If you are doing business with the US Military, it is important that your organization has a plan in place to be fully compliant from the beginning and that you are properly marking and labeling all of the assets with a fully compliant IUID label before you ship them to the government.
Obviously, you will need to start your research by looking at your contract; but, often your contract will not be clear as to the label requirements. However, more than likely your contract will reference either the Military Standard 130 (or MIL-STD-130) which is also known as the IUID Marking Requirement or the DFARS marking clause 252.211-7003 for Item Identification and Valuation.
If you were to open the MIL‑STD‑130, you would see dozens of different options for marking methods. That doesn’t mean they’re all the right marking method, or they’re even modern‑day marking methods. This blog post will focus on what’s the most practical method to use for your IUID labels that meet the Military Standard 130 requirements.
With MIL-STD‑130 compliance, it’s crucial the barcode is readable/scannable for the life of the asset. To determine the proper material and marking method, consider what type of environmental condition the assets and the labels will encounter. This chart below shows the four most popular material types — there are other specialty materials — but these four options cover the bulk of the labels that we see.
Polyester material has a low wear‑and‑tear rating. The print method is thermal transfer and is typically used for anything that’s going to be inside a protected area (e.g. office environments or temperature controlled warehouses).
These labels are typically produced with a black print and a white background. If polyester labels are exposed to UV rays from the sun the 2D Data Matrix barcode will eventually start to fade. This fading process over time will eventually cause the barcode to be unreadable. Once a barcode is unreadable the label is now in a non-compliant status.
The process of MIL‑STD‑130 should be a one‑time process. These labels are required to last for the lifetime of the asset — which is why it’s important to initially understand the environmental conditions and to choose your label accordingly.
Metalized polyester is also a thermal transfer printing method. Just like polyester, it’s not recommended for assets in an outdoor environment, for risk of fading. However, it has additional application options, such as low surface energy plastics and powder‑coated surfaces that metalized polyester can be applied to.
Polyacrylic is a medium to high, wear‑and‑tear material option using with laser-etching marking process. This material has a black background with white print. This process has high durability and doesn’t have an extreme cost factor making it the most popular material for UID labels. Polyacrylic material also gives you some flexibility when applying to surfaces that are not completely flat.
If your assets are going to be outdoors, this is the material to use. Using a laser‑etching marking method, the chances of fading are essentially non-existent. If the asset is exposed to the outdoors, you can rest easy that the mark will be readable for the life of the asset. By maintaining its readability the label maintains full IUID compliance.
Photo Anodized Aluminum
The most durable material is photo anodized aluminum. This is the material to use in the most ruggedized environmental conditions. Photo anodized aluminum can have a black background with white print or a natural color background with a black print. Photo anodized aluminum is completely sealed within the anodic layer of the aluminum, so there’s no chance of fading. Chemicals and harsh abrasions are a non‑factor with this type of durability.
When trying to identify the environmental conditions, if you know that an asset is “going to be indoors”, dig a little further just in case. If the asset is in a laboratory environment, it could still be exposed to extreme temperatures, harsh chemicals, or abrasion. If it’s going to be exposed to ruggedized environmental conditions, bump-up the material to a polyacrylic, or even a photo anodized aluminum to be safe.
To learn more about IUID labels that will keep you audit-ready and compliant to MIL-STD-130 watch our full length on-demand webinar here. This free webinar will outline the information that you need to include, the advantages of different types of materials and marking methods for your label, as well how to register your items and stay fully compliant so that you can pass the inevitable DCMA audit. Alternatively, you can watch just the section of the video on Material types and Marking Methods here.