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What is the Best Material for Nameplates?

When you are looking for nameplates, you are faced with a series of choices. You have to select the sizing, shape, design, process, and material.

What if I don’t know anything about different types of metal?

You don’t have to be an expert in metal plates to know which material you need.

This guide will walk you through the basics of the three most popular materials nameplate manufacturers offer so you can figure out the best decision for your application.

Aluminum

Aluminum is an all-around useful metal. From soda cans to aircraft parts, aluminum does it all. High durability and lightweight make it a great option for many applications. This holds true for metal tag usage as well. Due to its outstanding versatility, aluminum is one of the best choices for metal tag materials.

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Durability

When you need your tags to hold up to heavy usage, aluminum is an excellent choice. It is a very resilient metal. While it’s certainly not bulletproof, it can tackle tough working conditions.

A key factor in the durability for any material is the environment it will be used in. Many tags face inclement weather, chemicals, or workplace wear and tear. All of these factors will impact the lifespan of the material.

Aluminum nameplates are rated to last for many years. The only change in durability is the process you choose for your tags. For instance, with screen printing, the ink fades and wears very quickly in outdoors applications. You only see about 1-3 years of effective use before needing to replace.

However, other processes will last significantly longer. For example, MetalPhoto designs will not wear until the aluminum does. This is because the design is embedded in the material itself.

The same holds true for embossed or stamped aluminum tags. All three of these processes are rated for 20+ years outdoors.

Versatility

Aluminum is a highly versatile material. It showcases the durability that metal brings to the table with the toughness to withstand heavy usage. One drawback with durability is typically having to use heavy and clunky material.

Compared to most other metals, aluminum is extremely lightweight. This gives it the freedom to be used in applications where other materials will not work.

Another added benefit is the option to color the metal through anodization. The anodization process can add any solid color of your choosing to the aluminum.

This creates new possibilities for customization. Whether you need a yellow warning sign or a company branded asset tag, anodization can give you the customization you desire.

Industries That Use Aluminum Tags

Industries

Aluminum tags are used by a vast number of industries. This includes everything from energy to government to transportation and more.

One industry of note is the aerospace industry. The aerospace industry has high standards and strict specifications which have to be met. Durability and weight are incredibly important for this industry. Aluminum tags offer the resilience they need, while not adding significant weight.

Processes That Use Aluminum

MetalPhoto

A major benefit to using aluminum material is the ability to utilize the MetalPhoto process. MetalPhoto is a unique process using a special anodized aluminum. A design is embedded in the material and protected by an anodic layer.

It has the appearance of printed ink, but durability on par with embossing or stamping. Plus, MetalPhoto is significantly more customizable. You have the ability to add any design, data, image, or information.

On top of unlimited customization, the tags are also extremely resilient. They are rated for 20+ years outdoors. Since there is no ink on the surface of the material, the design can’t fade or be worn away.

The MetalPhoto process is only available using aluminum material due to the anodization process.

Stainless Steel

Some need nameplates that will hold up to anything and everything you throw at them. Stainless steel tags are up for the challenge. The material is incredibly sturdy. It is tough enough to handle weather, wear and tear, and chemicals. For applications with the most extreme environments, stainless steel is a great solution.

What are Stainless Steel Tags Used for?

Stainless steel has the ability to be used in many different applications. It is one of the most popular choices for nameplates because of its extreme durability.

One drawback to great durability is that it is often a heavy material. In comparison with aluminum, stainless steel is much heftier. While your tags will be much more durable, they will also add weight to the application in which they are used.

Weight of the tag might not be important to your needs, but for some industries it is crucial. For example, the aerospace industry has very strict weight specifications which must be followed. They typically use lighter materials such as aluminum to avoid these issues.

Welding

When applying metal nameplate labels, the most common methods include adhesive backing, holes, or directly welding to a surface.

Stainless steel is perfectly suited for welding purposes. It is often preferred over brass or aluminum as it can be easier to work with in welding applications.

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Durability

Stainless steel is one of the most durable materials used for nameplates. Stainless tags can handle the most rigorous environments. This includes inclement weather conditions, harsh chemicals, and tough work places.

Some processes will impact the longevity of your information on the stainless tag. Processes that use ink such as screen printing will not last very long. Processes that indent the metal itself (stamping, embossing) have the highest level of resilience. For example, etched tags last around 5-10 years. However, embossed stainless tags will hold up for 20+ years.

If durability is the biggest factor in your decision making process, stainless steel is an excellent material choice.

Industries that Use Stainless Steel

  • Aerospace
  • Industrial
  • Transportation
  • Energy
  • Government
  • Defense

Industries

From industrial manufacturing to power generation to construction – if there’s an industry with tough conditions, they use metal tags for identification. Stainless steel is a solution many industries turn to when they know their tags are going to be put in tough environments.

Processes that Use Stainless Steel

  • Embossed
  • Stamped
  • Etched
  • Cable Ties

Stainless Embossed Tags

One of the best uses for stainless steel is embossed tags. The embossing process means the information is raised up in the metal.  Since there is no printing or ink, the design will not be lost to wear. There are endless uses for the tags as well. Plus if they are painted over, the message will remain legible.

Keep in mind that other materials such as aluminum can also be used for embossing if it better fits the application.

If you are looking for the most durable tag solution, stainless steel embossed tags are an excellent fit.

Brass

When deciding on material for your metal tags, you are not just limited to aluminum and steel. You also have the choice of brass. Brass is a durable material that can withstand adverse conditions. It also has a unique look which sets it apart from the other metal tag material options. Whether it’s a cable tie or an embossed tag, brass is a solid choice.

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What are Brass Tags Used For?

Brass tags are often used in plumbing and electrical applications. This is due to its ability to handle water and electrical environments well. The material is highly durable, and has a long lasting life. It is softer than other metals, which can have a substantial impact on usage.

Durability

Compared to other nameplate substrates, brass is on par for durability. Unlike aluminum, brass is much heavier. While stainless steel and aluminum will maintain their appearance over their life span, brass will discolor, wear, and tarnish. However, this is seen as a pro or a con depending on your usage and preferences.

Industries that Use Brass

  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Industrial

Appearance

Unlike the silver look of aluminum or stainless steel, brass features a golden color. This is one way to make your tags stand out.

Another unique aspect of brass is that the look will change dramatically over time. As the material gets worn, it develops a tarnished finish.

There are a wide variety of users, each with their own preferences. Some metal tag users prefer the vintage aesthetic. However, others would rather stick with something that looks cleaner, and performs better in all environments.

Processes That Use Brass

  • Embossed
  • Stamped
  • Etched
  • Cable Ties

What is the Best Choice?

Choosing the right material boils down to usage, environment, and preferences/requirements.

  • What are you using the tags for?
  • How are the conditions they have to hold up in?
  • What requirements or preferences do you have?

In short, aluminum is an excellent all-around choice for metal tag material. It is incredibly tough, remarkably lightweight, and usable in too many applications to name.

With the option for anodization, adding full color to your tags is also possible.

Another key benefit to aluminum is the opportunity to use photo anodization. MetalPhoto tags provide outstanding durability, and feature any image or design. This opens up a world of customization options.

If you want the best of both worlds (durability and lightweight) aluminum is the perfect material for your metal tags.

What about tags that have to survive in the most adverse conditions? In short, stainless steel is a great solution. It can withstand (nearly) anything you can throw at it.

On top of that, stainless steel can be used for a wide range of tags. Whether its embossing, stamping, etching, or even cable ties, stainless can do it all.

Lastly, brass material offers a tarnished gold vintage look. It still has durability, and for certain industries is the standard.

No matter which material you choose, you will have a quality identification tag that will provide a solution that meets your needs.

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