Aluma-Tough Metal Tags Test of Durability as IUID Labels

Photo-exposed, sealed anodized aluminum plates, like our Aluma-Tough tags, are commonly used by the United States Department of Defense for IUID barcode plaques.

The Item Unique Identification (IUID) program standards do not specifically mention materials to be used for labels, but the MIL-STD-130 documentation does require that the label is “as permanent as the normal life expectancy of the item and be capable of withstanding the environmental tests and cleaning procedures for the item to which it is affixed.”

In other words, IUID labels need to be extremely durable, and to ensure that Aluma-Tough tags were up to the challenge, the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Corona Division IUID Center conducted a study of potentially viable materials, and subsequently published the IUID Environmental Survivability Report.

Case Study of Metal IUID Tags for Military

Anodized aluminum plates earned more high scores than any other material tested, including polymers, ceramic coated stainless steel, and direct part marked stainless steel.

Testing areas consisted of sunlight/weather exposure, abrasion, chipping, shear/peel strength, temperature exposure, pressure washing, chemical exposure, and salt spray/corrosion.

As you’ll see in example charts below, Aluma-Tough (MetalPhoto®) anodized aluminum scored among the highest in every category. Several types of “finished product” anodized aluminum were tested in each phase, all marked in orange in the charts.

Without going into the highly detailed technical data in the report, this should provide an overview of Aluma-Tough’s excellent scores and superior durability. If you’d like to read the Survivability Report in full, you can find a PDF here.

Cross section of Aluma-Tough construction
IUID Metal Label Case Study for AlumaTough MetalPhoto Tags


The chipping tests were performed by dropping ever-increasing amounts of gravel (measured in milliliters) onto various plate types from a height of 50 feet. One type of anodized aluminum outperformed all of the others, surviving 14,092 ml of dropped gravel, more than 2000 ml more than the next highest result.

Pressure Washing

Again, a specific type of anodized aluminum outperformed all other materials tested, particularly in high surface energy (HSE) tests. The study also found that more rigid (thicker) plates better withstood pressure washing, with decreased flexibility resulting in decreased peeling.

Weather Exposure

Materials were tested via exposure to sun, wind, and so on by leaving various plate types exposed in the California desert for six months.

After this period of exposure, all of the material types met the verification specifics to pass testing requirements, and it was determined that six months was not a long enough exposure period to differentiate performance.

Several plate material types showed signs of degradation, however, but none of them were the variations of anodized aluminum.

Chemical Exposure

Chemical exposure tests were done with a collection of 13 different chemicals, selected to represent the common hazards and substances IUID labels are likely to come into contact with.

Labels were coated or immersed in each chemical type, observed and measured for degradation at 10 minutes of exposure, and after 5 days of exposure. Aluma-Tough performed in the top 90%.


Abrasion tests were conducted using a Taber Abraser device, using two 1kg weights up to 2,500 cycles. In these tests, anodized aluminum scored in the top 1/7 of performers, and required the fewest number of error corrections.

Later tests showed Aluma-Tough to maintain abrasion resistance up to 8,000 cycles.

Extreme Temperatures

Material tests for temperature resistance exposed plates to 160º F and -40º F, but these temperatures proved to be not extreme enough for significant differentiation among material types.

Other tests, however, have shown Aluma-Tough plates withstanding temperatures up to 1,000º F, reinforced by their practical use as aerospace tags and on-engine labels.

Custom Metal ID Tags Labels for Marine Environments Withstand Salt Water Abrasion

Salt Water & Corrosion

The included salt/corrosion tests were largely inconclusive, with no major differentiation among material types.

All in all, anodized aluminum earned the highest possible score on 32 of the 33 performed tests, and accumulated more top scores than any other material evaluated. Not only does this prove Aluma-Tough’s viability for IUID tags, but showcases the damage resistance and overall survivability of anodized aluminum in a wide range of potential environments.

For IUID tags and beyond, Aluma-Tough plates and tags are a durable, long lasting solution that’s sure to hold up to the elements.

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