For having a notable impact on our everyday lives, in-mold labeling (IML) is a relatively unknown term for the general public.
Also referred to as “film insert molding” or “in-mold decorating,” IML is the process by which a design becomes part of a plastic product. Rather than a sticker label or an adhesive overlay, a decoration (like a button, logo, design, or instructions) is inserted directly into the plastic, resulting in longevity and durability for parts that require a long life span.
IMLs are part of your daily life, whether you recognize them or not. You most likely touch an IML part everyday, and maybe even have one in the room with you now. The majority are operation panels or control panels (think microwaves or dishwashers), while some are decorative and used as alternative lightweight materials (think woodgrain automotive panels made from high quality plastic).
There are also times when IML magically reveals itself, like with dead fronting. In this process, a part is created to look flat, black, or smooth when “off” and then a number or icon reveals itself when an LED window is turned on. Think about modern digital clocks, or even safety equipment where you only want certain icons or words showing at certain times.
In all, IMLs are created for both aesthetics and functionality — giving product designers limitless options when it comes to manufacturing the appliances and dashboards you see everyday. Below are the places you can expect to see IML in action — take a look throughout your house, office, and vehicle to see what you can spot!
Selecting a dishwasher cycle? Choosing pots and pans? You’re likely touching an IML control panel. You’ll also find IML on refrigerators with ice and water dispensers, and microwaves when choosing cook times and defrost options. Many ovens also have IML control panels where temperature, cooking method and timer are shown. And small appliances often have IML parts, too — think rice cookers, bread machines, and blenders. When you press “start” you may be doing so on a plastic part made by an IML manufacturer.
We’ve served some of our washer and dryer manufacturing clients for decades, providing them with long-lasting control panels that can withstand high touch/high use, heat and water exposure conditions that can exist in the laundry room. You’ll find IML panels on most household washing machines and dryers, indicating your wash cycle, water temperature, dry time and more. You may also find IML on a smaller scale when looking at your iron’s on/off setting, steam, temp and more.
Look around the rest of your home — where can you find control panels? Sometimes pellet stoves will have a console that allows for choosing low, medium and high heat options. Your thermostat may use an IML panel with a display window or touchable buttons, and even high-end, store-bought oscillating fans will use IML with a digital display.
We work with Tier 2 and Tier 3 automotive suppliers to mass produce emblems and parts using in-mold labeling and decoration technology. Next time you’re in the car, look at the shift indicator display, A/C control, and window/lock controls.
Many parts are important not only for comfort and aesthetics, but also for safe vehicle operation (like highlighting features in use or displaying warning lights).
Gear shift indicator
Center stack console
Window and door lock control
Door handle panel
Emergency overhead panel
When it comes to aviation and aerospace, in-mold labeling parts can be found from the cockpit to the flight attendant service area — and even in your very own seat! They are commonly used for instrument panels, heads-up-displays, controls, dashboards, and signage for both pilots and passengers.
Video control buttons
Seatbelt/no smoking signs
Return to seat signs
Enter a provider’s office or a hospital room, and you’ll find IML medical devices everywhere. In these settings, there’s a high need for precision, quality control, and durability in highly sanitized environments. Many measurement machines use a dashboard created with IML technology, such as infusion pumps (for IV fluids), heart rate monitors and more. You can also find control panels on beds for adjusting positions, or pressing a button to call in a nurse.
The sky's the limit when it comes to IML printing for everyday uses. If you are interested in learning more about our IML capabilities, or have questions about design or functionality, please contact us. We’re here to be the complete solution to all your IML needs.