In-mould labeling or IML, as it is commonly known as, is a process of labeling containers, at the time of their manufacturing, by making use of paper or plastic labels through the process of blow molding, injection molding or thermoforming. This labeling reflects on the final product as an integral pre-decoration item. Although the combination of the molding process with the labeling process cuts down a lot on the manufacturing cost, it increases the production time. This technology was launched by Owens Illinois in collaboration with Procter and Gamble and was first applied on their product, the Head and Shoulders shampoo bottle.
Although this process was conceited and developed for blow molding, further developments and technology involving injection molding and thermoforming using reel-fed systems led to an increase in the efficiency of the entire labeling process. Let’s see how the entire process is carried out?
First, the reverse side of the label is coated with a heat seal layer. Then a heat resistant ink is applied on the same using a substrate material. This is followed by a heat resistant coating of lacquer on it. By doing so, the bottles need not be flame treated prior to labeling so as to achieve an adhesive base on them. However, in-mould labeling process can be conducted via various different techniques like vacuum or compressed air or even by making use of static electricity. The material for the label can be of paper or a material similar to that of the molded product. Even polypropylene and polystyrene, with a thickness of 15 to 40 micrometers, is commonly used for the same. In many cases even cavitated label material, consisting of a spongy layer and pasted between two very thin solid layers, is used as it provides better conformance to products having small radius curves. To further decorate the final products, laminated films can be utilized, which even result to be high wear-resistant.
The IML injection molding Solution process is especially used for plastic bottles and consumer electronic goods. Such is its effect and impact that the labels do not get ripped even when subjected to constant rough use and do not get abraded at all. However, label correctness and accurate label positioning is checked and carried out by visual systems so as to ensure accuracy and precision in the labeling process.
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