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UV Ink Technology for In-Mold Labelling

UV Ink Technology for In-Mold Labelling

UV-cured inks and coating have become an vital part of the production of in-mold labelsfor packaging (IML) and in-mold decoration of durable products (IMD). For 2017, 25% of in-mold labels in North America and 20% in Europe were printed with UV-cured inks. This is true for labels produced on web offset presses.In-mold labeling is different from pressure-sensitive, heat-transfer or glue-on labeling and other post-mold operations. In IML, the in-mold label is placed in the mold before the plastic container resin is injected or blown into the mold. As the resin flows into the mold, the label is embedded in the wall of the container, making the label an integral part of the container. All post-mold operations and equipment are eliminated. In-mold labeled containers include laundry detergent bottles, cream cheese and ice cream containers, yogurt cup and motor oil bottles. 

IMD is similar to IML in principal, but the “labels” are more robust and the in-mold decorated parts are of much higher value and intended for continuous or even harsh outdoor service. Many such products are made in multistep processes. The initial “label” may be a 10- or 20-mil clear polycarbonate which is first reverse printed with a UV ink. The printed film is then thermoformed and die cut to the shape of the final UV Technology for In-Mold Labeling. This pre-formed insert is placed into an injection mold where it is backfilled with resin to form the final part. Examples of IMD products are cell phone faceplates, automotive dashboards and name plates, and washing machine control panels. The in-mold labeling process requires inks and overcoats with superior heat resistance for both the blow mold (IML-B) and injection (IML-I) molding process. 

The IML-I process is especially demanding where resin is injected at high pressure and temperature against a reverse printed label. Conventional inks with inadequate heat and chemical resistance can be washed away by the hot resin as it is injected behind the label into the mold cavity. 

UV-cured inks provide superior properties on in-mold labels, including: 

• High gloss 

• Abrasion resistance 

• Chemical resistance 

• Resistance to injection “washout” 

• Good bonding to backfill resin for insert molding 

• High durability for outdoor exposure 

• Low or no volatile organic compounds 

• Rapid cure

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