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By Brian Rowe | Jul 17, 2017
BECO Dairy Automation overlay set

BECO Dairy Automation Inc. is a manufacturer of modern dairy equipment. BECO came to GM Nameplate (GMN) looking for several overlays for their Immix G2 machine, a dairy milking control module. The overlays had specific aesthetic requirements and also needed to be able to handle the harsh environment of milking farms.

There were six overlays made with each set: three labels, two control switches, and one large label with display windows to read measurements on the Immix machine.

The overlays were required to withstand one million actuations, frequent contact with chemicals, and being sprayed by powerful hoses on a daily basis. BECO also wanted the overlays to have a metallic look that was complimented by a red gradient.

GMN initially used its new digital THIEME printer for this project. The THIEME printer can run multiple colors and print the entire overlay in one run instead of having to switch colors with each run-through, which eliminates setup costs associated with other conventional printing processes. This printing process is best for low to medium volume products with multiple colors and gradients, such as the red gradient BECO wanted on their overlay.

Traditional digital inks aren’t very durable, but with this machine, GMN has the capability of digitally printing UV curable inks which can be used for overlays that will face a lot of actuations. With a suitable ink selection based on the substrate material, we are also able to perform additional post-printing processes, such as embossing, to enhance the product appearance and add additional value over an older digital press.

However, the biggest challenge was achieving the desired metallic look that could survive countless actuations. Most metallic inks aren’t durable enough to withstand the hundreds of thousands of actuations that the BECO overlays would endure. Therefore, GMN decided to use a silver ink that was slightly more opaque, but had a guaranteed long actuation life.

Once the overlay was designed and ready to print, BECO ordered a higher quantity of overlays than initially anticipated. In order to meet the timeline, GMN moved the printing process to an offset lithography printer, which is a more cost effective process for larger volumes while still maintaining the level of quality.

With years of experience in printing and manufacturing, GMN knows which production technique is most appropriate for each project. Through GMN’s diverse array of capabilities and equipment, we are able to use the most economical option that will get the job done to meet budget and time constraints.

By Sandy Dick | Jul 11, 2017
CONMED membrane switch assembly

CONMED, a global medical technology company, came to GM Nameplate (GMN) in need of a membrane switch for the control panel of their surgical generator. With diverse capabilities and decades of experience working with the medical industry, GMN was able to provide not only each component of the membrane switch, but the complete, value-added assembly of the part as well.

The graphic overlay was printed using a combination of screen and litho printing and included multiple display windows and LED indicators. The overlay’s background colors were screen printed to achieve a high opacity, which helped to prevent light bleed from the illuminated LEDs. Litho printing was used to apply fine details and halftone patterns to the part. A halftone dot pattern was printed on top of the background to create a gradient effect on the keys and along the top of the overlay. Creating a halftone pattern design that achieved the customer’s desired aesthetic proved to be challenging, but the ideal look was reached after several trials of testing various pattern constructions (altering dot size and space between the dots). GMN also printed the membrane circuit that goes behind the overlay and connects to the LEDs and switches.

Another challenge faced during this project was choosing the correct snap domes for the different-sized keys to create a good tactile feel. The difficulty stemmed from the unusual shapes of the keys and various sizes of domes. As a consistent layer across the entire part, the spacer interacts simultaneously with every dome and affects each dome size differently.  Therefore, GMN had to carefully design the stack-up to include a spacer layer with the optimal thickness to give every dome size enough room to provide a crisp tactile feel.

A variety of layers were required in the stack-up in order to ensure that the part would function properly. ESD shielding was placed under the circuit connector to protect from static discharge and an aluminum subpanel was added to support the otherwise flexible structure. A foam gasket surrounded the outside of the panel to seal the area from outside moisture and fluids. Finally, due to a concern of the closeness to the electrical components beneath the panel, an insulating layer was added to the backside of the subpanel to prevent the electrical components from shorting out against this metal layer.

From early development through full-scale production, GMN worked closely with the customer to develop this product and assist them in preparing the part design for manufacturability. As a product used in the operating room, GMN held multiple pilot runs to ensure the part functioned as intended and met the customer’s standards. 

CONMED surgical generator with GMN's membrane switch assembly.

Rich Smylie, GMN
By Richard Smylie | Jul 6, 2017
Stainless steel: colors and textures

In the third and final part of our series regarding stainless steel, we will discuss adding colors and textures to enhance an applications’ visual beauty and tactile values. With an endless number of patterns and hues from which to choose, GM Nameplate (GMN) can support your development with virtually any desired combination.  

In addition to creating textures mechanically, GMN can also create textures organically to have linear, geometric and micro patterns. Linear patterns can be in the form of pinstripes with the lines varying in thickness for accent/highlight purposes, geometric patterns that are structured to have bold distinctive values or micro patterns that are subtle patterns of tightly aligned shapes and/or lines. Organic textures can also be natural patterns that look handcrafted, such as woodgrain.

Textures can be created to be transparent, tinted, opaque, or colored, with high or low gloss values and varying tactile values. All textures can be combined with custom colors that which can be overall or selectively deposited.

For subtle designs and harmony considerations, customers often lean towards choosing 430 stainless steel using a No. 4 brushed finish. Often times this is layered with black, silver, or grey tints and a fluid pattern such as a micro or organic texture. This muted tone finish is typically spotted in home appliance suites (such as a kitchen) used across multiple applications, such as on microwaves, dishwashers, washers, dryers, and refrigerators that are within view of one another.

For a modern look, customers frequently choose a higher gloss for a more brilliant finish. An example of this this would be 430 stainless steel with a No. 8 BA (bright annealed) polish. This finish is known for its blue hue, lack of visual grain structure, and reflectivity. With this particular finish, it is common to add white or black coloring and/or geometric texture accents.  Applying the brush in multiple directions can add gradation and a tactile value to the geometric pattern.

Colors applied selectively are used to offset sections of a pattern. GMN provides a variety of options for different looks and finishes to enhance the look of stainless steel applications’.

For more information, check out the previous blogs in the series on stainless steel.

Stainless steel alloys                                                                                                      

Stainless steel: brushed finishes

By Chris Doyle | Jun 28, 2017
Example of a Metalphoto nameplate

Are you in need of a highly durable and high-end looking nameplate? Look no further than Metalphoto. This incredibly dependable and innovative material is gaining recognition in its uses for nameplates, placards, serial plates, and asset tags.

What is Metalphoto?

Metalphoto is a specialized type of anodized aluminum used to make nameplates, labels and control panels. Developed for the US Navy in 1950 and specified by most major OEMs, it is one of the most durable identification materials available.

Metalphoto’s construction begins with pure 1100 alloy aluminum. The aluminum is then anodized, which creates a glass-like layer that is sapphire-hard on top of the metal. Next, the anodized layer is impregnated with an inorganic photosensitive compound. Using a computerized imaging machine, the artwork is then projected into the aluminum itself, rather than being printed on top of the metal. The graphics are exposed and developed like a true photograph inside of the anodized aluminum, which causes it to become a part of the nameplate. This is what makes Metalphoto so durable and extremely resistant to corrosion, sunlight/UV degradation, abrasion, high temperatures and chemical exposure. Finally, the parts are placed in a sealing tank to close and encase the graphics underneath the anodic layer.

Metalphoto comes in four different finishes: matte, satin, gloss, and a #4 brushed finish that resembles stainless steel. It ranges from 0.003” (.076mm) to 0.125” (3.175mm) in thickness.

Metalphoto images and text are primarily in black. Additional colors can be added, however there is only a set pallet of colors and they cannot be color matched.

The benefits of Metalphoto

Using Metalphoto rather than etched steel or printed stainless steel has many benefits. Metalphoto has unmatched durability and resistance properties. It can sustain an outdoor life of 20+ years, is resistant to over 7,000 cycles of abrasion, can withstand temperatures in excess of 750°F, and is specifically designed to be salt spray and chemical resistant.

In addition, the resolution of graphics on Metalphoto is significantly clearer than on etched steel. The method of using a projected image makes any letters, numbers, symbols and pictures extremely legible and appear as crisp and clean as a photograph.

Metalphoto is also less expensive than stainless steel in lower quantities, especially for variable data/runs. Unlike steel or other nameplates, it does not require individual engraving, punching, or laser marking for variability in images or information. Using the computerized imaging process also makes Metalphoto perfect for serialization, as it does not affect the process or price to make each Metalphoto plate different in image or serial number.

Examples of Metalphoto products

Inovus Solar asked GMN to create a high quality, high resolution nameplate that could last outdoors on their solar-powered street lights. This nameplate needed to be durable in all weather conditions and pliable enough to wrap around the light post, while still sustaining a clear image. Therefore, a thin Metalphoto nameplate was the perfect solution to meet the needs of Inovus Solar.

Another example is a nameplate solution GMN produced for Starbucks. Instead of withstanding extreme weather conditions, Starbucks wanted a high-end nameplate with higher resolution graphics for their coffee machines. The nameplate needed to project clear images while being able to withstand chemical corrosion from cleaning materials. Starbucks went with a Metalphoto nameplate to meet their high quality specifications.

Metalphoto’s durability and resolution makes for a great nameplate, placard, serial plate or asset tag for your product. Metalphoto nameplates are crisp, clear, and are easy to produce in high quantities with variable images/data.

GMN is a certified converter of Metalphoto and has been providing Metalphoto solutions for over 40 years. 

Chris Passanante, GMN
By Chris Passanante | Jun 23, 2017
ISO 13485

Due to our ongoing commitment to the medical device industry and growing demand, GM Nameplate’s (GMN) Beaverton, OR Division attained ISO 13485:2003 certification. The Beaverton, OR Division, GMN’s dedicated plastics facility, received this certification after auditing and approval by the Orion Registrar on May 9, 2017. This ISO standard is in regard to the quality management system requirements specific to medical device manufacturers. GMN’s Beaverton, OR Division is the third GMN division to obtain this quality certification.

What does this standard mean for GMN customers?

Meeting the strict standards of ISO 13485 assures that GMN can continue to support existing and future customers in the medical industry. ISO 13485 demonstrates that GMN meets regulatory standards and legal requirements to operate in the medical device industry, reduces risk effectively, and has systems in place to consistently yield safe and effective medical device components.

With little room for error in the medical industry, GMN has continually worked to uphold a quality system that meets the highest quality standards in order to produce best-in-class solutions. This certification validates the strength and sustainability of our processes which differentiates us from competitors.

Dedication to quality

For decades, GMN has shown commitment to the medical device industry and a dedication to creating quality products. Compliance with ISO 13485 ensures that the medical device components and sub-assemblies produced by GMN will meet or exceed thoroughly planned specifications every time, without exception.

As a company that supports multiple regulated industries, such as medical, we are committed to ensuring that our Quality Management System is robust and flexible enough to meet the variety of challenges presented by our wide range of customers and industries. With this new recognition, GMN’s Beaverton, OR Division shows its ability to handle increasingly stringent and diverse customer requirements. In addition, the ISO 13485 compliments ISO 9001, another quality standard that GMN has long been in compliance with, which reflects our continual efforts to broaden our quality system to better align with the current Good Manufacturing Practices.

Gail Amole, GMN
By Gail Amole | Jun 22, 2017
USNR aluminum decal

GM Nameplate (GMN) created an aluminum label for USNR, an innovative company that manufactures a complete line of state-of-the-art equipment for cutting, handling, and drying lumber. USNR started as a small sawmill equipment supplier and has grown to be a global leader in the wood processing industry. 

USNR came to GMN to find a way to cut costs on their current nameplates in order to continue to maintain a strong brand identity on all of their equipment. Although changes needed to be made, USNR still favored the finish and dimensions of their prior nameplate. Luckily, GMN had the expertise to provide an aluminum decal with the same look and feel, but at a lower cost.

The first step of a printing job is often color matching. This step mattered a great deal to USNR because their prominent red color is such a distinct part of their brand. Therefore, it was imperative that the correct shade of red was achieved on the decal. GMN’s custom color-matching capabilities allow us to accurately color match from a variety of different sources – in this case it was a coffee mug.

Given the nature of the industry, the label also had to be extremely durable. After collaborating with USNR, GMN decided to screen print the label on .008 aluminum with a .005 3M adhesive backing. The aluminum label was fabricated with a steel-rule die, and thermal-embossed with a magnesium die to give the part more depth and make the logo pop. To complete the look, the part was given a satin polyurethane finish.

The end result met all of USNR’s aesthetic, durability, and cost requirements. The printed aluminum decal has a sleek look that aligns with their brand identity, protects against harsh environmental conditions, and allows USNR to expand the use of their branding components.

Jeff Friday, Marketing Specialist at USNR says it best, “With the per-unit costs reduced by 60%, it added great flexibility for us to use more of them in many more applications. It was a big win for us!”

By Steve Baker | Jun 16, 2017
GMN's membrane switch assembly for Welch Allyn.

GM Nameplate’s (GMN) Singapore Division supported Welch Allyn, a medical company, to develop and manufacture a membrane switch panel with backlit indicators for their resting electrocardiogram (ECG) device. As a device used to test a patient’s heart activity, it is critical that the backlighting appropriately indicates how much battery power the device possesses.

GMN offers an array of backlighting options including discrete LEDs, fiber optic weave, light guide film, and electroluminescence. The part had strict spacing requirements between its tactile buttons, which influenced GMN to choose discrete LEDs. Discrete LEDs are cost-effective and ideal for lighting up small indicators.

Instead of using three different colored LEDs, GMN installed one bi-color LED to occupy as little space as possible and reduce costs. The two colors within the LED were green to indicate the battery was charged, and red to indicate the battery was dead. To create the amber color that indicates when the device needs charging, the LED was positioned off-centered from the indicator window to effectively blend the red and green colors together.

Another factor GMN had to consider was the material for the overlay. GMN utilized polyester (PET) film, a common overlay material for devices in the medical industry due to its resistance to abrasion and harsh chemicals. As an extremely durable, long-lasting material, PET film is ideal for applications with tactile switches because it’s abnormal for the material to crack. 

Rich Smylie, GMN
By Richard Smylie | Jun 9, 2017
Brushed finish on a stainless steel sill plate

GM Nameplate (GMN) offers vast stainless steel and aluminum decorating capabilities including, custom coatings, graphic printed images/patterns and mechanical finishing. In part two of our series regarding stainless steel, we will discuss the options available when choosing a brushed finish on stainless steel. Brushed finishes distort the light reflection pattern and in doing so can increase the perceived value of a part to which it is affixed.

Brushed metal finishes are produced by polishing or wearing away the outer surface of the metal. Brush finishes can be applied overall or selectively, in one or multiple directions. To create a selective mechanical brush or a spun finish, a screen printed resist ink is applied to the metals’ surface prior to it being subjected to the mechanical brushing wheel. In doing so, the area protected by the resist ink will maintain its original brilliance, as it will not come in contact with the mechanical brushing wheel.

Brushed metals finishes for both stainless steel and aluminum can be linear or oscillating (overlapping). Brushed stainless steel finishes are particularly prevalent in the home appliance and automotive industries. The most common finish call-offs for stainless steel are BA for bright finish applications and No.4 for brushed.

A BA (bright annealed) finish is a high luster brilliant chrome finish that is frequently employed in the automotive industry. A  No. 8 BA finish is the most reflective finish call-off. This finish is created by treating the surface with a series of fine abrasives, and then buffing to create a mirror like appearance. The buffing finish improves the corrosion resistance of the No. 8 finish because it polishes away any minor surface imperfections where particles may stick and initiate the corrosion process. With this corrosion resistant property, the No. 8 finish is commonly used for exterior application requiring brilliant highly reflective surfaces.

A No. 4 brush finish is commonly employed by the appliance industry for applications that include ranges, washers, dryers, and refrigerator trim. The appeal of the No. 4 brush is the uniformity, and the highs and lows of the elongated brush pattern.

Brush patterns, when combined with colors and/or textures; add even more contrast to the aesthetics of the part. The next blog in our stainless steel mechanical finishes series will cover colors and textures.

For more information, check out our previous blog on stainless steel alloys

By Chris Doyle | May 26, 2017
GMN's new digital THIEME press

GM Nameplate’s (GMN) Seattle, WA Division has just received a new digital press made by THIEME. This digital press produces the opacity of screen printing inks, but the print quality of lithography printing. The THIEME press has a very quick turnaround time, making it perfect for GMN to print lower volume jobs, as well as prototypes and projects that don’t allow much lead time.

Digital printing is a process that prints a digital-based image directly onto a substrate. There is less set-up and no printing plates or screens to make, which is not like other traditional printing methods. The cost of printing per sheet is often higher than that of other printing options, but is likely offset by the reduced labor time and cost savings due to not having to produce printing plates or screens.

Digital printing is best for lower to medium volume jobs that require gradations, half tones or more than three colors. The THIEME press can also easily print embossed overlays as well as transparent colored windows.

An advantage of the THIEME press is its ability for customers to make quick changes to digital images on the fly. The press also makes serialization and personalization possible by printing fixed and variable data simultaneously.

Print heads on GMN’s new digital THIEME press

The print heads include cyan, magenta, yellow, black, light cyan, light magenta, light black and white. If white is not used, the print speed is 150 seconds (2 minutes, 30 seconds), however when white is used the print speed is 300 seconds (5 minutes).

Although color matching is improving with digital printing, a downside to printing digitally is its limited color spectrum. If an exact color match is needed for a print, digital printing is not the ideal printing process. However, GMN can create a color profile that matches Pantone Matching System (PMS) colors, or color chips for each material. After the color matching is completed, GMN can supply custom ink cartridges.

The THIEME press can print on up to 2 inch thick material and on no larger than an 18”x24” sheet. If a job requires a larger sheet size, customers may be able to take advantage of our San Jose, CA Division’s HP Indigo digital press, which can handle a sheet size of 12.5”x37”. Customers may also utilize the Inca Spyder press at GMN’s Monroe, NC Division, where we can print 48”x60” sheets on a print bed that can take up to 5’x10’ of print area. 

While there are multiple factors that contribute to the decision of which printing process to use, there are clear benefits and drawbacks of each method. GMN works with each customer to determine which printing method is best for the specific project, whether it is offset, flexography, screen, or digital printing. GMN offers a printing solution for every type of project. 

By Betty Raper | May 23, 2017
Metal nameplates with antique effect.

Brands often use a weathered look for their branding components to differentiate their product or to invoke a sense of emotional attachment to the product within users. Applying a weathered or antique aesthetic typically signifies the history or importance and value associated with the product. Weathering is regularly used in industries such as outdoor recreation in order to appeal to certain target customers and give products a well-loved, natural appearance.

To provide a nameplate with this antique effect, first, a dot pattern is developed and applied to the background artwork of the part. Then, the dot pattern is printed onto the metal as a halftone, meaning the pattern varies from light to dark. The halftones produce a gradient effect, which causes the nameplate to appear to have been exposed to the elements and weathered naturally.

In addition, embossing and applying a darker halftone pattern to the area around the nameplate’s letters can help to further accentuate a weathered look.

GMN manufactures custom nameplates in a variety of materials, textures, and designs. A list of GMN’s metal nameplate options and materials can be found on our nameplate capabilities page.

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