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Lights And Action!

* Technology New Zealand helps in bringing new technology to local manufacturers
* Electroluminescence technology opens new market
* In-mould equipment to help manufacturers and marketers develop points of differentiation in products

Christchurch industrial screen-printing firm, Markit Graphics is giving imported technology a local twist. The company has just successfully completed a technology transfer project which will make backlighting technology available to local manufacturers for items as diverse as radio communications to dishwasher drawers.

This month, Markit will also begin using in-mould equipment to make 3D objects, shapes and parts in a variety of colours, designs and textures – a science of mixing graphics into materials which will allow manufacturers to break with tradition.

“Processes for both these products have been used overseas,” says Markit’s General Manager, Milne Jellie. “But we’ve been able to import the equipment and can now make them locally.”

Technology New Zealand, part of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, helped Markit adapt the technologies to local manufacturing processes, funding the work that enabled the company to iron out the idiosyncrasies of the chemicals involved and test some of the processes.

“Electro-luminescence technology will resolve many of the existing back-lighting problems for membrane switch makers,” says Mr Jellie. “The opaque silver pads, such as those on most microwaves, cellphones and dishwashers, prevent full-function lighting of the overlay from the rear of the switch. A variety of approaches have been used in the past, often with banks of light-emitting diode displays or reflector boxes. Because electro-luminescence uses a small amount of electricity and cold light it can be adapted to any shape. It also has the potential to be used underground in mines and by rescue services.”

And if that doesn’t light up the eyes of local manufacturers, then the company’s other innovation, in-mould decoration- is a marketer’s recipe for success. Labelled by Jellie as ‘the science of encapsulating graphics in plastic’, the new technology allows significant product differentiation for the automotive and communications industries.

“Simple examples are in car trim, such as the imitation walnut finishes, or in mobile phone casings. The cellphones fitted out in the Super 12 rugby team colours is an easily recognisable example,” he says. “It will mean savings in assembly and manufacturing costs, and text and decorative finishes can be placed on the ‘second’ surface where they are protected from wear and tear.

“As far as we know, this hasn’t been done in New Zealand before,” Mr Jellie says. He is confident that than the newly-imported processes will mean steady work for the company’s 45 employees and increasingly less reliance on imports.


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