Metal labels are known as durable and long-lasting solutions for marking important equipment and assets. Especially in highly regulated industries, such as aerospace and defense, metal labels are the leading choice for meeting all of the stringent item marking specifications and requirements. Choosing a metal label or tag can be an easy process with proper planning.
When purchasing new metal labels for your business, it’s always important to consider the assets, applications, environmental conditions, and label materials. Each type of label is designed to meet unique application requirements. You will also need to consider the desired label quantity, as more durable and specialized metal labels may have a higher unit cost but a longer expected lifetime. Frequently replacing labels can be cost prohibitive and time-consuming, so choose metal labels with the durability needed to last the lifetime of your assets. Here are some of the most important points you should know about purchasing metal labels.
Selecting Assets and Applications
Since metal labels are typically used as a permanent means of identification, you should first determine which assets will be marked. Careful upfront planning will give you a better understanding of the different label designs you may need, and you’ll be able to estimate your desired order quantity more accurately. Identifying the assets you’ll be labeling and the specific application requirements for each will also help reduce the chance that labels will need to be replaced due to incompatibility or poor design that doesn’t meet regulatory requirements. The needs for any particular application can vary widely. Below are a few of the most common applications for metal labels:
- Aerospace and Defense. Both of these industries are governed by strict requirements for the operation and tracking of equipment. One relevant example is the US Department of Defense (DoD), which requires unique identification (UID) tags to track and monitor the use of controlled equipment. There are also many extreme environmental conditions that DoD assets may be exposed to, especially for airplanes, ships, and military vehicles. Companies operating in these industries often turn to durable metal labels, such as rigid Metalphoto® tags and labels, to ensure the integrity of their asset management efforts.
- Food Processing. Nearly all equipment used in the food processing industry must meet strict levels of cleanliness and use materials designated as “food-grade.” One of the most common materials found in food processing equipment is food-grade stainless steel. Stainless steel has a number of characteristics that make it a standard equipment material in the food industry. When it comes to marking these assets, stainless steel labels provide a safe and reliable way to maintain the same level of cleanliness.
- Heavy Industry. Industrial equipment can often experience sources of abrasion, extreme temperatures, and potential exposure to chemicals. Many businesses choose metal as a label material to ensure that their asset labels can withstand these harsh conditions. Installing a metal label in an industrial setting ensures that it will remain readable regardless of the wear and tear of production, transportation, and storage. You will find Metalphoto aluminum and stainless steel labels used in industrial and heavy equipment applications.
In addition to the specific applications, it is also helpful to identify any environmental conditions which a label may be exposed to. If equipment assets are located or transported outdoors, there is potential exposure to rain, UV, snow, and extreme temperatures. Sand and dirt are also common contaminants that can cause damage from abrasion, especially in coastal areas and dry climates.
Sources of impact, such as other pieces of equipment or vehicles, are common in many manufacturing settings, and there may also be harsh chemicals used onsite that can damage labels. Understanding the exact performance requirements for your metal labels will help you select the best material for the job. Each material option has unique characteristics that make it best-suited for withstanding certain outdoor elements and other environmental conditions.
Selecting a Substrate
Each metal substrate used to fabricate your label will have unique properties that impact the durability and look of the finished product. Comparing your application requirements to these options will make it easy to select one that is best suited for your needs.
- Metalphoto® Aluminum. Metalphoto photosensitive anodized aluminum is the most durable label material available and is used for the most demanding industries and applications. Metalphoto labels are created using a unique manufacturing process in which a silver halide image is embedded within the anodic layer of the aluminum for excellent durability in harsh environmental conditions. Standard Metalphoto can survive temperatures up to 650°F, has an outdoor lifetime of over 20 years, and offers excellent resistance to sources of abrasion or corrosion. A specialized extra high temperature (XHT) Metalphoto label can increase the temperature resistance to 1200°F. Standard Metalphoto labels can be purchased as a rigid or flexible foil version or enforced with a Teflon coating for additional chemical resistance. Metalphoto labels are also being used in the restaurant industry as an alternative to stainless steel labels.
- Stainless Steel. Stainless steel labels are a popular choice for food processing, chemical manufacturing, and medical and laboratory environments. There are two versions of stainless-steel alloy (316 and 304) used to make these labels. Type 316 stainless steel labels are thicker with a more decorative look that can withstand punishing environmental conditions such as exposure to salt spray in marine applications. Type 304 stainless steel labels use a ceramic-marked 304 stainless steel. They are best suited for chemical, textile, food processing, and petroleum environments, as well as any application that requires frequent cleaning with strong caustics.
- Brass. Brass is often used in situations in which it’s important that sparks not be struck, such as in fittings and tools used near flammable or explosive materials, and it’s also a popular choice for industrial and decorative applications that require a clean and professional look. Since brass is a softer metal compared to other common label materials, it can be more prone to abrasion but offers excellent chemical, temperature, and corrosion resistance. When printed with standard black graphics, brass labels also have excellent UV resistance and can be used in outdoor applications for long periods.
Metal labels make an excellent choice for applications that require a durable and permanent labeling solution. As you can see, there are many choices for substrate and finishing your labels, so it’s always a good idea to prepare your requirements in advance before any purchase. Working with a trusted partner like Camcode can make the process seamless and provide you with quality and long-lasting labels for accurate and consistent asset identification.