Why not do it in the mold?

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Why not do it in the mold? That was the question addressed last month at a two-day conference sponsored by Plastics Technology in Columbus, Ohio. If you missed it, the 345-page book of proceedings is still available. It contains 24 papers explaining the in-mold advantage in quality, productivity, and cost. Here are five points summing up the overall thrust:

  1. In-mold has momentum: If labor savings, cost savings, improved quality, and reduced environmental liabilities mean anything—which of course they do—then you’re going to see more and more conversion of secondary operations to in-mold decorating, labeling, finishing, and assembly. Even thermoformed packaging is getting into in-mold labeling. New and less costly automation for IML will make it affordable for smaller customers.
  2. Quality is the trump card: In some cases, quality is a stronger incentive than cost. A speaker from mega-molder Nypro Inc. said in-mold labeling doesn’t cost less than post-mold printing on rigid containers, but IML provides better aesthetics that boost retail sales. On the other hand, in-mold film decorating saves painting costs and provides a more durable finish.
  3. Don’t wait too long: Right now, a molder can differentiate itself by adding value in the mold. But that may not last long. Even China is getting into IML.
  4. Paint is not dead. It just went in-mold. After 20 years in gestation, in-mold painting is ready to be born. Japanese cars with in-mold painted parts are on the road now.
  5. Don’t jump in unprepared: To get a piece of the in-mold action, you’ll have to educate yourself on the requisite automation, in-mold films and labels, and high-productivity tooling such as stack molds and rotating center stacks. For in-mold painting, you’ll probably want the precision of an all-electric press.