Blog

Marc Doan
By Marc Doan Sep 04, 2019
Digital press in GMN's Seattle division

With lead times getting shorter and customer demands constantly evolving, it is more important than ever to improve efficiency and remain agile. Keeping on pace with the latest technology, GM Nameplate's (GMN) Seattle, WA division recently installed a new, state-of-the-art digital printing press. Born out of the strategic collaboration between Ricoh Company, Ltd. (Ricoh) and Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG (Heidelberg), this technologically-advanced press allows GMN to undertake projects that weren't possible on other printers.  

Printing up to 90 sheets per minute, the digital press scores high on efficiency, consistency, and repeatability. It can print on several substrates such as paper, vinyl, polyester, and polycarbonate, up to 13"x19" in size. Unlike the previous digital printers at GMN, the new press doesn't require any stock preparation or special coatings on substrates, thereby making it seamless to switch between different projects. Using a four-color process, it produces extremely crisp, high-resolution images. In addition, it is also equipped with the Heidelberg color-matching system, which allows the press to read and precisely match any color. It also has an internal system to ensure the color stays consistent even over the largest print runs.

With other popular printing techniques, the printing process can be quite cumbersome. For instance, lithographic printing requires creating the artwork on a photographic plate, storing the plate, and curing each color in the image individually. Similarly, screen printing requires preparing separate screen meshes for every color in the design, manually mixing inks, and printing one color at a time. However, with this new digital press, all you need is a digital art file. As a result, it not only eliminates all the time-consuming practices associated with other print methods but also produces significantly less waste.

Much of the non-metal work that was previously accomplished with screen printing or offset printing has migrated to the new digital press. Ideal for quick-turn prototyping and high-volume projects, the press is primarily used for markers, graphic overlays and labels. The press can also print variable or serialized data.

By embracing cutting-edge technologies and equipment, GMN aims at meeting the most nuanced needs of its diverse customers. The addition of the new digital press has truly enabled GMN to provide the highest quality solutions to a wide variety of industries. 

By Neha Toshniwal Aug 27, 2019
GMN receives Boeing Performance Excellence Award 2018

GMN Aerospace announced today that it has received the 2018 Boeing Performance Excellence Award (BPEA). The BPEA is The Boeing Company’s annual program that recognizes suppliers who have demonstrated high-performance standards.

In accordance with Boeing’s Supplier Performance Measurement rating system, all suppliers were rated on key parameters including delivery, quality, engineering, cost, and support services. Among its vast network of over 13,000 global suppliers, The Boeing Company recognized 382 suppliers this year who achieved either a Gold or Silver level BPEA. With a quality and delivery rating of over 99 percent, GMN Aerospace maintained a Silver composite performance rating for each month of the 12-month performance period, from October 2017 to September 2018.

The 2018 BPEA award is GMN Aerospace’s eleventh consecutive time receiving the prestigious recognition. Over the past year, GMN Aerospace has delivered over 1.5 million pieces to The Boeing Company, supporting all their commercial programs, as well as Boeing Defense, Space & Security and Boeing Global Services (BGS). GMN supplied over 70,000 unique part numbers including interior and exterior mandatory markers and placards, injection molded plastics components, and other integrated assemblies.  

“Receiving this recognition from The Boeing Company for the eleventh consecutive time is truly momentous. It lucidly reflects GMN’s unwavering commitment to exceeding customer expectations,” said Daniel Munson, Aerospace Fabrication Lead at GMN Aerospace. “It requires a genuine team effort to achieve this level of quality, service, and support for Boeing. I feel so fortunate to work with such passionate and creative people who continue to improve and innovate each day.”

As a proud partner of The Boeing Company for over 50 years, GMN Aerospace is honored to be able to contribute to the success of one of the largest and most influential aerospace companies in the world.

Pam Hane
By Pam Hane Aug 20, 2019
Thermal conductive pads

As electronic devices are getting smaller, a major concern that largely looms over engineers and designers is the dissipation of heat. All electronic devices emit heat, which without a proper outlet, could lead to a spike in the internal temperature of the device, ultimately resulting in its failure. Trapped heat in a device can not only damage critical internal components but can also negatively impact the performance of the device. To lower the temperature of the device, it is essential to dissipate the heat from the heat source to a heat sink (air duct or vent). Thanks to thermal interface materials, engineers have one less reason to worry now. Often integrated into devices at varying stages of product development, thermal materials enhance the thermal conduction between two components to facilitate the transfer of heat away from the heat source.

Measured in watt per square meter of surface area for a temperature gradient of one Kelvin for every me­ter thickness (W/m-k), thermal conductivity is the rate at which heat passes through a material. When an integrated circuit (IC) in a device gets hot, a thermal material drives the heat in a vertical direction away from the heat source. W/m-k is the measurement of how fast the heat is transferred from the IC to the heat sink. However, if the thermal material doesn’t intimately marry with the IC, it creates air bubbles. These air bubbles can slow down or disrupt the transfer of heat, known as impedance. A thorough understanding of conductivity and impedance is vital towards selecting the optimal thermal material for any given application.

Fortunately, companies such as 3M, Laird and Bergquist, have opened doors to several thermal management solutions in the form of thermal pads and conductive tapes. Designed in a variety of thermal conductiv­ities and softness grades, these materials flow into the nooks and cran­nies of the heat sink and IC to offer a high degree of “wet out” for more efficient heat transfer. Available in different thicknesses, they also provide excellent gap filling proper­ties in most cases. Some of the core advantages of thermal materials include:

  • Enhanced thermal coupling between the heat source and heat sink
  • High conformability to uneven and irregular substrates
  • Quick and easy application

Suited for diverse applications such as handheld electronics, notebook and desktop computers, memory mod­ules, telecommunications hardware, and flat panel displays, thermal materials can significantly enhance the durability and performance of the device. To discover how die-cut components can improve the way we design products and overcome last-minute design hurdles, download our free guide here.     

By Leanne Coffroth Aug 15, 2019
ElectraGraphic nameplate for Wahl Clipper

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.

By Steve Baker Aug 12, 2019
Capacitive touch technology

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.

Comparing stack-up layers for common user interface technologies

 

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.

Johhny Lu
By Johnny Lu Aug 01, 2019
Laser cutting technology at GMN

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 -

  1. 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.  
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Ken Roney
By Ken Roney Jul 29, 2019
Control charts used in statistical analysis

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.

Example of a control chart

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.

Ken Roney
By Ken Roney Jul 25, 2019
Process control in Statistical process control

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:

Accuracy versus precision

 

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.

Ken Roney
By Ken Roney Jul 22, 2019
Statistical process control at GMN Plastics

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.  

John Madura
By John Madura Jun 27, 2019
landing-gear-drawing

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.