Jackson, TN--Consumer requirements drove the design of Maytag's 1998 dishwasher line which, with the help of Serigraph Inc., (West Bend, WI) converted the aluminum fascia panel and mechanical buttons to a plastic fascia, new graphic appliques, and embossed button pads with electronic switches.
The previous line featured a coated aluminum control panel that dictated the use of removable, mechanical buttons. "Dirt could collect in the cracks and crevices, making cleaning the appliance a bigger chore," explains Darrin Manke, Maytag industrial designer.
Based partly on these problems, Maytag decided the new design should provide operation information, improve the appearance and surface-cleaning ability, and incorporate additional operation features and buttons. These changes called for revised artwork and a new decorating process--which Serigraph provided.
After seeing Serigraph's work at a trade show, Maytag selected the screen and offset printer to create the new dishwasher appliques. Serigraph implemented the decorating changes for five Maytag models in black, white, or almond color options.
Maytag was also interested in embossing. It invited Serigraph to a meeting to discuss the feasibility of converting its aluminum control panels to polycarbonate plastic. Serigraph not only agreed to work on the new program, but asked to participate in designing the new panels.
"Our experiences with these types of polycarbonate bezels has lead us to gather helpful data. We were able to recommend the ideal plastic thickness of the part depending on the application, the ideal height for the embossed buttons according to the type of switch used, and the button activation force needed for that type of switch," says Ken Crass, Serigraph account manager. "All of this information was important in designing Maytag's new dishwasher control panel in terms of functionality and appearance."
The new dishwasher control panel features six to eight large, raised, electronic buttons with switches behind each. Pushing the embossed button pad activates the switch and a small red "flag" appears in the clear window above the button indicating that the function is on.
The embossed buttons are easy to use and create a smooth surface that is easy to clean. The plastic control panel is also hard-coated, providing a high-gloss and scratch-resistant surface.
Maytag also incorporated three additional clear windows for new "Start" features introduced with the 1997 dishwasher line. A red LED (light-emitting diode) is illuminated behind the clear window to indicate the function is on.
None of these design changes or improvements would have been possible with the previous aluminum panel, which could not be embossed or molded to fit a switch behind each button. Also, smooth, clear windows were not an option for aluminum and if die cut into the material, dirt collection would remain problematic.
Serigraph worked closely with Maytag designers to overcome any design limitations with plastic. "Because we did have some flexibility in terms of the size and shape of the button pads as well as placement of clear windows, we were able to produce a very consumer-friendly control panel," comments Menke.
Historically, a costly transfer adhesive was required on the rear of the part. Serigraph's screened adhesive not only met but exceeded the requirements, providing significant cost reductions.