Many utilities choose to utilize the same kind of reflective asset ID peel-and-stick digits on their padmount equipment cabinets that they use on their poles, towers and other equipment support elements.
The problem with this approach is that a lot of these surfaces are made out of galvanized steel, fiberglass, concrete, plastics, and wood, which do not provide an adequate adhesive surface for adhesive digit characters.
The pressure-sensitive adhesive coatings on the back of number/letter digits are designed to adhere to very smooth, non-porous surfaces such as painted or non-corrosive metal panels.
This is where panels come into play. Essentially, a panel (made from an appropriate material) serves as an adaptive surface for adhesion of the number/letter decals to any surface type. Mechanical fasteners such as nails, screws, bolts, or banding secure the panel to the pole or desired structural component.
Surface energy and surface smoothness are essential in forming an adequate bond between the panel and the adhesive characters applied to it.
As it relates to adhesive label characters, surface energy is the measure of the attractive force between the adhesive and the surface to which it adheres.
Consider a windshield to which Rain-X® has been applied. Water beads on it and runs off. The surface is slippery and has low surface energy (LSE). Like water, the adhesive on the back of label materials is fluid and must wet-out to stick. A surface with high surface energy (HSE) is required for this to occur.
Most panels are cut from flat, rigid sheet materials such as aluminum or plastic. Aluminum provides an excellent surface for adhesion, but takes a permanent set when bent, and is costly compared to most plastics.
Plastics used for panels need to be inexpensive, non-brittle/flexible, and able to withstand outdoor weather for ten years or more.
Polycarbonate is tough and provides an excellent surface for adhesion, but costs as much or more than aluminum.
Most panel manufacturers utilize High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) sheet because it is inexpensive, readily available, comes in a variety of thicknesses, is tough, and is easy to cut. Unfortunately, HDPE is a relatively and inherently LSE plastic from which adhesive number/letter stickers peel somewhat easily.
Most HDPE sheet also has a lightly textured/roughened surface texture that causes incomplete ‘wetting-out’ contact between the adhesive on the back of the number/letter sticker, and the surface; resulting in poor adhesion.
Better by design: Electromark’s Pocket Panel®
Our Pocket Panel® is made from a unique blend PVC composite plastic, which exhibits 75%-100% greater natural surface energy than polyethylene plastics. Meaning decals simply adhere better to our panel.
The edges of labels are the most susceptible to initial peeling where poor adhesion is initially obtained or in the longer-term by weathering elements. Once the edges begin to lift, the entire label is prone to continued erosion.
Pocket Panel is a molded part, manufactured using a polished surface, stainless steel injection die mold. This allows Electromark’s part to incorporate a recessed cavity for the number/letter decal that is fifty-thousandths of an inch deep, protecting the vulnerable edges of the installed decals from weathering elements that cause them to peel.
Further, the pocket on the Electromark panel assures easy and accurate alignment of the individual number/letter characters without overlap, resulting in easier install and a more professional appearance. Flat panels provide no cavity to protect the edges or to assure alignment of label characters.
Some of Electromark’s competitors print or emboss defined ‘windows’ where the number/letter decals go, but these products vary greatly from the Pocket Panel®. None of these competitive products provide the deep cavity of the Electromark panel.
The Electromark Difference
Electromark is simply the best (and only) molded utility-specific asset ID panel on the market designed to work with adhesive number/letter decals.
Electromark’s Pocket Panel is available in different sizes to work with all popular character size number/letter decals, including: 0.375”, 0.78”, 1.0”, 2.0”, 2.5” and 3.0”. All panel sizes are available for either vertical or horizontal display orientation.
Panels have molded-in holes on the ends at multiple points along both edges for nails or screws. Electromark can also punch custom holes or slots for your special mounting applications.
Panels can also be supplied with optional foam adhesive backing for application to flat metal panels such as equipment cabinets.
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I have been in my present role as Technical Sales and Application Engineer with Electromark for 9+ years, and with the company for 14 years. My earlier experience with the company was with our printing and other manufacturing operations. My knowledge with Electromark and the industries it serves includes materials, products, process capabilities, weathering durability, regulations, and standards. See my Linkedin profile at https://www.linkedin.com/in/brandon-furber-0036644a/
With over 40 years of experience, Electromark specializes in identification and safety marking solutions for the electrical utility industry, other service utilities, and the outdoor industrial workplace. Our products are engineered for the harsh, outdoor environment.