In-mold labeling has emerged as one of the most innovative technologies in the labeling industry. The ability to integrate labels directly into plastic parts during the molding process has opened up new possibilities and use cases. This breakthrough technique is now being adopted across various industries like consumer goods, medical devices, automotive and more. This article delves deeper into the in-mold labeling process and highlights its key benefits over traditional pressure sensitive labeling.
What is In-mold Labeling?
In-mold labeling (IML) involves placing a label or graphic onto the surface of an injection molded plastic part during the molding process itself. The label material is fed into an open mold along with the molten plastic resin. As the mold closes, the label is encapsulated between two sheets of molten plastic. This fuses the label securely and permanently onto the finished part in the same operation as molding the plastic component.
No adhesive bonding or secondary application process is required making IML a truly integrated label solution. The key advantages lie in the durability, consistency and cost effectiveness of integrating labels at the point of manufacture. IML labels are resistant to moisture, heat, chemicals and weathering offering reliability for demanding applications.
Types of In-mold Labels
There are two main types of in-mold labels based on placement within the molding tool –
– Insert Mold Labeling: Here the label is placed onto a cavity plate which then closes to capture the label between the two mold halves during injection molding.
– In-mold Molding: In this method, the label material is first introduced into an open cavity along with the molten plastic. Both are then molded together within the same cavity to create a unified part.
Applications of IML
In-mold labeling technology has made significant strides since its invention in the 1950s. Today IML is used widely in:
– Consumer Electronics: Labels on devices like remote controls, power banks benefit from the durable bond with plastic casing.
– Appliances: Washing machines, refrigerators, blenders utilize IML to label control panels, outer casings in a weatherproof manner.
– Automotive Interior Parts: Dashboards, air vents, HVAC assemblies all feature high durability IML graphics.
– Medical Devices: Diagnostic equipment, surgical tools, disposables rely on IML identifiers that withstand sterilization.
– Bottles & Containers: Food, beverage and household containers use IML nutrition labels, barcodes for enhanced traceability.
– Durables: Furniture, toys utilize IML to embed brand and safety info in strong yet affordable molded forms.
Benefits of In-mold Labeling
Some key advantages that have made IML a preferred labeling solution include:
– Integrity: IML bonds labels securely into plastic parts, withstanding moisture, chemicals, weathering for the product life.
– Consistency: Automated systems ensure exact label placement replicability in high volumes with minimal waste.
– Durability: Encapsulated labels are highly durable and resistant to damage from abrasion, impact, temperature fluctuations.
– Aesthetics: IML provides a seamless appearance with graphics integrating flawlessly into molded parts.
– Legibility: Printed images on IML films retain high resolution and clarity even after molding process.
– Cost Effectiveness: IML is more affordable than metallic labels or laser engraving in high volumes due to simplified production.
– Sustainability: IML reduces material usage and waste compared to gluing labels on secondary processes after molding.
Challenges of In-mold Labeling
While In-Mold Label streamlines manufacturing, there are a few technical challenges to overcome:
– Material Selection: Proper label film, plastic resin pairing is critical to achieve adequate fusion bonding within molding cycles.
– Premature Release: Ensuring the label does not get dislodged prematurely from the mold cavity before fusion takes place.
– Warping: Controlling heat/pressure balance to minimize label or part distortion during molding process.
– Positioning Accuracy: Precisely placing cut labels in-mold within tight tolerances set by part design specifications.
– Part Ejection: Removing finished molded component without damaging integrated label or part structural integrity.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it