A short history of medals and medal manufacturing!

Medals are very much a part of our society’s consciousness. Employers use them to recognize staff achievements; militaries and emergency services award them to their men and women in recognition of acts of bravery and dedication to duty; whilst they are also handed out to reward sporting prowess – at every conceivable level, from primary school sports days to the Olympic podium!

Customized medals: tailored to clients and markets

As medals have long been designed for very specific purposes and customers, customization has always been a key ingredient in this industry. The level of medal customization has also substantially progressed in line with the advance of technology. Once upon a time, choice was largely limited to the type of metal used – brass, bronze, silver or gold. The introduction of CNC machinery, however, has made it so much easier to cut very complex shapes with tremendous accuracy, whilst new materials like resins offer the opportunity to introduce colour into the designs of customized medals. These materials do not require the extremely high firing temperatures that are needed when working with the more traditional technique of enamelling.

Electrical discharge machining and medals

One of the biggest changes in medal manufacturing in recent years has been the use of so-called ‘spark machining’. This technique uses electrical discharges to shape metal through material removal. Its biggest use in the customized medals field is to create intaglios. Intaglio involves the creation of a sunken relief, lines being engraved or stamped on a medal. Thanks to spark machining, this can now be done far more precisely. The technique was developed at around the same time in the 1940s in the United States and the Soviet Union, but progress really accelerated when EDM was teamed up with computer numerical control tech. EDM is also used in the manufacture of jet engines and fuel systems, as well as to remove broken elements like bolts and drill bits from objects being worked on by tools or machinery.