Custom nameplates are a great way to mark your products and equipment with a professional and durable solution. Nameplates can be fabricated with either metal or plastic substrates that are chosen based on the environmental conditions expected with your applications. Before placing an order, always check to make sure that you have reviewed all of your requirements and have a clear plan in place.
In this post, we’ll explain the major steps involved in the nameplate design process and how you can choose nameplates that will suit your application’s requirements. With so many options to choose from, it can be challenging to select the design elements that meet your specifications, particularly if you’re not familiar with the durability characteristics of the various substrates and other materials. We hope this guide helps streamline your preparation.
1. Defining the Application
Before you can select specific attributes of a nameplate, it is best to define the requirements of your application. The type of surface, installation location, and environmental conditions can all have an impact on the type of nameplate you should choose. Some of the most important application details to review are:
- Functional use
- Standards and regulations
It becomes much easier to select from the different design parameters when you have these application details in mind. When defining the functional use and environment, be mindful of any potentially hazardous conditions that your nameplates may encounter. Some examples include sources of abrasion, moisture, and extreme heat. These are essential considerations when selecting the material in the next step.
2. Choosing a Substrate Material
Based on the durability requirements and desired appearance of the nameplate, you can select from a variety of metal and plastic substrate materials. Each will have its own unique characteristics that are well suited for certain applications:
- Brass. With a distinctive golden color, this metal is often chosen for decorative nameplates and is also an excellent choice for marine applications due to its strong resistance to saltwater and corrosion.
- Stainless Steel. This metal is extremely dense and a gold standard in the food industry due to its excellent resistance to scratches and antimicrobial qualities.
- Aluminum. Many customers choose aluminum because it can be easily molded into different shapes and has excellent durability even in outdoor environments.
- Anodized Aluminum. For added durability, aluminum that is anodized contains a protective layer that makes it extremely resistant to abrasion and corrosion.
- Metalphoto® Aluminum. The most durable metal available, Metalphoto® is a popular choice for challenging applications and can last for over 20 years even in harsh outdoor conditions. In fact, Metalphoto® has been the material of choice for industrial and military engineers for more than five decades, and it meets a multitude of government, industrial, and military specifications, including MIL-STD-30.
- Polyester. Polyester has a very high tensile strength and is often used as a nameplate to identify products and packaging.
- Polycarbonate. Since polycarbonate is rigid and more durable than polyester, it is often selected as a plastic substrate for applications that require strong resistance to abrasion and heat.
3. Creating a Graphic Design
It is now time to define the graphic elements that you require or prefer on the face of your nameplate. Options include text, logos, graphics, and barcodes. It is possible to work with our graphics department to create your design, or you can also submit an AutoCad, Illustrator, or Corel Draw file directly. You can also choose between a black and white design or color graphics.
Another consideration at this stage is the printing method that will be used. There are three major printing technologies for nameplates: screen printing, digital printing, and photo imaging. As an alternative to printing, some metal substrates can also be etched. Each substrate material is optimized for use with particular printing methods, and you should consult the individual specifications for details.
- Screen Printing. This is the most cost-effective printing method and is great for light-duty applications and high-volume orders.
- Digital Printing. An option that is ideal for mid-volume orders that require high-end graphics and a standard level of durability. We also offer a process called UltraColor, a sub-surface digital printing process for printing full-color images in anodized aluminum. The images are then sealed inside the metal, giving them excellent resistance to abrasion, chemicals, humidity, moisture, and salt water.
- Photo Imaging. The most durable printing method, photo imaging is an excellent option for the most demanding applications. This is the process used with Metalphoto® nameplates, in which the graphics are sealed beneath a sapphire-hard anodic layer, making the surface highly resistant to abrasion, heat, and sunlight.
- Etching. This chemical etching process creates a graphic that has excellent resistance to outdoor environments and will not fade.
Based on your graphic layout, proof of your nameplate design can be provided for review and approval before the units are created.
4. Select Additional Design Specifications
In addition to the graphic elements, you can also customize the size, shape, and dimensions of your nameplate. In some cases, you can also select the desired thickness for the substrate material. The attachment methods available for nameplates are a high-strength adhesive or physical attachment that can be done with bolts.
5. Final Prototype and Production
Once your nameplate design is finalized, a prototype can be requested for onsite testing if necessary. From there, you can review any final production questions with our specialists, such as order quantities, repeat orders, or shipping procedures and lead times.
Our process for nameplate design is straightforward for creating a nameplate that meets all of your needs. By following these steps, it is possible to go from an initial application to a finalized nameplate in a short time. We hope you found this post helpful and come away with a few new ideas for your next nameplate design.