When you want to make enamel pins, there are already great blogs talking about it. For example:
How To Make Enamel Pins by Pinlord Eduardo Morales
How to Make and Sell Enamel Pins in 2021 by Michael Keenan
HOW TO MAKE ENAMEL PINS WITHOUT DYING by Luna Chai
After reading these articles, you will understand the whole process, you will be able to begin your own pins business if you want. These articles help you from broader concept, while this article tells you how zinc alloy material enamel pins are exactly manufactured step by step from pins factory. For the production steps of iron material pins, medals and coins,etc, please refer to this article.
1 Order confirmation
From factory point of view, pin production begins with receiving a request for quotation from customers. When customers send requirements by email or by online quote request form, a sales person in pins factory replies with a quotation. In this quotation, pins size, plating, posts and designs, qty,etc. are mentioned. After customers agree the quotation, payment is made through PayPal or bank transfer, and pins factory begins to prepare the artwork proof.
2 Artwork proof preparation
Artwork proof/mockup is a document showing all details such as the design, the process: hard enamel or soft enamel, plating requirement, all Pantone solid color numbers, contents need to be printed, back logo, back posts location, whether need epoxy or laser printing, glow in dark, etc. With this artwork, the customer knows how the finished product will look like or should look like. When everything is correct, customer approves the artwork, then real production begins.
3 Molds preparation
The artwork document is sent to a mold engraving machine for molds preparation. There are two kinds of mold, one is iron mold, which is mainly used to punch iron material pins, coins and medals,etc. The other kind is zinc alloy mold, which is mainly used to make zinc alloy pins. The selection of material is mainly decided by the product shape, complexity,etc. This article talks about zinc alloy pins production.
On the mold engraving machine, front mold, which displays the front side of pins, is cut out by program controlled cutting knives. When pins have back logo, then back mold is also engraved, the finished molds looks like this.
4 Blank pins production
When pin design has irregular shape, it is more suitable to use zinc alloy material to make. For zinc alloy material pins, the pin shape forming process is achieved by a zinc alloy die-casting machine.
The front mold is put at one side of a zinc alloy die-casting machine, the back mold at the other side. When high temperature liquid-like zinc alloy is injected into the space between front and back molds under high pressure, the pin shape is formed.
After pins are cooled down, blank pins are separated and collected one by one. Now new lapel pins are born:)
Then the pins edges are cleaned, burrs are eliminated for next step.
5 Fix spur needles
Next step is fix spur needles, or posts. On this machine, the spur needles are fixed on the back of pins. After this step, the pin looks like this.
For hard enamel pin, the next step is colorizing, then plating and printing, then packing. For soft enamel pins, the next step is plating, then colorizing and printing, then packing.
Let’s follow the hard enamel pin production steps.
For small quantity orders, pins are normally colorized by hand. In order to avoid colors mix with each other, at one time, only one color can be put on the pin. After finish one color, pins are placed into an oven for more than 2 hours to make the first color dry.
Then take out, place another color, placed into oven again for another 2 hours. This process repeats until all colors are there and dried. This is why lapel pin cost is higher when it has more colors. The more colors, the more labor force, longer production time, more electricity, etc. are consumed.
For big quantity orders, auto colorizing machines are used to speed up the production.
After hard enamel pins are colorized and dryed, they are sent on scouring wheels for initial cleaning ,then polished on polishing wheels to make them shine.
After polishing, the pins are sent for plating. These pins are required to be black nickel plated, pins are put into pools filled with black nickel liquid, then with the reaction of electrolysis, the positive ion of black nickel is attached on the surface of metal lapel pins. After plating, now these pins look like this:
9 Screen printing
As this pin has two colors need to be screen printed, here is the screen printing process. Each time only one color is printed, then dryed for next color printing. After screen printing, now these hard enamel pins look like this and they are almost ready.
10 Final quality check and packing
During production, before starting each next step, pins are checked with the artwork proof. After production is finished, each pin is final checked again. When there is no problem, then clutches are attached and every pin is put into one OPP bag, then placed into bigger bags. To protect our environment, now more and more bio-degradable paper bags are used by customers.
Small qty orders are packed into FedEx bags, bigger quantity pins are packed into cartons, then they are sent by FedEx, DHL or other courier companies. For big quantity orders, pallets are used and they are sent out by sea.
Above is the production steps of zinc alloy pins. For die-struck iron pins, medals, coins, police badges,etc, the production steps are slightly different, the main difference is the pins forming process. Details will be discussed in other articles.