There are many different ink and production options to convey a message on metal in the printing industry these days. Converters now use UV, Latex and Solvent inks through digital processes, metal photo and sublimation. But the most tried and tested methods for durability and longevity continue to be etch and fill processing and screen printing. Let’s take a deeper look into these two options and the benefits they can offer.
Etched and Filled Metal Nameplates
The process of etching and filling metal nameplates can be done on various metals but the most common are usually aluminum, stainless steel and brass. Acids are used to etch away the metal in the areas where enamel inks will be later filled to create the desired look of the nameplate. These enamel inks tend to be the most fade, chemical and weather resistant inks available in the printing industry. Because of their high durability, the etch and fill process for metal nameplates is used often for safety plates and other informational plates that have to last the life of the machine they are attached to. In some extremely high temperature applications it is common to have the etched away areas of the metal left unfilled as the depth of the etch can also create the desired look of the finished plate.
This process tends to be a little more expensive than most of the others due to nature of producing such a durable plate. There are also limitations to the amount of colors a converter can use on such a plate due to processing. Areas that are etched away and filled with enamels must be masked off to paint and there is only so much tolerance for doing so. Most converters will only etch and fill up to two colors on a plate and that depends on the artwork or design.
Screen Printed Metal Nameplates
Screen printing can be done on virtually any metal surface but the most common in the printing industry still tend to be aluminum, stainless steel and brass for metal nameplates. Most converters will use either solvent or UV inks to print the desired look of the nameplate. You can find information on the difference between these inks here. Screen printing, especially with solvent inks, is also a very durable way to convey a message. It also offers some chemical resistance and is highly resistant to fading. A lot of outdoor signage is created using screen printing. Due to the production process, screen printing also offers the customer a lot of options with the application of colors. There is no limit to the amount of colors that can be printed and there is more availability to match desired colors for artwork.
Screen printing tends to be less expensive than the etch and fill option, but it also is not as durable. Consumers must also consider the process of laying colors down on metal, the more colors the more expensive the part. Screen printing is more commonly used for metal nameplates in the printing industry due to cost considerations, but it is always best to review environmental conditions and end use applications with your printing supplier before committing to either process.
Etched, Filled and Screened Metal Nameplates
Finally, some converters are able to combine the two processes to create what truly are some attractive nameplates. This is primarily done for logo nameplates when the customer is looking for something to really stand out and convey brand imagery on machinery. Combined, these processes can provide more artwork options and depth perception to metal nameplates while still maintaining a higher level of fade resistance and durability than digital printing.