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.
GM Nameplate (GMN) produces custom printed glass solutions for a wide variety of industries. Whether you need a border to hide mounting hardware or want to include a logo or other backlit icon, GMN can support any printed glass solution from development through value-added assembly. With a growing amount of printed glass options available, there are many considerations to keep in mind that will help to ensure program success.
A variety of graphic features can be printed on the backside of the cover glass, including decorative borders, company names or logos, and symbols. Most printed glass solutions are predominantly done in black, but can incorporate multiple custom colors as well.
Indicator windows are also commonly requested for ambient light sensors, power indicators, or IR sensing. Dead-front indicator windows can be used to help disguise the port windows, making the windows less obvious to the user and hiding the component behind the window.
It is essential to understand how different ink colors are printed to be able to create a clean and polished look. Inks need to be printed thick enough to reach a sufficient level of opacity in order to prevent light from showing through the background and along the edges of the screen. As a result, light colored inks require an additional ink layer for opacity. The buildup of extra layers increases the ink’s thickness, but can also lead to processing difficulties later on if the ink becomes too thick.
When printing light colors – especially with precise color matches – the manufacturer must also consider the inherent tint or hue of the glass being utilized. Some types of glass, such as soda-lime, have a slight green tint that will alter the finished color of the ink when looking through the glass. To counteract this issue, colors have to be adjusted to account for the tint. If there are persisting color-matching difficulties, the customer may need to switch to a low iron soda-lime or borosilicate glass, which has a more water-clear/blue tint.
During the bonding or lamination of flexible sensor films or touchscreens to printed glass, micro air bubbles can form along the window border if the ink is too thick. To prevent the formation of these micro bubbles, the edges of the ink can be gradually pulled back. This creates a stair step effect so that the ink gradually increases and decreases in thickness, which helps the adhesive to flow.
To learn more about GMN’s printed glass and front panel integration capabilities, visit our front panel integration page.
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:
LEVL, a health and wellness company, asked GM Nameplate (GMN) to manufacture a backlit user interface for their medical device. LEVL wanted a cost-effective design and small, backlit indicators that could light up independently. During prototyping, GMN found that using white, discrete LEDs and a printed graphic overlay with transparent colors would be the best solution for their device.
Learn more about how GMN supported LEVL by reading our case study.
Next week, GM Nameplate will be exhibiting at Medical Design and Manufacturing West (MD&M) show in Anaheim, California. GMN technical experts will be on site in booth #2077 to discuss upcoming projects and GMN’s custom manufacturing capabilities. Samples will be available to demonstrate GMN’s latest technologies including capacitive switch technology demonstration units, front panel integration, plastic injection molded components, nameplates, printed electrodes, overlays and more. We are happy to set up formal meetings to discuss your next project so please reach out to us today because spaces are limited. We can be reached directly at email@example.com.
InterMetro, a global manufacturer of storage and transport products, contacted GM Nameplate (GMN) regarding a label for their medical storage units. Their primary concern for the label was its ability to withstand environmental conditions. In the medical setting, the label would be in constant contact with harsh chemicals, so GMN suggested a magni-lens domed part for protection and longevity. Because of their durability, magni-lens domed labels are very popular among medical device companies.
In addition to endurance, InterMetro wanted their part to stand out. InterMetro decided on a bright Mylar substrate that included a silver metallic background with purple transparent ink which allowed the bright material to show through and highlight the product name. The part was also embossed to create a dimensional effect. In the end, the metallic magni-lens label proved to be a more cost effective option than metal, while maintaining a similar appearance and sheen.
Thorough production and inspection processes are required to ensure the creation of a reliable, uniform label. At GMN, we maintain high-quality standards of production and carefully inspect each product for consistency and excellence.
GM Nameplate was able to provide Rockford Fosgate with a durable nameplate for their car stereo speakers that met all of their environmental and design requirements. The nameplate must achieve a bright metallic color and the strength to withstand foot traffic or any impacts interior car doors face. GMN found that applying the hot stamping process and using a chrome foil would best meet these requirements.
Hot stamping uses heat and pressure to transfer dried ink or foil from a roll of film to a plastic part. In this case for Rockford Fosgate, GMN used a high endurance chrome foil that is well suited for automotive applications due to its increased abrasion resistance. The chrome foil was then pressed onto a black plastic part, which was molded using resin, a thermoplastic polymer.
With the ability to decorate a two-color, two-tone part, hot stamping is less time consuming than masking or painting. Additionally, hot stamping saves production time because the dried ink or foil doesn’t need to be placed in an oven after it’s already been cured when it was transferred via heat.
No adhesive was applied to the back of the nameplate. The nameplate is designed with a few snap features that allow it to lock into the speaker.
GMN has been working with Ametek, Inc., an electronic instruments and electromechanical device manufacturer, for years. Ametek’s Crystal Digital Test Gauge is used for testing pressure vessels and piping systems in critical industries such as the oil, gas, nuclear, and power generation.
The device requires a corrosion resistant user interface that will be able to withstand harsh environments. To meet these requirements GMN strategically designed the stack up of the overlay, adhesive, and membrane to act as a sealant from moisture and fluids. Usually, the tail end of a membrane exits the membrane circuit at the border of the part. Instead, GMN positioned the membrane tail to exit the membrane circuit at the center of the part, near the window. This allows the part to have a firm edge on the border, preventing any moisture from passing through the part.
Under these tough environmental conditions, the graphic on the overlay also must be preserved. GMN printed the graphic on the backside of the overlay material to prevent the design from eroding. This technique is common for electronic instruments.
When a device requires a membrane with tactile switch technology, GMN often uses polyester (PET) film. This is to ensure the membrane switch overlay is durable enough not to crack. Additionally, PET film is scratch and chemical resistant, which contributes to the components that prevent this device from corroding.
The overlay features seven colors, one texture, and a window for the display screen. The window is an added challenge to the part because it must be rigid and durable without disturbing the thickness of the overlay material or the dimensions of the membrane switch. GMN solved this issue with a window stiffener layer that secures this component to the back of the overlay.
As a 3M preferred converter, GMN used a high performance acrylic adhesive for this overlay. The easily die-cut adhesive is moisture and solvent resistant. Once all the components are assembled together, the part can withstand maximum operating temperature of 185 degrees Fahrenheit and minimum operating temperature of -22 degrees Fahrenheit.
The American manufacturing industry is transforming as automation requires a workforce with advanced manufacturing skills. GM Nameplate’s president, Brad Root discusses how GMN continues to fill jobs and support employees. GMN has utilized the Military to Manufacturing (M2M) Career Pathways program and a tuition reimbursement program to promote jobs within the company.
Read more at http://thelens.news/2017/01/06/gearing-up-for-advanced-manufacturing/
View the article on LinkedIn.
Over the years, it has always been a priority at GM Nameplate (GMN) to make sure all of our materials, processes, and inks are certified under the European Union Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS). As a result, GMN is equipped as companies throughout California are starting to place an increased importance on RoHS certification. It is now standard to include proof of RoHS compliance on both internal and external customer documentation so customers can see that the standard is met.
The main objective of RoHS certification is to restrict the use of hazardous materials in electronic equipment, to encourage proper recycling and re-use of this equipment, and to substitute heavy metals with safer alternatives. GMN takes pride in this certification because it validates our constant efforts as a manufacturing company to reduce electrical and electronic waste, increases safety for our employees and customers, and limits our impact on the environment.
To ensure that we maintain RoHS certification, we continually survey our supply chain to guarantee their compliance by identifying and testing alternate materials.