Are you struggling to mark your assets with an appropriate and compliant IUID label? As part of the A2B Tracking Webinar Series, I recently held a live online session on How to Select Fully Compliant IUID & Military Shipping Labels. For the purpose of this post, I would like to focus on how to choose an IUID label.
The requirements for an IUID label in the DoD have been clearly laid out in the Military Standard 130. In order to meet these compliance requirements, the IUID label or plate must do two things:
- The label must adhere to the asset for the entire life of the asset.
- The 2D Data Matrix barcode, or the unique identifier that’s created, must be readable for the lifetime of that asset.
When you’re preparing to create an IUID label or plate, you need to be sure that you’re choosing the right material and the right marking method to ensure it can withstand the expected environmental conditions. The most popular materials used today in meeting MIL‑STD‑130 and IUID compliance requirements are:
- Photo-anodized Aluminum
- Metalized Polyester
How do you know which label material to choose?
Before you have your IUID labels printed, keep in mind that the different label material types are designed for different applications, conditions and each material type will come with a different cost.
One of the first factors to identify should be‑ What are the environmental conditions that these assets are going to be exposed to? Are they going to be indoors? And if they are indoors, will the assets be exposed to any testing environments such as extreme heat conditions? Or are the assets going to be primarily outdoors? Are they going to be exposed to harsh chemicals, extreme heat, or cold conditions? It is important that as you prepare for your IUID labels you get some clarity as to what the environmental conditions for your asset will be throughout the life of that asset.
Polyester and Metalized Polyester
Both Polyester and Metalized Polyester have a low, or a low to medium wear and tear tolerance. These types of materials are perfect for any type of indoor environment, including: assets inside protected areas, assets under the heatshield of firearms, and low‑surface energy. These two material types also offer lower cost. For example, if you’re marking laptops or computers to be used in an office – a polyester or metalized polyester would be perfect for that environmental condition.
If the asset is going to be exposed to UV rays of the sun, it can do a number on a polyester label. It will cause the 2D Data Matrix barcode to fade and become noncompliant. Polyacrylic is a medium to high wear and tear material that is better suited for an outdoor environment and is designed to withstand exposure to UV.
You don’t want to have a DCMA auditor scan a barcode that’s been applied a year ago and find they cannot read it. This would put you in a noncompliant situation. The Polyacrylic material uses a laser‑etched marking method for a more permanent marking application. Polyacrylic material can be exposed to UV rays, rough industrial environments, weapon systems, acidic chemicals, and acetone. It’s a more durable marking method suited for that environmental condition.
Photo‑anodized aluminum is the most durable label material and marking method that you can use in compliance with MIL‑STD‑130. IUID labels that are made with either Laser-etched or Photo‑anodized Aluminum are for your most challenging environmental conditions including:
- Heavy outside uses
- Harsh, acidic chemicals
- Extreme High or Low temperatures
- Abrasive situations with high wear and tear
Some common examples of IUID plates that are made with Photo-anodized Aluminum are applications such as engines, aerospace, vehicles and heavy weapons. Understand that Photo-anodized aluminum is a metal plate that will either require a special adhesive or the plate can be supplied with holes for mechanical fasteners.
If you are unsure what environmental conditions your asset will be subjected to in the future — you need to go back to your contract or check with your contracting officer, and have them provide the information needed. The IUID label needs to be readable for the entire life of that asset. In order to choose the appropriate material type and marking method you need to have clarity on what the environmental conditions will be.
To learn more about how to choose an IUID Label or plate here is a quick video taken from my recent webinar.