In-mold Decoration

In-mold Decorating

In-Mold or Insert-Mold Decoration (IMD) or Film Insert Molding (FIM) refers to the insertion of a printed graphic overlay into an injection mold.  The molding process encapsulates the film or overlay in  plastic.  It combines the advantages of decorative and functional graphics with a plastic molded component or assembly.  Integrated components eliminate application costs for overlays or labels.

In-mold Decorated Components

in mold decorated Nautique dial

In-Mold Decorating offers design flexibility and productivity advantages over traditional post-molding decorating techniques.  Durable graphics are integrated into plastic components using multiple colors.  Since the part graphics are encapsulated in resin, the graphics cannot be removed without destroying the part. Graphics will not fade and remain vibrant.  No secondary operation is required after molding.  The part is complete.  Graphics are updated by modifying the printed overlay.  The mold does not need to be modified.  The Nautique boat lens shown here is manufactured using the in-mold decoration process to combine graphics and clear windows into a single component with attachment features.

In-mold Options

  • Backlit graphics
  • Deadfront graphics
  • Lenses and windows

The in-mold process typically uses a polycarbonate film.  Graphics are printed on the second or inner surface of the film.  Selective gloss or texture is printed on the first or outer surface of the film.  Printing on the second surface offers additional protection in the end application.  The film is formed after decorating.  It is then trimmed and placed in the mold.  The final step is injection molding.

Design considerations include locating graphics in relatively flat areas away from sharp edges to minimize distortion and registration issues.   Inks are selected to help eliminate washout in the gate area of components.  Gates are positioned as far away from graphics as possible.  They are designed to minimize the turbulent flow of material during the molding cycle. 

What applications come to mind for integrating graphics into plastic components using the in-mold decorating process?  Why is this process a good fit for the application?

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