All about plastic labels and name tags

Name Badge - Restaurant (Plastic Name Badge)

We see dozens if not hundreds of labels as we go about our daily lives. From filling up your car at the petrol station and driving down the freeway, to strolling through the city centre looking for a particular store; labels are a critical part of sensemaking in today’s world, making the complex simple, keeping us informed and helping us to navigate the places and spaces around us. They also help to identify components and keep us safe from dangerous situations.

When those labels are on a name tag, they help us to recognise people and the roles they play. This builds rapport and trust; and of course, they help us make sense of the world around us. Anyone who’s ever felt the cringe of tapping someone on the shoulder at a store just to find they don’t work there can very much attest to the value of name tags; but the value goes far beyond that. Name badges are part of a broader customer experience; when a customer sees a name badge, it signals professionalism and dedication. There’s also a reassuring element, especially in health work – it’s comforting when you’re at a vulnerable time to be able to see the name of your doctor, nurse or support worker at a glance. In the world of commerce and industry, it signals that you’re devoted to your staff, that they’re devoted to your business, that everyone is dedicated to customer satisfaction, and intend to be around for a long time.

With the value of name tags and labels established, the next decision for organisational leaders is what materials to use for your labelling needs. At Sheridan’s Badges and Engraving, we create name tags and labels from both plastics and metal, each with their own advantages; today, we’ll be looking at the benefits of plastic labelling.

Plastic labels: durable, affordable and beautiful

Modern, laminated plastic has the advantage of exposing contrasting text (a range of colour combinations are available) without the burden of paint-filling the engraved characters by hand. Because the manufacturing process is easier, these labels are more customisable. This makes plastic labels a particularly affordable material for identification purposes, especially ideal for small quantities and for labels with variable information or more complex designs.

Laminated plastics come in a vast array of colours including metallic finishes – all with contrasting text. They also come in a variety of thickness, which can range from 3.0mm down to flexible foil thicknesses of 0.5mm and even a tiny 0.1mm. The thin laminated plastics are great for name badges and general items, while the thicker laminated plastics prove their worth in industrial applications and when exposed to the elements. 

Some plastic labels come with a textured surface that is particularly resistant to scratching. These have the surface extruded together with the base colour to form an excellent bond, and are more durable than the typical foil laminated plastics.

Surprisingly perhaps, most of the modern plastic laminates are designed for exterior use. For example, you’ll see these used as identification labels in paving and artificial grass displays, as well as plastic signage used in storefronts..

The other interesting property of engraving laminates is that they conduct electricity. However, this is not something to boast about. Along with the fact they are flammable, plastic laminates are usually not suitable for electrical switchboards, aeronautical applications and confined spaces, and could indeed be dangerous if used in this fashion. 

Safety first with Safe-T-Mark

This might leave you curious: what do we use for electrical switchboards, aeronautical signage and so on? Well, firstly, let us take you on a journey back in time to 1927, to a location called Trafford on Avon (which may ring a bell if you’re a Manchester United supporter, since it’s also home to the Old Trafford stadium). In the Trafford Park industrial complex, a company first created a special engraving laminate (not dissimilar to Bakelite) called Traffolyte, which is frequently used in harsh industrial standards. This company was bought out in the 40s and went belly-up in the 60s, but some companies still manufactured bi- and tri-layer phenolic engraving stock and it has since become a generic term for this type of laminate. We last purchased some sheets from a South African source in the early 2000s.

With Traffolyte being a generic term, what’s sold as Traffolyte can vary in electrical resistance and fire retardation. Fortunately, there is a newish product on the market, Safe-T-Mark, which is made from the phenolic base instead of the modified acrylic. It comes with excellent electrical resistance and fire-retardant properties, making it a fantastic choice for industrial applications where this is a concern. This means when asked to quote on “Traffolyte” by mining and electrical contracting companies, we no longer have to claim ignorance that all laminates are “Traffolyte” – something that’s a common misconception!

Safe-T-Mark has the added benefit of being easier to cut than the old phenolic material. However, it is too tough for laser engraving. Fortunately, as WA’s leading engraving specialists, Safe-T-Mark engraving isn’t too tough for us as we use traditional rotary engraving techniques for this specialist purpose.


Sheridan’s Badges and Engraving has over a century of engraving experience to meet your requirements, and from name tags to safety signage, you can trust us to deliver excellence in your plastic labelling needs.