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Design Considerations for Your Marking System

Designing anything is difficult because there are so many factors to take into consideration. Staring at a blank sheet of paper, trying to work up a specification for even something as simple as a label, is a daunting task. Premax is here to help. We have years of experience manufacturing decals, labels, signs, and markers of all kinds. We would like to make your life easier by given you some things to think about before you design or choose a marker. For simplicity’s sake, in the discussion below, labels, decals, signs, and pole markers --- everything will be referred to as a “marker.” As you think through these questions remember that there are usually multiple correct answers. Often there is a trade-off between price and quality.

Environment and expected service life. Where is the marker going to be placed? Indoors or outdoors? How long do I expect the marker to last? Do I want a 60-year life for a temporary cut-out tag? No, but I surely do for a pole marker. If I am designing a marker for indoor use, do I want the marker to be tamper-proof? Am I marking an inventory item or a gas valve?

Condition of Use. What are the temperature extremes that my marker has to endure? How about moisture? Will the tag be subject to a regular freeze/thaw cycle? Outdoor markers that need to last through a year in Minnesota’s climate face harsh conditions, but these conditions are not the same as those faced by an outdoor marker in New Mexico where UV radiation is a constant companion. Indoor markers may have to be permanent; others may be meant to be easily removed. Does a marker have to be reflective? Will the marker be subject to vandalism?

Surface of attachment. What will the marker be attached to? Wood, metal, plastic, galvanized steel, fiberglass? What are the real conditions of my outside equipment? Is the paint on my padmounts already chalked, or am I marking brand new units (that may or may not have a manufacturing residue on them)? Do I need to prepare the surface by cleaning or a solvent wipe before affixing a pressure sensitive marker? Will my field personnel actually go through these preparation steps? Realistically, what time of year will the marker be placed outdoors and what are the likely climate conditions for my service territory? Will the surface of the object being marked itself exhibit temperature extremes (i.e. transformers)? Will it be stationary or moveable/moving?

Surface Geometry. As simple as it sounds, you need to match the marker to the geometry of the surface it is meant to marker. Round poles and rigid flat signs do not mix; the sign needs to be pre-curved or flexible enough to conform to the pole. Will the surface of attachment change over time? A pole shrinks in diameter as it weathers, and a good nail of adequate length with a serrated shank will help prevent a pole marker from falling off over time merely because the nail “backs out” of the pole.

Method of Attachment. A good nail is a good investment if your marker is attached to wood. Bare steel nails rust; aluminum nails bend when up against older poles (especially those treated with CCA). Stainless steel bolts and nuts are best for substation signs. Cheap cable ties become brittle within months of being outdoors. S hooks are easy to work with, and just as easy for a vandal to “un” work with. When gluing a marker to a steel or aluminum surface, silicone adhesives are good; certain mastics are better. The adhesives that may be used on labels and decals is a confusing array, and careful consideration of all the factors above and below is a must,

Material Used. Markers are made of metal, plastic, paper, and composites (laminates). They may be of the bare material, or they may be enhanced by paint or ink. While metal may seem to be the best material for outdoor use, there are often considerations of conductivity that rule out its use. Plastics, on the other hand, --from fiberglass to vinyl--are all organic products derived from oil (carbon based). They are linked polymeric chains, and the bonds between the monomeric molecules are subject to degradation by UV radiation. (links to Plastics book and UV sites.). Paper tags are great for temporary, indoor use, but they do not last outdoors.

So, you see, there is a lot to think about in the world of markers. Let Premax help you think through your marking project so that you get the right marker for the job.