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By Chris Doyle | Jun 28, 2017
Example of a Metalphoto nameplate

Are you in need of a highly durable and high-end looking nameplate? Look no further than Metalphoto. This incredibly dependable and innovative material is gaining recognition in its uses for nameplates, placards, serial plates, and asset tags.

What is Metalphoto?

Metalphoto is a specialized type of anodized aluminum used to make nameplates, labels and control panels. Developed for the US Navy in 1950 and specified by most major OEMs, it is one of the most durable identification materials available.

Metalphoto’s construction begins with pure 1100 alloy aluminum. The aluminum is then anodized, which creates a glass-like layer that is sapphire-hard on top of the metal. Next, the anodized layer is impregnated with an inorganic photosensitive compound. Using a computerized imaging machine, the artwork is then projected into the aluminum itself, rather than being printed on top of the metal. The graphics are exposed and developed like a true photograph inside of the anodized aluminum, which causes it to become a part of the nameplate. This is what makes Metalphoto so durable and extremely resistant to corrosion, sunlight/UV degradation, abrasion, high temperatures and chemical exposure. Finally, the parts are placed in a sealing tank to close and encase the graphics underneath the anodic layer.

Metalphoto comes in four different finishes: matte, satin, gloss, and a #4 brushed finish that resembles stainless steel. It ranges from 0.003” (.076mm) to 0.125” (3.175mm) in thickness.

Metalphoto images and text are primarily in black. Additional colors can be added, however there is only a set pallet of colors and they cannot be color matched.

The benefits of Metalphoto

Using Metalphoto rather than etched steel or printed stainless steel has many benefits. Metalphoto has unmatched durability and resistance properties. It can sustain an outdoor life of 20+ years, is resistant to over 7,000 cycles of abrasion, can withstand temperatures in excess of 750°F, and is specifically designed to be salt spray and chemical resistant.

In addition, the resolution of graphics on Metalphoto is significantly clearer than on etched steel. The method of using a projected image makes any letters, numbers, symbols and pictures extremely legible and appear as crisp and clean as a photograph.

Metalphoto is also less expensive than stainless steel in lower quantities, especially for variable data/runs. Unlike steel or other nameplates, it does not require individual engraving, punching, or laser marking for variability in images or information. Using the computerized imaging process also makes Metalphoto perfect for serialization, as it does not affect the process or price to make each Metalphoto plate different in image or serial number.

Examples of Metalphoto products

Inovus Solar asked GMN to create a high quality, high resolution nameplate that could last outdoors on their solar-powered street lights. This nameplate needed to be durable in all weather conditions and pliable enough to wrap around the light post, while still sustaining a clear image. Therefore, a thin Metalphoto nameplate was the perfect solution to meet the needs of Inovus Solar.

Another example is a nameplate solution GMN produced for Starbucks. Instead of withstanding extreme weather conditions, Starbucks wanted a high-end nameplate with higher resolution graphics for their coffee machines. The nameplate needed to project clear images while being able to withstand chemical corrosion from cleaning materials. Starbucks went with a Metalphoto nameplate to meet their high quality specifications.

Metalphoto’s durability and resolution makes for a great nameplate, placard, serial plate or asset tag for your product. Metalphoto nameplates are crisp, clear, and are easy to produce in high quantities with variable images/data.

GMN is a certified converter of Metalphoto and has been providing Metalphoto solutions for over 40 years. 

Gail Amole, GMN
By Gail Amole | Jun 22, 2017
USNR aluminum decal

GM Nameplate (GMN) created an aluminum label for USNR, an innovative company that manufactures a complete line of state-of-the-art equipment for cutting, handling, and drying lumber. USNR started as a small sawmill equipment supplier and has grown to be a global leader in the wood processing industry. 

USNR came to GMN to find a way to cut costs on their current nameplates in order to continue to maintain a strong brand identity on all of their equipment. Although changes needed to be made, USNR still favored the finish and dimensions of their prior nameplate. Luckily, GMN had the expertise to provide an aluminum decal with the same look and feel, but at a lower cost.

The first step of a printing job is often color matching. This step mattered a great deal to USNR because their prominent red color is such a distinct part of their brand. Therefore, it was imperative that the correct shade of red was achieved on the decal. GMN’s custom color-matching capabilities allow us to accurately color match from a variety of different sources – in this case it was a coffee mug.

Given the nature of the industry, the label also had to be extremely durable. After collaborating with USNR, GMN decided to screen print the label on .008 aluminum with a .005 3M adhesive backing. The aluminum label was fabricated with a steel-rule die, and thermal-embossed with a magnesium die to give the part more depth and make the logo pop. To complete the look, the part was given a satin polyurethane finish.

The end result met all of USNR’s aesthetic, durability, and cost requirements. The printed aluminum decal has a sleek look that aligns with their brand identity, protects against harsh environmental conditions, and allows USNR to expand the use of their branding components.

Jeff Friday, Marketing Specialist at USNR says it best, “With the per-unit costs reduced by 60%, it added great flexibility for us to use more of them in many more applications. It was a big win for us!”

By Rachel Wienckoski | May 18, 2017
Polyester and polycarbonate are both popular overlay materials.

Have you ever walked up to an ATM machine or gas pump and noticed the cracking, fading numbers on the keypad? This is a prime example of why material selection is vital for graphic overlays. At GMN, the two most common materials used for graphic overlays are polyester and polycarbonate. Depending on the application, there are advantages and disadvantages for both materials.

When evaluating overlay materials, one of the most important factors to consider is durability. Polyester and polycarbonate are both extremely durable materials, but polyester is generally known as the more durable option. Polyester has a longer actuation life (over 1 million actuations vs. 200,000 actuations), meaning that it can endure more switch actuations before the overlay will start to crack or deform. As a result, polyester is a great choice for membrane switches and overlay designs that include embossed buttons. Polycarbonate has a wider thickness range, and increasing the thickness of an overlay can help make it more durable. However, polycarbonate is best suited for applications with minimal flex requirements because continual flexing can cause stress fractures over time. Therefore, in the scenario above, polycarbonate was likely chosen for those overlays, when polyester would’ve been a better choice.

In addition, polyester is resistant to abrasion and significantly more resistant to acids and chemicals, making it an ideal substrate for the medical, industrial, and appliance industries. Polycarbonate is flame retardant while polyester is flammable, making polycarbonate perfect for industries in which safety is of high importance, such as the aerospace industry. Alternatively, hard-coating can be used to significantly improve the durability of either material.

While polyester has an edge in terms of durability, polycarbonate has some cosmetic advantages over polyester. Polycarbonate offers a wider range of textures and finishes, which can be attractive when design is the most important factor. It also has very high clarity and color brilliance. If an overlay is being used purely for appearances and won’t be exposed to frequent use, polycarbonate may be the most appropriate substrate choice.

In terms of production, polycarbonate tends to process easier than polyester. It’s very easy to cleanly print on polycarbonate of all thicknesses. Polycarbonate is also easier to die-cut and emboss, which can help to reduce cost.

The cost difference between the two types of materials is minimal, so the application and use considerations are typically the main factors to consider. However overall, polyester is slightly more expensive than polycarbonate.

Polyester and polycarbonate are both excellent material choices for overlays. Ultimately, the choice between the two will depend on the overlay’s design requirements and environmental conditions. For more information on how polyester and polycarbonate compare, visit GMN’s graphic overlays page.