Using In-Mold Labeling to Benefit Your Brand Visibility

Seven seconds. That’s all it takes for a consumer to make a snap judgment on a product based on its label. Those critical seconds are the difference between a product being purchased or left on the shelf.

It’s no secret that product labeling matters. As the first thing consumers check before purchasing, product labels play a critical role in the success of the product. Psychology has proven that consumers buy based on emotion, meaning that an attractive and durable product label produces a good feeling. Ultimately, this positive emotion makes it more likely that a potential customer will purchase that product.

At Sussex IM, we help bring products to life every day, and one of the most important ways we help them stand out is through in-mold labeling (IML) and in-mold decorating (IMD).

What is In-Mold Labeling?

In-mold labeling is the process in which a pre-printed film label is placed in the mold to decorate or label a plastic part before molding occurs. The printed film label fuses to the plastic during the plastic injection and processing stage of the molding process.

First used in the late 1970s, in-mold labeling has become an increasingly popular technique that eliminates secondary operations, providing a cost-effective option to enhance a product’s aesthetic appeal.

While not all injection molding companies have the capability to offer in-mold labeling, Sussex IM is proud to be one of the few injection molders with the expertise to provide this process as a value add. With our wide-ranging experience in-mold labeling and in-mold decorating, Sussex IM has proven success, offering this capability for a range of industries and applications.

The In-Mold Labeling Process

In-mold labeling and in-mold decorating are commonly used interchangeably as the process of decorating a part with a film label during molding. Though the process is the same, there is a slight difference. For example, in-mold labeling is used more frequently for products made to be disposable or products with a shorter shelf life, such as a consumer product like a cosmetic container. In-mold decorating should be considered when there is a need to provide added durability to products with longer shelf lives, including industrial products or medical devices.

While there are many possible ways to in-mold label, the three most common manufacturing processes are injection molding, blow molding or thermoforming. No matter the manufacturing process, the in-mold labeling process using injection molding begins by selecting the material needed for the label – usually polypropylene, polystyrene, paper or a material similar to the molded part.

At Sussex IM, using injection molding, there are a few variations to how we can label and decorate parts, including:

Heat Transfer

This form of decorating is a post-molding process that stamps a printed image onto a plastic substrate utilizing pressure and heat transferring. This short process results in a high-quality design that sticks well on a plastic container’s surface.

Pad Print

Pad print refers to a post-molding decoration process utilizing an etched artwork area with an image. Ink and the image transfer to a plastic substrate via a pad and pressure, and often, this will require a heat tunnel to apply heat to the substrate and ink for proper adhesion.

Hot Stamp

Hot stamping is a post-molding decoration process where a die with the intended image stamps a foil with pressure and heat, transferring the image onto a plastic substrate.

The Advantage of In-Mold Labeling

The main benefit of the IML technique is it eliminates the need for post-mold labeling, shortening manufacturing times and boosting productivity. In-mold labeling has several additional benefits.

The in-mold labeling process also allows for increased design flexibility, resulting in durable, long-lasting graphics with ongoing resistance to moisture, chemicals and scratches. Using consumer psychology as a guide, we understand that products with an appealing, high-quality design are more likely to be successful end products. Not only does in-mold labeling offer a cost-effective way to achieve a seamless product design, but the process also adds durability to stand up to wear and tear as the label becomes permanently fused with its product.

As an ISO 14001 certified company and audited by EcoVadis, Sussex IM values sustainability. In-mold labeling is a great way to increase sustainability, as the technique produces a product and label in one.

When you consider the positive brand impact and cohesiveness of the product that in-mold labeling creates, it’s easy to understand its increasing popularity in the world of plastic manufacturing – the global IML market expects to reach 8.78 Billion by 2026.

Of course, in-mold labeling is not without its challenges. When deciding whether in-mold labeling is the right fit for your product, it is vital to make several considerations including, the type of plastic material used in the application, the location of your label, curvature of the designed product, mold design, cavitation, and cycle time. Sussex IM can guide you through the manufacturing process, helping you determine if in-mold labeling is the correct process for your application.

The Sussex IM Difference

In-mold labeling can be a rather challenging process, as no two IML projects are the same. In-mold labeling involves science, art, and continuous curiosity. Sussex IM is unique in that we understand all of the nuances that contribute to an IML project.

At Sussex IM, our people are the difference. Our proven in-mold labeling success would not be possible without the expertise of our engineering and technical teams.

Our automation team at Sussex IM has developed IML manufacturing systems in-house that work within our facility, allowing us to be very competitive in price compared to other systems. We design, build and support our in-mold labeling systems. Sussex IM also designs and builds our own mandrels – the tool that holds the IML and applies static during the process – in-house. Our entire technical support team trains to support all of our IML systems. We have standardized many of the components to make it easier to assist and maintain in our facility.

Sussex IM has a long history of processing in-mold labeling, and we are proud to share this experience with our customers. Ready to discover the Sussex Solution? Click here to connect with us through the Sussex website and make your vision a reality.