What are the benefits of in-mold decoration?

Table of Contents


The in-mold decoration is a manufacturing technique that allows the direct decoration of plastic parts during their injection molding process. This method involves inserting pre-printed film or labels directly into a part injection mold part cavity before injecting molten plastic, thus creating fully decorated parts without needing secondary operations such as pad printing or labeling.

In-mold decoration has long been utilized in mold labeling due to its many advantages over traditional labeling methods, making in-mold decoration increasingly prevalent in mold labeling over time. First introduced in Europe during the 1970s and quickly adopted into packaging industries around the globe; nowadays in-mold decoration can be found anywhere from cars and electronics to consumer goods and medical devices.

II. How In-Mold Decoration Works

A. Overview of the Manufacturing Process

The in-mold decoration is a complex manufacturing process that encompasses multiple steps to produce fully decorated plastic parts. The first step in mold decorating involves creating a mold out of steel or aluminum that fits together into one cavity, followed by adding pre-printed labels or films into its cavities for decoration.

B. Materials Used in In-Mold Decoration

Plastic films or labels used for in-mold decoration typically consist of a thin polymer carrier with printed film on top. This construction allows the polymer carrier to melt during injection molding, permanently adhering the plastic film or label to the plastic part. Digital printing techniques provide designers with endless design and color possibilities when producing printed films for in-mold decoration applications.

C. Mold Design and Cavity Considerations

The design of the mold cavity is of utmost importance in successful in-mold decoration. To accommodate labels or films that adhere properly to plastic surfaces, considerations of placement, thickness, and overall part design must be addressed when designing mold cavities.

D. Injection Molding Process

Once a mold is assembled, molten plastic is injected using an injection molding machine into its cavity to fill it and fuse with labels or films on it, creating fully decorated molded plastic parts. This highly automated process ensures efficient and consistent production.

E. Elimination of Secondary Operations

One of the key benefits of in-mold decoration is eliminating secondary operations like pad printing and labeling, as labels are integrated directly into parts during molding – no need for separate steps to apply decorations such as labels to parts later on, making production processes more cost-efficient and time-effective.

F. Integration of Appearance and Function

In-mold decoration allows the integration of appearance and function into a single plastic part, for instance by designing it with an integrated display or button – eliminating the need for separate components altogether – creating a more streamlined and efficient design.

G. Specialized Processes Like Second Surface Graphics and Soft Touch Finishes

In-mold decoration allows for the creation of specialty finishes such as second-surface graphics and soft-touch finishes, two of the latest trends. Second surface graphics involve printing directly on the backside of labels or films for a high gloss appearance that remains protected from wear and tear, while soft-touch finishes create tactile surfaces with soft surfaces to feel soft to the touch, ideal for consumer products like electronics and personal care items.

III. Benefits of In-Mold Decoration

A. Cost Effectiveness

Cost Effectiveness In-mold decoration offers a cost-effective solution for producing fully decorated molded plastic parts, eliminating secondary operations to cut production time and costs while simultaneously integrating form with function in one component – all without additional parts required to finish production.

B. Multiple Design Options, Colors, and Substrate Materials

In-mold decoration provides endless design possibilities, colors, and substrate materials. Digital printing technology enables high-quality multicolor graphics production; plus this process works on plastics, metals, composites, and composite substrate materials – not to mention many more substrate materials!

C. High Precision and Fully Decorated Molded Parts

In-mold decoration allows for the production of high-precision, fully decorated plastic parts with pinpoint precision. This process enables accurate label and graphic placement and alignment to produce an aesthetic finish for a finished appearance, in addition to producing complex shapes or geometries with ease.

D. Performance Requirements Like Durability and UV Resistance

The in-mold decoration is a way of producing parts that meet specific performance criteria, such as durability and UV resistance. By adhering labels or films directly onto plastic parts, specialized films and coatings provide extra protection from UV radiation and other environmental elements.

E. Design Support and Vendor Sourcing

Manufacturers can leverage in-mold decorating to gain design support and vendor-sourcing advantages for manufacturing operations. This process offers design flexibility while meeting specific customer requirements through custom solutions created using this process. In addition, manufacturers can utilize dedicated in-mold decorating vendors to source high-quality parts decorated to their exacting standards for more streamlined production processes.

IV. In-Mold Labeling vs. Traditional Labeling

A. Comparison of In-Mold Labeling and Pressure-Sensitive Labels

In-mold label (IML) and pressure-sensitive labels (PSL) are two common methods of decorating molded plastic parts. While both methods are effective, there are several key differences between the two. PSL involves applying a label or sticker to the surface of a molded plastic part after it has been produced, while IML involves fusing a pre-printed label or film to the surface of the plastic part during the molding process. IML offers several advantages over PSL, including greater durability, more precise placement of labels, and the elimination of secondary operations.

B. Advantages of In-Mold Labeling

In-mold labeling offers several advantages over traditional labeling methods. First, because the label is fused with the plastic part during the molding process, it provides greater durability and resistance to wear and tear. In addition, the label is precisely positioned and aligned during the molding process, resulting in a clean, finished appearance. IML also eliminates the need for secondary operations like pad printing or labeling, reducing production time and costs. Finally, IML allows for the integration of appearance and function into a single part, reducing the need for additional components.

C. Examples of Industry Applications, such as Medical Devices

In-mold labeling has a wide range of industry applications, including medical devices. IML can be used to create fully decorated molded plastic parts for medical devices like syringes, IV catheters, and diagnostic instruments. The use of IML in medical device manufacturing offers several advantages, including greater durability and resistance to wear and tear, precise placement and alignment of labels, and the elimination of secondary operations. In addition, IML allows for the creation of custom solutions to meet specific design and performance requirements.

V. Sussex IM: A Leader in In-Mold Decoration

A. Overview of Sussex IM’s Capabilities and Services

Sussex IM is a premier provider of in-mold decorating services to various industries, offering design support, mold design, engineering, tooling production, and assembly as well as finishing/assembly services. Sussex IM works with various substrate materials including plastics, metals, and composites, and provides various design options and finishes.

B. Use of Digital Printing and Polymer Carrier Technology

Sussex IM’s use of digital printing and polymer carrier technology is one of its many strengths, enabling the production of high-quality multi-color graphics with precise placement and alignment of labels. Furthermore, polymer carrier technology provides strong bonds between labels and plastic, increasing durability while protecting against wear and tear.

C. Holographic Images and Specialty Finishes

Sussex IM offers an assortment of specialty finishes, such as holographic images and soft-touch finishes, which offer high-gloss, eye-catching aesthetics ideal for branding or product identification. Soft touch finishes create tactile surfaces with soft textures suitable for consumer products like electronics and personal care items – creating unique high-end touches to plastic parts. These specialty finishes can also add a special finishing touch.


The in-mold decoration is an effective and efficient manufacturing process that provides many key benefits, including cost-effectiveness, multiple design options, fully decorated parts with tight precision tolerances, durability, and UV resistance requirements, and design support & vendor sourcing support. Furthermore, this method outshines traditional labeling methods such as pressure-sensitive labels due to greater durability, precise placement of labels, and no secondary operations necessary.

In-mold decoration industry is set for sustained growth and innovation, thanks to advances in digital printing technology, polymer carrier technology, and specialty finishes. Advancements such as digital printing technology, polymer carrier technology, and specialty finishes have broadened design options and capabilities while the integration of appearance and function is becoming an ever-increasing focus across numerous industries. As manufacturers seek more cost-efficient production processes that utilize in-mold decoration techniques will remain an integral part of the manufacturing landscape.


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