It seems more and more molders find they are still in product development during a product launch particularly when it comes to in mold decorating and in mold labeling. Brand owners many times do not have appropriate funding in their budget for prototyping for IMD, so they end up going right into production with their fingers crossed and hoping for the best. While this is risky, there are still things that can be done to help mitigate that risk and still hit the product launch window with a successfully decorated part. Yes, the stars all need to align, but with up-front studying and planning with all the stake holders it can be done.

Tooling engineers and mold makers need to be involved as early as possible and understand the customer requirements and part geometry requiring the IMD. Technique. Resin type, gating and cooling should all be discussed with the customer with a clear understanding of the area that needs to be decorated and any challenges you may be up against regarding complex geometry. A mold flow analysis should be done so you can verify the flow front, pressures, and temperatures while the part is being processed. Mold flow analysis should be done at the beginning of any molded part development but is particularly critical when you introduce an IMD component to the product. Your automation engineering team needs to understand the label geometry, magazine system, part geometry and placement into the mold.

IMD adds additional materials, equipment and tolerances to the traditional injection molding process. A proactive approach to project evaluation involving all participants in the supply chain is critical to launch and long-term production success.

But what happens when you find that you run into issues during start up even when you did all your homework? Hopefully you have done an FMEA (Failure mode and effects analysis) and have a plan in place to overcome these issues. But sometimes with IMD you just don’t know what you don’t know.

Here are some things you can do to prepare for the challenges you may face:

  1.  Design your mold to have room for adjustments. Be prepared to make slight changes to the gate and even geometry surrounding the gate to help with pinning, over heating or gassing issues in the gate area. This can be difficult to do but will pay off big if you run into problems.
  2. Design your magazine system and end of arm tooling to be adjustable. Altering the size of the IMD film or label to help with pinning or registration may require a new nest or end of arm tool. If you design in adjustability you can quickly overcome any location and static charging issues during the initial sample.
  3. The IMD film / label supplier should be prepared with different material options. Be prepared with different materials with various thicknesses to help overcome any issues with registration, knitting or burn through. Be sure to have several different options made ahead of time so you can quickly mold them, evaluate their performance and overcome any issues you are having.
  4. Work with your customer to limit art and die line to one or two variations to limit the variability at start up. Too many different designs and different die lines can introduce variability that can be challenging, especially when you are trying to get a product launched. Once that initial design processes well and is ready for production, then introduce and sample different options. Set the expectation early to achieve success early in the launch.

Someone once told me, “In Mold Decoration is not science, it’s Black Magic”. While, I certainly understand where he was coming from, you can help alleviate some of these start up issues and challenges by planning ahead.

Written by Jim Naatz, Sussex IM Sales Account Manager