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How Do You Print on Metal Surfaces?

There are a variety of processes to choose from in making printed metal, including screen printing, digital printing, embossing, laser engraving, chemical etching, oxidation, and more. Each process has its advantages and disadvantages. This article briefly discusses several methods commonly used in metal printing in the industrial field.

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Printed metals have a wide range of industrial applications, ranging from simple nameplate markings and brand logos to complex barcode labels for asset management. Metallic materials include stainless steel, aluminum, zinc and brass, each with its own unique properties and uses. There are a variety of processes to choose from in making printed metal, including screen printing, digital printing, embossing, laser engraving, chemical etching, oxidation, and more. Each process has its advantages and disadvantages. This article briefly discusses several methods commonly used in metal printing in the industrial field.

Metal Surfaces Printing Method:

Screen Printing

Screen printing is a process that produces images of a variety of prominent colors and excellent durability on metal surfaces by pressing ink using a partially masked web of fabric. It is a popular method of imprinting product identifiers directly on metal such as casings. Epoxy-based inks are often chosen for screen printing because of their excellent durability and corrosion resistance, which can withstand long-term outdoor use and corrosive environments. Advantages of screen printing include:
  1. Bright colors and high saturation: Screen printing can produce very bright and saturated colors, making printed matter highly visually appealing.
  2. Good durability: Due to the use of epoxy-based ink, the screen printing has very good durability and can maintain the quality of the printed matter for a long time.
  3. Wide range of applications: screen printing can be applied to various metal surfaces, including stainless steel, aluminum, zinc and brass, etc., making its application range very wide.
  4. Complicated patterns can be produced: By using screen printing, very complex and fine patterns and images can be produced to meet various identification and decoration needs.
However, screen printing also has some disadvantages:
  1. High cost of plate making: Making screen-printed plates requires high costs, which may not be economical for small-scale production.
  2. Limited printing thickness: The printing thickness of screen printing is relatively thin, which may not meet the requirements for signs that need a thick feeling.
Screen printing has a wide range of application values in the field of metal identification and decoration, especially for identification and decoration needs that require high definition and high durability.

Digital Printing

Digital printing is a way to mark metals that rivals screen printing and is used for input/output labels, dials, logos and more. In contrast, screen printing tends to use a limited number of colors, known as “spot colors,” while digital printing can provide almost any color by using the halftone process. This process is very effective for signage and decorative needs that require high definition and rich colors. The advantages of digital printing include:
  1. Color diversity: Direct digital printing can achieve almost any color output, which is very suitable for color requirements that require high color saturation and precise matching.
  2. High production efficiency: Direct digital printing can produce a large number of products in a short period of time, which is very beneficial for mass production.
  3. Strong customizability: Direct digital printing can quickly change the content of logos and decorations, which is very suitable for applications that require frequent updates.
  4. Suitable for various surfaces: Direct digital printing is very suitable for various surfaces, including textured surfaces, and can deposit ink between peaks and valleys.
Digital printing also has some disadvantages:
  1. High requirements for ink: direct digital printing requires specific ink, and there may be compatibility issues with different materials and surfaces.
  2. The life of the print head is limited: the life of the print head of direct digital printing is limited, and there may be maintenance and replacement problems for high-frequency and long-term use.


Embossing and stamping are processes that produce three-dimensional images or characters through a mechanical deformation process. In it, metal is pushed above or below the surface of the material to create the desired three-dimensional representation. It is often used to make items such as logos, badges, certificates, packaging boxes, etc. to add texture and uniqueness. Advantages of the embossing process include:
  1. High stability: Since the three-dimensional images or characters produced by embossing, stamping and embossing are fixed above or below the base metal, the product has high stability under harsh environmental conditions.
  2. High recognizability: By creating three-dimensional images or characters, these processes can improve the visibility and recognizability of products, making them easier to be recognized in various environments.
  3. Durable and durable: Embossed, stamped and embossed products usually have a long service life because they can withstand various environmental factors (such as wear, corrosion, etc.).
The embossing process also has some disadvantages:
  1. High production cost: Due to the need to use professional mechanical equipment and high production technology, the production cost of these processes is usually high.
  2. Long production cycle: Due to the need for machining and deformation through multiple steps, the production cycle of these processes is usually long.
  3. Limited scope of application: These processes are mainly applicable to metal materials, and have limited applicability to other materials (such as plastics, etc.).
Embossing, punching and embossing processes offer unique advantages in certain applications, especially in harsh environments where high stability and legibility are required. However, when selecting these processes, factors such as its production cost, production cycle and scope of application need to be considered.

Etching Process

The etch process, sometimes called etch and fill, is a technique that chemically creates depressions in metal surfaces. This technique produces a clearly visible mark on the metal surface, making it resistant to wear and tear. To improve legibility, it is often combined with a contrasting color by filling the recesses. Etching technology is mainly used in the surface treatment of aluminum and stainless steel materials. In addition, the technique is also a very long-lasting process. Advantages of etching techniques include:
  1. High clarity and durability: The marks produced by chemical etching have very high clarity and durability, able to withstand long-term use and wear.
  2. Multiple metal support: Etching technology is suitable for various metal materials such as aluminum and stainless steel, and has a wide range of applications.
  3. Flexible marking content: Various complex marking content can be generated through etching technology, including text, pattern, serial number, etc.
Disadvantages of etching technology:
  1. The production process is complicated: the etching technology requires the use of special chemical reagents and equipment, and the production process is relatively complicated.
  2. Environmental impact: The chemical reagents used in the etching process may have a certain impact on the environment, and corresponding environmental protection measures need to be taken.

Laser Engraving

Today’s engraving technology primarily refers to laser engraving, a process that creates a distinct contrast between the engraved area and the surface metal by evaporating a thin layer of metal. This laser engraving technology is very popular in the production of barcodes and serialized labels, mainly due to the laser’s easy programming and adjustable increments between successive engravings. The advantages of laser engraving mainly include:
  1. High precision: Laser engraving can achieve very high precision, and can engrave very detailed patterns and characters on the metal surface, which is very critical for industrial applications that require high precision.
  2. Easy to program: Through laser engraving, it is easy to change and update the engraved content through programming, which is very beneficial for the situation that requires a large number of copying or updating the engraved content.
  3. Speed: The speed of laser engraving is also very fast, especially in the engraving of large-scale metal surfaces, its speed advantage is more obvious.
Laser engraving also has some disadvantages:
  1. Equipment cost: Laser engraving equipment is relatively expensive, and both purchase and maintenance require high costs, which may burden some small businesses or individual creators.
  2. Operation skills: operating laser engraving equipment requires certain professional skills and experience, otherwise it may cause safety hazards or reduce engraving quality.
However, in addition to laser engraving, some more traditional forms of mechanical engraving exist, including rotary engraving and diamond drag. Rotary engraving is achieved by rotating the workpiece and cutting it with an engraving tool. Diamond dragging uses the hardness of diamond to draw lines by dragging diamond on the metal surface.

Different Printing Methods – and How to Choose the Right One for Your Application

Which engraving method to choose depends on the specific application needs and available resources. Laser engraving has advantages in many cases, but the traditional mechanical engraving method also has its unique application value. In many cases, which printing method to choose is a complex decision-making process in which multiple factors are considered. However, for information such as industrial nameplates that need to remain legible in outdoor conditions for extended periods of time, and durability in harsh environments such as chemical washdowns, paints, etc., are often the primary considerations. Information such as motor nameplates and safety warnings need to persist throughout the life of the product. This information is critical to the safety of the user and therefore needs to be clearly marked in the product instructions for use and ensured to be clearly visible throughout the life of the product. Screen printing is a cost-effective printing method suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. Used in combination with a top coat, screen printed nameplates can be expected to last at least 3-5 years. While the etch and fill process can be expected to last at least 7 years, the etched areas can remain clear even as the ink wears away. For information that needs to be retained for a longer period of time, other more permanent and durable printing methods, such as laser engraving, can also be considered. Capable of providing higher accuracy and durability, it is suitable for important information that needs to be preserved for a long time. In conclusion, depending on the specific application needs and budget, the most suitable printing method can be selected to ensure the durability and reliability of the nameplate.

How to Print a Logo on Candle Wick Trimmer and Candle Snuffer?

Our candle care kit logo is printed in three main ways: laser engraving, embossing and silk printing. The use of these processes facilitates the creation of high-definition, high-durability printed information that can be preserved for a long time and remain legible. Laser engraving is a highly precise printing method, which uses laser technology to finely imprint patterns and characters on the surface of materials. This approach enables extremely high resolution and detail accuracy, resulting in prints that visually exhibit excellent texture and clarity. Stamping is an ancient printing technique that produces high-quality images and text by embossing a stencil onto an inked surface. The printing effect of this method is unique, with obvious concave-convex feeling and texture, which makes the printed matter more artistic and visually attractive. Screen printing is a widely used printing technology, which realizes printing on a large area by pressing the pattern on the screen plate on the surface of the material through a screen printing machine. Screen printing is suitable for mass production, enabling the efficient production of large quantities of prints at low cost. By utilizing these processes, our candle care tools are able to achieve high quality, high definition printed messages. The information is not only of superior visual quality, but also remains legible for a long period of time, meeting customer needs for durability and reliability.

Why Choose China SmileTools?

SmileTools is a candle care tools production and manufacturing enterprise with 15 years of experience, and its products have been exported to more than 130 countries and regions around the world. With excellent product quality and professional customer service, SmileTools has gained more than 3,000 cooperative and satisfied customers, and won wide acclaim and trust. Our extensive stock of candle care tools are ready to meet your every need. We firmly believe that no matter the size of your project, SmileTools can provide you with the highest quality products and services. If you are looking for a reliable candle care tools supplier, then contact us now. We look forward to working with you on a successful candle care project. Let us provide customers with excellent products and services and create a wonderful experience together!
The Author >>

Smile Wei

Hey, I’m Smile Wei, the founder of candlewicktrimmer.com, an expert in scented candle and candle care tools.
In the past 15 years, we have helped 136 countries and over 1000 clients, such as Walmart, D&W, Trump International Hotel, Boy Smells, PADDYWAX to launch their candle accessories business. The purpose of this article is to share knowledge related to the types of candle care tools, how to use them correctly, and the importance of using candle care tools to make life healthier and more environmentally friendly.

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Smile Wei

Founder of China SmileTools

Over the past 15 years, we have assisted customers in 136 countries, totaling over 1,000 clients, including Walmart, D&W, and Trump International Hotel, in launching their candle accessories businesses. We own a production factory that specializes in candle glass jars and candle care kit. Should you encounter any issues, please call us for a free quote or to discuss your solution.

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