FAQ: Can hotstamped chips be labelled?

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Can hotstamped chips be labelled?

Labelling directly over hotstamps is usually not a good idea, especially with chips/hotstamps in really good condition. The reason is that there isn't enough depth available in the inlay recess to accommodate a label thick enough to adequately hide the hotstamp ridges & indentations.

  • If the label is thick enough to mask the hotstamp, it's too thick for the recess, and becomes the high point on the face of the chip (with bad results, e.g. stacking & handling problems, spinners, excessive wear, etc.)

  • If the label is thin enough to fit in the recess, the indentations of the hotstamp will still be visible through the label when the light is right, and probably all the time to some degree.
This is definitely the case when the hotstamps are new or still in pretty good condition. For more worn hotstamps (i.e. more worn chips) the indentations of the hotstamps becomes less prominent, but the problem still remains, because the inlay recess gets shallower as the chip wears over time. That is, the outer mold rim of the chip wears first and fastest, relative to the center part of the chip.

Some people have chosen to put unlaminated labels on chips with worn hotstamps and have been satisified with the results, but personally I don't like it and generally recommend against it. Your mileage may vary :)

Another reason to avoid labelling directly over hotstamps is that the label has less surface area to adhere to. That is, the ridges and lumps of the hotstamp not only show through the label, but also keep parts of the label away from direct contact with the chip. The adhesion is usually still OK, but it's not as complete as it would be against a flatter/smoother surface.

Technically you can smooth hotstamps by scraping or sanding them, but that is a lot of manual work, and/or risks wrecking the chip unless you are really careful. This was (and is) the main reason why I came up with the idea of milling chips* -- first with a drill press and later with a CNC router -- to smooth or remove hotstamps, in preparation for labelling.



* Don't believe me? See this thread from 2011.
 
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