Industrial Tags Buyer’s Guide

Industrial tags are crucial tools used for equipment labeling, asset management, facility organization, and other functions across a wide array of industries. Whether you have a hanging tag, or it’s bolted to a machine, industrial tags can communicate important branding and operating information that will help your worksite be more efficient.

At Etched, we create high-quality industrial tags made from metal or plastic and customized to your exact specifications. Our tags are highly resistant to weather conditions, corrosion, and wear-and-tear. Before you make your purchase, we’ve assembled our expert insights on how to select the best material and process type, and questions you should ask before partnering with an industrial tag supplier.

How to select the right industrial tag supplier

Not sure how to specify the tags best suited for your needs? There are dozens of industrial tag suppliers you could partner with–but make sure to find one who will work with you to find the right solution, at the right price. Here are a few important considerations:

  • Quality of material: It’s essential that your tags be durable and hardy. Partner with a supplier that uses the highest-quality metals and plastics to ensure your tags are built to last.
  • Process expertise: Whether you select laser engraving, rotary engraving, screen printing, or another process option (see more information on each below), partner with a supplier that has experience with that process option and can create clear, precise, and legible tags.
  • Order quantities: Some industrial tag suppliers have strict minimum or maximum order quantities. Make sure to partner with a supplier that can meet your needs, and who cares just as much about the small orders as the big ones.
  • Supply chain solutions: Running out of tags can seriously hinder the efficiency of your operations. Find an industrial tag supplier that makes the tag ordering process quick, simple, and streamlined, and can get you the tags you need, when you need them. Ask about standard lead times, rush orders, or expedited shipping.

Process options for industrial tags

Once you’ve found the right industrial tag supplier, it’s time to select the process option for your tags. We’ve outlined the different processes below, and which one may be best for specific applications.

Chemical etching

Chemical etching involves covering parts of the tag substrate with an acid resistant material, then dissolving the rest away with acid, leaving the masked areas in sharp relief. The depth of the etch can vary from 0.0015” – 0.004”, depending on the substrate. Chemical etching is an extremely durable and long lasting process option, and will leave your tags highly resistant to abrasion and legible for the entire lifetime of the substrate.

At Etched, chemical etching can be selected for stainless steel, aluminum, or anodized aluminum tags.


Metalphoto processing works by taking a “negative” image, expositing it on treated aluminum substrate, then processing that substrate in a developer solution. The resulting anodized layer is highly resistant to chemicals, paint, abrasion, dirt, and other materials, and the image on your tag will last for over 20 years, even in intense and direct sunlight. Metalphoto is a popular option for military and aerospace industries, since anodized aluminum metalphoto tags are lightweight, durable, and legible.

Laser engraving

Laser engraving involves using a laser to etch onto the tag substrate. Fiber lasers mark with some depth, creating tags with a high contrast–but with a dark brown color rather than black. CO2 lasers create durable true black marks on the surface of the substrate, meaning they’re slightly less resistant to abrasion.

At Etched, laser engraving can be selected as an option for stainless steel, aluminum, anodized aluminum, and plastic tags.

Rotary engraving

Rotary engraving cuts into the tag substrate using a motorized spindle and engraving bit. The depth of the engraving can be anywhere from 0.003” – 0.007”, and the resulting letters and graphics can then be painted for greater contrast. Rotary engraving is extremely precise and repeatable, since we pre-define the drill toolpath using specialized software. 

Rotary engraving can be selected for stainless steel, aluminum, anodized aluminum, or plastic tags.

Screen printing

Screen printing leaves a clear and durable image on your tag using ink. This is the least durable process option, but is extremely cost-effective, making it an attractive choice for indoor applications where the tag will not have to endure harsh environments or corrosive materials.

Screen printing can be selected for stainless steel, aluminum, anodized aluminum, or plastic tags.

Material options for industrial tags

We manufacture industrial tags using stainless steel, aluminum, anodized aluminum, or plastic. Metal tags are generally more durable, but each material type has its own unique benefits.

Stainless steel tags

Stainless steel is an extremely durable tag material option. Stainless steel will ensure that your tag remains clearly readable for a long time, even in harsh industrial environments. The substrate is highly resistant to corrosion, abrasion, and the elements, making stainless steel the best choice for tags that will be installed in harsh environments. .

We stock stainless steel in 0.018” – 0.125” thicknesses, with both 316 and 304 stainless steel available in most thicknesses. We also offer two finish options: the #4, which has a shiny exterior, and the #2B, which has a matte finish.

Aluminum industrial tags

If you need your industrial tags to still be durable, but not quite as hardy in outdoor conditions as stainless steel, consider specifying aluminum as your tag substrate. Aluminum tags will last a long time, but they are significantly lighter weight than stainless steel. Therefore, aluminum tags are the most popular option for aerospace and transportation applications, or anywhere weight is at a premium.  

At Etched, we manufacture aluminum tags in 0.012” – 0.125” thicknesses, with other thicknesses available upon request.

Anodized aluminum industrial tags

Anodized aluminum means that the substrate has gone through the process of anodization, where we apply a protective coating to the raw aluminum to provide greater resistance against corrosion, abrasion, and other elemental conditions. Anodized aluminum is an attractive option because it has the same light weight as raw aluminum, but offers enhanced durability and is well-suited for both indoor and outdoor applications.

At Etched, we manufacture anodized aluminum tags in black, blue, green, red, yellow, or clear.

Plastic industrial tags

Plastic tags are lightweight and flexible, offering high contrast and legibility when the text is engraved on a different color background. However, given their lighter and more flexible nature, plastic is the least durable substrate for tags, making it most common for indoor applications or environments without exposure to extreme sunlight, weather conditions, or corrosion.

Ready to get started?Still not sure which material or process option is right for your application? Our team of industrial tag experts would love to help. Get in touch with us today!