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By Steve Baker | Sep 21, 2017
Technical printing projects must face strict qualification procedures before moving into full-scale production.

In the final blog of our three-part series on technical printing, we will discuss the qualification procedures that technical printing projects endure.

In the last blog, we described the five phases of development for technical printing projects. Once that process is complete and stable, the project goes through qualification procedures as it moves on to production. GM Nameplate (GMN) carefully applies these procedures with technical printing projects, especially those belonging to highly regulated industries such as aerospace and medical.

There are three qualifications that projects must pass during production to be validated as parts ready to sell:

Installation qualification (IQ)

Correct installation of machinery is vital, because if the equipment isn’t properly installed, the parts it produces won’t be viable. IQ is typically conducted for new pieces of equipment purchased for a particular job. This involves testing the equipment and understanding the ins and outs of how it works. One of the most important factors when conducting IQ is learning the equipment’s variability when being used so we know the accuracy of the machine. With technical printing projects, only so much variability is allowed, and the variance of the equipment used must be carefully considered during production. If the piece of equipment has been used before, past qualification tests can be referenced.

Operation qualification (OQ)

This process is to ensure that variables and critical operational parameters are held constant throughout production. In the previous blog, we described the initial development process that technical printing projects go through when moving from concept to production. OQ is all about understanding variability in our operation processes and how to maintain consistency during large-scale production. This is essentially development on the production level, requiring testing of many variables to gain a better understanding.

Since technically printed parts belong to pieces of equipment like medical devices, many variables must be controlled strictly, such as drying temperature, ink dispensing, ink thickness, and substrate materials. During OQ, the parameter windows are set with a minimum and maximum level of variances allowed, and it is critical to stay within these throughout production. For example, once we know the optimal temperature at which the ink will cure, the optimal thickness of the ink, and which substrate material is best for the ink to adhere to, we can move forward with production knowing the variables will be held constant at the appropriate level.

Production qualification (PQ)

Production qualification is testing our production processes and the materials used when we manufacture parts (our suppliers’ control parameters). Since technically printed parts belong to highly regulated industries, we must make sure the substrates, dielectrics, carbons, silvers, and other materials are without defect and that our production processes are keeping the many variables in the middle of their parameter window. This process is done by doing three different runs/setups with different lots of materials during initial production. Once the parts are produced, each lot is examined to make sure it falls within the tight parameter windows. If it doesn’t, a root-cause analysis is conducted to determine whether the failure was due to poor materials, an issue with production setup, or another factor. This process is a final review which ensures that by the time the part is completed, it will be ready for the customer.

Since technically printed parts belong to highly regulated industries, they often go through this process when initially setting up for production. GMN employs an expert team of quality control inspectors and quality engineers and utilizes IQ, OQ, PQ processes to ensure quality and repeatability throughout production.

To learn more about technical printing, check out the other blogs from this series:

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. 

By Maeghan Callegari | Feb 7, 2017

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.

By Steve Baker | Nov 16, 2016
Learn about how to approach your next backlighting project at GMN's free backlighting webinar.

Are you looking for a way to make your products stand out?

Backlighting is the perfect solution for instantly improving the look and functionality of your device. Although, with so many backlighting technologies available, it can be hard to determine which technology is best suited for your device.

What are the different backlighting technologies available? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each technology? Where does one begin when approaching a backlighting project?

You need answers and we’ve got them. GMN is hosting a free live webinar about backlighting technologies on Wednesday, December 7, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. PT/1:00 p.m. ET.

Want to ensure backlighting success for your next project? Join our webinar to learn:

  • An overview of current popular backlighting technologies
  • How to choose which technology is right for your device
  • Questions & concerns to consider during development
  • Tools to overcome common design challenges

Click here to register for GMN’s upcoming backlighting webinar.

By Steve Baker | Nov 1, 2016
GMN's capacitive switch demo unit allows you experience capacitive switch technology firsthand.

In today’s world, consumers interact with touchscreen devices on a daily basis. As a result, consumers have started to expect the presence of non-tactile technology in a growing number of products. This has caused the demand for the use of capacitive switch technology to rapidly increase.

Capacitive switch technology provides a cost-effective solution for sleek, modern product designs that match current market expectations. Providing thinner, cleaner, and more sealable solutions, capacitive switches have numerous advantages over more mature technologies such as keyboards and membrane switches. To learn more about capacitive switch technology, visit our capacitive switches page or past blog entry.

As experts in this cutting-edge technology, GM Nameplate offers a wide and unique range of capacitive switch capabilities. From early development to final production, GMN can support customers throughout the entire manufacturing process. We are currently working on several capacitive switch projects such as user interfaces and safety mechanisms for a variety of industries including appliance, heavy equipment, and wearable device. GMN also has the ability to incorporate capacitive switches into many of the products we already produce.  

Therefore, GMN is excited to announce the release of our new capacitive touch demonstrator. This innovative demo unit allows customers to experience firsthand the variety of capacitive switch options that GMN has available, including rotary and linear sliders and integration with curved surfaces.

Click here to learn more about our new demo unit!

By Brian Rowe | Oct 12, 2016
Membrane switch panel for  Given Imaging's medical device.

Given Imaging, a medical technology company, came to GM Nameplate (GMN) to assemble a membrane switch panel for their medical device. When configuring a membrane switch, many factors about each component layer must be taken into consideration. 

As the user interface for a medical device, the screen printed and embossed overlay needed to satisfy stringent requirements. The overlay must act as a sealant to prevent moisture and fluids from reaching the membrane. Additionally, the overlay must be chemical and scratch resistant to combat the strain of daily use. 

Common overlay materials include polyester and polycarbonate. Both materials are affordable options that will protect the circuit membrane from scratches, chemicals, and liquids. Due to the durability of screen printed inks, backprinting is a frequent practice to mitigate product wear and tear from everyday use.    

This Given Imaging overlay contains three colors - teal, white, and a black opaque layer. The opaquing layer was selectively applied around the LEDs which allowed light to shine through and prevented light bleed through unwanted areas of the overlay. Because of the opaquing layer, light only showed through the indicator icon on a button instead of throughout the whole part.

When looking at membrane circuit materials, printed silver ink in lower volumes provides a cheaper option than copper etched circuits, such as Kapton, while still offering comparable performance capabilities. Finding the right membrane circuit for the product application is necessary to manufacture a quality membrane switch.

For more information about GMN’s membrane switch assemblies, visit our capabilities page.  

Cynthia Schulte
By Cynthia Schulte | Nov 4, 2015
Emerson membrane switch and assembly by GMN

We are proud to announce that GM Nameplate was recognized with a Silver Golden Image Award at by the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (SGIA).  The award was announced at SGIA’s annual exposition in Atlanta. GMN submitted an entry in the membrane switch category with their CSI Machinery Health Analyzer. To learn more, visit the press release.  

By Gerry Gallagher | Feb 17, 2015
Industry trends

Last week we reported the results from our bi-annual customer satisfaction survey. The majority of the survey covered areas related to satisfaction of working with GMN. In addition to assessing customer satisfaction, the survey also asks questions related to customer service trends. The goal of these questions is to confirm or establish new trends within the industry.

The industry trends section of the survey asked participants to indicate to which degree they agree with various trends GMN has noticed within the industry. Based on customer feedback we confirmed the following trends:

  • Increasing integration of touch technology into product user interfaces (glass interface)
  • Growing dependence on suppliers for engineering and design support as experts within our specialized field
  • Suppliers who can offer multiple products are valued

Respondents also identified a number of changes impacting business and suggestions for what GMN can do to help them adapt. Customers suggested end customer cost down initiatives, off-shoring manufacturing and a growing dependence on contract manufacturers – all areas GMN has already been working to improve.

As we look to the future of manufacturing, we are excited to see that we are on track with industry changes and trends. We will continue to assess industry trends and changes in future customer surveys, and look forward to continuing efforts to better serve our customers. 

By Gerry Gallagher | Feb 10, 2015
Graph bar upward trend

As part of GMN’s commitment to excellence and its customers, every 6 months GMN conducts a customer survey to asses our customers’ satisfaction. The survey also fulfills part of GMN’s quality system requirements. GMN’s bi-annual customer survey is made up of a series of ranking and short answer questions related to various aspects of the customer experience, product quality, value, and more.

Every bi-annual customer survey we are pleased to report that the majority of our customers are pleased with their overall experience and would recommend working with us. Over the last 15 surveys, more than 92% of customers reported that they would recommend working with GMN.

Compared to the last survey, this survey saw improvements in a number of areas. More than 90% of respondents rated their experience with GMN as good or excelling in the following areas:

  • Overall experience of manufacturing and industry expertise
  • Sales people responsiveness, expertise, communication, and overall experience
  • Experience working with GMN new product managers and account managers

While the majority of our customers report satisfaction with GMN, areas in need of improvement were also pointed out. We are continually making efforts to improve all aspects of our business. Recently many employees have been involved in customer service training, lean manufacturing workshops, and other continuous improvement efforts. We are excited to see how these efforts will improve our customers’ experience with us.

We look forward to continuing our efforts to improve all aspects of our service and manufacturing.

By Steve Baker | Jan 20, 2015
Acel Rx membrane switch assembly

As a printed electronics manufacturer, GM Nameplate manufactures membrane switches and other electronic components for various industries including medical. GM Nameplate has been working with specialty pharmaceutical company AcelRx since 2009, printing a membrane switch and overlay for their Zalviso device. The device is used for post-operative pain management.

The overlay features a selectively textured front surface and tactile buttons to make it more use friendly. It also features a window for the device’s display screen. This window added a challenge to the part, as it required rigidity and durability without increasing the size of the membrane switch or thickness of the overlay material. GMN created a unique solution for AcelRx by combining the dome spacer with a window stiffener layer and optically bonding  this component to back of the overlay.

In the electronics industry where components are constantly getting smaller, it is imperative to have adequate technical printing resources to yield robust and reliable circuits to avoid any malfunction when in use – and when the component is used on a medical device the stakes are higher. Stringent printing and inspection procedures are in place to ensure that every element of the membrane and overlay meets customer specifications.

This membrane switch is a great example of GMN’s expert electronic printing capabilities in highly regulated industries, and the type of products we will be showcasing at MD&M West in a few weeks. The final parts meet all the technical customer’s requirements while provide the necessary durability and wear resistance needed.

To learn more about GMN’s recent electronics projects visit some of our other blogs.

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