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What to Look for When Buying Equipment Nameplates: Environmental Considerations, Durability, and More

Last Updated: July 2, 2019

Buying nameplates for equipment may seem like a simple task, but there are actually many things to consider before selecting a nameplate. Here’s what you need to know to choose the right nameplates for your equipment.

A Definition of Equipment Nameplates

Equipment nameplates are identification plates for various types of equipment and parts. These plates should remain readable for the service life of your equipment regardless of the environments in which you use it. Nameplates should include product names, health and safety warnings, and equipment data Gear Tagand should last as long for unprotected exterior applications as they do for milder, more controlled environments.

Types of Nameplates

Nameplates may be metal or plastic, though either type should be durable and perform well through outdoor exposure, extreme temperatures, chemical exposure, and cleanings. Industrial nameplates are made to meet many Department of Defense (DoD) specifications and aerospace specifications in addition to industry standards. When you choose a nameplate, you should consider its material characteristics, its applicability to various environments, and its service life. We explore each of the types of nameplates in more detail below.

Metal Nameplates

  • Metalphoto® Aluminum Nameplates Metaphoto® has been named the most durable nameplate available by the National Association of Graphic and Product Identification Manufacturers (GPI) Industry Standards and Practices Manual. Metalphoto nameplates have an expected outdoor service life of at least 20 years, and because their graphics are sealed beneath a sapphire-hard anodic layer, they feature a virtually impenetrable surface that resists abrasion, heat, and sunlight. The majority of military standards specify Metalphoto as the material for military and aerospace applications because they are the most durable printed aluminum substrate available. Metalphoto nameplates are suitable for use in extreme environmental conditions and can withstand consistent outdoor exposure.
  • Anodized Aluminum Nameplates – Anodized aluminum nameplates are an ideal choice for abrasion resistance. They also have excellent resistance to corrosion, chemicals, and solvents. It’s worth noting that anodized aluminum nameplates are a cost-effective alternative for specific applications. They feature screen-printed graphics that are sealed beneath the anodic layer to increase durability. While edges and holes in these nameplates are not anodized after the imaging process, a secondary process is optional for a thickness of .063” or greater to anodize, alodine, or paint for increased durability and protection.
  • Aluminum Nameplates – Aluminum nameplates are popular for their light weight and corrosion resistance. Aluminum is strong, yet it may be machined and formed easily because of its low density and soft nature. Customers also choose aluminum because its characteristic silvery-white appearance provides superior contrast and readability in nearly any color. Graphics and copy may be screen-printed or chemically etched onto aluminum nameplates with or without a color-fill, and customers may opt to apply a protective coating to increase the aluminum’s abrasion and scratch resistance. While the expected exterior life of aluminum nameplates is up to 10 years, color options do have limited UV resistance and are not recommended for long-term outdoor environments. Aluminum nameplates are more economical than other types of metal nameplates.
  • Stainless Steel Nameplates – Stainless steel nameplates are known for their structural strength, low-maintenance properties, and shiny luster. They often are used in highly caustic and acidic Metal Plateenvironments because of stainless steel’s superior performance, and they also offer antibacterial properties that make them a preferred choice for the food industry. Stainless steel nameplates have excellent resistance to scratches, dents, and stains. The expected exterior life of these nameplates is up to 20 years, and their graphics and copy may be screen-printed or chemically etched with or without a color-fill. Please note, color options have limited UV resistance and are not recommended for long-term outdoor applications of stainless steel nameplates.
  • Brass Nameplates – Brass nameplates are more popular for industrial and decorative applications because of their warm luster and elegant appearance. Brass nameplates are durable and may be polished or given a satin, or brushed, finish. Brass is applicable in indoor and outdoor environments and has excellent resistance to salt water, corrosion, tarnish, chemicals, solvents, and extreme temperatures. Brass nameplates also are the top choice for environments with explosive elements because they do not generate sparks. Graphics and copy may be screen-printed or chemically etched with or without color-fill on brass nameplates. They have an expected service life of up to 20 years, but long-term outdoor applications of those with color graphics are not recommended.

Plastic Nameplates

  • Polyester Nameplates – Polyester nameplates are popular for tough equipment applications and are an ideal solution for indoor equipment and industrial nameplate applications because they have high tensile strength, dimensional stability, clarity, and versatility. Polyester nameplates are lightweight and easy to print and die-cut. They also resist chemicals, abrasion, and tears even over a wide range of temperatures and humidity levels. You may increase the durability of polyester nameplates by adding an optional finish to protect against abrasion and image degradation.
  • Polycarbonate Nameplates – Polycarbonate nameplates have high mechanical strength and superior optical clarity, making them a popular choice for indoor equipment and industrial nameplate applications. They resist corrosive chemicals, stains, heat, and abrasion and feature dimensional stability. Polycarbonate nameplates also are lightweight and easy to die-cut. They may be made thicker for greater impact resistance than polyester nameplates. Polycarbonate is one of the highest quality films available because of its high light transmission and low haze. You may add an optional finish to increase durability against abrasion and image degradation.

When buying equipment nameplates, you should match your needs to the characteristics of the nameplate materials themselves. For outdoor applications requiring durability and resistance to extreme elements, Metalphoto® nameplates are your best option. On the other hand, if your equipment will remain indoors in an industrial setting that is not abrasive, polyester nameplates are your best option. Keep in mind that you can add optional finishes to increase the durability of many nameplate types, and you may choose to add another layer of protection to the plate’s edges and holes.

Images via Flickr by Darron Birgenheier and mattkorz

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