Case Study: Metalphoto Transportation Asset Identification
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Published on September 14, 2022

A leading manufacturer of tractor trailers and shipping containers found that nameplates made of Metalphoto photosensitive anodized aluminum have greater durability and legibility than etched stainless steel at a fraction of the price. 

Problem: Difficult to Read Data Plates

Many truck trailer and container manufacturers historically used etched and filled stainless steel for CSC Safety Approval Plates and VIN Data Plates. However, after years of abuse from road salt, impact abrasion and sunlight exposure, the etched plates can be difficult to read. Illegible nameplates can lead to replacement costs, inability to track trailer location and maintenance, safety hazards and, in some cases, regulatory fines. 

Also, because etched plates are stamped with human-readable numbers, they can lead to human error and added labor cost. After a series of failures from damaged or illegible plates, a leading transportation equipment OEM needed a VIN Data Plate solution that would both last the life of the trailer and support machine readable barcodes.

Solution: Metalphoto

Metalphoto photosensitive anodized aluminum was identified as a solution. Metalphoto incorporates variable data barcode labels into VIN Data Plates while providing better image durability and lower cost than etched steel. Metalphoto has five key advantages over etched stainless steel:

Metalphoto Transportation Case Study 

Durability: The Metalphoto image remains readable after prolonged exposure to salt water, synthetic road salts, sunlight/weather and impact abrasion.

Legibility: Metalphoto graphics are cleaner and of higher resolution than etched stainless steel. That makes for great looking VIN plates but more importantly, it allows one to effectively incorporate the use of machine readable barcodes for asset tracking.

Affordability: Metalphoto parts typically cost 10-20% less than etched and filled stainless steel.

Availability: Metalphoto is available from a network of qualified converters worldwide. Alternatively, Metalphoto can be produced on site for just-in-time printing requirements.

Sustainability: Metalphoto is an environmentally sustainable process that has minimal environmental impact.

Metalphoto Application Environmental Conditions In Use Since
Aircraft Landing Gear Labels
  • Extreme temperature cycling
  • Hydraulic & brake fluid exposure
  • Sunlight & humidity exposure
1988 to present
International Space Station Labels
  • Extreme temperature cycling
  • Sunlight UV radiation exposure
2000 to present
Off-Shore Crane Nameplates, Labels and Operator Control Panels
  • Sustained sunlight/weather exposure
  • Impact abrasion
  • Salt-spray corrosion
  • Hydraulic fluid exposure
1987 to present
Bradley Fighting Vehicle & Abrams Tank
  • Sustained sunlight/weather exposure
  • Sand & impact abrasion
  • Extreme temperature cycling
1995 to present
USS Ronald Reagan Nimitz-Class Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier Shipboard Labels
  • Sustained sunlight/weather exposure
  • Salt-spray corrosion
  • Impact abrasion
1998 to present

Metalphoto Durability

Trailers, chassis and converter dollies and shipping containers are subject to prolonged exposure to extreme elements. Degradation from road salt, ocean spray, abrasion, sunlight and weather threatens the readability of CSC Safety Approval Plates and VIN Data Plates. Metalphoto photosensitive anodized aluminum is a unique imaging technology that stands up to harsh operating conditions. The UV-stable, inorganic Metalphoto image is permanently sealed inside of anodized aluminum, offering unparalleled durability and image resolution. Since 1958, Metalphoto has been specified for applications where durability is critical.

Metalphoto Cross-Section

Metalphoto Legibility

As a photographic medium, Metalphoto affords ultra-high image resolution and contrast – ideal for barcode labels. Machine readable barcode labels reduce human error and labor cost. Reducing errors and saving time is especially critical in the transportation industry where equipment must be where it needs to be, when it needs to be there and in working order. Etch and filled stainless steel is simply unable to hold consistently readable linear and data matrix barcode symbols. For this transportation OEM, Metalphoto’s ability to hold durable barcode labels was a key advantage. 

Metalphoto Affordability

In addition to the ability to incorporate long-lasting and durable barcodes, the high cost of stainless steel was of concern. Metalphoto nameplates can cost up to 30% less than etched and filled stainless steel due to material cost and processing labor costs.

Material Costs: An equivalently sized Metalphoto nameplate (same gauge, same area) is typically 10-20% less than a similar product made of stainless steel due to the lower cost and weight of aluminum (aluminum = 2.70 g/cm³ vs. steel = 7.85g/cm³).

Labor Processing Costs: Imaging and fabricating Metalphoto is a less labor intensive process than etched and filled stainless steel. Etching steel requires four steps (coat, expose, acid etch, ink fill) whereas Metalphoto only requires three quick steps (expose, develop, seal). Moreover, steel’s hardness adds complexity to fabrication.

Metalphoto Availability

The OEM needed to produce durable, serialized nameplates based on each container’s specifications as the product was completed. On-site product requires a dedicated processing area, skilled operator and metal fabrication equipment. Most customers interested in integrating the durability of Metalphoto into their product designs choose to purchase finished parts from Metalphoto’s network of qualified converters.

Metalphoto Sustainability

The Metalphoto Processing System is designed for reduced environmental impact. Processing solutions use low VOCs and all waste streams are neutralized or collected during the production process. Additionally, Metalphoto is designed for permanency – it will not need to be replaced. If replacement is desired, Metalphoto is easily recycled.

Leading OEMs trust Metalphoto because of its superior durability, ability to hold variable information barcodes and affordable price. However, others are beginning to take notice of Metalphoto’s versatile characteristics. Beyond durability, the Metalphoto material enables several value-added options that remove human error and protect assets from counterfeiting and destruction: 

Anti-counterfeit: Metalphoto is a photographic technology and because of this, it affords covert and overt anti-counterfeit measures that make it a trusted deterrent for highly counterfeited products.

Metalphoto Counterfeit Technology

SandShield: For extreme durability in caustic or ultra-abrasive environments, Metalphoto’s SandShield over-laminate adds extra protection.

Looking for a custom Metalphoto photosensitive anodized aluminum product? We would be honored to help meet your needs while keeping quality top of mind. STRYKER holds decades of experience in manufacturing with extreme precision and specifications. We are also the only Certified Metalphoto Converter in the state of Wisconsin.

STRYKER is a third-generation, woman-owned small business that specializes in industrial nameplates and durable customized workwear with in-house screen printing and embroidery services. Our ISO 9001:2015 certification proves we are serious about quality and consistently strive to provide products that meet customer and regulatory requirements along with unmatched customer service. Visit the STRYKER showroom, get a quote or call 920-731-9105 to get started on your project today.