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Inline label-cutting saves IML molders money, increases flexibility

Inmold labeling (IML) has been slow to catch on in the United States, and several factors contribute to this. One is the long supply chain for the labels, which still primarily come from Europe, with one of the largest suppliers to North America in Belgium. The goal of companies adopting IML is to shorten the supply chain, particularly with respect to the labels, and gain greater availability in the United States.


Waldorf Technik GmbH & Co., a global manufacturer of modular, flexible IML systems, in collaboration with Schober GmbH, a supplier of rotary die cutting equipment, has introduced a process called “roll-flex IML.” This is the next evolution of Waldorf Technik’s “high-flex IML Module.”

With roll-flex IML, the labels are cut inline in the manufacturing process of molding the products, rather than being precut at the printer. “Cutting is about a third the price of the label,” says Taras Konowal, president of Waldorf Technik Inc. in St. Charles, IL. Being able to cut the labels inline in the molding process leads to reduced costs, making the IML process a more attractive option for injection molders and their customers. It helps overcome some of the obstacles to the IML process such as high unit prices of the packaging and the insufficient supply of IML labels in regions such as North America, where adoption of IML has been slow to catch on.

Roll-flex IML technology includes printed reels and a punching (cutting) process done robotically. The benefits to injection molders and their customers include reduced costs and better availability of the label materials. The unit price of the label and the full packaging is significantly reduced, opening up additional market potential for the IML process in North America.

The goal of the roll-flex IML process is to reduce the label material to less than 30 µm with inline cutting, which has another positive impact on costs. Previously, some systems have had static electricity problems with the collection of several labels at once. To combat that, the labels have to go through an antistat or ionization process.

Other errors in the IML process can be attributed to snags in the punching process, or to the printing surfaces sticking together. “Many times the printers don’t have cutting equipment accurate enough to accommodate the IML process,” says Konowal. By having the labels on a reel rather than stacked in a tray, each label is provided individually to the mold, eliminating the problems of stacked labels.

“In comparison to the classic subsequent printing of containers and lids, IML packaging receives significantly higher levels of attention from consumers at the point-of-sale,” says Konowal. “There are enough examples where the sales of a product have increased by 20%-40% due to changing over to IML.” He asserts that this technology has made IML more affordable and internationally available. Roll-flex IML is suited for very high-speed, high-volume IML applications. [email protected]

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