IML Conference Transcends Packaging with Broader Range of Topics

The Tenth Annual Intl. In-Mold Labeling Conference, held September 24-26, at Marriott's Camelback Inn in Scottsdale, AZ, departed from the strong emphasis on packaging applications featured in previous years. The expanded program included injection in-mold labeling, in-mold decorating of durable products, creative design, and the status of IML in Asia and Latin America. The conference was sponsored by RBS Technologies Inc.

Registrants from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Taiwan, and the US heard technical presentations, participated in workshops and an interactive future vision session, and met with authors and conference participants during roundtable discussions at the meeting.

In an example of the program's broader emphasis, Fred Abrams of Pinnacle Products Group Ltd. offered a paper on “In-Mold Decoration of Durable Products.” This application requires a high quality graphic surface with permanence and durability under long-term outdoor exposure. Abrams noted “recent developments have produced an in-mold technology that provides molders with an opaque printed sheet that can be positioned in an unmodified mold easily.” This will withstand the rigors of molding at high temperature with materials that have high viscosity. Benefits include compatibility with most molding materials, integrity of the decoration in the molded part, and the use of multiple labels on a single item. Applications cover very flexible products, very rigid products, high-temperature-environment products, harsh-use-environment products, previously hand-decorated products, and previously p-s labeled products.

Discussing inks for IML, Tom Hammer of Akzo Nobel Inks Corp. noted future trends will include stronger inks, higher quality printing and press stability, ease of use, faster press speeds, more robust inks, more conversion on films and thinner films, new opportunities and applications, and lower cost. He predicted ink technology will advance to meet these needs but only with the help of everyone involved in the IML industry.

Victor Balest of Granwell Products Inc. covered “Trials and Tribulations of Launching a New IML Film Substrate,” saying, “In-mold labeling is a tangled web of interdependent factors. Finding a workable combination requires that the individuals involved be super sleuths.”

PP film labels for in-mold applications was the topic of a talk by Margaret Stephen of Kimberly-Clark Corp. She predicted the market for in-mold products will continue to grow with demand for detergents and food products, with some growth occurring at the expense of p-s labels.

“Why Not IML?” asked Ronald B. Schultz of RBS Technologies Inc. in his presentation. He provided information on applications in which companies switched from in-mold labels to p-s labels.

The change, according to Schultz, is due to inherent disadvantages of in-mold products, including expense of short runs, cycle-time penalty, inventory of pre-labeled containers, longer machine set-up time, and additional costs and time to produce molds for in-mold labels.

Four technical papers addressed IML production, including “New Press Technology for Production of IML Labels” by Bob Yates of Gallus Inc. Yates observed the need to reduce waste and set-up time while increasing productivity has driven the incorporation of servo motor press technology into narrow web presses. Such systems satisfy the increasingly difficult demands for the in-mold label industry.

Andre Soterio of Yupo Corp. spoke on the status of IML in South America. “In South America, IML can fill a niche,” Soterie explained. “South America has high quality printers, high volumes of products, and big companies interested in making something different from their competitors.”

Package labeling in China was on the agenda, with Brigitte Wolff of reporting the packaging industry in China is still in its infancy. She discussed current labeling techniques that usually do not include in-mold products. Many products use p-s labels, sleeves, or screen printing to provide necessary graphics or label information. Wolff expects this to change as China continues to increase the market for packages of all types. In-mold labels will definitely have a major presence because of their many advantages, she noted.

The conference included an exhibit hall featuring tabletop exhibits and four sessions of concurrent workshops.

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