What is Engraving?

Engraved Plastic Tags and Signs

Plastics used for engraved plastic tags or signs are a multi layered laminate whose composition is based on the various types of engraved plastic tag end products desired. Modern engraveable plastics replace and are superior to the phenolics and lamicoids of the past. The various plastics available are; laminated ABS, acrylic cap ABS core and laminated impact acrylic. Some have a micro-surfaced face for delicate, less durable products. Other materials have a harder, thicker face layer. Some are even textured and one [ SafeTMark] was specifically created for it’s insulative properties in electrical applications. For a more detailed overview refer to our materials pages [ link: Plastic Tag and Lettering Materials ].

The most common multi layer plastic tags are single side engraved two layer laminates composed of a base layer and top layer both of varying thicknesses dependant upon the application. The top layer is carved through with the specified text or image thereby exposing the base. The base color thus becomes the color of the letters or images. The top layer becomes the background. Two sided tags use a three ply laminate or two ply materials can be glued back to back in some larger applications.

Engraving is a carving method accomplished through the use of a table fed mini rotary router called an engraver. Lasers can also be used for this purpose. These machines carve one letter at a time. They are computer controlled to move the cutter or table on the x and y axis and also vertically as needed. Plastic tag and sign shapes are cut and beveled but square edges can be requested. Attachment holes, slots or cutouts are incorporated as part of the engraving process.  Engraver precision can be set to a tolerance of .001 inches and similar precision is also available in metric dimensions. Please note that engraving is not a printing process. Please see our printed tags page for large quantities with no wording changes [ link: Printed Plastic Tags and Labels ].

Single line engraving techniques are usually used for ‘standard’ tags and signs. In this method the engraving is completed in one pass since the width of letters created is the same as the width of the cutter. This process is limited to small signs and tags since the cutter sizes are limited to .125 inch. For larger or more prominent sign text and designs, multi pass engraving is necessary. Though multi line engraving increases price due to increased production time, it has the added advantage of providing crisper and more detailed results [ link: Some Engraving Fonts ]. Single line versus multi line engraving is determined by your needs and the fonts you choose.

Fonts (letter styles) used for the text to engrave plastic tags are specifically designed for engraving purposes. Engraving machines need tool paths to follow. You can view those paths on the font page [ link: Some Engraving Fonts ]. We can also create tool paths from your art and text when needed. To minimize set-up design charges it is recommended that customers provide importable texts and designs for us to use as a starting point in achieving the final product [ link: Plastic Tags Specifications Page ]. For such custom applications set up charges should be expected. Customer art work is archived to be available for repeat orders. This ensures exact repeatability on re-orders.

Layout costs for ‘standard’ plastic tags and signs are included in the prices on the cart and in the quote produced by our Quote Tool [ link : Plastic Tags Quote Tool ]. The length of text usually determines the length of tag necessary. It is virtually impossible to engrave the Gettysburg Address on a 1” X 1” tag. If you are not sure what size tag you need, send us the text and indicate text height or distance it needs to be read from and size constraints dependant upon location. Tag sizes may also need to accommodate attachment methods if mechanical mounting devices are used. Typically where tags are used together in a grouping it is good practice to size all the tags to the needs of the longest line of text. For consistency sake and overall appearance, plates of the same size provide a more professional presentation. Unique non-standard format and layout needs can easily be accommodated on a custom order basis.

Attachment methods include mechanical fasteners as screws or rivets, adhesives, double stick tape, Velcro or magnets. Our double stick tape is very thin and holds well in most environments. It is not a foam tape. In extreme temperatures or other harsh environments alternate attachment methods should be considered.

Environment factors at point of use affect material choices. ‘Standard’ tags and the materials used to create them are designed for common temperatures and moderate environments. Reasonable longevity of appearance and durability in unique environments such as temperature extremes or chemically intense surroundings may be difficult to determine. We offer samples you can test in your environment. Contact us directly for samples.

Finish processing of plastic tags and signs is done manually and includes cleaning, proofing, inspection for quality and inclusion of attachment devices ordered. Although tags are cleaned to remove manufacturing debris and adhesives, some cleanup by the customers should be expected. We recommend a soft bristle toothbrush to clean out debris from letters if required and moderate amounts of window cleaner on a swab to clean off adhesives and fingerprints. We recommend this step be taken after installation so that the cleaning includes the affects of the installation process as well.