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What to Look for When Choosing Military Data Plates: Durability, Materials, Attachment Considerations, and More

Last Updated: July 2, 2019

Companies that manufacture parts or products for military use must be properly labeled with military data plates that meet necessary specifications. Read on to learn about the characteristics of military data plates, durability requirements, and more.

A Definition of Military Data Plates

Military data plates serve as identification plates for military equipment and parts. These plates must meet multiple military specifications (mil-specs) set forth by the Department of Defense (DoD) for plate size, text size, fonts, format, and syntax. They also must be durable enough to withstand the elements of nearly any environment. Manufacturers of military data plates must ensure that their work meets or exceeds military, government, and industrial specifications.

Characteristics of Top-Quality Military Data Plates

Because so many manufacturers claim to make military data plates that meet or Aircraft Data Plateexceed mil-specs, it is best to know exactly which characteristics make a military data plate one of the utmost quality. First, military data plates that need to be as durable as possible should be made of Metalphoto®.

Metalphoto® aluminum data plates are durable and boast an expected outdoor lifespan of at least 20 years. Because the plates’ graphics are sealed beneath a sapphire-hard anodic layer, the surface of the data plate is virtually impenetrable, resisting abrasion, heat, and sunlight. Metalphoto® is specified as the material to use in several military standards and aerospace applications; in fact, the National Association of Graphic and Product Identification Manufacturers (GPI) Industry Standards and Practices Manual claims Metalphoto® photosensitive anodized aluminum is the most durable printed aluminum substrate available.

By military and industry standards, anodizing is a process that extends the life of aluminum. Metalphoto is anodized – an electrochemical process that converts the metal surface of aluminum into a porous aluminum oxide. However, unlike ordinary anodized aluminum, the pores are then impregnated with silver compounds, necessary for imaging. After imaging, the pores are sealed. The result is a data plate with a finish that is incredibly more durable and weather-resistant than it otherwise would have been without undergoing the process.

Anodized aluminum is a standard material because it will not rust like steel or iron products will. It also is one of the hardest substances in existence and comes in second only to diamonds. Metalphoto anodized aluminum is a specified material for military data plates because in addition to the benefits of regular anodized aluminum, it will not show wear under UV or salt-water exposure. It also will not fade, chip, or peel. Similarly, anodized aluminum data plates resist abrasion extremely well and have superb resistance to corrosion, chemicals, and solvents.

Another feature to look for when choosing a top-quality military data plate is whether the edges and holes fabricated in the plate have been anodized or painted to increase the plate’s durability and protection. If not requested, manufacturers often skip this step, and the military is left with plates that do not live up to their expected lifespan or durability requirements.

Finally, look for nameplates that feature high-performance adhesives or holes for mechanical attachment. A plate is not worth much of anything if it Military Data Platedoes not remain adhered to the object for identification. There are three considerations to weigh when preparing to attach a military data plate:

  • the environment in which it will be located
  • the type of surface to which you are attaching it
  • the thickness of the plate itself

Adhesive attachment options include high surface energy (HSE), low surface energy (LSE), and very high bond (VHB). Mechanical attachment options include rivets, screws, hang tags, bolts, and snap fit.

It’s worth noting that the most common adhesive type for military data plates is pressure sensitive adhesive (PSA). It is easier to bond to high surface energy materials than to low surface energy materials. Although Metalphoto® is compatible with all attachment methods, it is best to attach thinner gauges with pressure sensitive adhesive rather than mechanical methods.

Benefits of Metalphoto® Photosensitive Anodized Aluminum Military Data Plates

Metalphoto® photosensitive anodized aluminum military data plates are more expensive than typical aluminum anodized plates. They are worth the investment, however, because of their benefits:

  • Retain original appearance after years of exposure to heat, humidity, UV, salt spray abrasion, industrial solvents, chemicals, and more
  • Images sealed beneath a sapphire-hard anodic layer
  • Specified for military standards
  • High-contrast graphics on a black or silver background
  • Compatible with all attachment methods

Overall, if you are attempting to choose a durable military data plate, you should look for those that have a long life expectancy regardless of their environment. Twenty (20) years should be a minimum for the best quality plates. You also should look for those that resist abrasion, high temperatures, salt spray, and chemicals. Then, look for military data plates that contain all of the required information, and that the information is crisp and easy to see and read. Next, ensure that the data plate meets military standards in addition to the requirements you have for your item, such as plate thickness, size, and adhesive or mechanical attachment features.

Images via Flickr by WalterPro and Norris Sperry

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