No, not the credit card kind or the surgery kind, but that TAG kind. Engraved plastic tags were the first products offered by AGE more than 20 years ago. Since then we have diversified in products and in equipment, but plastic is still one of our favorite substrates to work with.
Whats not to love about plastic? It is more economical than stainless steel, UV stable, and as you can see in our Plastic Durability Compilation video, it can take a beating (just not a boiling)!
There are plenty of options when it comes to plastic, but first you want to figure out if you want a surface or a reverse material. The difference is that the top layer of the surface material is engraved out, revealing the second color underneath.
The reverse material is a single color with a clear coating over the top. We place the material on its front, exposing the back, and engrave the text/graphics in reverse through the backside of the material, leaving the clear coat intact. Once it is engraved, we then paint fill the back of the material in whatever color you want. This leaves the front of the material completely flat (and therefor, easy to clean). This method also gives you multiple color options for text/graphics in the same tag, which comes in handy for logos.
Both of these options come in a bountiful array of colors. For the surface engraved material there are options for texture and plastics that look like wood or metal. The plastics come in a variety of thicknesses, but our most commonly requested are 1/16 and 1/8.
There are other more obscure options out there, such as three-ply, and we can even have custom colors and combinations manufactured just for you.
We ship to all of North America, so our customers are spread out over different industries and regions. There are some industries that call acrylic plastic tags ‘phenolic’. True phenolic is a plastic, but quite brittle and not UV stable. But, it has its place, as it is non-conductive. If you do need true phenolic, we offer an option called Norplex.
So how did the plastic tags fare in our un-scientific durability tests? In a nutshell, quite well! The surface engraved plastic showed very little ware when sanded, while the reverse engraved scuffed but was still legible.
They all did quite well submerged in salt water for four months (seriously could not tell the difference). The control tags to compare are on the right and the tags that have been submerged are on the left.
When we ran over them with a tractor, they were certainly beat up, but still very legible.
The only place they were weak was the two minute boil. The Metalgraph warped and discolored (this is a plastic that looks like metal), and the surface and reverse options curved in just a tad. This result is not unexpected. We know that the plastic will soften at 200°F, bend at 300°F, and, according to the SDS sheet, straight up auto-ignite at 739°F.
Overall, unless you have to blast the tags with boiling water (if you are in a very cold climate, this may happen), plastic is a wonderful option for most applications!