What is the Difference Between In Mold Labeling, Film Insert Molding, and In Mold Decorating?

October 9, 2023 • Posted in In Mold Labeling

At Sanwa Screen USA, we pride ourselves on offering high-quality In Mold Labeling (IML), Film Insert Molding (FIM), and In Mold Decorating (IMD) services for over 44 years.

During this time, we’ve fielded a lot of questions about the differences between In-Mold Labeling, Film Insert Molding, and In-Mold Decorating.

If you’re looking to understand the difference between the three, and how each process relates to your project and design needs, we’ve put together a bit of information on the history and background of each service.

Truthfully, the terms are often used interchangeably — and with Sanwa, there’s no need to worry that you’re asking for the wrong service for your products. You can rest assured that our team will spend the time to learn about your products and goals, and then employ the best methods to meet your needs.

Definition of In Mold Labeling

In Mold Labeling (IML) is the process used to directly label a product during the injection molding cycle. The label serves as an integrated part of the final product, removing the need for additional branding materials (such as paper, plastic, adhesives and more). Typically, these products have a lifespan of a few weeks or a few months.

Definition of Film Insert Molding

Film Insert Molding (FIM) is often used reciprocally with IML. A silk screen printed graphic is formed and placed into the injection mold cavity — then speed, pressure, and temperature are all carefully dialed in to produce a high quality molded part.

Definition of In Mold Decorating

In Mold Decorating (IMD) also describes the process for decorating a plastic part during the injection molding cycle. However, this term typically refers to its use in applications that require a longer life span, measured in years or even decades.

in mold decorating and in mold labeling part

Examples of shorter lifespan products include food containers, cosmetics, or household products.

Examples of longer lifespan products include automotive decals, appliances, medical devices, and consumer electronics.

A History of Terminology

There was a time when the term you used (IML, FIM, or IMD) simply depended on your geography.

The In Mold Labeling process came around in the 1970s, offering an alternative to decals and paper labels. And as the process developed over the next several decades, some countries and regions settled into calling the process IML, while others called it FIM or IMD.

Today, within the industry, there is a slight distinction between the two that typically refers to the types of products being printed on, and the materials used to achieve a desired effect.

However, customers typically don’t have to worry about asking for the right or wrong process for their product — a manufacturer with experience and proclivity to innovative solutions will make certain your specific goals are achieved. That’s what we’re here for.

Benefits of In Mold Labeling, Film Insert Molding, and In Mold Decorating

The technology provides a host of benefits for the discerning manufacturer and end user. All three offer high-quality graphic solutions with the elimination of secondary labels or adhesives, and they offer a wide range of color, size, texture and graphic options.

Other benefits include:

  • Durability

  • Flexibility (in size runs and additional treatments)

  • Cost effectiveness

  • Waste reduction

  • Visual appeal

  • Time savings

Design Options

IML, FIM, and IMD can all be used alongside our other manufacturing capabilities to create unique and highly custom plastic parts. Design options include:

in mold decorated part

Is In Mold Labeling, Film Insert Molding, or In Mold Decorating Right For You?

Our Sanwa team is here to help you decide.

Whether you know you’re looking for a certain process or effect, or want to explore your options, we have the history, knowledge, experience, and insights to help you choose the best-fitting and long-lasting labeling options to reach your goals.

Want to learn more? Feel free to reach out to our Product Experts who are ready to answer (or find answers to) your questions in a timely manner. We’re dedicated to your company’s success, and delivering world-class results for your products and their users.