Photosensitive anodized aluminum

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Photosensitive anodized aluminum, also referred to as photo anodized aluminum or photo metal, utilizes the porous nature of unsealed anodized aluminum[1] to create a sub-surface image, either through exposure and development of an anodic layer impregnated with silver compounds[2] (Type 1[3]), much like traditional black & white photography, or through the use of a photomask (Type 2[3]) in which the image is created through a variety of means, including chemical etching, color addition or color subtraction.[4]



Type 1 photosensitive anodized aluminum is anodized aluminum that has been impregnated with a silver compound which, when exposed to a light source, creates an activated latent image.[5] Upon development[6] and fixing[7] a black, silver-based image is formed inside of the metal. Type 1 photosensitive anodized aluminum is then sealed in boiling water similarly to common anodized aluminum. Sealing hydrates the aluminum oxide surface,[8] trapping the image beneath the anodized layer. The combined benefits of UV stability and the high image resolution of silver photography along with the abrasion and corrosion resistance of anodized aluminum are used to advantage in applications where permanent product identification is critical such as equipment nameplates, IUID barcode labels, outdoor signage, safety/warning plates, machine control panels and fine art.

Type 2 photosensitive anodized aluminum is typically coated with a photo resist, which may be of either the positive or negative type. Exposure of the photo resist through a negative and its subsequent development creates areas on the plate that are either protected by the resist or exposed to the effects of the dye, bleach, or etchant that are used to create the contrasting mark.[9] Type 2 photosensitive anodized aluminum must be sealed just like Type 1. Common use for Type 2 applications are those where color (other than black) is desired on the finished product. The dyes used to create colored Type 2 plates can vary significantly in their heat and color fastness, so are often limited to indoor or short-term outdoor usage. Note that colored dyes can also be incorporated into Type 1 photosensitive anodized aluminum.


Type 1 photosensitive anodized aluminum was developed in 1950 by Horizons Research Incorporated[10] and is sold today by Horizons Imaging Systems Group under the Metalphoto® brand name.

Industrial and military specification[edit]

Photosensitive anodized aluminum was qualified to Federal Specification GG-P-455 in 1965, a document that outlines the performance of Type 1 and Type 2 photosensitive anodized aluminum.[3] Since qualification to GG-P-455, photosensitive anodized aluminum has been specified by many military, government and industrial organizations, including:

Testing Organization Market Application
NASA, Johnson Space Center Texas

Document Reference: Space Station Inventory Label Specification SSP 50007

Space Environments
Honeywell, Inc. Satellite Systems Operations

Document Reference: Memorandum A3-J024-M-9500916, Laboratory Case 161311

Space Environments
Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute (Marintek)

Document Reference: Corrosion test of Anodized aluminum plates – Metalphoto 23.1011.00.0391

Marine/Shipbuilding and Repair
U.S. Army/Navy

Document Reference: Mil –P-514D, Commercial Item Description Plate, Identification

Military Vessels

Army Vehicles

Canadian Standards Association (CSA)

Document Reference: File 11133–1, Class 7991

General Industrial
Underwriters Laboratories

Document Reference: Marking and Labeling Systems PGDQ2

General Industrial
United States Federal Government

Document Reference: Federal Specification GPP-455

Tested for use by all Federal Agencies

In 2012 the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC), Corona Division conducted tests on several IUID materials and found that Metalphoto photosensitive anodized aluminum achieved the highest score on more environmental survivability tests than any other IUID label material evaluated.[11] Type 1 photosensitive anodized aluminum is certified to several military and federal specifications:

  • MIL-A-8625F, Amendment 1, for photosensitized nameplates (Ref. Section
  • DMS-1674G, Class 1 Types 1,2 and 3 and Class 2
  • MIL-DTL-15024F Type G and Type H (.012 and thicker)
  • MIL-DTL-19834C (.003", foil)
  • A-A-50271 (superseding Mil-P-514D), Composition A, Class 2 and Composition C
  • MIL-STD-130N

Notable uses[edit]

Over the years, photosensitive anodized aluminum has been used in several notable applications, including:


  1. ^ Young, L (1961). Anodic Oxide Films. New York: Academic Press. pp. 193–210.
  2. ^ U.S. Patent 4,092,169. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ a b c Federal Specification GG-P-455. Sec. 1.2.1. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Federal Specification GG-P-455. Sec. 6.5. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Kraszna-Krausz (1969). The Focal Encyclopedia of Photography. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 827–829.
  6. ^ Kraszna-Krausz (1969). The Focal Encyclopedia of Photography. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 405–423.
  7. ^ Kraszna-Krausz (1969). The Focal Encyclopedia of Photography. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 624–628.
  8. ^ Brace, A.W; Sheasby, P.G. (1979). The Technology of Anodizing Aluminum. Gloucestershire: Technicopy Limited. pp. 218–220.
  9. ^ Wernick, S., Pinner, R., Sheasby, P.G. (1987). The Surface Treatment and Finishing of Aluminum and its Alloys, v. 2, 5th ed. Metals Park, Ohio: ASM International. pp. 762–769.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ "Horizons Incorporated".
  11. ^ "IUID Environmental Survivability Testing Report" (PDF).
  12. ^ "Norma's Garden". Archived from the original on 2013-01-15.
  13. ^ "Mariemont School Foundation Donor Display". Archived from the original on 2016-03-03.

External links[edit]