature Vulcanizing silicone, which is a self-leveling rubber that hardens at room to create an airtight seal. The keypads were backlit with blue LEDs so the operator could correctly identify the button icons in darkness. In the back of the part, there were four copper flex tails that connect each of the four elastomer keypads to the electronics. The part also contained EMI shielding, to protect the JLTVs from potential radio interference.
Additional elements of this part included an air vent on the bottom left of the bezel that is covered with Gore Tex, a material that lets in air but not liquids, therefore protecting the device from potential water ingress. The indicator light at the top left corner of the panel is a bi-color LED, which alerts the operator if the display is working or not based on the color that is displayed.
Initially, GMN was asked to deliver 1000 panels a year, but that has since been increased to 2000 panels a year. The final part delivered by GMN was the first ever to pass every preliminary test by the customer on the first try. Our success with this project has now led to several other opportunities with General Dynamics as well.
Qiantu Motors, a China-based automotive company, is at the forefront of the development and manufacturing of New Energy Vehicles (NEV) in China. Making waves in the global automotive market, the Qiantu K50 model is China’s first electric supercar.
When Qiantu Motors was bringing the K50 to life, they approached GMN to create a steering wheel badge. Looking for a distinguishing decorative solution, they wanted the badge to resonate with the clean and contemporary style of the sportscar. As the badge would sit on the steering wheel, merely a few inches away from the driver, it was extremely crucial to have an eye-catching design with crisp finishing. From aluminum to plastic badges, GMN proposed different solutions to match the project needs and requirements. Qiantu Motors was instantly drawn to one solution that brought together two of GMN’s visually striking capabilities - 3D electroform and in-mold decoration (IMD).
After a few rounds of fine-tuning the details, GMN established the final look of the badge that was comprised of two distinct parts: a dragonfly logo and a body. The dragonfly was achieved through 3D electroform, an electroplating process where nickel and chrome were plated onto a bronze mold to create the three-dimensional structure. Electroforming enabled GMN to construct a detailed, elegant, jewel-like logo that is unobtainable by any other manufacturing or decoration process. Merging aesthetics with functionality, the stainless steel logo offers superior resistance to corrosion and dents. The intricate, grooved patterns seen on the dragonfly fitted seamlessly with Qiantu’s needs.
The body of the badge was realized through the unique process of in-mold decoration. First, a flat sheet of polycarbonate was screen printed with a checkered pattern and a clean silver rim on the edges. Then, the decorated sheet was physically fused into injection molded plastic, forming a rigid, three-dimensional unibody. Suited for high-wear applications, in-mold decoration imparts unparalleled durability and strength to the badge. It not only makes the badge scratch resistant, but also protects the printed graphics from fading over time.
The carbon fiber unibody and the dragonfly logo were assembled together with a two-part assembly kit. Registration marks on both parts ensured the precise registration of the two distinct components. The combination of electroform and IMD enables the badge to withstand fluctuating temperatures and ultraviolet rays for elongated periods of time. GMN’s China Division rolled out an automotive badge that was not only visually appealing, but also resistant to chemicals, heavy impacts, and abrasion. Before making its way to the steering wheel of the K50, the badge needed to successfully pass a series of rigorous testing including collision, thermal shock, and environmental tests.
The entire manufacturing solution for the K50 badge was conceived and fabricated by GMN’s automotive engineering group. As NEV startups continue to mushroom in China, we look forward to partnering with several other companies to offer truly unique decorative capabilities to fit their needs. To learn more about GMN’s automotive trims, accents, and badging solutions, visit our GMN Automotive website here.
Tooling a part to size remains integral to the metal fabrication process. While there are several tooling possibilities including steel-rule and rotary die-cutting, laser and water jet cutting, and compound tools, which method do you employ for efficiently performing multiple operations on a metal component? The answer lies in our newest video. By offering a peek into the functioning of progressive dies, this video clearly illustrates the many advantages of utilizing progressive die-cutting to drive productivity.
To cement our understanding of progressive die-cutting, let’s delve deeper into the Nissan automotive badge featured in the video. Made from aluminum, the badge requires a flat, coiled metal strip to undergo blanking, pre-forming, forming, lancing, debossing, and cutting. If we were to perform each of these operations individually with separate stand-alone tools, it would not only be tedious, but also time-consuming and expensive. Progressive die-cutting, also referred to as progressive stamping, is an effective and efficient way of performing multiple operations under a single die set. A die set comprises of multiple individual dies (or stations) that sequentially perform the desired processes on the metal. The minimum and maximum number of stations in a die set is dictated by the design and part geometry.
The fabrication process begins with mounting the die set on the stamping press and feeding the metal in a coil or sheet form to the press. Registration marks or holes on the metal allow for its precise alignment with the die’s progression. Even the slightest mis-orientation of the substrate with the die set can negatively impact the entire output and hence, remains a crucial factor in the fabrication process. As you can see in the video, the press progressively transfers the metal sheet in the web from one die station to the next through an automated feeder mechanism. The six individual dies in the die set perform the following functions –
- Die #1 - Cuts the outer circular shape of the badge
- Die #2 - Lances the part to relieve the metal, thereby preventing it from being deformed in the later stages
- Die #3 - Pre-forms the middle portion of the badge
- Die #4 - Pre-forms the edges of the badge
- Die #5 - Cuts out holes from the center of the badge
- Die #6 - Debosses, forms, and cuts out the badge, all at the same time
At the end of the progression, the web and finished parts are separated from one another by a lance operation and the final parts slide down a conveyor belt. An operator at the end of the belt inspects and organizes the output. Once the progressive die-cutting process is completed, the Nissan badge undergoes anodizing and pad printing. Anodizing is an electro-chemical process that converts the aluminum surface into a durable, corrosion-resistant, and high-energy surface. Pad printing, an offset printing technique, transfers black ink into the recessed letters of the anodized badge. To learn more about pad printing, learn our blog Fundamentals of pad printing.
Suited for high production volumes, progressive stamping is particularly favored for its efficiency and reduced cycle times. The form, profile, and size of the part play a critical role in determining it’s fit for progressive stamping. This cutting method is ideal when project volumes are high and registration requirements are feasible. To watch the progressive die-cutting press in action, watch our video here.