Industrial applications are often challenging environments for parts and equipment to hold up in. There is often exposure to wear and tear, weather, chemicals, and more.

In addition, ensuring your identification plates remain usable for a long period of time is important. It means your equipment will stay adequately marked for its lifespan.

It also means you aren’t wasting time and money to replace tags every single year. The most durable metal tags will last decades, providing you with one less thing to worry about. In many cases you’ll have to replace your equipment before the nameplate attached to it.

Materials

When it comes to durability, material is an important piece of the equation. Selecting a material which doesn’t mesh well with your intended usage can lead to frustration and wasted resources.

Pallets of Metal Coil Stock Material

Don’t be afraid to ask your nameplate manufacturer questions regarding which material to use for your specific case. This helps prevents problems before they occur.

Some of the most durable materials used for identification purposes include:

  • Anodized Aluminum
  • Stainless Steel
  • Cold Rolled Steel
  • Brass
  • Lexan (decals)

Processes

Embossing/Stamping

When it comes to durability, no processes can match the sheer lasting power of stamping and embossing. These tried and true marking methods utilize stamps/die sets to permanently form information into a metal tag.

Stamped nameplates have a recessed (indented) design, while embossed feature raised characters.

Unlike surface printing, there are no topical inks for these processes. Your information is not going to get simply scraped off or wash away in the rain; it’s permanent.

Utility Telephone Pole Metal Tags

Embossed tags are a must if your application may end up covering them with paint or dirt. Even when obscured, the raised characters are still highly legible.

With embossing and stamping, you are looking at an effective lifespan of over 20 years. Many users have had them last even longer.

Since there is no printing or ink to wear, these tags will basically last as long as the metal itself. In many cases, the tags will outlast the machines or tools to which they are attached.

While these two processes are some of the most resilient, that doesn’t mean they are only useful in extreme conditions. They are used in an incredibly wide range of applications, spanning from heavy usage to environments where the nameplates will see very little wear.

If my application won’t require high durability, why would I use stamping or embossing?

They are still highly functional identification markers, conveying information clearly and concisely. They provide peace of mind that you won’t be replacing your tags any time soon. Some organizations simply prefer the appearance of formed metal as opposed to a printed design.

Photo Anodization

The photo anodization process includes the ability to add custom logos, barcodes, imaging, and more to the design. The background of these nameplates can also be made a solid color, which is not prone to the same level of fading or wear as other coloring processes since it is protected.

Closeup of Metal Marker Quickpull Barcode Tags

Photo anodized tags are rated for 20+ years outdoor durability. This included exposure to sunlight, rain, and other weather conditions. In addition, it is corrosion resistant and can handle contact with many chemicals.

This process is one of the most popular due to its high level of durability. It is used by the military, in construction sites, oil refineries, and more.

Etching

This process uses a laser or chemical process to remove a small amount of metal material. This slight surface marking has the ability to produce a custom design which is easy to read.

Color is often added to these designs after the metal is etched, by filling with an epoxy/ink.

Stainless-Equipment-Tag

Etched tags last for about 5-10 years in an industrial setting. However, the actual lifespan will vary greatly based on the conditions the tags are exposed to. If they are marking a warehouse shelf, you’ll probably see more usage than if they are outside in the rain.

In addition, if a color fill is used, it will be even more susceptible to wear than the physical etching itself. Any type of wear and tear, and the color will fade or be removed.

Screen Printing

Screen printing is a great solution for adding full color designs on top of metal tags. Ink is printed directly onto the surface of the metal, creating a vibrant appearance.

While these tags can feature stand-out designs, they do not feature the same level of durability as other processes. Since the ink is topical, it is very prone to wear when exposed to industrial conditions.

Any type of weather exposure or wear and you can expect your design to fade and wear very quickly. At best you are looking at around 1-3 years in an industrial setting.

Since there is no marking in the metal substrate itself, once the ink wears away, there will be no information left on the tag.

Decals/Labels

Custom decals and labels are a cost effective identification solution. Instead of a metal substrate, they are printed onto poly/vinyl material. This surface level printing can include full color designs.

The durability for custom decals depends entirely on material and environment. The lifespan of a printed label can range anywhere from 1-5 years.

For example, a thick Lexan material label adhered to a warehouse wall last significantly longer than say, a vinyl tag placed on equipment in the middle of a construction site.

Wrap Up

Durability is crucial for components used in industrial environments. That mindset holds true in regards to identification solutions as well. Selecting the right process to match your application’s environment is the best way to ensure your tags will meet your durability expectations.