This article contains everything you need to know about name plates.
You will learn more about topics such as:
- What is a name plate?
- Uses for name plates
- How name plates are made
- Materials used to make name plates
- And much more…
Chapter One: What is a Name Plate?
A name plate is a method for displaying the name of a person, logo, product, or mechanism and is made from a variety of materials to serve as a long term identifier. The production, manufacture, and design of nameplates involves a variety of exceptionally durable materials that are used to etch, engrave, or emboss and permanently place data or information.
Though name plates serve the purpose of identifying people or things, they have a secondary function as a method of informing people of dangerous areas, chemicals, and safe locations in times of emergency. The necessary information gives directions, displays symbols, and offers assistance.
Chapter Two: Uses for Name Plates
Information on name plates is readily, conveniently, and immediately available with detailed and extensive data boiled down to small concise pieces that provide directions, guidance, and assistance. What was once a simple scribbled sign on a door has become a practical necessity used for a wide array of applications.
There are a number of uses for name plates, from engraved data regarding a stamping press to a sign hung on an employee’s door. They can be a simple reminder or a warning regarding danger. What is presented is provided to offer information quickly and conveniently without the need to ask for assistance.
Uses for Name Plates
Brand awareness is created by some form of advertising on the radio, in print media, via the internet, and on television. Name plates offer a simpler, less expensive method that can be easily placed in key locations focused on the correct clientele. The type of name plate depends on the location, permanence, and whether customers will be allowed to take them.
High Risk Areas
A critical function of name plates is to offer a warning regarding a location or area. Having the proper labeling protects employees, educates staff, meets government requirements, and prevents harm to visitors. Every location has dangerous chemicals, equipment, and conditions that can be protected by proper signage.
Aviation name plates are a legal requirement from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The necessary information is model, serial number, certification number, production certification number, aircraft engine rating, and the manufacturer. The plate must be fireproof and made of highly durable metal. Government stipulations specify that it be displayed on the exterior of the aircraft and be easily accessible.
The purpose of elevator name plates is to outline necessary information for an elevator’s inspection and testing. The information displayed shows that the elevator meets required safety standards and specifications. Included are weight capacity, occupancy, date of the permit, emergency instructions, and other data. Since elevator data name plates have to be durable and long lasting, they are normally made of metals that can tolerate many conditions such as stainless steel or aluminum.
Of the many devices in the workplace, electronic equipment can be the most dangerous. Mishandling, improper guidance, or approaching a piece of electronic equipment can lead to serious injury. A name plate provides information regarding how to operate the equipment and the model, serial number, and weight. In many cases, possible safety hazards are listed along with first aid instructions and an emergency phone number.
When an engine manufacturer finishes building an engine and testing it, they place an identifying name plate on it to supply information to technicians who will work on the engine. Included on the name plate are the manufacturer, engine industrial series number, specifications, displacement, and emissions standards. The name plate is placed such that it is easily accessible for smooth operation, troubleshooting, and maintenance of the engine.
There are several practical uses for name plates in warehouses. One such use is as a means for locating and storing inventory. Though some warehouses use stick on labels, new magnetic name plates are being used as a more permanent and clear way to identify products and remain relocatable. Safety signs, warning signs, and security messages are displayed as a method of giving directions and pointing out possible dangers.
As a standard practice, manufacturers identify their products with a metal name plate attached to the appliance. The information on an appliance name plate provides data regarding energy use such as voltage, ampere, frequency in Hz, and wattage. Also included is the name of the manufacturer, date manufactured, model, serial number, assembly location, and contact information. The provided information helps service people and lets people know when to purchase a new appliance.
When the term name plate is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is the name that sits on a worker’s desk or hangs on their door. It is the traditional view of name plates and has been their primary use for many years. Though they’ve been in use for years, the process of manufacturing them has gradually progressed and improved, transforming the typical printed or cardboard name plate into modern etched, engraved, and molded ones.
When a motor is built to National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) standards, the name plate on the motor includes alphabetical letters that designate the motor’s characteristics with the code, design, and insulation class. An NEMA name plate includes:
- Manufacturer's type
- Rated voltage
- Full-load current
- Rated frequency
- Number of phases
- Rated full load RPM
- Rated temperature rise or insulation system class
- Time rating
- Locked rotor code letter
- Service factor
- Frame size
- Design letter
The NEMA standards for name plates apply to motors produced in the United States, but other nations have adopted the same form. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has established standards for motors manufactured and produced outside the United States.
Scales and Dials
Scales and dials are a necessary part of manufacturing for measuring substances, conditions, and other factors. Many of these applications are unique to an industry with requirements that are exclusive to their production process. Name plates can be customized to fit the needs of an industry exactly with readings that match specific manufacturing methods.
Name plates for scales, dials, and measuring devices require precision and exceptional accuracy with customization for logos, dual or triple dials, part numbers, warnings, and color zones. This type of name plate is used by chemical companies, sanitary services, water suppliers, and energy providers.
Barcode and User Identification (UID)
Barcodes are an important part of inventory control and tracking. Paper labels or sewn on fabric labels are sufficient for labeling consumer products but not adequate for industrial use. For tracking more complex and heavy duty equipment, metal name plate barcodes need to be longer lasting and sturdier. The variable regarding the processing of industrial barcodes is their length, which is determined by the type of information included in the barcode.
The UID on a name plate can be a part number, short description, or a company priority identifier. In most cases, the number or information is short and easily readable such as serial or model numbers.
Chapter Three: How Name Plates Are Made
There are as many ways to make name plates as there are uses and types of name plates. They can be made in a home workshop, school workshop, or the kitchen. Complex and long lasting name plates are made by professional manufacturers using the highest quality materials.
The basic outcome of each form of name plate production is a name, logo, symbol, design, piece(s) of information, or data inscribed on some type of material. The goal of manufacturers is to produce clear, concise images so that they are instantly identifiable and easy to read.
How Name Plates Are Made
Hot stamping uses a die, press, and stamping foil. The press heats up the die, which transfers the ink from the foil onto the piece to be marked. When the press disengages, it leaves a crisp, clear, and permanent impression. Hot stamping is a thermal bonding process that creates a permanent bond between the surface of the material and the foil.
Screen printing is an economical process where a mesh screen is used as a stencil and is placed over a metal plate. Once the stencil is positioned, a squeegee applies ink and epoxy. To protect the image and ensure its permanence, a surface coating is applied that seals the colors, image, and surface.
Anodizing is a forced oxidation of aluminum using sulfuric acid and directed electrical current to open the pores of the aluminum and introduce various colored dies, which become a permanent part of the aluminum. Using a stencil or screen, color can be placed selectively to create an image, design, or words. Anodized name plates are capable of withstanding the harshest and most severe conditions. The process creates a rugged surface that is resistant to chemicals, abrasion, heat, cold, and other abuse.
Etched name plates have a recessed image that is created by an acid that eats away the surface of a metal plate to produce a recessed design in fine detail. The parts of the metal that are not etched are protected by a waxy material. When the item to be etched is immersed in the etching solution, the acid rapidly eats away the unwanted metal. The longer the metal remains in the acid, the more pronounced the image becomes. When the appropriate level of etching is achieved, the metal piece is removed from the solution.
Metal engraving carves, etches, or incises an image or design by cutting, digging, scraping, or gouging the metal’s surface. The creation of designs using engraving is completed by computer numerical controlled (CNC) machinery or a laser marking system. Prior to the development of computerized electronic processes, engraving was an art form that was completed by highly trained craftsmen.
With the modernization of the process, engraving is completed rapidly and efficiently using computer programmed designs.
Embossing involves using pressure and force to imprint text, an image, a design, or other visual representation on a piece of metal. The metal is placed between two halves of a die and is squeezed between them to make the impression. The compressive force permanently places the embossed image on the metal workpiece. The final result is a raised text that is clear, precise, readable, and long lasting, able to withstand environmental and other stressful conditions.
In the lithography process, a printing plate with a rough or brushed surface is covered with a photosensitive emulsion. A negative of the desired image is pressed into the surface emulsion. Ultraviolet light is directed at the surface to print the image into the emulsion. The undeveloped portion of the emulsion is washed away, leaving the name plate for printing. Name plates can be printed in a wide variety of colors and can include different images and textures.
Chapter Four: Materials Used to Make Name Plates
When designing a name plate, there are several factors that have to be considered. The purpose of a name plate is to present information such as a person’s name, a warning of danger, machine specifications, and other pertinent and necessary data.
In the planning and designing process, the type of information must be limited such that it can be read easily and quickly, giving the reader precisely what they need to know. Once the message has been determined, the next decisions to be made are the size, shape, process, and type of material that will be used.
The intended location of the name plate will influence the type of material. Hostile and harsh conditions require strong, robust, and durable metals, while offices and business settings have greater flexibility and need less resilient materials.
Materials Used to Make Name Plates
Aluminum is an exceptionally resilient metal capable of enduring nearly any environment or condition. Though aluminum is a durable metal on its own, when alloyed with other metals, its basic qualities are immensely enhanced, which makes it a tougher and stronger material.
Choosing aluminum ensures a name tag will last for several years. The flexibility of aluminum allows it to be used for many name plate processes since images can easily be embedded and printed on it.
Stainless steel is incredibly sturdy. The combination of iron and chromium, at varying percentages, produces a metal that is weather, chemical, wear, and abrasion resistant. Stainless steel is designed for extreme environments and has the flexibility to be used in any type of application. Part of the durability of stainless steel is its weight; it is much heavier than aluminum. This factor can strongly influence the size of the name plate.
Some of the methods used to apply name plates are adhesives, drilled holes, or direct welding. Name plates made of aluminum and other light metals are unable to be welded and can be applied using screws, adhesives, or drilled holes. Stainless steel can be applied using those methods but can be welded as well due to its weight.
Much like aluminum, brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, is lightweight but durable with exceptional resistance to weathering and highly charged electrical environments. It is a soft metal that is easily workable, which gives it the ability to be shaped and deformed using etching, stamping, or embossing. As a name plate, brass has a long life span due to its ability to withstand a wide variety of harsh conditions.
Brass is heavier than aluminum because of its copper content, and it gains a patina-like finish after being exposed to stressful and rugged conditions. Its resistance to rust and corrosion has made it an ideal metal for name plates for pipes, valves, and fittings.
Vinyl is a plastic made from natural materials, and it is classified as environmentally friendly. Also known as PVC, it is the second most manufactured plastic in the world and has the durability for use in outdoor or indoor name plate applications. It is extremely durable, resistant to humidity and moisture, and cost effective.
Name plates from vinyl can be clear or colored, which expands the designing parameters and offers more versatility. Since vinyl is lightweight, it can be applied using adhesive tape, hangers, and lightweight screws.
Plastic polymers used for the manufacture of plastic name plates can be engineered and designed in any shape, color, texture, and configuration to meet customized specifications. As with all plastic products, plastic name plates are made using a variety of processes such as molding, etching, engraving, and embossing. The durability and cost effectiveness of plastic makes an it ideal material for the manufacture of name plates.
The oldest of the crafted name plates are wood name plates that have been engraved, carved, and sculpted for many centuries. Though the process of making wood name plates has advanced into the 21st century, the process remains essentially the same but is completed by technically advanced and perfected computerized machinery. The traditional wood carved name plate can be seen in businesses, homes, offices, and machine shops with letters or numbers carved in the wood or cut out of it.
Many businesses enjoy the appearance of wood as a representation of stability and traditionalism. Although there are better and more resilient materials, classic wood continues to hold people’s fascination and imagination.
Chapter Five: Thickness of Name Plates
The thickness of a name plate determines how long the name plate will last, with thinner, lighter name plates having a shorter usage life. For harsh and hostile conditions, the weight and thickness of the metal each need to be greater. As part of the planning process, manufacturers provide information regarding the types of thicknesses necessary for specific conditions.
Name plates used to identify industrial equipment must be able to last the useful life of the equipment since the data provided guides and informs machine operators and repair crews. They should be easily readable regardless of the conditions and environment.
Thickness of Name Plates
Aluminum Name Plates
Name plates made from aluminum are produced from 1100 or 3003 aluminum alloys. The use of these grades of aluminum is due to their weight, durability, and cost. Aluminum name plates have thicknesses ranging from 0.002 inch up to 0.125 inch.
- 0.002" soft, pliable, and easy to add information
- 0.012" flexible for general use
- 0.016" thicker, stronger, stable, and workable by forming operations
- 0.020" structural stability with cost effectiveness
- 0.025" used for part numbers with an adhesive backing
- 0.032" can be hot stamped and has excellent stability. Used for extensive information applications
- 0.05" and 0.064" used for large name plates such as control panels or keypads
- 0.125" heavy duty material for plaques, warning signs, and instructional name plates
Stainless Steel Name Plates
Stainless steel name plates are made from various types of stainless steel depending on the conditions and requirements for its use.
Stainless Steel Thicknesses
- 0.018" very thin, used much like thin aluminum, and is grade 316 stainless steel
- 0.03" grades 316 and 430 stainless steel used for extremely harsh conditions
- 0.05" grade 316 stainless steel for extreme conditions
- 0.062" larger signs
- 0.125" large, heavy plaques and outdoor signs
Brass Name Plates
Brass name plates have an exquisite appearance and appeal. The color of the metal changes during use, which enhances its appearance.
- 0.02" cost effective brass
- 0.025" for display signs, plaques, and decorative name plates
- 0.32", 0.05", 0.064", and 0.125" can be chemically etched to 0.004" and can be color filled with baked on ink to improve readability
Chapter Six: Placing a Name Plate
Method of name plate placement is determined by how it will be used and is part of the planning process. The placement of a name plate hinges on how it has been designed to be affixed, which can be by adhesive, welding, drilled holes, or brackets it hangs from.
The materials to which the name plate will be applied also determines how it will be attached. Dry wall, concrete, and cement walls need to be drilled and have screw anchors inserted to apply a name plate with screw holes. Name plates for office doors will have a bracket for the name plate to slide into.
Screws, rivets, clips, and fasteners are the most common and secure method for attaching a name plate. This method is durable and allows for permanent placement of a name plate in the exact required position. It is cost effective and an excellent method for maintaining name plate appearance.
The application of adhesive name plates is as simple as peel and place. Once the name plate has completed processing, the back is sprayed with an adhesive and covered with a thin film of paper. When making the decision to use the adhesive method for applying a name plate, it is important to consider the condition of the surface, orientation, environment, and exposure to the elements.
The surface conditions refer to the place where the name plate will be hung and the adhesive surface of the name plate. The easiest surface for applying an adhesive name plate is metal since it is smooth and free of deformities. A foam adhesive is the best type of adhesive, and it can be applied to any surface except those that have been treated with a coating or powder.
Horizontal placement of name plates is easy and ensures secure placement. When an adhesive name plate is placed vertically on a wall or piece of equipment, there is a danger of it falling; this can be prevented by considering the weight of the name plate and using a strong adhesive.
The type of placement, such as moving or stationary, and whether it will be indoors or outdoors, have major influence on the type of adhesive used. Though indoor environments are considered to be safe and secure, they can potentially be as demanding as outdoor environments.
Exposure to the Elements
Radical temperature changes, damaging chemicals, humidity, and UV light require the use of adhesives specifically designed to meet those conditions. Manufacturers work with customers to customize adhesive selection to meet the needs of special conditions.
Welding of a name plate is limited to metals with the correct weight, thickness, and stability. This method is reserved for heavy machinery, motors, and storage tanks. Welding a name plate ensures permanent placement. For storage equipment and machinery that can be hazardous or dangerous, welded name plates are a necessity.
Hanging name plates is the least expensive and most convenient method. A hung name plate can be easily removed and quickly placed.
Metal holders come in a wide variety of shapes and forms with varieties that can be placed on a desk and others that can be attached to a wall or door. They can coordinate with the décor of their location and can be unique to the personality of the company or individual. Metal holders have slots for the name plate to be positioned and secured. .
Benefits of Name Plates
- The proper placement of name plates permits easy access to information and locations avoiding the need to give directions or guidance.
- Name plates are an identifier that presents information in a concise and efficient form for smooth operation and performance.
- The use of name plates offers clear structure and organization to inventory, offices, machinery, and processes.
- Professionally produced and well planned name plates provide an atmosphere of professionalism, trust, and stability.
- The placement of name plates assists in identifying the importance of a person or piece of equipment. Such knowledge can help people understand and respect a process, person, piece of equipment, or location.
- A name plate is a method for displaying the name of a person, logo, product, or mechanism and can be made from a variety of materials to serve as a long term identifier.
- Name plates make information conveniently and immediately available.
- There are as many ways to make name plates as there are uses and types of name plates.
- The purpose of a name plate is to present information such as a person’s name, a warning of danger, machine specifications, and other pertinent and necessary data.
- Complex and long lasting name plates are made by professional manufacturers using the highest quality materials.