Banking and the financial services industries are not usually thought of as innovative.  But that is not the case at Capital One.  Although one of the top 10 banks in the United States, Capital One still has a startup mentality and is led by its original founder.  To push the design envelope for new products, the company actually started Capital One Labs in New York City and suburban Washington, D.C.  Designers and developers work together to innovate customer interaction with their money.


It’s a natural fit that Capital One would have a big presence at SXSW.  The South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas is one of the largest gatherings anywhere that features disruptors, innovators and entrepreneurs at the intersection of tech, music, film, art and design.

For the last few years, Capital One has sponsored its own SXSW venue that includes a full stage for music, an upstairs open area for presentations, and a downstairs merchandise room. Capital One this year wanted to bring Project Elements to Austin, in order to give consumers a glimpse as to what’s coming in new credit card design. 

What to do when your laser goes down?

Being a cool design center, of course, Capital One Labs has a laser for engraving in-house since the new credit card designs include laser engraved names and signatures for true customer personalization. But as luck would have it, the tool went down just as Capital One’s staff was preparing for SXSW.

On a Saturday, a frantic search began for a laser service provider who could jump in and execute new design ideas.  Connecting through the Potomac website’s online chat feature, Capital One’s team was at Potomac on Monday morning, working with our laser marking experts to get products finished in time for SXSW, just a few days away. Says the Capital One Lab project designer: “We genuinely could not have made it without you guys.  The world may never know just how close we got to not having a display and how you all saved the day.”

Right Laser for Specific Material

But finding Potomac gave Capital One more than just a timely delivery.  It seems one of the features of the new cards are the wide varieties of beautiful materials being used to differentiate the credit cards that have new, expanded functionality.  In addition to metals like copper, the substrates needing marking were unusual materials like seashells and wood.

One laser cannot interact with every material.  Laser wavelengths have specific reactions with specific materials and at Potomac we have sufficient variety of lasers on our factory floor to cover just about any material requirement.  From ultraviolet lasers for organics to infrared lasers that are best suited to metals, we have the right laser for the job. As a result, we not only provided expedited delivery, we also were able to mark materials that the Capital One Labs laser was not suited to process.  We also helped optimize the process to enhance the quality of the mark on all materials.

Potomac always helps customers solve challenging problems, but it is especially gratifying when we can “save the day” and bring quick turnaround to a time-sensitive situation.  Congratulations to Capital One on a RAD display at SXSW…we’re thrilled to have had a small part in making it happen!