Creating 3-D Shapes with IML

June 17, 2022 • Posted in In Mold Labeling

When it’s time for your decorated plastic part to take shape, in-mold labeling (IML) can bring the worlds of 3-D form and creative design together. Curves, edges, arcs, bends…it’s possible to incorporate contoured forms into your IML parts, in addition to the custom colors, patterns, and finishes you may already know about.

At Sanwa, deep curves and steep angles are our specialty. Our molding technology not only provides an aesthetic edge, but also addresses issues that many other IML manufacturers face when attempting to print on wrap-around edges and curves. Decades of experience working with premier brands means our 3-D processes have been honed to exceed expectations — and we create parts that last as long (or longer) than their completed products!

in mold labeling 3-d part

What kinds of shapes can IML handle?

Creating a design with curves or bends invites added interest and gives design teams another way to stand out from the crowd. While many IML printers and molders are unable to offer curved angles or corners, our technology can apply IML to plastic shapes and around them. By this, we mean we’re able to wrap the IML film around the corners of a part to ensure no edges, wrinkles, or unfinished plastic areas are seen.

curved iml plastic dashboard

Shapes we’re able to mold include:

Round Edges

Which industries can benefit from 3-D IML?

You’ll find curved IML parts in the automotive industry, especially in vehicle interiors and dashboards. Luxury auto manufacturers learned long ago that sleek lines and curved edges offer an aesthetic edge that customers enjoy (think of curved dashboard edges and rounded corners that don’t bump or bruise drivers and passengers).

Appliance manufacturers also seek out the benefits of 3-D IML when designing control panels and face boards for their products. At Sanwa, we often print curved parts for washing machines, oven ranges, or even rice cookers and bread makers.

In addition, the medical industry may seek out 3-D IML for equipment that is highly visible and requires superior aesthetics. The 3-D molding process also enhances a product's longevity by wrapping around edges and highly reducing the risk of delamination, wrinkling, and peeling.

in mold labeling part curved

What are the benefits of 3-D IML?

When done correctly, 3-D IML can offer a creative advantage and enhance a product’s lifespan. By wrapping film around the edges of a curved plastic part, we are able to reduce the risk of blistering and frayed edges. This means water, dust, and other environmental elements are less likely to get in.

It also means things are less likely to get out, like light. If a film isn’t wrapped around a part properly, or only covers the top of a plastic panel, there can be light leak. Anywhere the label doesn’t reach, background light will find a way to travel and escape. This can lead to design challenges, namely in the auto or aerospace industries where safety guidelines prohibit light leaks that can distract drivers.

curved iml plastic panel

Bring your 3-D model to life

Our forming and molding technology produces great-looking IMLs that outperform the rest. We can make your design look smoother, function better, and meet your customer’s desires for unique and high quality parts. Plus, our manufacturing technology can give your design team more freedom to fabricate their multi-dimensional dreams.

If you would like to talk to our team about 3-D molding, give us a call to talk about possibilities. We’re able to show you examples, discuss opportunities for making your product shine, and lend guidance when it comes to entering the world of 3-D molding and design.