4 Tips for Designing an In-Mold Label

by Kimberly Young

There’s a lot that goes into producing a great label (we know that for certain), in-mold labels are no exception. From formulating the layers of the substrates, to cut tolerances and quality standards, there are a variety of factors that must be considered when designing an in-mold label. While a valuable label provider can speak to all of these, as a brand owner it’s great to have a checklist of your own. So, without further ado, here are some in-mold designing tips worth remembering.

Know what you’re trying to convey.

Branding plays a major role in what your in-mold label will look like, so it’s important to evaluate all design considerations upfront with your provider. Here are a few key aspects that your label supplier will ask about:

✔︎ Is it a stock container that your molder already provides?
✔︎ If so, is it round, 3-sided, 5-sided, spot label, or wrap label?
✔︎ Or is it a new container shape? In which case, you’ll want to be sure your molder and label provider have communicated that they can create it effectively.
✔︎ Will it have a smooth feel or is it textured (also known as orange peel or cavitated)?
✔︎ Do you want it clear, glossy or white?
✔︎ What’s the resin being used?
✔︎ Are there any compliancy requirements for this package (i.e. in-direct food contact, migration testing, etc.)?

Answering these questions will help your label provider select the necessary materials for your in-mold label – including inks, coatings and substrates. Each of these will make certain your in-mold label is effectively running on the line and adhering to any end-use requirements once it hits the market.

Communicate your container type.

Obviously, your container isn’t going to be flat, but your in-mold label will be. Just try wrapping a basketball with a smooth layer of wrapping paper – it’s not going to look pretty. To make something flat look good on a container, there is going to have to be an element of warping involved. This is something your label provider should be able to effectively create but to do so we’ll need your feedback on a few things.

✔︎ For example, we’ll want to know the panels, curves and compounds of the container – or any overlapping that may occur.
✔︎Specifically anything that will affect how the in-mold label will “lay down” on your container type.

Having this information up-front will help us capture the design elements you’re looking for while still adhering to any container specifications.

Consider any technicalities.

Even after you have what you consider the perfect in-mold label design, there are a few technical workflows that may affect the set-up.

✔︎ Gate location, for instance, will want to be avoided by any important label information, such as UPC codes, nutritional facts, government warnings, etc. This is the area where the molten resin is injected into the mold to form the container shape. This area can cause “gate wash” which may deform and blur any label information near it.
✔︎ Another technicality is the plastic flow. This is how the resin used in your container moves from entry point to form the container. Your molder should be aware of these plastic flows, but your label provider should also be aware of these so that they can produce an in-mold label with these specifics in mind.
✔︎ The automation equipment being used to produce your container is also important. Most molders who have experience with thin wall in-mold labels will be able to talk gauge thickness, label magazines, static pinner location, and other automation technicalities with you and your label provider.

Share any end-use requirements.

✔︎ How will your product be filled?
✔︎ What chemicals will it come in contact with?
✔︎ Will your product be subject to any post-fill operations, such as HPP or pasteurization?
✔︎ How will it be displayed – freezer, refrigerator or shelf?
✔︎ Does it require barrier properties?
✔︎ Will it be microwaved?
✔︎ Should it adhere to lightfastness or weatherability testing?

Okay, we’ll stop with the 20 questions. But any of your product’s end-use requirements such as these should be completely transparent to your label provider because, once again, they will all play a critical role in determining your in-mold label’s composition. Not to mention they help you and your label provider keep track of any regulatory and compliance standards. Utilizing Inland as your label provider will give you labels printed at our dedicated IML location with our brand new state of the art Koenig & Bauer specialty film press.

It’s not everything, but we hope these tips give you a solid baseline to start partnering with your provider on in-mold labels. What’s the key take away? To communicate – with all stakeholders – including your internal team, molder and print provider, so that your in-mold label is nothing short of perfect.

For more on Inland’s in-mold offerings, click here

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