There are a wide range of blank tags in various sizes, shapes, materials, and colors. One element that is often not accounted for is the blank tag thickness.
How do you know which thickness to use? It comes down to two factors: the usage application, and the process used to mark the information.
Knowing how your tags will be used is important when determining the right thickness for the metal material. Certain applications call for thicker tags, while some are only compatible with the thinnest of metal substrates.
Some applications are more lenient as well. For example, if the tags are going to be riveted to a piece of machinery, thickness will not be as important as if they are being hung from a pipe.
If you are concerned with the tags being bent, you may want to go with a thicker material such as .025” (24 gauge) stainless or .032” (20 gauge) aluminum. This will ensure that your tags will stay firm even when exposed to some duress.
The marking process you select is also an important part of your decision making process. Different processes work best with different thicknesses.
Embossing machines create raised characters by using a male and female stamp. The nature of this process means the blank tag must be fairly thin to make sure the machine leaves clean impressions in the metal.
Stainless steel is the most common material for the tags used in these marking machines. Since the material needs to be pressed, the most common thickness is .016” to .018” thick (26-28 gauge).
While 304 stainless is preferred, some situations may require 316 material.
Aluminum is another popular material often used for embossing machines. As aluminum is a softer substrate, tag thicknesses may go up to .032” (20 gauge).
Any thickness between .016” to .032” (20-26 gauge) will result in a clean impression.
The stamping process creates an indentation in the tag using hand stamps, a press, or even automated machines such as dot peen marking machines.
Creating an indentation means a thicker material is highly preferred. This helps ensure the physical force from stamping does not distort the tags.
When using stainless steel, .018” (26 gauge) thickness is typically the minimum thickness. Anything above .025” (24 gauge and up) is going to work best without causing warping to the reverse side of the tags.
Aluminum is also used for stamping as the softer material makes it easier to make a deep impression. When using aluminum you do not typically want to use any material thinner than .032” (20 gauge).
Laser marking is a pretty straightforward process. A high-powered laser hits the surface of a blank nameplate, creating a small indentation.
This is a surface level marking, meaning any thickness is compatible.
Since this process does not form the metal material, the “best” thickness will depend more on the final usage, and less on the marking itself. This is one benefit to laser marking.
Materials compatible with this process vary drastically based on the specific laser used. Check with the laser manufacturer to know exactly which material are approved.
Thickness is an important consideration when selecting the right blanks. The best solution is based on a combination of the final application, and the marking process it proceeds. Knowing the right thickness ahead of time can save you time, money, and plenty of headaches down the road.