Hunter S. Thompson once said, “Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.” It’s an excellent credo to live life by, but it also applies to product design.
One manufacturing process, in particular, that requires expertise and attention to detail is in-mold decorating (IMD). When done correctly, IMD can yield impressive results. But if certain considerations aren’t followed, the outcome may not be what you expected.
What is in-mold decorating?
The process of in-mold decorating (IMD), a type of film insert molding, involves inserting a printed film in an injection mold before it is filled with plastic. Compared to traditional methods of product decorating or labeling, IMD is often more efficient and cost-effective. It is used in a wide range of industries, including automotive, home appliances, medical devices, automotive, sports equipment, and consumer electronics.
IMD offers many design and manufacturing benefits, including:
- Product differentiation with attractive colors and graphic effects
- Decoration of 3D parts
- Offer graphics that have clear, see through, translucent or dead front windows
- Embed instructions or safety warning messages for the end user
- Quick change-over of graphics using the same injection tool
- Eliminated secondary labeling
- Reduced application labor
- Enhanced durability with chemical and abrasion resistance
- Permanently embedded graphics
- Enhanced design flexibility and inventory management
- Ability to create in-mold electronics
Considerations When Using In-Mold Decorating
There are multiple forms of IMD such as flat film, formed film, first surface graphics, and second surface graphics. Due to the complexities of material selection and manufacturing, it is advantageous to work with a partner who has a proven track record with IMD.
To achieve the best results with IMD for your product, the following considerations should be made:
- Film and thickness – in general, polycarbonate film (coated or uncoated) offers the greatest range of performance characteristics; a minimum film thickness of 0.010 to 0.015 inches is suggested
- Surface to decorate – resins must be selected for their mold geometry and flow characteristics
- Product design with molding in mind – including draft angles and thermoforming size limitations
- Forming requirements – such as injection method, gating, and graphic placement
- OEM performance requirements in the design
- Testing to ensure the combination of films, inks, adhesion promoters, and resins will work together to create a cohesive part
Manufacturing In-Mold Decorated Products
At Tapecon, we have extensive experience with IMD films, inks, and printing processes, and can help you select the ideal materials for your application. We also work closely with our molding partners to ensure the highest level of quality for your final IMD products. When you want IMD done right, Tapecon is your trusted partner.
Get Started with In-Mold Decorating
At Tapecon, we have over 100 years of experience helping customers solve their complex product challenges. Learn more about our in-mold decorating capabilities.