Manufacturing is all about reducing complexity. After all, if you can remove a step from the process, wouldn’t that save time and (of course) money? The big question is, (also, of course)”how”?
Enter “in-mold labeling,” which is the process of applying labels to plastic-injection molded products like containers or bottles during the manufacturing process. In-mold labeling, sometimes referred to as automated packaging systems, involves placing printed films or paper inside the cavities of molds or containers using vacuum power before starting the molding process, which merges the product with the label. This type of process eliminates the need for labeling after the part is produced.
Don’t be confused: we are not discussing the imprinting of product names or other branding elements onto the plastic part because those elements are part of the mold itself. No, products which are “in-mold labeled,” if you will, look exactly like products which are labeled post-production — their labels can have shapes and colors every bit as varied as traditionally labeled products.
But wait, it gets better! In-mold labeling is green! Think about it: plastic products themselves are recyclable, of course. And while in-mold labels aren’t, per se, they do reduce a plastic products carbon footprint because of the energy saved during the entire production process. (No post-production use of electricity on a stand-alone labeling machine.)
So it seems in-mold labeling is very much in the Zeitgeist. So no wonder the process is expected in to grow 5.2% annually in the years to come, according to industry observers. This scale of growth has been a long time coming: for almost 20 years now, in-mold labeling garnered only a 2% share of the global labeling market. That’s because, even considering all of the advantages of IML, one of its chief drawbacks was the long, complex supply chain that often means greater up-front costs.
Those days are over. But that’s the subject of another post!