What is in-mold decorating?
In-mold decoration is a process developed to provide product designers and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) with an alternative method for decorating their plastic products. The process involves placing a decorated thin film plastic (applique), formed to fit the shape of a mold which is placed into an injection mold injecting plastic either behind or on top of the film. When the mold opens the part is decorated and the graphics are embedded in the part.
This type of decorating exists in contrast to earlier methods of decorating plastic parts. Those methods used spray painting, labeling, screen printing, laser etching, or other methods of modifying the first surface of plastic parts. Exposed to the elements, those older surface decoration methods tended to wear out over time.
IMD has evolved to provide exceptional colors, and graphics along with distinct finishes (such as metalized appearances) and different levels of surface gloss and textures.
The durability of the product is exceptional as the graphics are applied to the back side of the applique, which is sandwiched between the applique and molded resin. Applique materials can be made using “hard-coated plastic films” that in many instances have higher chemical and abrasion resistance than the molded resins used to make the part.
These qualities are particularly useful in medical and other industries where the product is cleaned many times during its lifetime. The added abrasion resistance of these applique films provides for a long lasting display window where LCD or other electronic displays need to be read through for the life of the product.