Frequently Asked Questions About In-Mold Labeling and Decorating
Q. What is In-Mold Labeling (IML)?
A. In-mold labeling is a process for labeling or decorating a plastic object while the object is being formed in the mold. In the in-mold labeling process, a label or appliqué is placed in the open mold and held in the desired position by vacuum ports, electrostatic attraction or other appropriate means. The mold closes and molten plastic resin is extruded or injected into the mold where it conforms to the shape of the object. The hot plastic envelopes the label, making it an integral part of the molded object. The difference between glue applied labels and in-mold labels is that a glue applied label is stuck "on" the surface of the plastic object; the in-mold label is imbedded "in" the wall of the object.
Q. Is IML the same as in-mold decorating (IMD)?
A. IML usually refers to blow molded, injection molded or thermoformed packaging. The term IMD usually refers to decoration of higher value durable plastic products such as children's toys, sporting goods, automobile dash board bezels, cell phone face plates, etc. The list is almost endless. In-mold decorated durable goods can be injection molded, blow molded, rotationally molded, etc.
Q. Why is in-mold labeling better than pressure sensitive (self adhesive) or heat transfer labeling?
A. Because an in-mold label or decoration is embedded in the wall of the product, it is very durable and nearly impossible to remove from the object. For injection molded tubs, all four sides and the bottom can be decorated with a single label during the molding process, something that pressure sensitive cannot do. Finally, all post-mold labeling operations, equipment and costs are eliminated because the in-mold labeled product is ejected from the mold fully labeled.
Q. If IML/IMD is so great, why do you need a trade association like IMDA to promote it?
A. Manufacturers of plastic products long accustomed to pressure sensitive or other forms of post-mold decoration are either unaware of the benefits of IML/IMD or consider it to be too complicated and/or too expensive. One of the primary goals of IMDA is to help OEMs and marketers understand that in-mold decoration produces a better product at lower costs.
Q. Don't existing printer and molder trade associations already address these issues?
A. Organization such as LPIA and TLMI do an outstanding job supporting and promoting printing technology, as does SPI for molders. However, in-mold labeling and decorating is a multi-discipline industry that includes substrate, resin and ink suppliers; printers and converters; injection and blow molders; molding machine, mold and robotics manufacturers; and many others who make up the unique IML/IMD value chain. IMDA is a broadly focused organization made up of people and companies who understand the cooperative efforts needed to make all these disciplines work together for successful IML/IMD projects.