D-IMD: New Opportunities for OEMs

ZoMazz has developed and engineered the world’s first scalable method for digital in-mold decoration (D-IMD) of injection-molded parts. With the introduction of D-IMD, gone are many of the limitations of the analog processes it will replace. With D-IMD, designers now have the freedom to decorate as never before, and OEMs have the flexibility to offer products decorated with compelling designs, and to respond to market demand, and create new business models, in ways never before possible.

To realize the importance of D-IMD, it helps to understand the present marketplace for consumer products, and the characteristics of past decoration methodologies.

In the rapidly developing consumer electronics industry, most personal electronic products meet customer expectations from an absolute performance perspective. Value is now driven by design and styling by way of product decoration. Unfortunately, providing decorated products to consumers has been a challenge to OEMs, because they’ve been hindered by the limitations of scalable decorations technology, most notably analog-printed in-mold decoration (IMD).

For the past thirty years, injection-molded plastics when produced in larger volumes have been decorated via IMD, which has become a world-class decoration technology. Decorative styling is printed through analog processes on plastic films, which are then pre-formed to fit into the injection-molding cavity. Hot, flowing resins are shot into the mold and onto the back of the films. The finished, molded part displays a decorated finish that has now adhered to the solidified plastics behind it.

Printed, decorative films for use with IMD processes must survive a pre-forming process as well as severe conditions within the injection mold. IMD films are printed with high-temperature inks that will withstand forming and stretching. These inks are developed for silk-screen printing and for offset lithography printing, both analog printing methods. Both methods require long lead times, expensive set-ups and large volume runs, through which the image development and set-up costs may amortize over many units.

The introduction of ZoMazz D-IMD eliminates the technical limitations of traditional IMD, and changes how OEMs can use decoration as a value driver. First, D-IMD film images can be photo-realistic, and can be formed to aggressive geometries. Second, D-IMD films are not subject to degradation of image quality due to severe molding conditions, nor does D-IMD have issues with delamination. Finally, D-IMD is digital and each image is generated from an Piezo head printer; therefore, OEMs can run one image hundreds of thousands of times, or one image one time.

The advent of ZoMazz digital in-mold decoration is reinventing the IMD industry. Any color, any image and no minimums are now a reality for the product designer and stylist, not to mention the consumer. Consumer demand for customized plastic products can now be met with ZoMazz D-IMD.

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