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The right graphic overlay and printed solutions to keep you warm and safe

A Case Study: British Gas Hive Smart Hub and Printed Plastic Mouldings. Creating cosmetic print solutions for injection moulded plastics and graphic overlays.

Case Studies
14/01/2022
British Gas Hive moulding screen print blog header - graphic overlay and printed solutions

The right graphic overlay and printed solutions to keep you warm and safe

This month we would like to share an older case study but one we are very proud of. Over several years, RH was highly involved in the development and testing of prototypes for a smart wall hub. Beyond the first project, additional printed components followed. These successful trials naturally lead to the full manufacture of the components for the British Gas Smart Hive system. The Hive system is still a market-leading product in smart solutions for home heating, security, and domestic networking. Creating the right graphic overlay and printed solutions RH succeeded in meeting this customers’ requirements.

The Background

It started with a company called AlertMe who were on the cutting edge of smart systems at the time. AlertMe was a UK based Smart Tech independent developer. They provided energy and home automation monitoring with both hardware, software and services. Their wares enabled users to control and monitor their personal household energy use. Operation of these units was actuated either by manual controls on the wall units or remotely via devices like a mobile phone.

British Gas could see this technology was a practical solution to where the market was leading. Therefore, British Gas had a stake in their business to help them succeed. After the clear success on earlier produces British Gas brought them into the fold making them a subsidiary of the parent group.

hive smart device under the stairs

The wall-mounted smart hub

In the earlier work, we supplied in high volume a component which was a polycarbonate graphic overlay for the operational surface of the central hub. This part looked minimalistic in design, with smooth flat colour under printed for wear protection and several passes to ensure 100% opacity. Still, there were a few challenges to overcome. An unusual shape made registration with the LED backlighting circuitry rather tricky. The small led window positions were incredibly hard to achieve consistently considering the multi passes of ink. RH quickly resolve this issue and guaranteed a perfect registration on every overly to the circuitry below.

The project evolved over time and British Gas began creating new devices and parts to accompany the original design.  This created new production challenges for RH to overcome. Again, we quickly found great solutions involving a new way to manufacture the products. This involved setting up 2 new print lines with hot air & UV curing dryers, in a cleanroom environment. New small-format printing presses were sourced, and dedicated jigs were made to hold the plastic mouldings in place during the printing cycle. With this new tooling and machinery, we could now print directly onto these clear mouldings.

Mounting without backing white
Clear moulding after one coat of iridescent ink.

Finding a print solution

Additionally, RH developed special inks, the new British Gas units gained a beautifully iridescent “ice” cosmetic finish and made the product look like a true luxury choice. This involved mixing special effect powders into a clear base to create the iridescent ink effect. Finally, the parts were printed with a screen applied adhesive suitable for holding them in place on the final product. In post-production, we designed a specialist pneumatic press tooling to stamp the mouldings out of the ‘nest’ as the final process. The result of both our initial graphic overlay and printed solutions for the mouldings were effective and the customer was very pleased! This illustrates that RH’s print capabilities can surpass the normal custom printed labels you may associate with us. Having the ability to print directly onto mouldings and gaskets adds an extra dimension to our service.

A moment to consider how best to move forward

The process and feasibility of every job and every customer need is something that we review with every new project. Assumptions we nether encouraged or acted upon when it comes to our customer’s important work. The Engineering department studies and feeds back on every client’s request. Your projects need a fully working solution. Where we see room to improve, we will suggest better solutions. At the end of the day if we can make your product either better or more streamlined the result is a benefit for all.