This year, I had the opportunity to speak at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA) Women in Aerospace Conference on May 2nd. Accompanied by nine of my teammates, the overall conference had approximately 300 attendees and 23 speakers from over 108 companies. This marked the first time that a member of the GMN Aerospace team has spoken at this event. My speech was centered around the topic of “Expanding your horizons – Getting outside your comfort zone.”
I’d like to thank GMN for letting me show my determination to go after what I may not be qualified for on paper but have a willingness to learn and be coached on to reach my goals, even when they are outside of my comfort zone or not listed in my job requirements. The more we grow, so does our value. Make a list of your experiences and post it somewhere you can see it daily to remind you of where you’ve been and where you’re striving to go and use that motivation to make it happen.
In the manufacturing landscape, die-cutting is an indispensable fabrication process used to convert a wide range of materials into specific shapes and sizes. Whether you wish to utilize a custom-shaped silicone foam into a gasket, require a panel filler for a medical device, or simply need to cut out labels and adhesives, die-cutting allows you to efficiently cut materials in large volumes with increased consistency and accuracy.
While there are several die-cutting methods including laser cutting, water-jet cutting, and rotary cutting, our latest video offers a glimpse into steel rule die-cutting, one of the most common cutting methods utilized at GMN. Made of steel, the die is formed by bending, curving, cutting, and shaping a straight steel rule in the required design. Once the rule is mounted and secured on a laser-cut wooden board, the die is ready to use. The lead time to make a steel rule die ranges between one to three days, depending on the complexity of the design.
Typically, steel rule die-cutting is performed on a clam shell press. Comprised of two platens – one stationary and one movable - the press in different tonnages can support varied sizes and materials. As seen in the video, the die is installed on the stationary platen and the material to be cut is placed on the movable platen.
The precise alignment of the material is ensured with one of the following ways -
1) 3-point registration system - This consists of two grips to hold the material in place and one guide mark to accurately align it with the die.
2) Pin-register system - Pre-punched registration marks on the substrate itself that can be aligned to the die position.
The movable platen is pressed against the stationary one to complete the cutting process. Although the majority of the steel rule die-cutting is performed on a clam shell press, GMN also utilizes vertical, cylinder, horizontal, roll-to-roll, and hydraulic punch presses to cut a broad array of materials such as polycarbonate, paper, foam, Lexan, and aluminum. The hardness of the material directly influences the maximum material thickness that the presses can accommodate.
Steel rule dies allow up to 10,000 hits approximately and therefore can be used for medium to high production volumes. In addition to achieving tolerances as low as 0.01”, steel rule die-cutting offers you the flexibility to accomplish kiss cuts, custom shaped die-outs, clean cuts, scoring lines, and perforations. One of the limitations with this method is that the steel rule has a minimum bending radius of 0.03” which means that any designs with square corners or the ones that require the steel rule to bend less than 0.03” are not suited for this technique. Nonetheless, it is a highly preferred solution due to its cost effectiveness when compared with chemical etch dies and Class A tools.
With the versatility to accommodate varying shapes, sizes, materials, and designs, steel rule die-cutting is undoubtedly one the most popular die-cut fabrication methods to meet your unique needs. To see some of the clam shell presses at GMN in action, watch our latest video here.
There are several factors that dictate the type of mold or tool that is best suited for producing complex injection molded plastic parts. Understanding the requirements for part design, material type, and product life cycles are essential to evaluating and selecting the optimal mold type. In order to define standards for injection mold construction and corresponding life expectancy, the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI), now known as the Plastics Industry Association, has established the following mold classifications -
1) Class 101 - This class of tooling offers the highest quality molds compared to its counterparts. When production exceeds one million cycles, Class 101 is chosen for its ability to support high volumes. Designed for extreme durability, the mold base is made with heat-treated stainless steel that is hardened to a minimum of 280 BHN. Other molding surfaces, including the cavities and cores, also offer very high wear resistance and can withstand resistance from abrasive additives in the plastics.
2) Class 102 - Supporting medium to high production volumes (ranging from 500,000 to 1 million parts), Class 102 molds work best for abrasive materials and/or parts requiring tight tolerances. Similar to Class 101, the mold base and surfaces under this classification are also made with heat-treated tool steel to effectively combat premature wear and tear.
3) Class 103 - Class 103 tooling is typically made with P20 steel and is commonly used for low to medium volume programs, ranging between 250,000 and 500,000 cycles. While only some tools are heat-treated for wear resistance, the mold base is made with a minimum hardness of 165 BHN. Since the base is softer as compared to Class 101 or 102, these tools aren’t recommended for fabricating parts with stringent tolerances. Striking a balance between quality, performance, and cost, Class 103 molds usually fall within the average price range.
4) Class 104 - Moving a degree lower, Class 104 tools are good for manufacturing parts with non-abrasive materials. With the mold base and cavities constructed of either mild steel, aluminum, or alloys, this classification supports low-cost projects and low-volume production, not exceeding 100,000 cycles.
5) Class 105 - Known as prototype tooling, Class 105 is suited only for quick-turn prototypes or volumes under 500 cycles. The molds are made with extremely fragile materials including soft aluminum, epoxy, cast materials, or any other alloys suitable to produce minimum quantities. These tools exhibit accelerated wear and tear, low strength, and minimal durability.
While GMN Plastics utilizes class 101 through 103 for the majority of its production, it usually steers clear of Class 104 and 105 tooling. Utilizing the above SPI mold classification to determine the correct mold type for your project is crucial to ensure process repeatability, minimize production downtime, and reduce defects and scrap rate. With extensive experience and technical know-how, the engineering team at GMN Plastics can help guide you through the unique parameters for each classification to select the best mold type to meet your quality, production, and cost objectives. To learn more about our tooling and tool room services, visit our website here.
Backlighting is the simplest way to lend unparallel style and functionality to your devices. It can be integrated in a broad array of applications including user interfaces, integrated displays, and product branding. But, what are the most popular backlighting technologies available in the market today? What are the differences between each technology? How do you approach a backlighting project? We at GMN understand that evaluating backlighting options and selecting the most optimal solution can be difficult. That’s why we have created a guide for you to explore in detail the various backlighting technologies, and understand their working principles, benefits, limitations, applications, and more!
So, if you are looking to boost your product’s user experience without tipping the scales off your budget, look no further. Download our free guide to backlighting solutions here.
Have you ever noticed the label on a computer, pressurized tank, or any other electrical appliance? The likelihood of that label bearing one of the safety marks namely UL, CSA, or the likes of it, is extremely high. But, what do these marks and symbols signify and why are they so important? When it comes to electrical devices, some of the most important attributes from an end user’s point of view remain product quality and safety. Keeping this in consideration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has identified and accredited a few independent labs, referred to as Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTL), to perform product safety testing and certification. Some of the widely recognized NRTLs include the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Intertek Testing Services NA Inc. (formerly known as ETL), MET Laboratories, and NSF International.
While there are almost 20 NRTLs globally, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is one the most popular and leading certification companies in North America. Any product bearing the “UL” mark signifies that it has been tested and certified to a specific UL standard. Similarly, all labels bearing the “UL” mark have been tested and certified under the UL 969 label and marking standard. Although UL certification is not required by federal law in the United States, it assures consumers that the electrical product is compliant with the stringent safety guidelines and specifications outlined by UL.
UL labels can be classified into the following types -
a) UL Listed – indicates that the product has been tested towards a safety standard recognized by OSHA.
b) UL Classified - implies that product is certified to strict standards created by UL, but not recognized by OSHA.
c) UL Certified - also known as Enhanced mark, is gradually bridging the gap between UL Listed and UL Classified labels. Often accompanied with a smart mark or a 2D bar code, a UL Certified label can be scanned by consumers to look up the safety standards that the given product has been tested and certified against.
UL works directly with the customer to designate the appropriate label classification for their products. However, all of the above label types require a UL-approved construction. A “construction” lists out in detail all the key elements of the label including the substrate, inks, printing processes, application of the product that the label is designed for, decorative finishes, and manufacturing location.
With three UL-approved facilities in Asia and America, GMN offers over 40 types of UL-approved constructions. GMN routinely utilizes screen, flexographic, and digital printing to print UL labels on different substrates including white or clear silver polyester, polypropylene, polycarbonate, and more. UL conducts multiple random facility audits and sample testing throughout the year to ensure compliance of the label construction and manufacturing processes with the set guidelines.
In addition to the above label types and classifications, there are some labels that bear the “Recognized Components” mark. These labels go on individual components that are part of a larger product or system and hence, they are barely seen by end consumers. Although labels with “Recognized Components” mark are not required to be made by a UL-certified construction, it is highly recommended and often fabricated under the UL standards.
In our extensive label-manufacturing experience, GMN has worked with a wide array of industries and companies, including Hewlett Packard, Eaton, Megadyne, and Flextronics, to create custom UL label solutions. From material selection, to artwork approval, to proper documentation, GMN can help you navigate the complexities of creating a UL label that fits your exact needs. To learn more about our other decorative and functional label solutions, visit our capabilities page here.
Within the competitive landscape of the aerospace industry, GMN Aerospace constantly strives to meet our commitments to our customer’s specifications and quality standards. After experiencing an increase in our statement of work over the past year, about 25% of the work produced by GMN Aerospace was supported by short-flow and aircraft on ground (AOG) requests. This translated to our team delivering over two million parts to more than 300 customers in 2018. During this time, the GMN Aerospace team is proud to have maintained a consistent quality rating of 99%.
GMN Aerospace is always looking for ways to improve our internal processes to better meet our customer’s needs and produce products of the highest quality. That’s why we invest heavily in lean manufacturing initiatives such as our Value Stream Team (VST) events and collaborative customer engagement.
In addition to the insights gained from listening to our customers, our team is extremely thankful for the collaboration and teamwork that we experienced with our customers throughout the past year, which played a role in our ability to sustain high quality ratings. As we look to the year ahead of us, we are excited to continue to uphold strong quality ratings and grow our relationships with our customers.
From steam engines to mass production to digital technology, the shifting landscape of manufacturing has paved the path for the fourth industrial revolution, also known as Industry 4.0. Marked by the automation and digitization of the manufacturing processes, Industry 4.0 throws the spotlight on “smart manufacturing”. GMN has always been in the vanguard of adopting new technologies and has embraced automation from the early days to meet the most articulate needs of our customers. Featuring everything from assembly lines to inspection booths, our latest video will give you a glimpse into the robotic automation utilized at GMN.
GMN is gradually implementing autonomous systems throughout the different phases of production including part handling, assembly, rapid prototyping, inspection, and more. On the factory floor, accomplishing even the most routine tasks like loading and unloading parts or transporting parts from one station to the other on the assembly line can be extremely tedious. By eliminating such repetitive and time-consuming activities with automation, GMN is able to create more engaging opportunities for our skilled workforce. As seen in the video, technological advancements have equipped us to program custom multi-jointed robots to successfully handle tiny, irregular, or complex-shaped components with the utmost dexterity. Whether it is aligning and assembling two components, applying a uniform layer of liquid adhesive, bonding two surfaces with consistent pressure, or uniformly spraying paint on a part, robotic automation has allowed GMN to maintain speed, accuracy, and consistency that is unmatched by humans. Contrary to popular belief that robots are employed to replace humans, GMN envisions a future where humans and robots work collaboratively alongside each other.
While automation is taking massive strides at GMN, our unwavering focus has always been on quality and value creation. Today, GMN is leveraging real-time data to optimize operations, streamline processes, and boost productivity. For instance, the engineers at GMN rely on historic and real-time data to perform predictive maintenance on its tools and machinery. By forecasting machine failure ahead of time, it can reduce machine downtime and maintain quicker response times for production issues. With the integration of smart interconnected systems, GMN is transforming the way it identifies, manages, and eliminates production bottleneck.
In this automation era, when the time from conceptualization to creation is shrinking faster than ever, GMN understands that efficiency and agility are key in delivering high-quality products. Hence, automation at GMN is not only reserved for high and medium-volume production runs, but also deployed for developing our quick-turn prototyping solutions.
The computerization of manufacturing has opened doors to greater efficiency and truly enabled GMN in increasing output and streamlining production. With unremitting efforts and initiatives towards automating our entire value chain, GMN is steadily inching towards its vision of a “smart factory”. To see how GMN is adopting automation in fabrication across all its global divisions, watch our video below.
Liquid optically clear adhesive (LOCA) is one of the most popular and preferred bonding solutions for display integration. DBA 4235, the newest variant of DuPont™ Vertak® bonding adhesives, is an optically clear resin specifically designed for rugged environments. With the ability to bond rigid-to-rigid and LCD-to-rigid material, this new generation resin is suitable for most display designs.
DBA 4235’s higher viscosity reduces the flow of excess adhesive and fills contoured and uneven surfaces better than dry film optical adhesive. From military to aerospace, the resin can meet the most rigorous demands of highly-regulated industries and doesn’t fall prey to premature degradation over time. It can not only withstand long-term wear and tear, but also endure extreme temperatures, sustained vibrations, and heavy impacts without compromising on durability. By preventing condensation and fogging, the resin plays a crucial role in enhancing the readability and performance of the device. In all bonding applications, the ability to deconstruct the various layers of a bonded display provides significant flexibility in terms of designing and keeping the manufacturing costs in control. When compared to other resins, DBA 4235 scores high on its reworkability.
When compared to consumer grade resins, the DBA 4235 resin offers the following advantages -
- Higher viscosity and superior adhesion
- Improved durability
- Condensation and fogging prevention
- Resistance to temperature and impact
As a licensed convertor of DuPont’s Vertak® technology, GMN has started employing DBA 4235 in all its LOCA solutions, namely laptops, touch panels, and hand-held devices. On the production floor, automated robotic dispensing equipment is routinely utilized to apply this UV curable resin, making the process extremely clean, consistent, and repeatable. GMN uses a combination of automated and manual inspection systems to flag defects and ensure that products meet the exact customer specifications. First, an automated camera system identifies major defects and imperfections in bonding such as bubbles, contamination, and defective pixels. Then, it is followed by a manual inspection process that detects intricate flaws like surface blemishes, smears, handprints, and more.
With years of experience in front panel integration and bonding solutions, the experts at GMN rely only on the industry’s finest technologies to serve a wide range of industries. The new-generation optically clear resin from DuPont™ has truly empowered GMN to create products of the highest quality and deliver maximum value to customers.
GMN’s San Jose, CA Division recently installed a new flexographic roll label press in the printing department. For years, GMN has utilized flexographic printing for projects across a variety of industries, products, and applications, from the medical industry, to agency labels, to shielding, and much more. This new piece of equipment will enable GMN to carry out the same printing functions as before, but in a better, easier, and faster manner.
Equipped with cutting-edge technology, the new flexographic press is easier to operate and possesses a higher the level of control automation, causing for the entire process to be markedly more precise. It is a 100% servo-drive press with finitely regulated motion control and improved management of web tensions. In addition, the press contains a “pre-registration” feature that enables the machine to put jobs into registration before the press is even turned on by using cameras to align to registration marks. This capability results in reduced waste by saving on the amount of set-up material that is required and increased efficiencies overall.
GMN is constantly looking for ways to improve our manufacturing processes and reduce our carbon footprint. Similar to GMN’s other flexographic presses, the new press uses ultra-violet (UV) radiation to cure the printed inks. Other types of flexographic presses commonly employ medium-pressure mercury lamps to generate the UV radiation needed to cure the inks. Many of these lamps use heavy metals – such as silver, mercury, etc. – and other non-environmentally friendly components. This method also demands large amounts of power and emits high levels of heat.
Whereas this new flexographic press operates using UV LED technology, generating the UV radiation from LED lights. As a result, it consumes about 80% less electricity than the preceding process. This noteworthy characteristic played a critical role in GMN’s decision to invest in this piece of equipment as it aligns with our continuous efforts to be a greener and more environmentally-conscious company.
The excessive amount of heat yielded by the mercury lamps has always been a limiting factor for the curing process. However, our new press’ enhanced heat management of the moving web turns what once was a major drawback into an advantage. By utilizing less electricity, the new press’ curing system produces significantly reduced amounts of heat. With this minimal amount of heat present, the press is able to process heat-sensitive materials such as polystyrene and polyethylene, which are commonly used in the medical and packaging industries.
GMN is always working to find new and different ways to grow and evolve our manufacturing abilities. With the acquisition of this new flexographic printing press for our San Jose, CA Division, GMN can continue to employ the latest innovative technologies and equipment to ensure that we are providing our customers with the highest-quality solutions.
From the automotive to appliance industry, whenever a design demands a blend of functionality and aesthetics, a stainless steel construction is commonly given significant consideration. With three times the density of aluminum, stainless steel exhibits superior structural integrity and dent resistance. It not only offers overall brush patterns and brilliant finishes like 2BA, but also provides substantial formability and hardness. Thanks to its unmatched versatility and corrosion resistance, stainless steel is heavily employed in both indoor and outdoor environments.
Our latest video, featuring a stainless steel Lincoln liftgate part, demonstrates one of the many stainless-steel parts fabricated at GMN. As the thickness of the metal primarily drives the tonnage of the press use, the featured liftgate part is processed in a 200-ton press. The fabrication process begins by setting the press with a tool to form the flat, pre-decorated steel sheet. After the sheets are formed, the same press is set with another tool to blank the parts to size, and eventually set with a third tool to create a curved skirt around the edges of the part. In a nutshell, three different dies are sequentially installed one after the other on a single press to form, punch, and finish the flat metal sheet.
In addition to the manufacturing process showcased in the video, GMN also utilizes progressive dies to efficiently fabricate large and complex parts that require more tooling. Depending on the design intent and part size, stainless steel can be fabricated in one progressive die and/or supported with multiple secondary operations sequentially set-up on the same press to bend, coin, blank, or fold the metal. As a part of the post-fabrication process, nickel or chrome plating is frequently applied to stainless steel surfaces and edges to protect the part from harsh environmental conditions.
Whether it is a ferritic (magnetic) or austenitic (non-magnetic) alloy, GMN specializes in the fabrication of different grades and alloys of stainless steel including type 200, 304, and 430. With the ability to fabricate parts up to 40 X 15 inches and up to 1mm thickness, GMN frequently works with steel of different shapes, sizes, and tensile strength. As your one-stop-shop for metal fabrication and decoration needs, GMN also has the capability to emboss, deboss, apply selective or overall mechanical finish, and print patterns or textures before fabricating metal sheets. With global resources in supporting medium to high volume production, you can rely on GMN to help you select the most optimum alloy, process, and equipment to meet your custom metal fabrication needs.
To see the stainless steel fabrication process in action, watch our latest video here.