The fact that the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles is opening a new license plate factory might not be of great interest to most people.
But the fact that it will let the state bring back “embossed” plates with raised letters and numbers might get a bit more attention.
For years since the state went to the cheaper “flat plates,” people have wanted their old-style plates back.
Now, thanks to a brand new $3.8 million “tag plant” outside the gates of Northern Nevada Correctional Center, they’re getting that wish.
Plant Manager Dave Wiley said the new plates will be made using “a totally different manufacturing process” and state-of-the-art machinery. Two computer-controlled embossing machines will stamp both front and rear plates at the same time before the plates are run through a machine that paints the tops of those letters and numbers.
One reason for the change is that the flat plates don’t last, said DMV Chief of Administration Sean McDonald.
“We were finding that the graphic sheeting has a life span of eight to 10 years. Then it begins to flake off,” he said. “You start to lose the message.”
That’s the reason DMV pushed legislation this past session to re-issue all license plates every eight years. He said that doesn’t mean new and different license plates for everyone.
“You’ll get the same exact license plate you had before,” he said.
The fee will be $3.50 plus a dollar if it’s a personalized plate.
The new plant also will be able to handle all Nevada license plate styles so that no longer will the Nevada 150 commemorative plates have to be made in a plant in Oregon. There was pushback when it was discovered that the sesquicentennial plates were not made in Nevada.
Wiley said it’s important to make sure the plates on every vehicle are readable.
“The license plate is a tool for law enforcement first and foremost,” Wiley said.
The old tag plant is still running at the historic Nevada State Prison. It’s the last prison industry still operating there and McDonald said it will continue to crank out plates for a while yet until the existing aluminum sheet and other products are used up.
The process begins with a high-tech stamping press that cuts out both the aluminum plate and whatever background sheet design, then stamps them together and embosses the rim around the plate to make it sturdier.
Then the plates go two at a time into the embossing machine that adds the appropriate letters and numbers. After that, the correct color is rolled onto those now-raised letters and numbers — blue for most regular and personalized plates, green for organ donors and red for souvenir plates not intended to be put on a vehicle.
The new plates also will be numbered in DMV’s new format because McDonald said they simply ran out of numbers for the three numbers followed by three letters pattern. The new pattern is two numbers followed by a letter then three more numbers.
McDonald said it will give DMV up to 30 million more options.
There are separate machines next to the embossers for personalized plates as well as the smaller motorcycle and trailer plates.
The new equipment can also handle a wide variety of patterns of letters and numbers, which will help since Nevada currently has about 50 different license plates for a long list of causes.
The new plant opens for business July 6. It will be staffed, like the existing plant, with inmate labor.
Being located next to NNCC and its accompanying conservation camp is much more convenient than having to transport inmates from there to old NSP, even though those inmates are all minimum security trustees.
“There are a lot of benefits to being here,” said Wiley. “All the inmates have to do is walk across the street.”
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