In traditional plastic surface decoration, after the plastic injection molding is finished, a secondary decoration or printing process must be performed. With in-mold decoration technology, however, decoration is done together with the injection molding: a pre-printed label is picked up by a robot arm, the label then placed in the cavity of the machine, and the film is subsequently combined with the plastic product during injection molding.
IML provides cost-effectiveness and quality that surpasses traditional printing processes such as screen printing, giving our customers a beautiful, differentiated product with virtually unlimited color possibilities. The label also acts as a protective film, so that the product is scratch-resistant and the printed material maintains visual quality. It is also difficult to remove and therefore harder to counterfeit. Other advantages to IML include the possibility of achieving near 100% surface coverage with the label.
Disadvantages include increased up-front costs with the pre-printed labels and the potential for high scrap rate during production due to the highly technical process.
IML prevents color fading, has excellent ink protection, and high durability.
IML products are brighter in appearance, with high print resolution and smooth texture.
IML products have high stability, accurate positioning of printed film, no color registration problems, and consistent quality.
Production is sensitive to humidity and static electricity, which may cause defects such as holes, wrinkles, bubbles, and label sticking.
Less manpower is required, which can reduce processing costs. Automated production can also increase output efficiency and yield, and shorten customer delivery.
IML is more environmentally friendly (products and foils can be recycled at the same time) and costs less for large batches.
Heat transfer printing, while less robust than IML, is a highly suitable alternative for color printing, as it provides nearly unlimited color possibilities without the need for color registration, therefore reducing printing errors.
Heat transfer printing works as follows: the pre-printed thermal transfer film containing the label is used to cover the product, and the label is then transferred onto the product through direct thermal contact with a heating device. The surface after transfer is smoother than that of screen-printed products.
The disadvantage is that the label costs are higher than that for screen printing, so heat transfer printing is less suitable for small production quantities. Also, the transfer process does not leave behind a protective film, so the label is more prone to scratch damage.
During screen printing, a scraper evenly spreads ink on and through the screen, so that the ink adheres to the barrel according to the screen pattern. This method can be cost effective for up to five colors. Each color and screen pattern must be printed one at a time, and any registration or printing problems at any step can create scrap.
Screen printed colors are bright and colorful. Simple to slightly complex patterns can be printed, but more complicated labels must consider heat transfer printing or in-mold labeling. The color adjustment and printing speed are faster than the above two methods, and screen plate changing is easy, making it suitable for small batches. Screen printing, also known as universal printing, has a wide range of applications and can be applied to products of different shapes and materials, and is one of the most economical printing methods.