For consumers, it might seem like in-mold-labeling (IML) is a fairly straight-forward process: a graphic or color is applied to a plastic part when it’s formed, making the design and the part one. In reality, there are so many steps in the IML process that oftentimes some of the to-dos get outsourced during production. Design mock-ups, printing, tooling, molding, testing, trials…there’s a lot to do for one IML company in-house.
At Sanwa, we’ve been producing IML parts for 45 years. During that time, we’ve grown the capacities and capabilities of our factories so that we can keep an entire project in-house, from start to finish. We do this for quality control, we do it for convenience to our customers (who will only have one point of contact instead of many), and we do it to expedite the production process.
At our Sanwa factories around the world, we live and breathe quality assurance. That’s why we can confidently say our teams produce great parts — because quality control is built into everything we do. We are able to give feedback and recommendations during the design phase, and propose best-fit materials (like resins, inks, films and paint) based on a product’s use. Our quality assurance team checks parts at every phase of production.
One of the most challenging phases of IML manufacturing is testing, as every OEM (original equipment manufacturer) has its own requirements. Testing is performed after several phases of production, and if a part fails, we have the ability to make fine-tuned adjustments, re-test, and deliver a more robust product.
We use in-house tools to ensure a part can live up to its intended uses (indoor, outdoor, high UV exposure, high-touch, water resistance, etc.).
We’re not exaggerating when we say we have experience in all aspects of IML development. We work with a company’s design engineers to develop a feasible model. Then our manufacturing teams provide input on materials, tooling, processes, and production. Once a design is agreed on, we build the injection mold in-house and begin molding trials in our factories. The production teams review the initial prototyped parts, and then we work with OEMs to define the next steps for improvement and production.
That’s a pretty basic overview of the first steps in the IML production process —but the important part is that we want you to know you’re in good hands every step of the way. When you work with an IML company that understands the ins-and-outs of all phases of the creation processes, you’ll get fewer “We don’t know,” or “Let us get back to you,” or “We don’t offer that,” answers.
We can make recommendations and keep projects moving forward instead of waiting for answers from other testers, designers, painters or shippers.
Changes happen during the IML process — it’s inevitable. Whether you need to make adjustments to quantities, or a certain resin becomes unavailable, we have capabilities to shift when needed.
For example, if two manufacturers are involved in a part’s development, it can get complicated quickly (especially in the mass production pipeline). Sometimes adjustments are necessary to the process or the design, in which case those companies need to communicate quickly and effectively to make changes. Sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn’t — and when it doesn’t, it can drastically affect the timeline or amount of waste produced.
When all IML processes are done in-house, communication happens quickly. We are able to be flexible and make changes right away, greatly reducing the lead-time by managing all the moving parts.
If there is a problem during IML production, it is our responsibility to correct it. While some manufacturers might point fingers at designers or shippers, we know it’s our duty to keep your trust from start to finish. So we make quality our top priority, develop new technologies and methods that better serve our clients, and communicate every step of the way.
When you’re ready to produce your next IML part, we hope you’ll come to us with your questions — we’re trusted by top name-brand manufacturers to complete their parts on time and to the highest degree of quality. It’s why we’ve been in business since 1977, because our in-house model provides peace of mind, assurance, and a single point of contact when it’s time for your part to be brought to life.