Metal vs. Plastic: Which material will work for your project?

At Detroit Name Plate Etching, we offer a plethora of materials to choose for your next project. Whether you need a name plate, data plate, or logo plate, you can pick the ideal substance, treatments, and etching for your plates.

But … what material should you pick for your plates? This week’s blog addresses a big question for industrial manufacturing when it comes to plates: is metal really best, or is plastic better? Let’s break it down.


First question you need to ask yourself is: what kind of metal are we talking about? Different kinds of metal versus plastic come with their own pros and cons. Brass has a different set of positives and setbacks when compared to plastic than aluminum or stainless steel.

To really tackle the question at hand, we need to look at some types of metal and how they stand up against plastic. Here’s three commonly used metals in manufacturing and how they stand up to plastic.

Stainless steel

Stainless steel is a steel alloy that’s been oxidized to stand up to rust and corrosive environments. That’s what makes it popular in food service, medical, and other industries where your stainless steel will come into contact with water or other wet surfaces.

Plastic also stands up to corrosive materials, but unlike stainless steel doesn’t withstand extreme heat. If your plates are going to be in a welding room, stainless steel is the way to go. Plus, stainless steel is more durable overall. If you’re going for eco-friendliness, Wowe Lifestyle explains that stainless steel still uses a fair amount of fossil fuels to produce, but its durability and longevity make it a better alternative to plastic.


Aluminum is lightweight, cheap to manufacture, and can be incredibly eco-friendly. Compared to plastic, this metal seems comparable in price and can beat plastic in environmental sustainability. It’s more recyclable and like stainless steel, is more durable so it can last years without needing to use as many fossil fuels.

Aluminum, like other metals, does cost more up front. However, according to Leeward Pro, a license plate manufacturing business, aluminum is less likely to warp or discolor. Therefore, aluminum has a longer shelf life, meaning more savings over time.


Brass isn’t used as much as it used to be. It can discolor, but it can also be used as a base for home hardware and covered in nickel and bronze finishes for an unforgettable look. Like other metals, brass is more expensive to produce, but it’s also more durable than most plastics.

However, brass v. plastic brings up an overlooked aspect picking materials: aesthetics. If your plates are for show and your project calls for a more vintage appearance, metal will probably suit your project better. In particular, brass will give your project an elegant appearance perfect for more vintage-inspired, sophisticated name plates or logo plates.


The biggest advantage to plastic is cost. Even industrial plastics like acrylic and polycarbonate are cheaper to produce, so if you need a plate that doesn’t need to stand the test of time, plastic could be a better option. Also, plastic is easier to mold, making it easier to form into unique shapes. And since it’s easier to heat, mold, and cool, the turnaround times for plastic name plates, data plates, and logo plates are often shorter.

Also, certain environments lend themselves better to plastic, including environmental or chemically corrosive areas. If you’re making your data plate for a chemical lab, plastic will resist chemical splashes and sprays better than stainless steel and is less likely to trigger a reaction.

Which one should you choose?

Your choice of metal vs. plastic boils down to a lot of factors, from cost and lead times to sustainability, branding, function, and a host of other considerations. If you’re unsure about what material you should use, our experts will walk you through your options, cost, delivery times, and layout to help you make the best, most informed decision.

Ready to get started on your logo plate, data plate, or name plate? Give us a call today – we can’t wait to get started!