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MetalPhoto and Screen Printed Tags Side by Side Comparison

MetalPhoto vs. Screen Printing: What’s the Difference?

Can you add my logo to a nameplate? What about barcodes? I need multiple colors, is that possible?

A basic stamped number or embossed text is not quite sufficient for some applications.

From brightly colored warning signs, to custom logo branding, to QR codes and more. Nameplates with custom designs, logos, colors, and even images are often necessary.

For highly customized tags, two of the best processes are MetalPhoto and Screen Printing.

While these processes share some similarities, they differ in many areas as well. This guide will walk you through both processes to provide a clearer picture of which best fits your application.

MetalPhoto

Photo anodization is one of the most unique processes for custom metal identification. This process uses a specially developed photosensitive anodized aluminum material.

The desired custom design is directly embedded into the metal itself. It is protected and sealed underneath an anodic layer of aluminum.

Any design is usable for this process. In short, if you have an image on a computer, that image can be embedded in the metal material.

The design appears as though it were printed on (there are no cuts or indentations) yet it offers top of the line durability.

The only limitation is that the design must be black or grey-scale. Full color designs are not possible.

Durability

When you think about durability and need custom images or designs, your first thought should be photo anodization. These tags feature top notch durability.

To be clear, this is not a topical solution like screen printing. The embedded design cannot be scratched, worn, or fade. The only way the information will be removed is if you destroy the aluminum material itself.

The best part? MetalPhoto tags are rated for 20+ years in outdoor applications. This makes them perfectly suited for industrial environments.

They are ready to take on the harshest environments. These tags survive inclement weather, corrosion, abrasion, chemicals, oil, water, high temperatures, and just about anything else you throw their way. The true definition of high durability.

Industries

MetalPhoto tags are used by organizations from a wide spectrum of industries. The high durability coupled with customization means there are nearly endless uses, whether it’s an industrial application or military equipment. A few of the most common industries include:

  • Aerospace
  • Transportation
  • Energy
  • Defense
  • Oil/Gas
  • Utilities
  • Many More

What is MetalPhoto Used For?

Photo anodized tags are used for a nearly endless amount of applications such as manufacturing plant equipment labels. Refineries use them to mark oil sample points. Even military organizations use MetalPhoto IUID tags to track their valuable assets. High durability and customization makes them a great solution for nearly any application.

Some more examples:

Material

Choosing the right material for MetalPhoto nameplates is pretty simple: there’s only one choice. The special photosensitive aluminum is the only substrate capable of using the process.

Aluminum is strong and sturdy, perfect for tough environments. In addition, it is very lightweight, as well as corrosive resistant.

There are various material finishes to choose from for aesthetic purposes. Some examples include satin, matte, glossy. In addition, there are color options: blue, orange, red, green, copper, gold, etc.

Barcodes/QR Codes

Another benefit to photo anodization is the ability to add barcodes and QR Codes. This is a huge addition due to the versatility tracking codes bring. Organizations around the world rely on metal barcode labels for asset tracking and inventory management. For example, military organizations utilize IUID and UID tags to optimize their usage and accurately track their assets.

MetalPhoto tags ensure the codes are extremely accurate, as well as long lasting. This allows for precision scanning. They will not fade or scratch.

Customization

Just like most processes, these tags are customizable to your specifications. This includes any variety of shape, size, thickness, holes, etc.

As previously mentioned, various finishes for the aluminum material are available as well.

Adhesive backing provides quick and easy application in lieu of holes.

MetalPhoto-Cleveland-Statue-Nameplate

One key point to remember is the actual text must be black/grey-scale. Typically, the design will be black with a natural “silver color” aluminum background.

Anodization adds the option for a solid background color.

Many organizations use this ability for color coding, branding, or just for aesthetic purposes.

Screen Printing

Screen printing is an incredibly useful process for adding a design to a surface. Industries across the world use screen printing for millions of products and applications.

It is used on everything from apparel and luggage, to industrial identification plates and also warning signs.

The process involves pressing ink through a screen. A custom stencil guides the ink only to the intended area.

After this is complete, an optional coating may also be applied for increased durability.

The screen printing process is precise, and creates a clear print on the surface.

Durability

A main factor to consider when choosing an identification product is the environment it will be used in. Some organizations expose their nameplates to weather conditions, while others stay wear-free indoors.

Every situation is different, which is why there are so many different identification product options.

In short, screen printing is not the most durable process for metal tags. Since the process involves printing a layer of ink on top of the metal, it is highly susceptible to wear and tear. A scratch or two and the design will still be legible.

However, after some time there won’t be anything left to scratch. Since there are no indentations or cuts in the material, after the ink is gone you are stuck with a blank tag.

Screen printed metal is made for indoor environments or short term solutions. Warning signs throughout an office building? Perfect. Construction equipment outside? Not so much.

The printing will last somewhere in the neighborhood of 1-3 years, depending entirely on the usage. If you plan on replacing your nameplates on a yearly basis regardless, this can be a great solution.

In addition to the basic process, optional protective coatings can protect from UV Light, some chemicals, and minor scratches. Keep in mind: this is a minor improvement and not a substitute for a more durable process.

 Materials

One of the benefits of screen printing is that printing on almost any surface is possible. There are few restrictions, allowing for countless uses.

In the world of metal identification, this translates to any printing on any material. The most common material options include:

  • Aluminum
  • Stainless Steel
  • Cold Rolled Steel
  • Brass
  • Copper

Customization

While many identification products are customizable, screen printing take this to the next level.

The flexibility of printing on a surface means the plates can be any shape, size, or thickness you desire.

Any restrictions would come down to the individual manufacturer.

Blog-Screen-Printed-Blue-Tag

The printing ability means the tags can feature any design. This includes logos, shapes, text, numbers, even serialized and variable data.

In short, the best part of screen printing is the freedom to use full color designs. This is the only metal based identification process which allows for full color. Some processes allow for color infill or inlays but this can be costly and doesn’t provide the same level of customization.

Industries

  • Transportation
  • Energy
  • Government
  • Industrial Applications
  • And Many More!

Industries across the nation utilize screen printed tags for various solutions. As mentioned, the best use would be an indoor application such as a custom warning sign. Full color designs are also eye catching, and help the plates stand out.

Wrap-Up

In summary, screen printing and photo anodization are two excellent custom ID solutions.

Both processes offer the freedom to add any design, logo, text, or number. Highly customizable and truly unique, these processes create some of the most useful nameplates. However, that is where the similarities end.

For full color designs, there is no better option than screen printing. The cleanly printed colors will make the nameplates stand out with as many colors as you need. MetalPhoto only offers background coloring.

Photo anodized tags withstand all weather, wear and tear, and also the toughest work conditions. Screen printing is best in non-abrasive indoor environments.

For warning signs in a warehouse building, screen printed tags might be exactly the right fit. If you’re looking at using tags in an oil refinery, you’re better suited for MetalPhoto.

The best identification solution is the one that is right for your application.

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