AmCon Houston 2019

Design-2-Part Marlborough, MA 2019

WARNING: You Need Graphic Overlays

It would be foolhardy to manufacture practically anything without some kind of identifying feature.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s as simple as a small sticker or as complex as an imprint. It doesn’t matter as long as a product is identified, instructions are clear, and warnings are spelled out.  What is just as important, however, is that this information is included in a manner that is clearly seen, easy to apply and remove, and is durable throughout their use.

Quick, if you think you are immune from it, think of the last time you sat in a room by yourself and didn’t see some kind of graphic promotional material.  This is the value of printed materials.

The best part of all this is the fact that as technology has improved, so has the ability to provide better and better materials to users everywhere.   That’s always been true of graphics, to one extent or another, but today it is truer than ever. Whereas in years past there were things such as stickers that replaced pressed metals on equipment, today there are overlays that are revolutionizing what was possible in the past.  And not only are these overlays more colorful and durable, but they are also far less expensive than they ever were.

The advantages of graphic overlays are numerous.  These include their durability in even the harshest of environments.  Let’s face it. It’s difficult, if not virtually impossible, to create a sticker, sign, or anything else that will endure most environments, including heat, cold, humidity, and whatever else you care to throw at it.  After all, colors run and fade. Paper and adhesives lose their durability. But with graphic overlays, you can project any image you desire on nearly any surface in a manner that will not only stand the test of time, but will do so in a manner that will keep its color fastness and impression.  Further, graphic overlays will withstand even the harshest environments that include UV rays and other factors that other methods will not tolerate. Not only that, but they will protect whatever surface you choose to apply them to.

Graphic overlays are also resistant to factors such as rough handling that they might encounter in handling and even the roughest shipping environments.  And even if a product is allowed to sit on a shelf in the brightest lighting, graphic overlays are one labeling method that will hold their color over time until they are called for.  This will not only allow them to be used in different environments, but they will stand the test of time without having to be reapplied due to use and wear.

Graphic overlays are useful in different environments when color can make all the difference in the world.  For example, it’s not uncommon to expect machinery that is in operation to need to be shut down quickly and unexpectedly, especially in the case of an emergency.  For instance, such as this, graphic overlays can literally make the difference between safety and catastrophic events, death, and injury. If an emergency occurs, for example, it is much easier for a workman to locate a STOP switch or button with a colorful graphic overlay as opposed to a staid and possibly worn out sticker or paint job.

As anyone who has any experience in the printing industry knows, there are easier and perhaps even cheaper ways to create excellent graphics for these type of uses.  But when it comes to colorfastness, durability, and many others. There are few products that will outlast and outshine graphic overlays, and that’s not all. You can add visually enhancement touches such as die cuts and embossing, and even overstamping to graphic overlays, which will increase their impact dramatically.

The first key in getting graphic overlays that will make a real difference in your business or that of your clients is to talk to a pro in the business such as Hallmark Nameplate.  Hallmark Nameplate has been in the business of creating graphic overlays for more than 55+ years and has a staff of experienced professionals who are able to work with you throughout the creative process in order to deliver a final product that is beyond your expectations.   

Your ITAR Questions Answered

In an effort to control the export of certain products as well as the technology to build and operate them effectively, the U.S. government has enacted laws that restrict or prohibit their export outside the country.  These laws, called export control regulations, are aimed at restricting the flow of these products, technical information, and services to countries who might be in a position to use them against the U.S. and its allies.  

These laws, called the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), provide for the control of data and hardware related to the defense of the U.S. from leaving the country.  ITAR is actually made of two sections, 22 CFR Parts 120-130 and 15 CFR Parts 700- 799 also known as the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). There are other sections, but these are the two most important.  Another portion, known as the US Munitions List (Part 121) is a list of the specified products that these regulations encompass and must have a defense export license in order to move.

ITAR pertains to the actual transmission and/or shipment of technical data, services, and actual items that are subject to either EAR or ITAR to foreign nationals in the US.  This also includes technology, technical data, and software that is released for shipment via a visual inspection by a foreign national of US origin, facilities and equipment, 2) information exchanged orally within the US or abroad or 3) application of technical or personal knowledge acquired in the U.S.

It doesn’t take but just a quick reading of these requirements and the laws they pertain to to realize that the processes involved in them are very complex and take a high level of understanding and fully comply with them.  In an effort to alleviate this situation and to facilitate businesses that wish to do business with foreign entities in controlled equipment and information, certain firms have been formed to assist them. As a result, anyone who wishes to do business with a foreign government, especially when transactions involve items involving the ITAR, can develop plans that could allow them to engage in them, depending on their industry and structure.

The defense industry and elements of high technology involve strict rules for doing business.  As a result, compliance can be a difficult undertaking, but with the right guidance, it can be done.  And even after your facility has been cleared for use, there can still be certain safeguards that are required to be maintained as a business goes from doing business with one country and then another.

It should be noted that once a business is cleared for working with a foreign government, the process from there on out is usually very simple.  This is as long as the proper security protocols are followed throughout the future business processes since everyone should be concerned that these protocols are properly followed.

It is also important to know that once an application for the proper licenses has been filed, there is usually a short waiting period of between one and three months before a decision is made.  This is largely dependent on the complexity of the project. You can get a general idea of the processing times for Defense Trade Controls by visiting this website: http://www.pmddtc.state.gov/processtime.htm.

Once a Defense Export License has been obtained, there are several unique items that will be covered.  These include software, hardware and data pertaining to the export (permanent as well as temporary) and import, etc.  By contrast, if a company wishes to engage in business with a foreign government providing assistance to or manufacturing support an agreement, instead of a license is required.

There are other factors that are important to keep in mind when considering whether to attempt doing business with a foreign government.  These include which government it is, since not all governments are considered belligerents. Further, also at issue is the type of technology that is being considered for export.  Not all technologies are considered at risk. As a result of these factors, there can be a big difference in the time it would take to complete a license or being turned down for one.

If you have questions about this process, contact the Commerce Department for information.

 

The Basics of Printed Circuit Boards

For all the wonders of electricity, it’s hard to forget that it takes something very physical to make the “magic” happen. That factor is printed circuit boards (PCBs), which have long been the foundation of electrical engineering. PCBs are the “brain” and the backbone of any electrically-powered device or type. Regardless of its size, no electrically-powered device will work without a PCB of some kind. Whether it be a cell phone, a remote control, something as complicated as a computer or as simple as a child’s toy, a PCB provides the connectivity between all of the components of a device. As a result, the device will function as it should.

This article provides the basics of PCBs and how they work.

PCBs in one form or another have been around for decades. Before PCBs were developed, circuits were wired on a chasse which was usually a metal frame on a wood bottom. In the late 1930s, an Australian engineer invented a printed circuit as part of a radio set and revolutionized the industry. Fortunately, as the need for everything to become smaller and smaller, as well as more efficient ways to power these systems, PCBs became not only more integral in and of themselves, but thanks to the Internet, they became more connected to everything else.

The result of all this has been not only advancements in the design of better and smaller PCBs, better connectivity with more devices that were far beyond their capabilities only a few years ago, with things such as mobile apps, wearable devices, and much more.

PCBs Like Never Before

PCBs are deceptively simple when it comes to their construction, but amazingly complex when it comes to the multitude that they allow us to accomplish in all of our electronic wonders. Regardless of how simple or complex a device might be, a PCB of some sort is involved in channeling the electricity that is drawn into the device to accomplish its intended purpose. It really is that easy. It’s a wonder when you consider that with only a few layers of resin and some channels of solder that allow electricity to travel through the different elements of a board, small miracles happen that could not have been accomplished only a few years ago. But not only do PCBs channel power, but they support the mechanics of the device itself. This is because PCBs send electrical impulses where they need to go as well as provide a support structure for all of the components to hold fast to. It only takes a quick look at a computer and its internal apparatus to see this clearly. With all of this support provided by a PCB, it’s not hard to see how PCBs are considered the brains of a piece of equipment. Without the PCB, a piece of electronic equipment quite simply wouldn’t work.

Again, PCBs are deceptively simple for other reasons as well. Although their design is simple, their creative process is quite complex, beginning with a designer, creation of electronic design automation (EDA) software, manufacturing, assembly and testing. It is at this point that a good circuit designer can be worth his or her weight in gold since they have the capability of creating a PCB that will maximize your specific technological needs. They will also make sure that you have the support you need to excel in your market and not allow your PCBs to become the weakest link in your product. A well-designed PCB will also be easy to troubleshoot when there is a problem with your equipment.

Once a file with the design is created the manufacture can be started. In this process, the actual physical parameters of the PCB can be determined and maximized in order to result in a product with minimal problems and maximum benefits. During this process, every possible output is thoroughly tested to make sure that it works as it was intended to. With the testing methods available today there is literally no way an aspect of a PCB that will not be examined. This will ensure that there will be no failures in the future of the PCB that operates your product.

How Tactile Feedback Works

Tactile feedback (also known as haptic feedback) is what happens when high vibration patterns and waves are used to transmit information to a user or operator of an electronic device. “Tactile” means “to touch,” which is appropriate here, considering many electronics and other products today are designed to relay information to their users via touch. Phones and tablets with touchscreens are both excellent examples of products that use tactile feedback. Devices that use vibrations, such as putting a phone on the “vibrate” setting are another example.

In the past, audio feedback in the form of bells, bees, and alarms were more common. Tactile feedback is a more modern approach to the same basic principle..

Devices that use tactile feedback employ some kind of vibrating component, such as a vibration motor or linear resonant actuator. This vibrating component is operated by an electronic circuit. Controllers usually get to decided when the device will vibrate, what pattern of vibration it will use, and more, to customize the experience.

Tactile feedback became popular a couple of decades ago, when it was realized that audio feedback could be improved upon by replacing it with devices that relied on the sense of touch. Not only are tactile feedback devices more accurate, they are more accessible to a greater number of people, as even those with hearing issues can easily and accurately use them.

As tactile feedback was tested at the top electronics companies, it was discovered that it improves the user experience by a vast amount. Thus, many everyday products are now being built with touch interfaces and displays. They are also highly desired by users because they can be customized to individual preferences, which is a huge improvement on the old way of doing things. Also, tactile feedback devices benefit companies by being cheaper to produce than audio feedback ones. With tactile feedback, both customers and companies benefit.

Using tactile feedback also improves on the performance of those using the devices that include it. With tactile feedback, information transmitted to the user is done so in a way that allows the user to give more concentration to their task. In fact, medical devices that use tactile feedback have been shown to help patients avoid missing their doses of medication.

Another example of improved accuracy is on virtual keyboards that allow typing on a touch screen. A short “button press” vibration effect lets a user know a computer, phone, or tablet has recognized a keystroke, and feels different under the fingertips from a “long press” effect. This subtle difference in sensations while typing allows the user to type with more accuracy, eases frustration in typing, and feels more like typing on a real keyboard or typewriter.

A good example of improved accuracy and better user experience with tactile feedback is with a car’s parking sensor. Older models would have the steering wheel vibrate if the car comes within a certain number of feet or centimeters of an object. Tactile feedback improves upon this by transmitting a variety of information to the driver about their environment by using different vibrational strengths and frequencies over a range of distances. The high, squeaky beeping found on older models is eliminated, and drivers can use the parking sensor accurately even in loud environments or if they have hearing issues.

Most people are familiar with tactile feedback through the use of their smartphones. Yet, a smartphone is just the tip of the surface of the real world applications of tactile feedback. Imagine how easy it is to confuse different sounds, or miss them altogether. This is an issue with the old model audio feedback electronics. With tactile feedback, the different vibrations, strengths, patterns, and feelings they give under the fingers or hands is easily accessible by everyone, and difficult to misinterpret. Our fingers can remember the tiniest details of subtle vibrational changes and immediately signal to us what they mean, because the fingertips are one of the most sensitive areas on a human being. It is like learning a new language, but much simpler, and with virtually no risk of error after a couple of lessons.

Tactile feedback is the future of electronics. Its applications are almost endless, and it is poised to improve life at both work and home, and even at school, for everyone.

 

How Auto Optical Inspection Works In Your Favor

There probably isn’t anyone who hasn’t heard the old saying, “Good enough is good enough,” or even “Good enough for government work.”  the trouble is, however, that to a growing extent, good enough isn’t good enough, and if you determine that a job really is good enough for government work, chances are very good that you won’t ever work on another government project again.  And that goes even for companies that might not deal directly with the government, but even for those who do work for companies that do work for the government. Further, there are many industries where good enough simply isn’t good enough. This includes electronics and other work where a high degree of accuracy is required for a product to work as it should.  This is made even more complicated by the fact that in these industries inspections by the human eye doesn’t yield nearly the results required for thorough inspections.

The solution in these cases is auto optical inspections, which consist of specially designed machines that deliver the high precision products that are expected to be delivered in so many businesses.  These results include several that work in your favor:

Speed.  There are many things that are quicker than the human eye.  Fortunately, among these are AOI machines. After an AOI machine is set up, circuit boards that would normally take hours to examine are not only seen quicker, but they are also done so far more accurately than when human eye examination is the basis for review.  And even when an operator is called to review the mistakes that are found by an AOI machine, you are still talking about considerably less time than would be done otherwise by hand.

Accuracy.  The human eye is prone to error.  Everyone knows that. on the other hand, AOI machines are highly accurate when searching for and finding errors in circuit boards.  And when you use an experienced AOI machine operator, the chances of ending up with accurate and error-free circuit boards is exceptionally high.  And anyone knows that the earlier these types of errors are caught and addressed reduces time lost in later stages of the manufacturing process.

Fast Catches.  As soon as an AOI machine catches a problem, an operator is notified, which speeds up the process of manufacturing considerably since errors are addressed as they happen.  Once errors are caught they can be fixed before they head to further steps in the manufacturing process. With AOI machines, errors are caught before they must be addressed later on.

Greater Quality Consistency.  Having zero errors is important in circuit board examination.  But even more important is to have zero errors in quality consistently.  This standard, which can be achieved and maintained with high-quality AOI machines, is critical to a profitable operation.  The human eye is prone to consistent errors, ROI machines are not.

Less Stress and Strain.  Workers are prone to all sorts of factors as they work.  this is not only caused by stress and strain, but stress and strain cause humans to make errors.  ROI machines are not prone to these same influences. This makes them not only more reliable when they work, but a stress reliever for the humans who work with them.  

It is important to note that ROI machines aren’t perfect.  Just like humans, they can experience problems due to their work.  On the bright side, ROI machines have proven their ability to work at much higher levels than humans, and for greater quality time than even other machines.  ROI machines aren’t cheap either, but once they have been effectively employed, even with their shortcomings, they are a proven time and money saver that should be used in virtually every inspection process.  The point with ROI machines is not that there might still be errors, but the chances of there being errors are much less, and less likely to cause problems in the later stages of the production process. The bottom line for ROI machines is that they don’t cost, they pay.   And for those manufacturers who use them, it’s not a matter of use them and weep, but use them and reap, in both the short and long term.

 

Pros of Doing Business with Veterans

It doesn’t take thinking about it too long before you realize that bringing your business to someone is much like buying a pig in a poke.  Until a business proves itself to you, you simply never know what you will get when it comes time to deliver. Fortunately, there are ways to get a preview of a business, especially when you know that the owners, and to a great extent, even the employees, have certain qualifications.  These owners and employees might be excellent craftsmen, but when it comes right down to it, there’s more to running a quality business than ability. It also takes attitude and the willingness to go above and beyond what is expected. That’s the primary difference between working with a veteran-owned business and virtually anyone else.

If you want to grow up quick and right, join the military.  Everybody knows that. It’s why so many young people join the military right out of high school.  There are certainly benefits to joining any respective service branch, but the military offers benefits unavailable practically anywhere else.  For example, installations are actually just cities, with those who are responsible for running them and those who do the day to day work. They are all trained to do their work in the most efficient and economical manner possible.  There are those who manage accounting, aircraft maintenance, and even cutting the lawns. Regardless of the specific job they do, those in the military learn to take as well as to give orders. Above all, however, they learn to complete a mission as directed.

Of course, this is all well and good when these men and women are serving their country, but when they retire or otherwise separate themselves from the service, they take the same can-do attitude with them in civilian circles.  That’s why so often you can pick a veteran out of a group, even among equally qualified people. A veteran will begin a job by ensuring that he understands his objectives, makes sure he has what he needs to complete that objective, then makes sure that regardless of the mission, that is it carried out.  

When you do business with a veteran or a veteran-owned business, you can rest assured that when they tell you a job will be completed at a certain time and to a certain standard, it will be.  This goes for your first order all the way to your 101st order. You will get the same exacting standard in everything they do. It’s not only the way they were trained to work in the military, regardless of the branch, but it’s the level of maturity and mental toughness they learn to use in getting a job done right.

How can you be so sure that this is what a given veteran will give you?  It’s because this is the way they were trained to perform in whatever task they were given.  It doesn’t matter whether they were given the mission of advancing on a hill or a beachhead or performing a print job.  They are driven to succeed and to give every effort their best, regardless of what that purpose is. Their standards are exacting, but they are high too.  That’s the way a military member learns to keep his subordinates alive as well as vital to carrying out their purpose. This is why hiring a veteran is the closest thing you or any employer has to get the assurance that a job will be done right, on time, and under budget.

Probably most important of all, a veteran wants to prove themselves in whatever job they undertake.  They might be wearing civilian clothing when they are working for you, but you will still get the same mission-oriented drive they learned and thrived on in the military.  You can take advantage of that same drive to your benefit. All they need is the opportunity. Why not give a veteran a chance? there are no guarantees, but there aren’t with a civilian either, but well give you odds.

Several years ago there was a book written by two professors,  Reis and Trout, called Marketing Warfare, which made the analogy of business being combat.  Why not hire someone who is most fitting for fighting the war of business?

 

Controlling Your Pool Through Circuit Boards

There was a time when coming home from work or something else after a long day meant considerable time and effort before you could spend time in your pool or spa.  After all, who wants to spend a difficult day at work only to come home to a dirty, cold pool before they can enjoy it? The good news is that with today’s technology, including printed circuit boards, practically any pool owner doesn’t need to wait before he or she is enjoying their pool or spa almost as soon as they are ready, regardless of the time of day or night.

If you have owned a pool or spa for any length of time, you probably remember when getting into the relaxing waters was preceded by time and effort in cleaning and heating the water for your use.  And what about all that time, effort, and money that was expended on energy spent during the time your pool wasn’t being used? Now, you can save time and money, not to mention increasing your enjoyment of your pool or spa, thanks to the technology of circuit boards and the connectivity of the Internet.

All of this was then, but now you can come home to a pool or spa that is not only warm and clean, but relaxing jets running and lights are on, ready for you to enjoy.  All of this is due to the control you have due to circuit boards that give you prerogatives never before possible to pool owners. Not only that, but pumps and filtration systems can operate at the touch of your command, saving you the hassle and a bundle on your energy bills.  

And who needs to wait until they are at home to give your pool its instructions?  Not you. Wherever you happen to be, whatever the time of the day or night, you can give the command to your pool via your smartphone or other control devices to have your pool in the optimal condition for you to enjoy it.  Literally, at the touch of a button, your pool can be hot or cold, with massage jets operating or off, and just as clean as you can imagine it, with no more effort than your desire.

We have to admit that if more members of your family than you have these controls on their smartphones, we are not responsible for family conflicts, but no one would disagree that it’s nice to have these options.  And it’s easy to have this kind of control too. All it takes is an app and an appropriately synced circuit board on your pool’s controls. Whatever the control is that you want, whether it be simple or highly complex, you can have it.  All it takes is a pushed button.

Just as easy is to include more controls over any other functions that you may choose to include as you add them to your pool or spa.  Just as easily as you can lock or unlock your home, you can have the perfect balance of temperature, lighting, massage functions, and even the cleaning complete when you are ready to enjoy your pool or spa.  Why have your pool or spa in less than your desired condition for your use when all you need is to use circuit technology to make your pool perfect for your use?

All it takes to get started is a short talk with your pool or spa services provider since in most cases all you need to do is coordinate the app from the maker with your Smartphone.  Even most of these are easily downloadable on the website of your pool equipment maker’s website. Just as is the case with other makers, you can push a button and the Internet does the rest of the work for, even though it’s really the miracle of circuit boards that is doing the work.

What You Should Know About ANSI Standards

The American National Standards Institute (aka ANSI) is a non-profit, private group that monitors the development of voluntary standards for a variety of things, such as personnel, products, processes, systems, and services in the United States. These are consensus standards developed by the member businesses and groups of ANSI. ANSI also helps to align United States standards with international ones to enable American goods and services to be used in other countries.

When it comes to product safety standards, ANSI is the most familiar name for most businesses. However, its familiarity typically just applies to its name. Its actual function is commonly misunderstood. ANSI is a federation made up of groups, businesses, and individuals who manage the system of voluntary standards in the United States. It is not affiliated with any government agency, though it does work closely with government agencies. It also serves as the official voice of the United States in international groups that develop and monitor standards. ANSI brings in the revenue it uses to operate from the dues paid by its members, and from the sales of its publications on standards.

Companies and other organizations can receive ANSI accreditation when they develop their own standards if these standards are up to ANSI’s mission statement values. To receive ANSI accreditation for their own standards, a company, organization, or group must make sure the quality and performance of their products and services are consistent, that everyone in the company uses the same definition for certain terms regarding safety and standards, and that their products are all tested in the same way.

ANSI also provides accreditation to groups that perform product and personnel certification if those certifications are done according to the requirements identified in international standards.

While ANSI does not develop standards, it does oversee the development of standards, and the use of such standards, by providing accreditation for the procedures of the development of standards by other groups and companies. When ANSI provides accreditation, it means that the procedures an entity used in developing standards of its own meet ANSI’s requirements. These requirements include consensus, due process, balance, and openness.

  • Accreditation of an entity’s standards by ANSI involves the following:
  • Development of standards by a group that includes representatives from all interested parties
  • A period available for public review and comment on the draft of the standards
  • A period for consideration of and response to public comments
  • An incorporation of changes that were submitted, as long as those changes meet the same consensus requirements of the original draft
  • The availability of an appeals process for anyone participating in developing the standards who believes the principles of ANSI were not used or respected during the development of the standards

ANSI is the official representative of the United States to the International Organization for Standardization (and is a founding member of that group), and the International Electrotechnical Commission through the United States National Committee. ANSI is involved in almost all of the technical programs for these organizations and is the leader of many of the most important committees and subgroups of these entities.

The fact that ANSI does not develop standards on its own per se comes as a surprise to many people who have heard the ANSI name and know what it stands for. However, the real role of ANSI is to oversee the activities of the entities in the United States that do develop standards. ANSI is involved in every point of the development of standards by other groups and entities, and it sets rules for the development of standards that will be worthy of ANSI accreditation. It also approves the final draft or version of products as American National Standards.

The main thing ANSI is concerned with when giving accreditation is how a standard was drafted, and whether it was open for public review and comment. Any comments a standard-making entity receives must be resolved before ANSI will grand approval and accreditation to the standards. When ANSI accreditation is given, it is good for five years. At that point, the standard-making entity must re-apply for new accreditation. If the entity does not re-apply, ANSI accreditation will be withdrawn.

Hallmark Nameplate meets ANSI standards for accreditation and is proud to keep up its accreditation.