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The Material of IML (In Mold Label)

The Material of IML (In Mold Label)

In-mold labels have been popular in developed countries like Europe and America for more than 20 years. In recent years, this new label technology has been rooted in China and applied in the fields of oil, daily necessities, food and medicine.

In Mold Label refers to a special label paper processed by PP or PE synthetic paper on the surface and coated with special hot melt adhesive on the back, and printed into a trademark. The pre-printed label is picked up the printed label and placed in the mold. The vacuum hole on the mold firmly holds the label in the mold. When the raw material of the plastic bottle is heated and drooped in a hose shape, the labelled mold is quickly closed, and the air is blown into the hose to make it close to the mold wall. At this time, the temperature in the entire mold is relatively high, and the bottle body is tightly attached to the bottle body. The prototype label-shaped adhesive begins to melt and combines with the plastic bottle in the mold. Then, when the mold is opened again, the plastic bottle body is formed, and the label and the bottle are integrated into one article. The beautifully printed logo is firmly embedded in the surface of the plastic product. The label and the plastic bottle are on the same surface so there is no label. The color graphic is printed directly on the surface of the bottle.

This kind of packaging effect with "no label-look" is being favored by consumers. 

The technical requirement of the in-mold label is very high, and the material firstly reflects. The first to enter the Chinese market is the Japanese YUPO in-mold label, which claims to be the most successful in-mold label material in the world. Now, the French Polyart blow mold imaterial has also entered the Chinese market, and some local companies are also stepping up the development of this material.

In-mold labels must first have good printability, ensure that the ink is firmly attached to the surface and  good processing properties during post-processing, such as die-cutting and cold stamping processing. Secondly, this material meets the characteristics of use and is integrated with the plastic bottle during blow molding.

In-mold label materials are divided into two major categories of paper and plastic film. The former will deform when exposed to water or moisture, which will reduce the value of use, but its advantage is that there is no interference from static electricity which reduces the loss of the label when blowing the bottle. However, it is not homogenous to the plastic bottle so is not easy to recycle. At present, plastic film-based in-mold label materials are generally used at home and abroad.

The in-mold label material structure consists of a printing surface, an intermediate layer, and an adhesive layer. The function of the printing surface is to accept the ink to form a color graphic; the middle layer supports the printing surface, giving the material sufficient stiffness and transparency, and is not deformed under the action of the printing machine and the high temperature to ensure accurate overprinting. The adhesive layer will melt under high temperature, so that the label material is integrated with the plastic container to ensure that the label and the plastic bottle are firmly adhered together.

There are generally three types of printed surface materials: PE, BOPP and PE +PP. Since most plastic containers are currently made of PE, the use of PE in-mold labels is more conducive to recycling because they are all homogenous. In order to improve the ink receptivity of the printing surface material, it is generally required to apply a surface coating or to increase the surface energy by a corona discharge method during the production.

The surface of the adhesive layer has two structures: a flat meshless structure and a textured structure. The former is directly in contact with the blank during use, and is naturally vented, suitable for small-area labels. The latter is embossed with a textured structure on the surface, and the gas is vented through the textured exhaust passage during use, avoiding the production of bubbles. The adhesive layer also has antistatic properties to prevent double sheets during printing; in addition, it has slidability, ensuring smooth separation of labels and smooth printing.

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