IML Product Testing: How It Works

January 12, 2022 • Posted in In Mold Labeling

Before a Sanwa-produced IML part ever hits the shelf (or the product that it’s a part of — like a vehicle or washing machine) it goes through a series of tests. Which tests are performed depends on the part and its uses, shape, location, exposure to UV light, and a suite of other factors that have the potential to affect its longevity and durability. Each part is specially tested to simulate the environment it will eventually live in, and its exposure to the elements.

Why take time to thoroughly test? Think about this example:

Before the release of the first iPhone in 2007, mobile phone buttons were the “push” type (remember those Nokias and Blackberries?). Now, most smartphone devices use touch sensors, where the user touches a hard surface (glass or plastic), and the sensor recognizes the finger to turn the “button” on or off. Before the launch of these touch sensor buttons, hundreds of thousands of pushes were tested to ensure the devices could withstand regular use of phone owners spending hours on their devices everyday.

Those touch sensors expanded into the appliance world, too. When Whirlpool moved to sensor-type buttons, they tested 100,000 pushes. Consider if you ran a load of laundry and pushed the start button every single day — it would take 273 years to reach 100,000 pushes! In this way, Whirlpool’s dedication to testing is ensuring the longevity and overall quality of its products.

IML factory testing

What do IML product testing procedures look like?

It depends on the product and manufacturer’s requirements. Some testing is done in-house by the in-mold labeling (IML) producer, while other tests are required to take place in the manufacturer’s controlled facilities. In some cases, special equipment is needed to simulate a certain type of environment or action, and so the testing is done in a specialized setting.

Testing categories can include:

  • Chemical resistance (like cleaning products and bleach)
  • Grease resistance
  • Stain resistance
  • Humidity resistance
  • Adhesion
  • Abrasion resistance (scratch resistance)
  • UV/sunlight resistance
  • Flammability/burn speed
  • Water discoloration
  • Impact resistance
  • Hardness
  • And more

Timelines for IML testing are as varied as the products and manufacturers themselves. On average, three months is standard for a high-use, professional-grade part (think automotive interiors or medical equipment). Some tests require longer exposure times to environmental factors, however, and will affect the overall production timeline. For example, if a part requires 1,000 hours of UV testing, then it’s going to take a minimum of 41 days to complete that test alone (1,000 hours divided by 24-hour days).

IML product testing

How do Sanwa products fare in testing?

After designing and creating premium plastic IML parts for top manufacturers for over 40 years, we’re proud to say they fare well — in large part because of the high standards our customers require. While every test is different, we work closely with each company to create parts that can withstand the uses and environmental elements that are specific to their needs and settings.

An auto manufacturer may need a part that’s exposed daily to sunlight and human use, as an example. This part will be tested for UV vulnerability, heat, and chemicals that are typically used in auto interiors (like sunscreen or hand sanitizer). Over the years, we’re built relationships with many of these manufacturers to understand the quality they’re looking for, as well as the criteria that parts will have to meet in order to be standardized and mass-fabricated.

For some top companies, a part won’t be approved for production until it meets a series of stringent standards. For this reason, we look beyond aesthetics and additionally focus on the functionality and durability of an IML part created by our Sanwa team.

Contact us to learn more about testing

For example test results or questions about your specific product or needs, give us a call. We can also make recommendations for ways to improve the durability of your plastic IML product and help it withstand the tests of time (for example, by adding a hard coat or clear coat to protect a graphic or lend additional water-proofing). We’re experienced in testing, research, production, modifications, and communicating with our customers throughout the process. There’s not much we haven’t seen, and lots that we can do.

Get in touch with our team to discuss your product’s specific needs, and we’ll give you a custom quote on testing recommendations, production timelines, and everything else you need to know when it comes to making your IML part a reality.