Plastics Blog

You are now viewing GMN Plastics blogs. To view all GMN Blogs click here.
Chris Passanante, GMN
Plastic decorating: insert mold decorating
By Chris Passanante Apr 25, 2017
Plastic insert mold decorated part for the automotive industry.

In the sixth and final part of our blog series covering plastic decoration capabilities, insert mold decorating will be discussed.

Insert mold decorating, known as IMD, is a technology that imbeds a graphic overlay into an injection molded plastic piece. The IMD machine first picks up the graphic overlay with a robotic arm and then loads it into the mold. Molten resin is then injected into the mold which bonds the overlay to the part. From there, the robotic arm picks up the complete part and sets it onto the conveyer belt to be sent to the operator.

IMD is a high volume application using automated processes. In terms of functionality, this technology is utilized frequently for the aerospace and automotive industries because the process ensures strong durability and that the ink won’t wear off of the part. There are material considerations for bonding to ensure that different materials will adhere correctly. For example, if you are bonding two different materials such as nylon and polycarbonate that don’t want to stick together, it can be challenging to figure out how to bond them together. This can be done on first or second surfaces, meaning placing the graphic overlay either on top or below the plastic, and is a design driven decision.

In addition, IMD parts are bulletproof, which is an important feature for many ruggedized industries. Aesthetically, IMD can pull off multiple effects including wood grain, carbon fiber, and high gloss piano black, which are frequently used in the automotive industry. IMD can also incorporate backlighting technologies. Backlighting can be molded in and bonded into the part versus the use of adhesives.

The development phase for IMD can be long, but prototyping can be very helpful for the design as a production tool. IMD is an advanced process through which many GMN customers have found long lasting results. 

To learn more about the plastic decorative options offered at GMN, please visit the rest of our blog series by clicking here

Chris Passanante, GMN
Plastic decorating: painting & laser etching
By Chris Passanante Mar 27, 2017

In part five of our plastic decorating series, we will discuss painting and laser etching. Painting is another standard plastic decorating option and is widely utilized across different industries. Painting employs multiple process methods including robotic painting and hand spray painting. The differentiator between these two options is the program volume. High volume production shifts towards automatic processes while lower volumes lean towards manual painting.

There are many benefits of painting. First, painting can achieve highly specific colors that are crucial for customers’ branding. Next, painting allows for multiple colors to be applied to a part. This process also has the ability to hide mold flow lines, knit lines and other molding imperfections that are sometimes inevitable in production. Additionally, painting can offer a textured effect with soft touch paint that provides a rubber feel, clear coat, or protective coating depending on program requirements.

As a decorative option, painting can be costly and masking can be labor intensive depending on the part. Painting requires a clean environment and sometimes the curing time is longer than for other decorative technologies.

Oftentimes, painting processes are used in collaboration with laser etching. Laser etching is a technology that uses a laser to burn away the paint in specified areas on a part. Laser etching can achieve very fine detail and can be utilized on multiple materials including silicone, hard thermoplastics, as well as metal. Along with removing paint, laser etching can permanently engrave and etch plastic. One aspect of production is to optimize cycle time by fixturing multiple parts at once during laser etching.

It is important to consider that with laser etching, the initial programming can be timely and the masking needed is labor intensive throughout the process.

Rubber keypads are a good example of the collaboration between painting and laser etching that has been utilized for years. This combination of technologies is also very popular in the automotive industry, especially in gear shift indicators, and it’s likely that these processes were utilized on a plastic piece within your vehicle.

In our final plastic decorating article, we will discuss insert mold decorating.

To learn more about the plastic decorative options offered at GMN, please visit the rest of our blog series by clicking here

Chris Passanante, GMN
Plastic decorating: vacuum metallization
By Chris Passanante Feb 16, 2017
Vacuum metallized plastic part.

In this fourth part of our plastic decorating series, we will take a look at vacuum metallization. Vacuum metallization is a unique decorating technology that bonds a metallic layer to the plastic substrate through a vacuum vapor deposition process. This capability has both functional and decorative uses, such as EMI/RFI shielding or providing a chrome metallic finish.

Vacuum metallization is applied to the back side of a clear plastic part, but it appears to be chrome on the front side (looking through the clear material). This approach has allowed GMN to provide customers with some unique looking parts due to the 3-dimensional floating effect it that can be achieved with the right design inputs.  In some instances, we combine printing techniques and debossed lettering or images on the backside of the part and then vacuum metallize it for an additional effect.

At GMN, our team of plastic experts can include translucent backlighting on vacuum metallized parts to achieve a dead-front effect. This means that graphics or an LCD display will show through the chrome when the part is backlit, but will disappear behind the chrome when the lighting is turned off. 

Some considerations for this capability are that vacuum metallized parts can pick up fingerprints easily and depending on the detail of the part, the process of masking can be labor intensive. Overall, vacuum metallization is a bit more costly than other decorative options, but it achieves a very distinct and unique look that will allow your product to stand out from the competition.

Next, we’ll discuss the dual technologies of painting and laser etching plastic components.

Check out other blogs from this series to learn about more plastic decorative options:

Chris Passanante, GMN
Plastic decorating: hot stamping
By Chris Passanante Dec 06, 2016
This plastic part was decorated using hot stamping.

In part three of our plastic decorating series, we will discuss hot stamping. This is a mature technology that continues to produce high quality parts year after year. Hot stamping utilizes heat and pressure to transfer predried ink or foil from a roll of film to a plastic part. The process is achieved by running the foil between the hot stamping die, then heating the die, and finally pressing the die down to apply the foil to the part. The decorative foil will only be applied to whichever part of the plastic is raised the highest.

Through hot stamping, a two-color, two-tone part can be decorated without having to do the time-consuming tasks of masking or painting. Another benefit of this process is that the ink doesn’t need to cure. Since the foil is transferred to the plastic part via heat, there is no need to run it through an oven afterwards. Intricate details can be achieved through this process as well. However, due to machine limitations there are restrictions on size.

This is an optimal technology for achieving metallic colors, and the shiny ink tones produced are unique within plastic decorating. In addition, the foil applied during hot stamping is durable and can withstand harsh environmental conditions.  

In our next article, we’ll explore the unique technology of vacuum metallization. 

Check out other blogs from this series to learn about more plastic decorative options:

Chris Passanante, GMN
Plastic decorating: screen printing
By Chris Passanante Nov 15, 2016
Screen printing is a popular plastic decorative option for achieving large graphics.

With multiple plastic decorative options available, it can be tricky identifying the correct solution for your program. Throughout this blog series, we will discuss different plastic decorating capabilities and the considerations of each. Today we’ll look at screen printing in particular.

In the first article of this series, “Plastic decorating: pad printing” we discussed pad printing. While pad printing is limited to smaller sizes of artwork, screen printing excels in larger coverages of ink for bigger graphics. This printing technology applies ink to the plastic part through mesh material. During the screen fabrication emulsion process, the pitch of the screen determines where the ink is applied. Screen printing is a good choice for high volume production programs and has the ability to decorate multiple parts at the exact same time. Additionally, there is a shorter set-up time associated with screen printing compared to other decorative options. For best results, flat surfaces are ideal for the screen printing process as well.

Because screen printing is optimal for large swatches of graphics, achieving the details of fine artwork can be challenging. A longer curing time can be associated with this process as well, especially if conventional drying inks are used without a UV system. Despite these challenges, screen printing is a popular technology that has successfully met many program requirements.

Our next decorative technology, hot stamping, provides the ability to achieve metallic colors.

Check out other blogs from this series to learn about more plastic decorative options:

Bruce Wold, GMN
Designing for manufacturability with plastics
By Bruce Wold Aug 04, 2016
Designing for manufacturability

A very important aspect of project planning is assessing the design and providing design considerations for part manufacturability. During this phase, Elite Plastics program managers and engineers are looking for anything that might cause problems in the molding process including both cosmetic and dimensional issues. Typical issues include wall thickness, wall to rib ratio, draft angles, boss diameters, undercuts, weld line locations, and texture choices. Elite Plastics solves this problem with years of experience and state-of-the-art software simulators that allow engineers to get a closer look at the part by dissecting it into smaller pieces. These tools can help identify these issues so that they can be solved prior to production.

One of the main issues faced during project development is wall thickness. The wall thickness depends on many factors and there is no density that works universally for all projects, so it must be customized per part. Wall thickness is important because it affects processing of the part and depending on how far the material needs to flow, this can affect both cosmetics and dimensions. If the walls are too thin than the melted plastic moves slowly through the tool, which makes it difficult to fill. On the other hand, if the walls are too thick than it takes longer for the plastic to cool, which can cause part shrinkage. This happens because the areas of plastic on the outside cool more quickly than the inside, which can cave in. Where possible, there needs to be even wall thickness and smooth transitions for the material to flow through correctly.

Wall to rib ratios are another important consideration during part design.  Ribs are commonly used in plastics manufacturing as a way to increase the strength of the part structurally. It’s important to note that rib thickness must be 60% or less than the wall thickness of the part or the ribs will sink and be seen through the other side of the part. 

One of the main considerations during injection molding manufacturing is the part draft angles. This is because the part needs to be able to get out of the tool and to do this there cannot be a 0 degree, or exactly perpendicular, draft. A 0 degree draft angle would cause the part to get stuck inside the tool. A part with heavy texture will need to increase the draft angles even more because the plastic is more likely to stick to the tool. The key takeaway here is that correct draft angles will make the part look good without getting stuck.

Boss diameters, the holes where screws are inserted, are important to consider too. The boss diameter needs to be the right size because it typically holds a metal insert which needs to fit in correctly. If the boss wall is too thick, there will be sinking on the other side of the part. If the diameter is too small, the insert will not fit in the hole. There are industry specific standards based on each manufacturer.

An undercut can be defined as a recessed area of the part, and in terms of molding this means that the undercut area makes the part unable to release out of the tool. The plastic is injected around the undercut feature and the part cannot be ejected because the shape curves inward. The part is stuck because the plastic has formed around the tool which causes problems during production.

Weld lines are a cosmetic issue for consideration. A weld line occurs when the material wraps around a feature and comes back together around an obstruction while filling the tool. When this happens, a small line is formed called a weld, or knit, line. This needs to be considered during part design because the weld line is tricky to hide. When determining the location of a weld line it is important to look at the plastic temperature, gate location, speed of flowing plastic, gate thickness, gate location, and gate height.

Texture can be used to hide molding flaws. For example, when the part design will give you sink a heavier texture can help to hide this. Using texture like this has a lot of tradeoffs in design and many customer negotiations occur.

During the stage of project planning when part design occurs, all of these factors are critical to build a successful part that meets customer specifications. The main issues to consider in regards to part design include wall thickness, wall to rib ratio, draft angles, boss diameters, undercuts, weld lines, and texture. 

Denys Sanftleben, GMN
Plastic decorating: pad printing
By Denys Sanftleben Jun 29, 2016
Pad printing at Elite Plastics

At Elite Plastics, we go beyond the standard injection and compression molding processes to offer full solutions to our customers through secondary processes. Within these secondary processes, we offer a range of plastic decorating capabilities in-house in our Beaverton, Oregon facility. These decorative technologies include pad printing, screen printing, hot stamping, vacuum metallization, painting and laser etching, and insert mold decorating.

One of the standard decorative technologies at Elite Plastics is pad printing. Through this printing process, ink is transferred from the cliché and is applied to the part via the pad. To do this, the artwork is etched onto the cliché, a flat plate, and ink is deposited into the grooves of the image. From there, the pad comes down on the cliché and picks up the image before transferring it to the part. At Elite Plastics, there are two types of pad printing machines including a programmable micro printer and standard pad printers. The difference between the two types is that the standard machine is equipped with stationary fixtures while the programmable printer is able to move the fixture so that the part can be printed on at multiple angles. Another major strength of pad printing compared to other decorative processes is the ability to print multiple colors during one set-up rather than through individual set-ups per color. This saves crucial time and money for the program. Pad printing is able to achieve fine print graphics as well.

Considerations when evaluating pad printing as a decorative option include the type of plastic material and the size of the artwork. If the plastic material being printed on has a heavy textured finish, the ink may not print as crisply or thoroughly as it would on a smooth material. Some plastic materials aren’t cohesive with inks and require a pre-treatment to ensure good adhesion. After production, a post-treatment is done to ensure that the ink is cured quickly. Despite these considerations, pad printing technology is highly recommended for its ability to achieve multiple colors and angles in one run.

In our next article we will discuss screen printing technology and its application for plastic parts. 

 

Edward Laffert, GMN
Why the annealing process is crucial for plastics
By Edward Lafferty Jun 10, 2016
Plastic molding machine for the annealing process

In simple terms, annealing is a manufacturing process of heating a material up for a period of time before allowing it to cool down. This capability can be applied to all three types of basic materials, ceramic, metal, and polymer, but we focus on plastic material here at Elite Plastics. In the plastics industry specifically, annealing is the process of heating a plastic part up to half of the melt temperature for a moderate period of time before letting the plastic cool back down. When the part is reheated like this, the material relaxes and the molded stress is reduced. Annealing is a secondary operation, specifically a heat treatment, and isn’t typically done for all plastics parts or even in most plastic industries, but it is an important technology here at Elite Plastics.

This is an important step of the molding process because most plastic materials are poor conductors of heat which can lead to part damage. Because the plastic parts are heated up to high temperatures through annealing, the material is able to relax so that it does not react to stress caused by molding when it is in its final application or shape.  These stresses typically include tension or compression (built-in stress or molded stress).

The purpose of annealing can vary for different plastic materials, but Elite Plastics uses it to ensure part stability over time. This is important for two main reasons. First, by reducing the stress, the plastic part will have better mechanical and thermal properties because there are fewer sites in the polymer that could propagate a crack or expand the part. Secondly, because most of the plastic parts that Elite Plastics produces are painted, a crack would be very visible against the paint. This is because the part material will contract and expand over time and if it has not already experienced this fluctuation at a more extreme condition through annealing, it will noticeably crack.

 While the annealing process is not used in every plastic industry, Elite Plastics is committed to utilizing the technology to ensure plastic part quality over time. 

John Davis, GMN
Plastic material selection for your next project
By John Davis May 18, 2016
Plastics material selection for manufacturing

There are many different types of plastic materials being used in the manufacturing industry and with so many choices out there it can be difficult to select a specific solution. A few of the most common materials include polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polycarbonate (PC), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), and various engineering polymers.

While polyethylene and polypropylene are different resins, both have similar properties within their plastic family because they are buoyant materials and are hydrophobic, meaning they do not absorb water. These two commodity plastics are commonly used within the injection molding industry because they are lower in cost, easy to obtain, come in a wide variety of colors, and are favored for their resistance to many chemical solvents, acids, and bases. The material density allows them to float, which can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on the application. Typically, polyethylene and polypropylene materials are used for small, cheap and lightweight products such as reusable water bottles, containers,  children’s toys, and are commonly found in packaging such as plastic bags and films. These materials are not as hard as other plastics and don’t hold up as well to ultra violet (UV) light exposure. On the other hand, these materials can withstand an impact without shattering because they aren’t brittle like glass.

ABS is another favorite within the injection molding industry and is used widely at Elite Plastics, a division of GM Nameplate. The reason for this is due to the chemical composition of this material and the versatility associated with its physical and chemical properties.  For example, ABS has great impact resistance, toughness, and heat resistance, which makes it a great option for housing and bezels because it can handle some impact without breaking. This material can also be processed with additives to improve UV resistance, gloss, and can be found in a wide variety of colors. The price point for ABS is also reasonable. While ABS is a strong material, it doesn’t stand up against high temperatures or external elements as well as other material options.

Polycarbonate is the top choice for most projects because it is reasonably priced, can infuse UV resistant additives, is a good electrical insulator, and has good fire retardant and heat-resistant properties. While polycarbonate is very popular, it isn’t the best choice for a part that has strict flammability restrictions because the piece can shatter if it gets hot enough. 

Even though Elite Plastics is experienced in working with the plastic materials above, they also excel in manufacturing parts that are required to be made of engineering polymers.  In this case, engineering polymers are injection molding grade plastics that have exceptional toughness, stiffness, chemical resistivity, and highest heat-resistant and flame-retardant properties.  Some common engineering polymers include poly ether ketone (PEEK), polyetherimide (PEI), and polysulfone (PSU).  While these materials may have impressive numbers to back them up, they are very expensive to obtain. 

Chris Passanante, GMN
GMN's plastic division celebrates 20 years
By Chris Passanante Apr 13, 2016
GMN’s plastic division celebrates 20 years

To mark the two decades since GM Nameplate acquired its plastic division in Beaverton, Oregon, the employees of the Beaverton Division gathered for an internal celebration. In 1995, GM Nameplate bought Danegon Plastics, now known as Elite Plastics, and after 20 successful years, the facility has grown larger than ever. Joining GMN allowed Danegon Plastics to become a custom manufacturer and in turn, offered GMN the plastic injection molding capabilities it needed.

GMN’s plastic division is a facility solely dedicated to plastic manufacturing. Plastic injection molding is the foundation of our plastic manufacturing expertise and after 20 years, the division’s capabilities have grown to encompass a huge range of technologies. These include plastic decorating, plastic tooling, plastic machining, and assembly, in addition to injection and compression molding. In an effort to offer our customers full solutions, our plastic division plays a crucial role in value-added assemblies and custom manufactured parts. 

To learn more about GMN’s plastic division, click here