In-Mold Decorating (IMD) or in-Mold labelling (IML) is a process for decorating or labelling injection molded plastic parts or components during the plastic injection molding cycle. How does it relate to developments in industrial inkjet?
In-Mold has long been used in applications from hand-held electronic devices to components in automobile dashboards, in-mold decorating rewards the end-user with high-quality, long-lasting products such as cars.
Because of the protective surface that is created when the printed overlay is bonded with the molding resin, this second surface process adds a dimension of durability not found in first surface pad printed parts. The graphics are virtually scratch resistant.
In the in-mold decorating (IMD) or in-mold labelling (IML) process, a pre-printed label or decorated appliqué film is inserted in the open plastic injection mold and held in place via vacuum ports, electrostatic charge or other method. The plastic injection mold is then closed and the plastic resin injected to mold the part, encapsulating the decoration or label permanently within the finished injection molded part.
Coloured injection-molded components featuring scratch and abrasion-proof designs have become part of our everyday life. Whether it be in white goods, automotive or mobile phones.
The In-Mold decoration process continues to be the perfect solution for creating amazing visuals, but this complex technology demands an exceptional inks: ones that can combine maximum elasticity with high resistance to temperature extremes.
After extensive development work, Marabu ( who will be in InPrint Italy in November with partners Sakurai ) have now developed UltraMold UVPC, the first UV-curable ink system that offers a true alternative to the currently used solvent-based inks. Marabu’s UV-curing digital inks are suitable for printing on molded parts from the interior. For outdoor applications, solvent-based digital printing inks are mainly used, especially in the aerospace industry, in addition to the automotive market. Here, Marabu is working on solutions for printing on 2D and 3D surfaces on the aircraft fairing.
Inkjet Begins to Add Value in Automotive Interiors
As well as the development of Inks that work for InMold applications, Print machinery giants Heidelberg have developed technology that starts to move inkjet into automotive and the world of InMold. Working with Ritzi Lackiertechnik, which specializes in innovative surface finishes for high-quality components such as speedometer bezels, trim strips, switches and dashboards for various automotive manufacturers Heidelberg have introduced their Omnifire. The system is a direct to shape inkjet printing technology that includes sophisticated custom software and robotics and enables inkjet printing directly onto 3D shapes.
Günter Ritzi, managing director of Ritzi Lackiertechnik, explained: “We spent a long time searching for a solution that would allow us to meet the exacting requirements of our customers for custom decoration of passenger compartment accessories in an efficient way in terms of quality, flexibility, and cost. In Heidelberg we have found a partner that can supply us with an attractive overall package of innovative technology and matching service with the Omnifire 1000.”
The Omnifire 1000 and 250 systems can be used for custom or personalised printing and decoration of three-dimensional objects of almost every shape and made from a wide variety of materials, including balls, bottles, hockey sticks, car and plane parts, even entire planes. The system can be integrated into practically any digitized production process.
With manufacturing technology evolving so quickly and developments in-mold markets such as decoration, electronics and labelling you might find it useful to ‘dig deeper’ on this subject and catch up on leading research and market studies highlighting the main trends. As an editor of Industrialprintblog, I have been fortunate enough to have been invited to attend the first AWA InMold Conference in Amsterdam 10-11th September which I hope with point out how Inmold and Industrial Print will start to converge. If you register as a delegate before the 6th August you qualify for a 30% discount.
Expert speakers from Advanced Decorative Systems, Tactotek, Serigraph, the Holst Centre (TNO )and Yupo will be sharing their insights. If you are interested in looking at the programme , the event has a dedicated website – http://awa-inmold.com