Design Mark Blog

Domestic or Off-Shore

It really is a global marketplace. As a consumer, you have more choices of available suppliers than ever to bring your product to the masses. Even within our industry segments of membrane switches, screen printed overlays, flexographic labels, rubber keypads and functional die cut parts, there are options from regional producers to international suppliers.

As an engineer or purchasing decision maker, it is important to understand your options and lay out the pros and cons for each purchasing decision. If you are firmly in the “made in America” camp, your decision is easy but the days of buying on price vs. buying on quality may be in the past. There are some strong market suppliers capable of producing your product based on either of those criteria in all parts of the globe if you know where to look and are willing to go through some trial and error and make a few mistakes along the way. So how do you choose?

It goes without saying that there can still be significant risk in off shore purchases. You have to be vigilant in your purchase and quality decisions. As the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Are you willing to hang your reputation on the lowest cost supplier? There will be suppliers that win on price by virtue of geographic location but in the end, struggle to meet your expectations on quality. Suppliers that understand the needs of their customer and respect their intellectual property and design constraints exist but are also fewer and further in between.

What if you didn’t have to make that choice? What if you could find that one supplier with domestic production and engineering facilities that also has ties to quality suppliers in low cost regions? What if you could find that one supplier that will listen to your needs, help you address your concerns and have the expertise and the resources to review your product and be able to adjust based on your feedback?

Design Mark maintains a full service production facility in Wareham Massachusetts with capabilities to manufacture your custom labels, graphic overlays, membrane switches and functional die cut products. Design Mark also maintains strong partnerships with key domestic and off shore suppliers that have been evaluated for their pricing, quality and delivery and found them to align with our strategic goals, core values and our quality management system. Design Mark has done the due diligence to take the guess work out of your decision making process. Of course we want to work within our core competencies and manufacture your products in our domestic facility but we realize that there are occasions that you will need to search for other solutions. You can shop confidently knowing that we have the resources to combine our manufacturing skills with our available strategic partners to get you the product you want at the price you need. There will always be products that don’t make logistical or financial sense to purchase off shore. There will also be products that fit within the off-shore purchase criteria. Don’t put your product at risk and your timeline in jeopardy by making the wrong decision.

If you would like to learn more, contact Design Mark to discuss your application or to set up a “lunch and learn” seminar with our team.

For more information on Design Mark or our Lunch and Learn series, contact us at Sales@design-mark.com or visit our Request a Quote link on the home page.

Design Mark RoHS Statement

RoHS Compliance Policy Statement

 

As a manufacturer and supplier of custom membrane switches, graphic overlays, flexographic labels, rubber keypads and functional die cut products in the electronics and electronic equipment industry, Design Mark is committed to conducting business in a manner that respects, preserves, and improves the environment.

The latest Directive 2011/65/EU on the Restriction of the use of certain Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHS) was issued in June 2011. The RoHS directive restricts the use of the following, with no more than the maximum concentration value by weight in homogeneous substances on products sold into European markets:

 

Lead 0.1%
Mercury 0.1%
Cadmium 0.01%
Hexavalent Chromium 0.1%
Polybrominated Biphenyls (PBB) 0.1%
Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDE) 0.1%

 

Design Mark will document compliance in the form of a written Certificate of Compliance.  Information contained on our certificates is obtained from various sources including supplier provided information and representative test reports.  If additional supporting documentation over and above our certificate is required, Design Mark will assess each request and determine the associated cost of providing the data.  Design Mark will then provide a quotation and lead-time for completion of this additional testing.  Design Mark does not routinely conduct RoHS assurance testing and relies predominately on information provided by our suppliers.  Design Mark works with industry standard manufacturing practices and materials that have a long standing history of known compliance to RoHS directives.

Product Specific Information

Label Products: ALL of our label products are fully compliant and we will continue to assure compliance as new products are introduced.  In all cases, compliance is validated upon request and on a by customer / by product basis.  RoHS compliance will be assured if requested in the design or quotation stage and customers will be notified if alternate materials must be used to accomplish needed compliance.

Overlay Products: While not all of our products were fully compliant at inception, we will continue to assure compliance as new products are introduced.  Since 2007 the vast majority of our materials and products in this category have been made compliant.  In all cases, compliance is validated upon request and on a by customer / by product basis.  RoHS compliance will be assured if requested in the design or quotation stage and customers will be notified if alternate materials must be used to accomplish needed compliance.

Switch Products: Because our products are used in various capacities by various customers in various regions, not all of our products are currently compliant.  Compliance on new products may be requested at the time of quotation and design.  However, most of our products are already RoHS compliant and continuing efforts are being made to bring all products into compliance within the next few years. Our Sales department can let you know if the product you are ordering is or is not compliant at this time. If you have a question or a concern about a certain product please contact your Customer Service Representative for status on that product. More information on RoHS is available from the official RoHS website.

 

 

Production or Prototype?

When you have a critical path item that may not have been addressed or perhaps fell through the cracks in the design process, you still have some options to get an example of your part. You might need a physical sample to evaluate size or appearance, a non-functional switch to mock up the ergonomics of a user interface, a part for a photo shoot in a marketing campaign or even getting a demo unit ready for a trade show. It isn’t very good to have a product on display or ready for shipment that is missing a critical compliance label, logo label, overlay graphic or membrane switch.

At Design Mark, we have seen and done all of the above for our customers. We know our process takes some time. Our development cycle takes some time. Our tooling cycle takes some time. We also realize that all of this may be time that you simply do not have available in your schedule.

Design Mark engineers will work with you to accommodate your critical path. Design Mark can screen print those critical, visual elements of the graphic overlay or membrane switch and offer you laser cut internal, adhesive or switch layers. If your color scheme cooperates, we can even laser cut your graphic final or switch final to save the cost and time associated with designing and purchasing production dies. If you aren’t sure which product look you need and are undecided between more than one design, Design Mark can digitally print your variations so you can seem them and verify product placement and appearance at your facility with a physical sample.

We will review your design and timeline and offer you some alternatives. Longer lead time items will include embossing tools and complex production dies and we can provide alternate methods for your prototype and sample needs. Design Mark will work the production intent tooling in parallel for as many of the common areas and design objectives that are frozen so that we get you back on track as quickly as possible.

Design Mark’s ability to mix proven production techniques with time saving steps has a proven track record of success and a long list of satisfied customers. Talk with Design Mark to add your project to that list.

If you would like to learn more, contact Design Mark to discuss your application or to set up a “Lunch and Learn” seminar with our team.

For more information on Design Mark or our Lunch and Learn series, contact us at Sales@design-mark.com or Request a Quote.

 

Design Mark Releases a Label Product Design Guide

Design Mark is pleased to announce the introduction of our label products design guide. Intended for product engineers and designers, this guide is intended to give you a reference document for design input, product construction information, industry roll forms and reference information for your critical label product needs.

Request the new label design guide now and get the PDF download instantly.

Included in the guide is a glossary of need to know label industry terms along with a checklist to help you identify specific product attributes and target the features and design elements that will make your custom label product a success.

Presented in the same format as our popular graphic overlay and membrane switch design guide, Design Mark’s guide for label products is offered to start the discussion regarding some of the options you have available to you and to present some of the information that Design Mark will need to adequately quote, design and produce your custom label product.

View the full online press release.

If you would like to learn more, contact Design Mark to discuss your application or to set up a “Lunch and Learn” seminar with our team.

For more information on Design Mark or our Lunch and Learn series, contact us at Sales@design-mark.com or Request a Quote.

Functional Die Cut Parts

What is a functional die cut part?

You will hear us talk about, and see on this website, a reference to functional die cut parts. Much of what we do at Design Mark centers around conventional materials used in our industry (polyesters and polycarbonates) with traditional adhesives (pressure sensitive acrylics) and printed using industry standard screen printing and flexographic printing methods. A functional die cut part is a product that typically falls outside of one or more of those norms.

We at Design Mark realized many years ago that there were other products and technologies that, while complimentary, fell outside of our standard products and practices but presented opportunities to provide additional (value added) services when produced in conjunction with or in support of our traditional products.

Out of this realization was born our functional die cut product line. To illustrate some examples of product types and geometries that fall within this category, please refer to figure 1 below.

(Fig. 1) Functional die cut examples.

 

At first glance you will note some characteristics about the products pictured. You will find adhesives, printed copy and even some conventional materials. The subtle difference in these products is that they are either a hybrid example of two or more technologies combined in non-traditional ways such as flexographic printing with steel rule die cutting for example, or open or closed cell foams combined with laminated adhesives that are then die cut or laser cut to specific shapes to be used as isolation pads, insulators, seals or gaskets.

A by-product of Design Mark’s process is that most everything we make is cut in one form or another. Most of our products start out as either a large sheet or large roll of raw material and of course must be sized to meet our customer’s product need. Within the functional die cut family of products you may find some complex die cuts. You might also find some three dimensional shapes or irregular bends and even some tinted substrates which are used in electronic shielding, light blocking, and packaging or as cosmetic aides to present or mask a product feature or element.

At Design Mark we rely on the traditional but embrace the challenges of these non-traditional product applications and welcome the opportunity to speak with you about your specific product needs for functional die cut, membrane switch, graphic overlay or custom label products.

Talk with Design Mark engineers and give us the opportunity to review your design. We will ask questions to learn about your application and discuss your environmental considerations and surfaces. With an understanding of your design and your cost goals we can suggest materials and offer equivalent solutions that might help you lower your product cost and meet your needs.

If you would like to learn more, contact Design Mark to discuss your application or to set up a “Lunch and Learn” seminar with our team.

For more information on Design Mark or our Lunch and Learn series, contact us at Sales@design-mark.com or Request a Quote.

 

Join Design Mark at Design 2 Part Mid-Atlantic in Oaks, PA.

Design Mark will be exhibiting in April at the Design-2-Part Mid-Atlantic show on April 26th and 27th at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA. Please join us at the show and stop by Booth 313 to check out our Custom Membrane Switch  Assemblies, Graphic Overlays, Labels and Custom Solutions.

Design Mark Booth 313

 

Design 2 Part Mid Atlantic, April 26 and April 27, 2017

Understanding Your Options with UL Materials

UL Listed, UL Recognized, UL File, UL Construction – what does it all mean to your design effort? For the industries that seek the approval of Underwriters Laboratories, having that mark on your product provides your customer with a level of assurance that your product is going to operate the way you anticipate. Towards that effort, Design Mark maintains a fairly substantial catalog of UL approved materials and U.L. listed constructions for use in the manufacturing of labels, graphic overlays and membrane switches. However, the sheer number of available materials and seemingly limitless number of combinations makes it nearly impossible (and cost prohibitive) for us to test and list every possible combination available.

The library of listed constructions that we maintain are those that we have found over the years to be the most popular choices for a wide range of environments and circumstances. To supplement these listed constructions we partner with our suppliers and even maintain reciprocity with some of their UL files to expand upon available offerings.

View Design Mark’s UL file listings online.

The benefit of a UL listed construction is that it allows the designer to know in advance how a material, product or component is going to perform in testing without worrying about the impact on the final design.

UL Listed (Design Mark products) – A material or construction of materials that has been submitted on behalf of the supplier to UL for testing as a system within a specific set of environmental variables on a specific set of materials and surfaces. With labels and overlay materials, this usually consists of an adhesive, a substrate and an ink submitted for testing under UL 969. UL Listing means that UL has tested representative samples of the product and determined that it meets UL’s requirements. These requirements are based primarily on UL’s published and nationally recognized Standards for Safety.

UL Recognized Component (Design Mark supplier’s products) – A material that has been submitted by the manufacturer for UL 969 testing as a component but not necessarily in combination with ink or other substrates to preview their effect on the material as part of a package. There are many materials that are UL Recognized that aren’t actually UL Listed by a supplier such as Design Mark.

UL Registered Certification as an Authorized Label Supplier – A supplier whose product has been evaluated by Underwriters Laboratories and is authorized to print the UL mark on their products and is subject to annual audits and recurring product evaluations.

For a design engineer, the highest level of surety comes from using a UL Listed construction. However, within the label, graphic overlay and membrane switch industry, using a combination of UL Recognized components can provide a fairly high level of confidence in the predicted outcome as well because of the way our products integrate.

It is important to remember that all of these terms have specific meaning and the wording on your drawings may reflect one set of intentions when you mean something totally different. While we’ve seen them used interchangeably, the reality is that they have dramatically different meanings to the supplier. How this affects you is that these differences can have implications on the cost and lead-time of your products.

Design Mark has years of experience working with UL and with our material suppliers and has developed a thorough understanding of the materials and requirements for the label, graphic overlay and membrane switch products that we produce.

Talk with Design Mark engineers and give us the opportunity review your design. We will ask questions to learn about your application and discuss your environmental considerations and surfaces. With an understanding of your design and your cost goals we can suggest materials and offer equivalent solutions that might help you lower your product cost and meet your needs.

If you would like to learn more, contact Design Mark to discuss your application or to set up a “Lunch and Learn” seminar with our team.

For more information on Design Mark or our Lunch and Learn series, contact us at Sales@design-mark.com or Request a Quote.

 

Design Mark Problem Solving Case Study #2

Design Mark Problem Solving Case Study #2

 

Design Mark has worked hard over the years to prove ourselves as an innovator in our field. This case study on custom membrane switch LED “hot spotting” is one such example.

Meagan Bennett, Design Mark’s Director of Sales and Service, approached the engineering team with a new customer project to reduce the bright spots appearing on a membrane switch graphic that was causing the surface to appear uneven. The LED locations were fixed to backlight a switch location and needed to be bright enough to illuminate the printed text behind a dead front graphic overlay in both day and night time lighting environments, without presenting these uneven areas of light on the surface.

This customer was working on a new user interface membrane switch panel that needed to be invisible when in the off position and illuminated when in the on position. The problem was that the circuit layout and the proximity of the LED to the printed copy, along with the compact size of the package were allowing for the LED to “hot spot” directly above the LED and dim around the perimeter. It also needed to be arranged so that the actual switch location where mechanical interaction with the surface would change the state of a snap acting contact dome and turn on the light.

A quick meeting with the customer identified the parameters required for the design and defined the compressed timeline for a fix. We learned that this design had progressed well past the initial prototypes and was quickly approaching the production phase and a solution had not been discovered.

Once we understood the boundaries, we started brainstorming some solutions. The vast experience our engineers brought to the design and problem solving process really shone through for this challenge. A sketch was put together to allow for a side mounted LED to be exchanged for the vertically mounted LED in the existing package. Next came the addition of a reflective “box” to be constructed to allow the side firing LED to reflect any down firing light energy back and wash over the surface needing to be illuminated. Lastly, a diffuser was devised to insert in to the reflective box that would take a concentrated beam of light with a tight focused beam and spread it more evenly under the dead front once illuminated. An unexpected benefit of this package design was a reduction in the number of LEDs used at the switch location by increasing the efficiency of the light source. What resulted was an evenly distributed backlit switch location that fit within the existing package constraints and allowed for more efficiency from the LED.

The design was rapidly prototyped and quickly accepted for production; this design continues to be used in production today.

“We were able to challenge our team and come up with a solution that was both cost effective to produce and effective at solving the customer’s problem. This is where Design Mark’s team excels. We love the opportunities to engage with a customer’s engineers, listen to their issues, and find creative ways to solve them. It’s something that we have done for over 40 years and one of the reasons our customers stay with us,” notes John Winzeler, Design Mark’s President.

To utilize Design Mark’s expertise in design and production, we invite you to talk with our engineers and give us the opportunity review your design concerns. If you would like to learn more, contact Design Mark to discuss your application or to set up a “Lunch and Learn” seminar with our team.

For more information on Design Mark or our Lunch and Learn series, contact us at Sales@design-mark.com or Request a Quote.

 

Choose the Right Material for Your Design

 

When starting out on a product design for a membrane switch, a graphic overlay or a label, the designer must take in to consideration several key factors.  The final product outcome needs to take in to account your desired cost objectives while allowing a supplier the opportunity to work within the materials and processes that will guarantee a high quality, cost conscious, reliable product that is suitable for your design and cost goals while being both repeatable and manufacturable.

Things to consider when choosing your materials:

o   Application – End product use.

  • Will it be customer facing?
  • Are there surface requirements?

o   Environmental considerations.

  • Indoors vs. Outdoors.
  • Direct vs. indirect sunlight.
  • High humidity.

o   Cost vs. Design Goals.

  • Will this design have the same requirements as the previous program?
  • Is the design likely to come under competitive pressure?

o   Trade names vs. material names.

  • “Lexan” vs. Polycarbonate, tissue vs. “Kleenex”.  Brand names carry with them the burden of license costs.
  • Wording your drawing or specification document to allow the supplier and designer some flexibility can save cost.

o   Material equivalency.

  • Equivalent products can get to the same level of performance at reduced cost.
  • Allowing for equivalent materials on your drawing opens this avenue to designers and suppliers.

o   Custom vs. off the shelf.

  • Don’t reinvent the wheel.
  • Understanding what similar products and processes are out there that may be a fit for your application can save time and money when bringing a new program to market.

At Design Mark, we are frequently presented with a customer’s drawing or design concept that missed one or more of these key design considerations and the design cycle is now closed, the materials and features are locked in and the design is frozen.  At this point, it is what it is and we’ll work around it.

We’ve found that more often than not, a new product and or design will piggy-back on an existing product or idea and carry forward material selections from past designs.  While there is comfort in the “known” there is some assumed risk in the one size fits all solution.  It is easy to believe that if it worked on “X” product, it will work on product “Y”.  Of course, with compressed design cycles, department size reductions, workload increases and competitive pressure it is easy to understand how engineers and designers arrive at these choices.

We relish any opportunity we have at Design Mark to get involved early in your product design cycle.  This provides us an opportunity to help you avoid this “trap” and get your project launched with optimizations that will potentially reduce your cost and raise your likelihood of a successful product launch knowing that it is optimized around your needs and goals.

My favorite analogy on custom vs. off-the-shelf material selections centers on tractor feed printer paper.  Those of us that are old enough to remember the early days of computers remember tractor feed and those reams of paper stacked around, under and on the early dot matrix printers.  At that time, this was the most cost effective solution to large scale printing.  You could get one hundred sheets of paper for mere pennies.  If your design called for printer paper, this was the go to product.  Now let’s fast forward twenty years.  If your design evolution continued on this same tract today, you would be paying tens of dollars for those same one hundred sheets.

Advances in printer technology and processing of paper stocks have all but rendered that old stand-by obsolete.  In much the same way, advances in plastics, metals, inks and adhesives should be considered in your product design for membrane switches, graphic overlay products and custom labels.

Talk with Design Mark engineers and give us the opportunity review your design.  We will ask questions to learn about your application and discuss your environmental considerations and surfaces.  With an understanding of your design to cost goals we can suggest alternatives to your materials and offer equivalent solutions that might help you lower your product cost.

If you would like to learn more, contact Design Mark to discuss your application or to set up a “lunch and learn” seminar.

For more information on Design Mark or our Lunch and Learn series, contact us at Sales@design-mark.com or Request a Quote.

Choosing the Correct Adhesive for Your Application

Auto engine compartment label

Whether it be a graphic overlay, membrane switch, shield, gasket, seal or custom label, one thing our products have in common is that they require an adhesive to attach to the surface of your device. Design Mark engineers will work with your team to help you choose the correct adhesive for your application. We will look at your choice of materials to understand the available surface energy. We will look at what type of surface texture is present to help us decide on the correct thickness. We will look at the temperature range that your product will experience and review any other environmental considerations.

Factors that can influence PSA success:

Surface: Environment: Application:
Surface Texture Solvents/Chemicals Time
Surface Contour Temperature Exposure Temperature
Surface Energy UV Light Exposure Pressure
Surface Contamination

Using the right thickness adhesive for your surface and material is critical. The rougher the surface the thicker the adhesive….up to a point.

Pressure Sensitive Adhesives (PSAs) rely on pressure, time and temperature to complete their curing process and bond to the surface.

Dwell Time allows the adhesive to “flow” in to the peaks and valleys of the substrate surface texture allowing for complete contact and better bond.

Pressure / initial tack of the adhesive keeps the adhesive in intimate contact with the surface to aide in the curing process.

Maintaining the right temperature in your application environment will aid in the curing process. Too high will slow the curing and too low will slow the adhesive flow.

Common PSA Terminology:

Bond Strength Describes the level at which a PSA bonds to a surface.
Adhesion Ability to stick or bond to a substrate.
Cohesion Internal strength of material when bonded.
Substrate The surface or material to which you want your PSA to stick.
Surface Energy The property that will affect the ability of the PSA to wet the substrate (adhere). A good analogy for surface energy is the difference between a freshly waxed vehicle surface and the way the water beads up (low surface energy) vs an unwaxed surface and the water spreads out on the paint (high surface energy).

 

Contact Design Mark to discuss your application or to set up a “lunch and learn” seminar.

For more information on Design Mark or our Lunch and Learn series, contact us at Sales@design-mark.com or Request a Quote.