Have you ever wondered why custom pins have a clear bubble covering on top? If so, you are in good company. Most people don’t know the technical term so they come up with the best description they can think of, which is clear bubble. That clear bubble is called an epoxy dome and does have a purpose.
An epoxy dome is applied to a custom pin to produce depth, thickness and a smooth surface finish. Each of these attributes improves the perceived quality of the pin. However, the ultimate purpose of an epoxy dome is to protect the printed portion of the custom pin.
Lapel pins have a rich history that can be traced back to early 15th and 16th centuries. And many of those pins had a much deeper meaning than the pins we see in use today. Much of our population now calls lapel pins custom pins or enamel pins and associates them with pop culture. Today’s pins do have meaning but the lapel pins of the past typically signified an accomplishment, a religious affiliation, or a rank.
Just 10-20 years ago, an epoxy dome was standard on most pins. However, like the evolving name change to custom pins and enamel pins so evolved the technology. Epoxy has almost become irrelevant on custom pins. Epoxy is still in use on certain types of pins, but has taken a back seat to the more modern and colorful enamels.
So, this history really brings up multiple questions about epoxy domes which we will attempt to answer.
Yes, epoxy is used on custom pins today, but only in certain circumstances.
There are two types of pins, enamel pins and printed pins. Epoxy domes are used almost 100 percent of the time on printed pins. The reason being, printed pins are more susceptible to scratches and therefore need the protection. In addition, printed pins have no depth so epoxy domes enhance the pin by giving it depth and thickness.
There are several different types of printed pins.
These are metal pins that have a sticker applied to the face with an epoxy dome covering.
These are metal pins that have a design printed directly onto the metal with an epoxy dome covering.
These are metal pins that have details stenciled on to the face. Silkscreen typically is used in connection with an enamel pin and most often does not include epoxy.
Rarely is epoxy used on enamel pins today because the enamel used is very durable, provides depth and thickness and people prefer not to have a pin that yellows over time.
There are two types of enamel pins.
With hard enamel, the enamel is hardened by heat and ground off smooth so epoxy is not necessary. The only time epoxy would be used on a hard enamel pins is for a bubble type affect in the design.
Occasionally people put epoxy on soft enamel pins because it is an old habit to break, but again the enamel is very durable and does not need epoxy to protect it. Soft enamel does create a textured feel because the metal ridges are raised and the enamel recessed so some might put the epoxy on a soft enamel pin to achieve the smooth surface.
One type of pin that we recommend always using epoxy is on a soft enamel glitter pin. Glitter has little flecks that when mixed in the enamel creates a rough surface. Since the surface is not ground smooth like on hard enamel, the glitter feels rough and can cause the enamel to pop out. Epoxy protects the glitter as well as enhancing the glitter effect almost like a magnifying glass.
The negative to epoxy is it yellows over time. Something in the chemical makeup begins changing. You won’t notice it immediately but after a year if you were to compare an older epoxy dome pin to a newer epoxy dome pin you would see a distinct yellowing. This is one of the reasons epoxy has become less and less common.
So, the next question that may arise is there a substitute for epoxy that provides the same benefit but does not yellow. The answer to that question is acrylic. There is an acrylic blend that some companies have developed that does not yellow. Most China factories use an epoxy. Mostly acrylic is used on photo dome pins produced in the US. It may be a question you want to ask the company you decide to have make your printed pins.
Yes, epoxy dome pins can hold up under water. But should they be put in water for long stretches or stored wet, no. The epoxy is not the problem when it comes to water, it is the metal that will damage. If the base metal of your epoxy pin were iron, eventually it would rush. But as for the epoxy it will holdup in water and protect the print. A little rain won’t hurt a pin, but being constantly wet might.
The best answer is an epoxy/printed pin is just a different type of pin. As previously mentioned, there are two types of pins: enamel pins and printed pins. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages so it is unfair to compare the quality.
However, that said, most people prefer enamel pins. They are more interesting, more colorful, and perceived as better quality. There are design details that require choosing a printed pin. If your design has really small details, has gradient or shaded colors, or you have a large volume of pins to produce very quickly printed pins are the only option.