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The Lapel Pin Manufacturing Process Explained

Follow a pin from concept to completion and view the 8 steps required to make enamel pins!

  • Step 1: Creating A Stamping Mold
  • Step 2: Create A Trimming Die
  • Step 3: Stamping
  • Step 4: Trimming
  • Step 5: Electroplating
  • Step 6: Enamel
  • Step 7: Buffing 
  • Step 8: Finishing

 

lapel-pin-manufacturing-step-by-step-1

 

Once you learn the steps that your art goes through to become a pin, you’ll get a better sense of enamel pin design.

Pin design is VERY different from designing for print or web. We create a 3d piece of metal stamped with your art and then electroplate it and then hand paint it.  After this article,  you'll be better equipped to use the base metal in your designs and design nicer lapel pins. 

 

Step 1: Creating A Stamping Mold

Most enamel pins are made using the die-struck manufacturing process. This process requires a stamping mold so that your pin design is stamped into zinc metal. In most cases this process takes about 2-3 days to complete. 

how pins are made-stamping

 

The mold itself is made from specialized industrial steel. We use CNC manufacturing technology that engraves your design backwards in the steel. This process is time consuming and most stamping molds require around 10 hours to make. When you pay a setup fee, this is what you are paying for.  This is also the reason that 25-50pc pin orders are expensive to make. For a pin factory, it takes the same time to prepare for a 50pc order as it does 5000pc. 

 

Step 2:Tool and Die

A “tool and die” is required so that your pins can be trimmed after stamping the design into a metal strip.  The “tool” is the outline of your pin. And the “die” is used to remove the excess metal from the pin blank. This part of the process is time consuming and slow. Remember we have not even made a pin yet!

how pins are made: tool and die

 

 

Step 3: Stamping

Now that the mold, tool and die are made we can begin manufacturing your pin. A machine operator adds your stamping mold to a hydraulic stamping press. The operator feeds a strip of zinc metal over top of the mold and applies approximately 5 tonnes of pressure to the metal so that the pin assumes the shape of your design.

How Pins are made: stamping

 

 

Step 4: Trimming

Once your pins are stamped into zinc strips, the project moves to the trim press. The excess “flange” that surrounds your pin is chopped off. Now we can start decorating your pin!

 

step4-trimming

 

Step 5: Electroplating

Electroplating is a very interesting process. This is that part of the process in which the metal becomes gold, silver, bronze.   [Recently we have started offering dyed metal.  Instead of electroplating, they actually spray paint the metal with the colour or your choice. ]

 

how pins are made: electroplating racks

 

In order to transform the metal from the dull grey zinc colour to bronze, silver or gold, each pin is loaded on a metal rack. Wires are wrapped around each pin blank, one at a time. 

 

how pins are made: electroplating dips

Once the rack is full of your pins, they are dipped in a series of chemical baths. The rack is charged with electricity and depending on which tank the pin is dipped in, the gold/nickel/bronze particles adhere to the pin, changing its colour. 

 

Step 6: Enamel

Once your pin is electroplated the right colour, the pins are loaded onto racks for enamel painting. The metal bases are heated up so that the enamel colour flows better. A technician uses a colour filled syringe full of liquid epoxy to inject colour into your pin.  Each colour is inlaid one at a time.

Your pin design requires areas no smaller than 2mm to hold the liquid epoxy. Designers, this is often the reason we have to change your art! We need enough space to hold enamel within any given enclosed metal shape.  (View our pin designer cheat sheet that offers you a list of specifications and best practices to follow)

 

how pins are made: enamel

 

Step 7: Buffing

If you ordered hard enamel, there is an extra step. We fill the pins with more enamel in the hard enamel process. In order to give it that finished look, we need to buff the surface until the paint is level with the metal edges. This is one of the reasons hard enamel costs more because each pin, is buffed by hand. 


how pins are made: buffing

Step 8: Finishing

Once your pins are stamped, electroplated and painted they proceed to finishing.  There are three parts to finishing:

  • Weld the post on the back. We use a specialized spot welder to apply a post to the back of your pin
  • Each pin has a clutch added to the back by hand
  • Each pin is packaged in a poly bag

 

Now we are ready to ship your pins! 

 

how pins are made: finishing

Now you know how we make enamel pins! We hope that this deep dive into pin manufacturing was useful! Once you understand this process a bit better, you’ll gain insight into how to design better enamel pins. Be sure to read our other design articles about diy design, metal finishing and more. 

 

How To Make Enamel Pins Photos

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About The Author

Craig-Headshot-18-temp

linkedinCraig Davidiuk has been in the promotional products his entire life. His family owned and operated a pin factory until 2002 and he eventually took over the company in 2012. He also has a diploma in Media Resources from Capilano University. Today his company is one of the leading suppliers of custom pins, medals and swag in Western Canada.

He is a father of one son with his wife, Courtney. Craig enjoys skiing, mountain biking, DJing, playing saxophone and world travel.  The Davidiuk family resides in 100 Mile House, BC.