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By Chris Doyle Dec 01, 2020

The calendar has always been an exciting thing for us to design and create at GMN. Each year, we come up with new concepts and ideas to share with our customers and suppliers, and this year was no exception. 

To see how our 2021 calendar was manufactured, watch the video below. 

Pam Hane
By Pam Hane Nov 13, 2020
3M's antimicrobial films used in airports

Bacterial growth is a constant concern for high-trafficked areas such as hospitals, offices, restaurants, and other businesses, especially in times of the global Coronavirus pandemic. As we scour for new ways to effectively clean high-touch surfaces and mitigate the chances of contamination, 3M has a promising solution to the mounting concerns of cleanability and safety.

Last month, 3M launched two new Durable Protective Films as follows

  • 7750AM – 2-mil clear PET film with permanent adhesive
  • 7760AM – 2-mil clear PET film with removable adhesive

Adding an extra layer of protection between cleaning cycles, both the films are resistant to scratches, abrasion, and various cleaning agents such as bleach, soap, disinfectant wipes, and hydrogen peroxide. The top hard coat is treated with an EPA-registered silver ion antimicrobial additive that impedes the growth of bacteria, mold, and mildew within the film itself. Designed for smooth surfaces, the protective films can be applied to several substrates such as metal, glass, and plastic. The films also offer excellent UV resistance, durability, and can be customized to any shape or size.

Applications for 3M’s Durable Protective Film

3M’s Durable Protective Film enhances surfaces and features 3M adhesive technology for both short-term and long-term applications. Given the current need to reduce risks associated with the transmission of COVID-19, these films can be employed at schools, hospitals, gyms, food processing plants, public transit services, and retail shops. They are exceptionally beneficial for frequently touched surfaces such as touchscreen displays, medical devices, light switches, point-of-sales systems, fitness equipment, control panels, and user-interfaces.

Want to incorporate 3M’s Durable Protective Films in your products?

As a Preferred Converter of 3M, GMN can help you add this extra layer of protection to your products. Reach out to our experts to discuss your unique needs. 

Neha Toshniwal
By Neha Toshniwal Nov 09, 2020
Paul Michaels, Director of Aerospace Operations at GMN

We are extremely happy to share that Paul Michaels, Director of Aerospace Operations at GMN, has been appointed to the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA) Board of Directors.

A graduate from the University of Washington, Paul Michaels, joined GMN in 2002. Today, he oversees all aerospace operations and supports over 300 aerospace and defense companies globally. Over the years, he has consistently focused on a culture of world-class customer support and service within the aerospace supply chain. He has also been recognized as the Aerospace Executive of the Year by the PNAA in 2016. 

GMN congratulates Paul Michaels on his appointment to the PNAA Board of Directors. We are confident that the Pacific Northwest aerospace community will greatly benefit from his extensive knowledge, experience, and invaluable insights. Please read our entire press release here.

Chris Beason
By Chris Beason Nov 06, 2020
Operational Excellence Award from AWB

We are excited to announce that GMN was recently honored with the 2020 Manufacturing Excellence Award for Operational Excellence by the Association of Washington Business (AWB). The award was presented by Kris Johnson, AWB President, at the association’s 2020 Manufacturing Week, a week-long event that celebrates Washington’s manufacturing sector.

Each year, AWB recognizes Washington’s best-in-class manufacturers in a variety of categories such as innovation, operational excellence, and environmental excellence. The Operational Excellence Award recognizes a Washington state company that demonstrates a distinctive manufacturing process, including continuous improvement principles, use of cutting-edge technology, and lean manufacturing.

GMN is proud to be leading the way in implementing modern manufacturing practices by embracing automation, adopting new technologies, and investing in state-of-the-art equipment. Today, all of GMN’s facilities operate under Lean and Six Sigma manufacturing principles and are certified to operate under various international standards for quality management systems. The award acknowledged our continued strides in manufacturing as well as GMN’s community involvement and support to several local organizations and non-profits.

GMN is proud to be recognized by AWB for our continued strides in manufacturing. To learn more about this award, read our press release here.

Tim Hudson
By Tim Hudson Nov 03, 2020
Certificate from EnviroStars

As part of our continued efforts to reduce pollution, conserve environmental resources, and become an eco-friendlier company, GMN’s Seattle, WA division, was recently listed as an EnviroStars-recognized business.

What is EnviroStars?

EnviroStars is a large, regional partnership in Washington state that provides information, assistance, and recognition to businesses that go above and beyond their environmental responsibilities. It consists of a substantial and ever-growing list of cities, counties, and utility companies that have come together in contributing to environmental efforts.

To be listed as an EnviroStars-recognized business, companies must meet stringent standards in several categories, such as energy efficiency, pollution prevention, proper waste disposal, and efficient transportation. GMN currently meets dozens of measures for sustainability and is on track to meet even more in the near future.

What does it mean to be recognized by EnviroStars?

Being recognized by EnviroStars implies that GMN is part of a short list of qualifying Washington businesses that meet or exceed standards set forth for environmental sustainability. Envirostars-recognized businesses are reviewed every two years to ensure that they’re consistently meeting their goals.

The EnviroStars recognition demonstrates that GMN isn’t just currently committed to being environmentally friendly but is actively working towards becoming a more sustainable business.

GMN’s commitment to environmentalism

GMN’s Seattle, WA team held a comprehensive audit of current business and manufacturing practices to qualify. Processes throughout the plant were analyzed to ensure everything was as efficient as possible. Any opportunity where changes could be made to become a greener company were recorded along with specific plans for future improvements.

At GMN, we’re constantly striving to be more eco-conscious by reducing our environmental footprint and making processes more sustainable. We are proud to be recognized by EnviroStars for this achievement.

To learn more about GMN’s environmental stewardship and compliance, visit our website.

Chris Beason
By Chris Beason Oct 30, 2020
Decorated Halloween pumpkins

Though it may have looked a little different this year, GMN continued its annual tradition of exciting Halloween festivities. With facial coverings and strict social distancing protocols in place, employees demonstrated a wide variety of impressive team and individual costumes. Everyone was in the holiday spirit with plenty of creative decorations abound. We hope you enjoy a peek into our holiday celebrations below. Have a safe and happy Halloween!

GMN employees dressed in Halloween costumes

By Steve Baker Oct 22, 2020
Electroluminescence backlighting

In this final blog of our five-part series on backlighting, we will be looking at electroluminescent lamps in detail. In the first blog, we discussed how to approach a backlighting project and reviewed the different backlighting solutions in the subsequent blogs, namely discrete LEDs, light guide film, and fiber optic weave.

What is electroluminescent lighting?

Popularized in the 1980s, electroluminescence is a technology that works by sending an electric current through phosphorus, a semiconductor that emits light when charged. Electroluminescent (EL) lamps can be mounted on printed membranes or printed circuit boards.

Advantages of electroluminescent lighting

Governed by the design requirements, EL lamps can be zoned in selective areas to ensure optimum diffusion of light. With minimal light bleed, it doesn’t require blocking layers between different sections that are lit. Like fiber optic technology, EL lamps can also be integrated with discrete LEDs to have indictor lights and light up large areas simultaneously. Some of the advantages of EL backlighting technology include –

  • Ability to illuminate large surfaces
  • Limited impact on the tactile feel of buttons or domes
  • No light bleeds
  • Varied color options via overlay printing

Unlike light guide films and fiber optics where the light color can be changed at the source, there are certain limitations with the EL backlighting method. The core colors that phosphorus can produce are white and blue-green. While generating other exotic colors is possible, it can significantly add to the cost of the design. One way to navigate this shortcoming is to have the EL light in one color (preferably white) and then print the graphic overlay in the desired color scheme. If you need different colored lighting for separate areas, the sections can be isolated by adding additional traces.

Disadvantages of electroluminescent lighting

The biggest limitation with EL is the half-life of phosphorus. After 4,00 hours, the phosphorus begins to degrade, thereby dimming the backlit area. EL also requires a DC to AC power conversion which may not be possible to integrate into many designs. This typically means that EL backlighting needs to be designed in from the very beginning of the design cycle and cannot be added as a last-minute drop-in feature. The main challenges with EL include –

  • The half-life of 4,000 hours (phosphorus begins to degrade after)
  • Requires DC to AC convertor

Considering the limited life span of this backlighting solution and the price point of this mature technology, it is a viable solution in a few unique cases.

To see how electroluminescent lighting works, watch our short video below. 

By Steve Baker Oct 20, 2020
Fiber optic weave backlighting technology

In our backlighting blog series, we have discussed how to approach a backlighting project and reviewed two popular backlighting technologies – discrete LEDs and light guide film. In this blog post, we will be focusing on the third backlighting technology – fiber optic weave.

What is fiber optic backlighting technology?

Fiber optic technology utilizes a bundle of thin optic fibers that transport light from a single LED to a large surface. Made of acrylic, every individual optic strand is thin, pliable, and extremely durable. However, it should be noted that the LED used is always a bullet LED, which requires a printed circuit board or copper flex circuit as a base. Bullet LEDs cannot be mounted directly on printed membranes.

Advantages of fiber optic backlighting technology

Fiber optics are often integrated in tandem with discrete LEDs, where surface-mount LEDs are used for indicator lighting and fiber optics are utilized to light up the larger area, including icons, texts, patterns, or graphics. As this backlighting technology requires only one LED to illuminate the entire assembly, the power consumption is fairly low.

Given the working mechanism of fiber optics, the color of the lit area or assembly is dictated by the color of the bullet LED. RGB bullet LEDs can be employed to achieve a wide array of color options. Lighting up different sections with different colors can be achieved by utilizing separate layers (separate optic bundles) and using desired colored LEDs as the light source. Alternatively, you can also use a white bullet LED and regulate the colors through the printed graphic overlay.

The main benefits of fiber optic include –

  • Ability to illuminate large surfaces with a single bullet LED
  • Low power consumption
  • Minimal impact on tactile feedback over metal domes
  • Mid-range price point

Limitations of fiber optic backlighting technology -

While using a single LED is one of the biggest advantages of a fiber optic technology, it may not be bright enough to illuminate a very large area, especially if the device is primarily used in ambient light. It may also be challenging to light different areas with different colors. This issue can be addressed by configuring more than one fiber optic bundle in the design. However, integrating multiple bundles often translates to increased cost.

While we continue to see this backlighting technology in several user interfaces, we anticipate that it may soon give way to thinner backlighting solutions as devices become smaller and lighter.  

To see how a fiber optic backlighting technology works, watch our short video below.

By Steve Baker Oct 13, 2020
Keypad with light guide film backlighting

If you have read our previous posts in this backlighting series, you should already know what questions to ask before starting a backlighting project as well as when to use discrete LEDs. In this blog, we will be discussing the next backlighting technology – light guide film.

What is a light guide film?

Light guide film, much like it sounds, uses a thin film to guide the light from the LED(s) to the areas that need to be lit. The film has a reflective coating on the top and bottom layers of the film. The top layer is laser etched or abraded in the areas where we need light to escape and light the overlay. With varying depths and customized etching patterns, the distribution of light can be easily controlled, allowing specific areas to be brighter or dimmer.

Since the light feeds directly into the edge of the film, this technique uses side-fire or right-angled LED(s) to facilitate the optimal diffusion of light through the entire length of the film. The precise alignment and orientation of the film and LED(s) are extremely critical to the success of the design.

Advantages of a light guide film

The film’s low profile allows it to limit the impact on tactile feedback of metal snap domes or buttons. As a result, it is usually mounted directly below the graphic overlay and can be seamlessly integrated into thin and tight spaces. With minimal loss of light from the source to the other edge of the film, this technique promises uniform lighting across the entire plane with increased efficiency. It is a great solution for lighting large areas while still maintaining a mid-range price point. 

Some of the core benefits of a light guide film include –

  • Uniform lighting and brightness
  • Limited impact on the tactile feel of buttons or domes
  • Energy efficiency Ideal for lighting small, large, and curved surfaces
  • Suited for thin, compact, and flexible designs

Limitations of a light guide film

While light guide films are gaining momentum across several industries, few challenges need to be addressed while working with this technology. When the light travels from the LED through the film material, the edges are often illuminated very brightly, resulting in unwanted light leaks. This can be overcome by employing an opaque panel filler along the border of the film. Since LED(s) are butted up against one end of the film, it can create hotspots in areas around the light source. This can be eliminated by adjusting the printing process of the overlay to add a printed opaque layer. Due to the placement of the LEDs, light guide films generally struggle with lighting up the same area with multiple colors.

The main design concerns with light guide films include –

  • Light leaks from the edges
  • Potential hotspots around the LEDs
  • Limitations to backlighting the same area with multiple colors

Regardless of the drawbacks, light guide films are continuing to grow in popularity and the challenges will be mitigated as the technology evolves.

To see a few examples of light guide film projects and learn more about this backlighting technology, watch our short video below.

By Steve Baker Oct 08, 2020
Automotive panel with discrete LEDs

Last week we kickstarted a five-part blog series on backlighting technologies. Our first blog provides a framework to approach any new backlighting project and overcome design challenges. In this blog, we will be focusing on the first and the most popular backlighting technology – discrete LEDs.

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs), also referred to as discrete LEDs, are point-source lights that can be lit individually or in a group to illuminate a small area. Thanks to their low cost, thin construction, and long operating life, discrete LEDs have enjoyed widespread popularity and adoption across industries as diverse as medical, aerospace, automotive, and more.

Types of LEDs

LEDs come in different packages of varying shapes, sizes, types, and heights. The most commonly utilized types include surface-mount LEDs (top-fire or side-fire) and bullet LEDs. LED-backlit designs can be constructed in a range of colors and brightness levels. For example, a bi-colored LED as an indicator light turns green when the device is in use and the same light turns orange when the device is in standby mode.

In addition to the traditional single and bi-colored LEDs, RGB LEDs have opened doors to a wide gamut of colors and accent lighting options. RGB technology, combining three LEDs in a single package, mixes the three primary colors (red, green, and blue) in varying intensities to generate any color on the RGB spectrum. As a result, a single LED is capable of producing multiple colors.

LEDs are available in different correlated color temperature (CCT) values like the cool blues, warm yellows, and other tints. Whether you need dimmable, flashing, or non-flashing lights, LED designs can be composed in various styles. They can also be configured to light up all at once or selectively, as the design dictates. While surface-mount LEDs can either be mounted on a silver printed membrane, copper-etched flex circuit, or a printed circuit board with a connector that attaches to the mainboard, bullet LEDs can only be mounted on the latter two.

Advantages of LED backlighting

As point-sources of light, LEDs are great for small icons or indicator light applications, communicating the working or the status of the device. Some of the core advantages of discrete LEDs are:

  • Thin and robust construction
  • Limited impact on the tactile feel of buttons or snap domes
  • Long operating life (100,000 - 500,000+ hours)
  • Ability to illuminate the same area with different colors
  • Varying brightness level and color options
  • Cost-effective

Limitations with LED backlighting

LEDs usually struggle with lighting up large surfaces uniformly. A high count of LEDs in a concentrated area or placement of them close to a graphic overlay can create unwanted hotspots (bright areas) over or near the light source. Fortunately, both of these issues can be overcome by utilizing an elastomer keypad or overlay. Rubber overlays optimize light diffusion from LEDs, thereby mitigating hotspots and ensuring consistent brightness over the surface. A common challenge with elastomer is that it has a very different texture compared to a polycarbonate overlay and adds substantial thickness to the construction stack-up. Light dams or barricades often need to be incorporated in the design to overcome light bleed from one LED to the adjacent window. If you need to backlight a larger area and elastomer is not possible, you may want to consider a light guide film or fiber optic weave, which will be covered in our upcoming blogs.

To see a few examples of LED backlighting projects and learn more about this technology, watch our short video below.