The Department of Defense (DoD) has determined that it is a strategic imperative that items valued at or above $5,000, or meeting other specified conditions, be marked with unique identification. This unique identification, also known as Item Unique Identification (IUID) is an integral part of the compliance process that was previously mandated by the DoD. This permanent marketing method is used to provide a piece of equipment with a unique ID, so that it can more easily be tracked and monitored. Before you can consider meeting the compliance regulations, you must first consider two factors: 1) what are your assets, and 2) what materials will you use to mark those assets?
What Materials Should be Used to Mark Assets?
When it comes to implementing an IUID onto your assets, not all materials are created equally. In fact, materials should be chosen based on the following factors:
- Print methods
With these factors in mind, there are four main marking materials that are best suited for a wide variety of assets: Photo Etched Aluminum, Polyacrylic, Metalized Polyester, and Polyester.
Photo Etched Aluminum
As the name suggests, photo etched aluminum is a type of plate or label that has been engraved with the appropriate identification information. These aluminum plates, or labels, are incredibly durable and can withstand a high amount of wear and tear. They are printed using a metal photo process. This printing process etches an image into anodized aluminum, which is then treated with a wide variety of chemicals to secure the image beneath the surface. In this way, when the surface becomes scratched the image of the identification information is still preserved. Due to its high durability, photo etched aluminum markers are best used in aerospace applications, and on vehicles, engines, weapons, and items that require heavy outside use.
Polyacrylic is a high-performance acrylic that can be used to create an IUID label. When put to rigorous wear and tear tests, it has been rated at a medium to high sustainability level. This type of label is created using a YaG or CO2 Laser printer. The latter two printing methods can be used to create the Polyacrylic label, or to implement a Direct Part Marking (DPM) directly onto the asset. This particular marking material is best designed for use on assets in rough industrial, marine, and medical environments, as well as on small arms, weapons systems, engines, and outdoor equipment.
Metalized Polyester IUIDs are created using polymer films, which are coated with a thin layer of metal, such as aluminum. These IUIDs have a low to medium durability rating, and are more susceptible to the effects of on-going wear and tear. They can be printed using thermal transfer. The thermal transfer printing method uses a digital printing process that melts a coating of ribbon onto the metalized polyester. Through this method, the identification information is glued onto the label or plate. Metalized polyester IUIDs are best suited for the following types of assets: electronics, computers, warehouse, textured metals, powder-coated surfaces, and low surface energy plastics.
Polyester IUID labels offer excellent adhesion at a lowered cost. They have a low wear and tear rating, however, when used in the appropriate environment polyester IUID labels have excellent smear and scratch resistance ratings, and can be effectively used over a wide temperature range. They are created using the highly effective thermal transfer printing method. Polyester IUID labels are best suited for use in electronics, inside protected areas, protected assemblies, and under the heat shield of firearms.
With these materials in mind, you will soon be able to find the ideal marking solution for your particular list of assets. By choosing the correct marking material you will be able to cost effectively meet DoD IUID compliance requirements, while simultaneously implementing an optimized tracking and identification system for your organization’s assets.