Blog

By Richard Smylie Feb 28, 2019
Stainless steel fabrication

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.  

By Steve Baker Feb 27, 2019
Case study: Commercial appliance capacitive touch solution

Adopting new technologies can be extremely demanding and daunting. At GMN, we not only understand your vision, but also have the capabilities and global resources to bring your ideas to life.

When a commercial appliance manufacturer wanted to make a fundamental shift in their product’s user interface from mechanical switches to touch technology, the engineers at GMN brought their years of experience, technical know-how, and vast capabilities together to design an optimal solution. From circuit tracing to utilizing clear polymer inks, GMN developed a capacitive touch solution that fit every need and requirement.

To learn more about the evolution of this project and how GMN overcame its many challenges, read our case study here.

Lauren Rowles, GMN
By Lauren Rowles Feb 21, 2019
GMN named 2018 Manufacturer of the Year Award by the Center for Advanced Manufacturing Puget Sound

We are excited to announce that GMN was recently honored with the Manufacturer of the Year Award from the Center for Advanced Manufacturing Puget Sound (CAMPS). This award was accepted at CAMPS’ 2018 Award and Recognition Banquet, an event that celebrates a variety of manufacturers from all over the Puget Sound region.

The CAMPS Manufacturer of the Year Award highlights companies that exhibit unmatched success in the areas of company profitability, innovation, community impact, CAMPS participation, and leadership.

GMN has been a CAMPS member for over a decade and has worked to participate and add value in any way possible, from presentations, to hosting meetings, to serving on panels. We are also greatly appreciative of the programs and support that we’ve received through CAMPS and member companies, which have helped GMN continue to grow and flourish. This award recognizes GMN for being a consistent, long-time contributor to CAMPS as well as an outstanding manufacturer and representative for the Puget Sound region.

To learn more, please read our press release here.

Micheal Carr
By Micheal Carr Feb 05, 2019
Aerospace Quality Assurance Team

At GMN Aerospace, we continually focus on ways to enhance our lean manufacturing and waste reduction efforts, including activities such as our value-stream team (VST) events in collaboration with our customers. So, when I came into the fold at GM Nameplate (GMN) as the new supervisor of the aerospace quality assurance team, I planned to take measures to make any improvements possible within the quality assurance team and process. During my initial introduction, I observed a team with a high degree of focus and quality of work, with an opportunity for an increase in morale as well.

To begin, my first priority was to listen to my team. Once a week for six weeks, I asked my team members to give me a suggestion on how to improve their work in any way. Following each round of submissions, I immediately acted upon the suggestions that were feasible.

Next, I worked on cross-training the team on the various types of quality assurance that occur within our department. This effort helps to ensure the work load is evenly distributed and allows us to continue to produce high-quality results even when a team member is absent.

I then focused on improvements to our work area, including changing the way that our desk pods are situated and more efficiently organizing supplies. We are forming contingencies to make the best use of the space possible and to create a more peaceful and productive work environment.

In addition, we started to consider reinstating the “Jet Line process,” wherein the responsibility for a single job is split between two team members. The last time this strategy was implemented, we experienced a 20% increase in production. Therefore, moving forward, I am looking into altering a few work protocols in order to fit in the “Jet Line process” within our department.

Finally, I reviewed an ergonomic assessment that had been conducted by workplace performance experts. In this assessment I uncovered instructions to implement a five-minute mini-break. During this five-minute break, you can stretch your body, shift your mood, have a laugh, take a few deep breaths, or change your perspective (by looking somewhere besides your screen). You can use it to recharge your batteries, reduce the negative effects of stress, and reconnect to your sense of well-being.

As a result, I initialized a once-per-hour five-minute mini-break for our group. The response was immediate and extremely positive.

Led by a different team member at the top of each hour, my entire team would stand up and partake in activities such as looking over 20 feet away, using resistance bands, and stretching. Now, I regularly hear laughter and open dialogue on ways we can improve the work performance of the entire group and see team members assisting each other to overcome small challenges.

Overall, the aerospace quality assurance team at GMN is actively and effectively working to increase productivity and morale within our team, and the results have been tangible. As we continue to improve these efforts, we can continue to serve our customers at the highest possible level of quality and service.

By Josh Dunahoe Jan 24, 2019

A US-based customer of GMN was designing an electrical connection between two plastic housings for an outdoor application. In order to establish the connection, it was vital to achieve a permanent, air-tight seal between the two housings. Given the nature of the design, even the slightest ingress of moisture or foreign particles would hinder the optimal performance and durability of the product. Hence, shielding the seal from dust and water was critical. Additionally, the seal also needed protection from extreme temperatures and flames.   

Originally, the customer utilized a bead of silicone (silicone rubber paste) on the edges of the two housings that hardened over time to form a seal. However, this approach presented several manufacturing challenges and shortcomings. Dispensing a uniform layer of silicone rubber was not only cumbersome, but also inconsistent, leading to an uneven bond line. As the paste became rigid upon drying, it formed a seal that was susceptible to breaking under stress, thereby producing cracks and weakening the bond strength. The drying and curing of the silicone rubber paste also spiked up the processing time, creating a bottleneck on the assembly line.

The customer approached GMN to achieve a better form-fitting solution to prevent moisture ingress. After learning about the environmental conditions that the seal was required to withstand, GMN proposed a custom-fit Roger’s BISCO® silicone foam gasket. From the extensive range of BISCO® silicones available in the market, GMN narrowed it down to HT-800 family to strike the right balance between seal-ability and compressibility. As a Preferred Converter of Rogers Corporation, GMN delivered a high-performance solution with accelerated lead time and competitive pricing.

Roger’s BISCO® silicone, with its high flame resistance, seamlessly fit the needs of the project. In addition to excellent viscoelasticity, it provided high dimensional stability and sealing capability. Contrary to the previous solution, BISCO® silicone foam does not break under stress or pressure. It allowed for quick and easy application, eliminating the extra processing time associated with bead of silicone.

Although, selecting the right material wasn’t enough. Creating a custom shaped gasket to fit the exact configurations of the housings was equally important. Since the customer had initially planned to utilize silicone paste, they did not have the dimensions of the housings readily available. Based on the customer’s sketch and 3D file of the housings, GMN developed a CAD file for the laser tool to fabricate the gasket. By flowing into every nook and cranny of the surface area, the gasket flawlessly married the two housings together to achieve an enhanced seal.

With the help of GMN’s dedicated rapid prototyping team and equipment, we then created two distinct prototypes of custom BISCO® silicone foam HT-800 gaskets in two different thicknesses and durometers. It enabled the customer to test compression and seal strength of the two different gaskets and choose the most optimal solution.

GMN’s ability to determine and source the right material and create a tailored-fit gasket allowed the customer to meet the functional requirements of the project without compromising on the aesthetics. Given our extensive experience and technical expertise with die-cut components, customers can truly rely on GMN to efficiently provide quick design fixes and improvements.

By Steve Baker Jan 17, 2019

It’s that time of the year again when the medical manufacturing community comes together to showcase its latest products and technologies at Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) West. Attracting professionals across the country, this premier MedTech event also provides unparalleled networking opportunities and a platform to share new ideas and developments.

From February 5-7th, GMN will be exhibiting in booth #1659 at the Anaheim Convention Center. As a custom manufacturer of medical device components and sub-assemblies, GMN will be featuring its most recent user-interface solutions and varied capabilities including plastic injection molding, capacitive touch sensors, die-cut components, value-added assembly, and more! Aligning with the leading trends, our newest samples on display will help you discover the many ways you can integrate popular technologies to make your products pop.

Our team of experts will be on site to discuss your upcoming projects and toughest manufacturing challenges. To schedule a personal consultation with a GMN representative, reach out to us directly at info@gmnameplate.com

Chris Passanante, GMN
By Chris Passanante Jan 08, 2019
Elite Plastics gets a makeover!

GMN is welcoming the new year with exciting changes! Effective today, we are rebranding Elite Plastics to GMN Plastics. In addition to unifying the company’s different brands (GMN Aerospace and GMN Automotive), the new name and logo will continue to put the focus on our plastic services, while also reflecting the full extent of the vertically-integrated capabilities and solutions that GMN can provide.

This rebranding initiative has allowed us to reflect on all the successes we have celebrated as “Elite Plastics”, and everything we aspire to achieve as “GMN Plastics”. We hope to embark upon a new journey in the growth of our plastics capabilities and services under the new brand name, GMN Plastics.

To learn more about the rebranding, read our press release here.

Lauren Rowles, GMN
By Lauren Rowles Dec 20, 2018

As part of our yearly tradition, GMN has produced another custom calendar for the upcoming year. Apart from the functional value offered in helping to track the months and days of the year, these calendars also serve as a fun way to show off some of GMN’s decorative capabilities. In collaboration with our Seattle, WA Division, this year’s calendars were created at GMN’s Monroe, NC Division.

This year, we decided to make some exciting modifications to our calendar design, while still maintaining some of the same design elements as in previous years.

On the top strip of the calendar, there is an overlap spin pattern. This finish has been included on some calendars in years past, however, this year we enhanced the spin finish by taking the spin and dragging it along the metal surface, creating a dynamic look that reflects light in an interesting way. While this capability may seem common, the challenge that was posed by this application was achieving the drag spin at an angle and selectively. In order to contain the drag spin finish to only the top area, the process required laying down a resist layer over the desired area before the drag spin was applied. This resist layer protects the bright and other areas of the metal on which we didn’t want the spin to be applied. However, the resist ink can be difficult to work with at times, as it needs to be strong enough to withstand the drag spin, but gentle enough so that it can be removed after the spin is applied.

In addition, to complement and enrich the movement of the drag spin finish, a carbon fiber design was printed on the background of the calendar. Achieving the right balance of color was critical for printing this pattern because the color needed to have enough contrast to be visible but also be light enough to allow for the aluminum material to show through. Lithographic printing was used to print the months of the year onto the metal and create the halftone gradient pattern that is featured. Lastly, the GMN and logo and the year were embossed to add extra dimension and value to the calendar overall.

The entire GMN team is proud of the final product and is excited for it to take us into the new year!

By Richard Smylie Dec 18, 2018
Custom Pad Printing

Pad printing is an offset printing process where ink is transferred from a cliché to the required component via a pad. Bringing together a blend of consistency, repeatability, and durability, pad printing can help you achieve intricate patterns and designs. While most decorative techniques such as screen and lithographic printing require a flat surface, pad printing is one of the very few processes that is well suited for decorating gently curved, irregular, textured, and/or cylindrical surfaces. Predominantly seen in the automotive, electronics, appliance, personal care, and medical industries, pad printing is often chosen for applications that will endure significant handling and need to withstand the test of time.

Our latest video was created to not only equip you with the essentials of pad printing, but also to walk you through the step-by-step process. First, the artwork is etched onto the cliché (flat plate), and ink is deposited into the etched recess. Next, a silicone pad picks up the inked image and descends onto the part to transfer a clean, crisp, and lasting image. Then, the pad is pressed on a polyester film to remove any excess ink. Comprising of a low-tack pressure-sensitive adhesive, the polyester film removes any residual ink from the pad prior to the next printing cycle.

From standard to programmable multi-axis printers, this video offers a glimpse into the different pad printing presses utilized at GMN. Armed with a rotating fixture, the programmable multi-axis printer is capable of numerous hits in multiple color combinations on different axes, all in a single set-up. This capability eliminates the need to transfer the part manually from one station to the other, resulting in significant time and cost savings.

Pad printing is compatible with a broad range of substrates including stainless steel, polycarbonate, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), glass, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), acrylic, and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). Very few plastic materials such as low (LDPE) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and polypropylene aren’t cohesive with pad printing inks and require a pre-treatment to ensure good adhesion.

For every project, custom fixtures are designed and built to register the component to the pad printing head. The alignment of the ink pad with respect to the size and geometry of the part is specifically engineered to ensure exact registration. As seen with the Nissan badge in the video, the pliability of the silicone pad allows for printing with extreme precision, preventing the ink from coming in contact on the inside walls of the recessed letters. Maintaining the viscosity of the ink is extremely crucial to ensure the ink deposition accuracy and consistency. While the ink needs to be fluid enough to deposit on the substrate, it should not bleed out of the impression area. Thinners and adhesion promoters can be added to inks to achieve the desired viscosity level. Most of the inks used for pad printing at GMN are air-dried and are usually cured in conveyor ovens. Several other factors including the shape, material and durometer of the pad, location and color of the etched artwork, and tilt of the ink pad, are critical to the success of any project.

To see the pad printing process in action, watch our video here.

By Steve Baker Nov 30, 2018

The multi-billion-dollar industry of smart wearables is becoming ubiquitous and witnessing revolutionary developments each day. From smart tattoos that track sunlight exposure to smart insoles that monitor your footsteps, smart technological advancements are clearly pushing the boundaries of innovation. As the wearable technology industry is still at a nascent stage of its development curve, the consortium of functional printing professionals including the technical printers, designers, engineers, and system integrators, are working together to investigate new processes, materials, technologies, and testing methods.

Aside from the dominant world of smart watches, there has been a significant growth and interest in smart clothing, electronics, and sensor solutions. Some of the common considerations that need to be addressed before developing a wearable solution include:

  • Biocompatibility - Since most wearables come in direct or close contact with skin, biocompatibility is of paramount importance to ensure user safety. Depending on the intended use of the device, compounds in wearable substrates and construction layers can potentially be exposed to sweat, rain, humidity, sunscreens, and insect repellants. A comprehensive understanding of the interaction of various external factors is crucial towards eliminating unwanted risks such as skin sensitization, allergic reactions, and irritation. While there are no industry standards governing biocompatibility across all wearable devices, ISO 10993 provides a framework for wearable medical devices.
  • Power management - Effective power management still remains a significant hurdle in developing wearable solutions. Thin and compact batteries often translate to shorter battery life and companies are continuously struggling to extend the battery life for devices to last at least one cycle of usage. While space is a huge constraint when working with small and lightweight devices, companies are harvesting energy by employing solar cells or powering batteries using the body movement and body heat of the wearer. Companies are actively trading Wi-Fi connectivity with Bluetooth communication modules for efficient power consumption and pivoting towards wireless power supplies through inductors. For most wearable garments intended for long-term use, the batteries must be easily replaceable or rechargeable.
  • Flexibility and stretchability - Smart wearables, especially garments, are susceptible to a great deal of stretching. Flexibility, the basic form factor of wearables, has made flexible printed electronics be actively pursued as an alternative to costly silver threads and yarns sewn into apparels. Depending on the final application, wearable substrates need to strike the right balance between flexibility, stretchability, and stability. In addition to experimenting with new substrates, the industry is currently leveraging medical-grade materials including polyether-based thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), polyester-based TPU, polyethylene terephthalate (PET), and fabrics such as spandex, nylon, elastane, and cotton. Functional inks are often printed on flexible substrates and as the user wears or moves with the garment, there is a certain amount of stretch that occurs. Therefore, inks need to exhibit acceptable change in resistance with repeatable stretch and recovery cycles.
  • Sealing - Conductive epoxies, typically used to apply components on to circuits, are often not a feasible solution when dealing with wearable applications, as they tend to break under stress. Hence, applying additional components such as surface-mount LEDs and active PCBs can be very challenging. The ability to incorporate electronic components smoothly into apparels whilst ensuring strong adhesion during bending, creasing, and flexing is key to the success of smart wearables.

 In addition, wearables intended for long-term use must be safe to submerge under water without damaging the circuitry, and physically endure multiple wash cycles. Achieving a water-tight seal and protecting the power source from environmental factors is vital for ensuring optimal performance and durability of the device. For electronic equipment, Ingress Protection (IP) rating specifies the degree of protection from solids and liquids including dust and water. Whether it is fusing stretchable materials with thermoplastic-adhesives backing or applying hot-melt adhesives to polyester circuits, thermal bonding is one of the most common sealing approaches in wearable solutions. Pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA) lamination is another approach that requires a medical-grade adhesive to apply a patch directly to the skin of the user. TPU overlaminates, printable insulators, and PET overlaminates are often used for sealing and potting.

The wearable technology industry is migrating towards a “smart system”, a world where all devices from head to toe communicate with each other to create a single ecosystem. As existing technologies and processes evolve, new norms, standards, and specifications for the industry will gradually develop. With a promising future in sight, the widespread adoption and integration of smart wearables in our daily lives is almost inevitable.