Pru-Lesco (Pawtucket, RI) has introduced a new sublimation transfer process that creates film for in-mold decorating that works with highly contoured injection molded parts. The graphic goes through sublimation transfer into a polyester substrate, where all colors are deposited at once. The film is then die-cut to the shape of the molded part and placed in the mold, where it bonds to the plastic during molding. The graphics have been bonded to a variety of materials--ABS, polypropylene, nylon, and polystyrene, for example--but Pru-Lesco will also test new plastics, and maintains a database of material performance in this process.
Sublimation transfer actually uses dye crystals that, under heat and pressure, convert from a solid to a gas (no liquid step). This means that the transferred image, as a gas, is deposited into the substrate at the molecular level, rather than staying on the surface. This makes the image much more durable, not subject to scratching or wear.
Pru-Lesco works closely with several molders in the Northeast. One of those is Putnam Precision Molding, Putnam, CT. Application areas include automotive, appliances, juvenile furniture, and outdoor athletic equipment.