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Chris Beason
By Chris Beason Apr 08, 2021
A group of aerospace students learning

For the 7th year in a row, GMN Aerospace is proud to share that we have once again donated to the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA) scholarship fund. As a long-standing aerospace supplier, we understand how important it is to support the next generation in this exciting field.

Each year, GMN Aerospace’s donation helps fund scholarships for students pursuing aerospace education at an accredited college or university in the Pacific Northwest. This year’s scholarship recipient is Daniel Beeson, a student in the Aeronautics and Astronautics program at the University of Washington. The scholarship was awarded during a virtual reception at the 2021 PNAA Aerospace conference.

Once Beeson obtains his degree, he plans to serve as a pilot for the United States Air Force before becoming a test pilot in the future. When asked about how the scholarship helps him, Beeson stated “In the uncertain times of COVID-19, many people and families have been experiencing financial difficulties. My family and I are not excluded from this crisis. This scholarship means more than just money. It means I don’t have to worry about my rent payment or my parent’s mortgage. It means I don’t have to calculate how much money I can afford to spend on food at the store.”

GMN makes the donation each year in the name of longtime employee Brent Sletmoe, who worked for many years as part of the GMN Aerospace team. We are proud to support local students like Daniel Beeson as they pursue their dream of working in the aerospace industry.

PNAA scholarship award

By Richard Smylie Apr 06, 2021
Steering wheel badge for Nissan

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 video below. By offering a peek into the functioning of progressive dies, the video clearly illustrates the many advantages of utilizing progressive die-cutting to drive productivity.

Progressive stamping process

To cement our understanding of progressive die-cutting, let’s dive 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 the maximum number of stations in a die set are dictated by the design and part geometry.

Progressive die-cutting fabrication process

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 misorientation of the substrate with the die set can negatively impact the entire output and hence, remains a crucial factor in the die-cutting 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. 

Advantages of progressive die-cutting

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 its 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.

Mike Sorrels
By Mike Sorrels Mar 30, 2021
Clamshell press at GMN's fabrication cell

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 such as laser cutting, water-jet cutting, and rotary cutting, our video below offers a glimpse into steel rule die-cutting, one of the most common cutting methods utilized at GMN.

Steel rule dies and clamshell die-cutting press 

Made of steel, the die is formed by bending, curving, cutting, and shaping a straight steel rule in the required pattern. 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.

Steel rule die-cutting is typically performed on a clamshell 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:

  • 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.
  • 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 most of the steel rule die-cutting is performed on a clamshell 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.

Advantages of steel rule die-cutting

With the versatility to accommodate varying shapes, sizes, materials, and designs, steel rule die-cutting is undoubtedly one of the most popular die-cut fabrication methods to meet your unique needs. 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.

Limitations with steel rule die-cutting

One of the limitations with steel rule die-cutting 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. 

To see some of the clamshell presses at GMN in action, watch our video here.

Bob Christensen, GMN
By Bob Christensen Mar 25, 2021
A display being tested for function

In our previous blog on optical characterization testing, we discussed the various tools and testing methods that ensure a display meets its optical performance requirements. Today, we’ll be focusing on the next step in display testing: functional tests.

What is functional display testing? 

While optical display testing focuses on visual requirements, functional display testing focuses on the performance requirements of a display once it is in use. Most of these tests are performed to calibrate and verify the functionality of touchscreen technology used in the assembly. 

Types of functional display testing

The types of functional display testing fall into two broad categories: automated and manual testing. 

1) Automated display testing

GMN has several automated functional testers that can provide computerized inspection services. These testing devices are capable of vision inspection to subpixel resolution, and are also equipped with electrical testing for thermistor resistance, touchscreen resistance, and touchscreen capacitance. 

Custom testing programs are employed for different displays depending on the touchscreen technology used. For resistive touchscreens, a 9-point touch test is implemented to assess input registration across all areas of the display. For projected capacitive touchscreens, shapes may be drawn across different parts of the screen to identify any breaks or areas where inputs are not registered correctly.

Automated testing is typically used for large production runs as it requires a more involved custom testing program, fixturing, and cable set-up. However, automated testing is more consistent than manual testing as it removes variability and the potential for human error. It also allows for more specific tests and measurements to collect data, whereas manual testing is generally performed on a 'pass or fail’ basis.

2) Manual display testing

Instead of using automated testing equipment, manual testing uses human inspectors to look for any display irregularities. A manual tester may visually examine a display for pixel defects or lint and bubbles trapped within the stack-up. Alternatively, they may test for touchscreen calibration by drawing simple shapes or pressing specific parts of the display to verify that inputs are received accurately.

Manual testing is more common than automatic testing since it requires simpler fixtures and a less involved testing set-up. It’s ideal for lower-volume programs or programs where specific electrical testing may not be necessary. 

Ultimately, the tests used depend on the required functionality of a display. GMN’s technical experts can help develop custom testing programs to ensure that your user interface display meets your project needs. To learn more about GMN’s in-house testing capabilities, schedule a consultation with our experts.

Bob Christensen, GMN
By Bob Christensen Mar 22, 2021
A display being optically tested on machinery

One could argue that the display is the most critical component of a device as consumers interact with it the most. To support custom user-interface programs, GMN offers a host of in-house display testing services to guide design decisions and maintain quality throughout production. 

Display testing can be divided into two categories: optical characterization and functional display testing. In the first blog of this two-part series, we’ll be going over meeting the visual requirements of a display with optical characterization testing.

What is optical characterization testing?

Optical characterization testing is the process of conducting tests to ensure a display meets all optical performance requirements within its intended condition. These tests are performed during the design phase to help support product development and during production as a quality control tool. Optical characterization tests take place in GMN’s state-of-the-art Light Lab, where specialized testing equipment allows our experts to gather data on the optical characteristics of a display.

Designing a new display typically begins with the LCD. While the LCD chosen for use in a display may meet all the visual requirements, everything from the bonding method to display enhancements (such as films, meshes, and coatings) can alter its visual characteristics. Optical characterization tests can be performed during production to ensure that the display maintains its visual integrity as different layers are bonded together. This data can also be used as a target point when making alterations to the stack-up or as a reference for future display interface programs.

Optical characterization testing can also verify that the display meets other visual criteria that may be crucial for specific applications. Some of the other factors that can be tested for throughout production are yellowing caused by UV exposure, surface reflectivity, contrast, readability, luminance, and color uniformity. 

Another critical factor to consider is the environment in which a display may be used. While the display may meet all visual requirements when powered on in a lab, it may also need to meet these specifications while in use in other conditions. GMN’s Light Lab has advanced equipment that can simulate different light sources and locations. Measurements such as color, luminance, and response time of the display can be taken from almost any viewing angle and while in different states of power. 

By involving GMN early on in your project, our experts can assist in component selection and provide design considerations for optimal manufacturability. To learn more about GMN’s testing services and discuss the display needs for your next project, take a look at our website or schedule a consultation with our experts.

Read more about GMN’s display testing capabilities in the second part of our blog series on functional display testing.

By Jim Badders Mar 10, 2021
A finger touching a capacitive touchscreen

As touchscreens continue to grow in popularity as a part of user interface systems, choosing the right touchscreen technology is becoming a critical design decision. Each type of touchscreen, resistive or projected capacitive (PCAP), offers a host of different advantages. Given the wide variety of touchscreen options out there, how do you select the one that provides the optimal user experience? 

Six things to consider when choosing a touchscreen technology

In this blog, we’ll be going over six key questions you should be asking at the onset of your product development phase that will help you select the ideal touchscreen technology for your next project.

1) What is the intended use of the device?

The first step is to specifically define what the device will be used for, as this can dictate which touchscreens are feasible. For instance, will your display be used for a military application where it may be subject to harsh conditions, or is the screen intended for an inexpensive toy where durability may not be a huge concern? Both situations would require screen technologies with different functionality, durability, input registration, and pricing. Once you’ve narrowed down the intended use for the display, the next step is to figure out which functionalities are necessary.

2) Which touch features are required?

On your device, will users only need to select single inputs with one finger? If so, a standard 4-wire resistive touchscreen may be a perfect option, as its simple construction handles this without adding much cost. However, if users need to zoom, scroll, or activate features with multiple touchpoints, that will narrow the selection down to screens with multi-touch functionality, such as a projected capacitive (PCAP) or a resistive multi-touch screen (RMTS).

3) How will the touchscreen be activated?

Given the different ways that touchscreens register inputs, the way that the screen will be activated is an important consideration. Will the user be wearing gloves or using another object (such as a pencil or stylus) to touch the screen? If so, specific types of touchscreens might be necessary for those inputs to be registered. While the sensitivity of a projected capacitive touchscreen can be adjusted to register certain styluses and gloves, the object used must be able to disrupt the capacitive field. For applications where other input devices can be used, a resistive touchscreen is a more optimal choice as it can register inputs from nearly any object.

4) What is the environment in which the touchscreen will be used?

Another crucial factor to consider is where the touchscreen will be activated. Will it be subject to harsh cleaning agents in a medical setting? Will it be used in an industrial environment, where it may be subject to repeated impacts? If durability or cleanability is a critical concern, PCAP technology is ideal given that damage to the cover glass doesn’t alter its ability to register inputs correctly. For gentler environments, resistive screens may meet performance requirements without adding additional cost.

5) What is the price point?

While the cost of PCAP touchscreens continues to go down as the technology becomes more popular, resistive touchscreens still tend to be the cheaper option. If you are looking for a touchscreen for a simple toy, game, or other inexpensive application, anything more than a simple 4-wire resistive touchscreen may add unnecessary cost to the device. However, in the case of a computer, smartphone, or other expensive application that requires a high-end look and feel, a projected capacitive screen may be worth the additional cost.

6) How many actuations does the touchscreen need to handle?

Different touchscreen constructions are rated for different numbers of actuations. A 4-wire or 8-wire resistive touchscreen may be optimal for a device that only needs to remain accurate for a few thousand actuations, whereas a 5-wire touchscreen is a better choice if the device will require significantly more usage. However, if a display needs to handle millions of actuations, a projected capacitive screen would be ideal as it can maintain its accuracy over nearly infinite inputs.

While these questions are a great start, this is far from an exhaustive list of variables to consider when deciding on the optimal touchscreen technology. To discuss your project needs and to talk about custom solutions, schedule a consultation with our experts.

Chris Beason
By Chris Beason Mar 04, 2021
April O' Donahue speaking at 2019 PNAA conference

GMN is proud to share that our very own April O’Donahue, Senior New Program Manager - GMN Aerospace, was recently recognized by the Leading Ladies of Aerospace organization as part of their weekly “Wonder Women” series. Each week, the series features an influential woman in aerospace who has broken barriers and serves as an inspiration to others.

April began her career in the aerospace industry in 1993, but her ties to the industry date back further. April’s grandmother worked for Boeing in the 1950s, and she still has family members that continue to work in the field today. Having been so closely associated with the industry, pursuing a career in aerospace was a natural fit.

Since first joining GMN in 1996, April has held a multitude of different roles within the organization. Beginning her career as a quality inspector, she is now the Senior New Program Manager. Over the years, April has supported projects for hundreds of companies, ranging from simple products for small aeronautics start-ups to large, complex projects for global companies like Boeing.

When April began her career, she was one of only a few women on the team. Since then, she has seen an increase in the presence of female leadership not only at GMN, but across the entire industry. Current estimates suggest that around 24% of aerospace employees are women, which is a staunch increase from when April started her career. The Leading Ladies of Aerospace “Wonder Woman” series highlights women like April who are improving female representation in the aerospace industry by acting as role models for future generations.

As part of her “Wonder Woman” feature, April recalled that her favorite career moment was when she was asked to speak at the 2019 Women in Aerospace Conference. She added, “I never thought someone like me would have the opportunity to speak at such an amazing and important event. I hope being featured inspires other women to get out of their comfort zone and go for their goals, regardless of what they think is holding them back.”

GMN is thrilled to have employees like April leading the charge to make aerospace a more inclusive and diverse industry.

By Richard Smylie Mar 02, 2021
Image of the refrigerator trim

When an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) was redesigning the metal trim for one of its premium refrigerator brands, they knew it would require a combination of aesthetics and durability. The trim would be featured on the interior shelves, so it had to meet strict visual standards and pass several performance tests to ensure it maintained its integrity under heavy use.

The original refrigerator trim utilized a chrome-plated, die-cast metal construction. While the trim met the visual specifications, the manufacturing process was expensive, and the chrome finish was prone to damage from handling or contact with food products. This drove the OEM to evaluate alternative constructions that not only looked high-end, but were also more robust while cutting down on production costs.

After consulting with GMN’s engineers, it was decided that the best approach would be to use GMN’s pre-decorated aluminum with a proprietary protective topcoat and custom adhesive backing. Using pre-decorated, bright-finish aluminum would ensure that the trim achieved the desired levels of brilliance and reflectivity while resulting in significant cost savings when compared to the original die-cast metal. The protective topcoat would protect the metal trim from everyday handling and food stains, and the custom adhesive would permanently secure the trim to the shelves.

When beginning to develop the custom protective coating, GMN’s engineers had to keep a few crucial requirements in mind. First, the metal trim had to withstand frequent contact with dishes, cutlery, and other kitchen items without scuffing or marring. The coating also had to protect the trim from staining caused by acidic foods or abrasive cleaning agents. Given that the trim would be located inside of the refrigerator, it would additionally need to pass hot and cold cycle testing. Relying on their vast knowledge and experience in the appliance industry, it wasn’t long before GMN’s chemists designed a custom roll-coat topcoat and adhesive that perfectly met the needs of the project.

To ensure the part profile remained consistent throughout production runs, an automated fabrication cell was developed. The aluminum initially arrived in the form of a coil, which was cut into sheets before receiving a basecoat and the protective topcoat. After baking and curing the coatings, a protective film was laminated to the face of each aluminum sheet, and the proprietary adhesive was added to the underside. Next, the stacked sheets were placed onto a rack and fed through the progressive die where they were cut to size. A robotic arm picked up the die-cut parts and transferred them to the forming station where each piece received two precise 90° bends. Finally, the finished trim was transferred to an inspection station where every part was carefully examined for potential non-conformities.

Capped with the roll-coat, the custom metal trim successfully passed all necessary environmental tests while maintaining its premium look. This is another example of GMN leveraging its metal decoration and fabrication capabilities to solve tough design challenges and optimize manufacturing processes.

To learn more about our appliance manufacturing capabilities, visit our website here or set up a consultation with our experts.

By Richard Smylie Feb 25, 2021
Embossed metal nameplate

Embossing, the process of raising logos or graphic images, is a great way to augment the visual impact of any component. The tactile feel achieved as a result of the raised design reinforces the aesthetic appeal of a product. Embossing is one of the most versatile metal decoration techniques employed by a wide array of industries.

While there are different ways to emboss a component, how do you ensure the utmost precision while embossing decorated parts? How can the varying tolerances of the decoration process accurately align to a mechanical embossing operation? The answer to all these questions lies in our video below that clearly demonstrates the advantages of adding an optical registration system to the embossing process.

To illustrate the registration challenge imposed by any decoration process on embossing, let’s delve deeper into the HySecurity nameplate seen in the video. During the screen printing process, when a squeegee travels across the metal sheet, the deposition tolerance between the images can vary as much as 0.005” per inch. As such, an image from the leading to the trailing edge of a 24” sheet can vary around 0.12” (0.005” x 24”).  Conversely, the mechanical action of the embossing die does not exhibit this variation. So, when an operator feeds the metal sheet to the embossing machine, the tool cannot align accurately with the varying deposited images, sometimes creating an off-registered embossed part.

We can overcome this alignment challenge by adding an optical registration system to the embossing process and depositing a corresponding registration mark next to each design. In doing so, when the nameplate is being screen-printed, a registration mark is put down at the same time that correlates to the center of each artwork. At the embossing stage, the press uses an optical eye to locate the mark and make necessary adjustments to gain alignment between the printed graphic and the tool pitch, resulting in perfect embossing. Since the press automatically calibrates the location of every individual artwork and advances the sheet through the press, the process is ideal for parts that demand extremely tight registration. Resulting in extreme precision and accuracy, optical registration embossing provides a high degree of efficiency and consistency. The press overcomes tolerance variation that the actuator-fed emboss press falls short of.

The press can emboss a range of metals and alloys including stainless steel and aluminum. While the thickness of the material processed is directly related to the press tonnage of the machine, the embossing height depends on various factors such as the thickness, temper, and alloy of the metal. Since certain alloys have greater elongation characteristics, they can be embossed to a greater height as compared to the others. The press can emboss, deboss (recessed images), or perform both the processes simultaneously. It is well suited to emboss parts that are either screen, pad, or litho printed. Depending on the design intent, embossed parts can undergo secondary processes like forming, blanking, and die-cutting at a later stage. To see how the Vforce nameplate, featured in the video, went through diamond carving after it was embossed, watch our video here.

Over the last few decades, GMN has worked with several leading companies including Ford, Dell, Estée Lauder, and DW drums, to create clean and crisp embossed parts. To watch the embossing process, click on the video below.

Debbie-Anderson-GMN
By Debbie Anderson Feb 23, 2021
PRNDL with magnified view of diffuser

When a leading auto supplier was designing the backlighting module for a new gear shift indicator (otherwise known as a PRNDL), they came to GMN to develop a custom light diffuser. The PRNDL would be featured in a line of premium vehicles, so the diffuser needed to ensure that the backlighting met strict standards for consistent brightness and uniform color in all lighting conditions.

GMN’s experts took to our state-of-the-art light lab to engineer a backlighting diffusion solution that met all of the project requirements. Leveraging GMN’s automotive experience, backlighting expertise, and printing capabilities, the diffuser successfully made its way onto PRNDLs in two separate vehicle models that can be found all across the world.

To learn how GMN successfully tackled a tough backlighting diffusion challenge, read our latest case study here.