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What is the Difference Between In Mold Labeling and In Mold Decoration? - Amazing Plastics

What is the Difference Between In Mold Labeling and In Mold Decoration?

At AmazingPlastics we pride ourselves on providing mold production services and development for over 20 years. During this time, we have received a lot of questions about the difference between IML and IMD. So we have compiled the difference between IMD and IML for you to know.

AmazingPlastics will take the time to understand your needs and then implement the most appropriate method to meet your project.


1. What is In-Mold Decorating (IMD)

1.1 Definition and Process

In-Mold Decorating (IMD) is a revolutionary manufacturing technique that combines plastic molding and decorative elements seamlessly. It involves inserting a pre-decorated film or sheet into the mold before injecting molten plastic. As the plastic takes shape, the decorated film fuses with it, creating a vibrant and durable finish directly on the surface of the molded product.



The process of In-Mold Decorating begins with the selection of a suitable film or sheet made of materials like polycarbonate or polyester. Designers then print high-quality graphics or patterns onto the film, ensuring precision and clarity. Once the film is ready, it is carefully positioned inside the mold cavity, ready to be incorporated into the final product.

During the injection molding process, the mold closes, and molten plastic is injected into the cavity. The plastic surrounds the decorated film, forming a strong bond. Under controlled heat and pressure, the film becomes an integral part of the plastic product, resulting in a design that is scratch-resistant and highly resistant to fading over time.


1.2 Advantages and Applications

Advantages of In-Mold Decorating (IMD):

• Visual appeal

• Durability and Resistance

• Cost-Efficiency

• Time-Saving

• Enhanced Branding Opportunities.

Applications of In-Mold Decorating:

• Automotive Industry: IMD finds widespread use in the automotive sector for interior trims, center consoles, and control panels. 

• Consumer Electronics: Products like smartphones, tablets, and remote controls benefit from IMD's capability to incorporate intricate designs and branding elements.

• Household Appliances: IMD enhances the appearance of household appliances such as microwave panels, washing machine panels, and refrigerator handles. 

• Medical Devices: In the medical industry, IMD is employed for various equipment and devices, offering a durable and hygienic surface with custom designs catering to specific medical brands and purposes.

• Sporting Goods: IMD adds aesthetic appeal to sporting goods like helmets, equipment panels, and gear casings. 


2. What is In-Mold Labeling (IML)?

2.1 Definition and Process

In-Mold Labeling (IML) is an innovative and efficient manufacturing process that seamlessly integrates labeling with plastic molding. It involves placing pre-printed labels or graphics inside the mold cavity before injecting molten plastic. As the plastic takes the desired shape, it fuses with the label, creating a robust and permanent bond between the label and the molded product.



The process of In-Mold Labeling starts with the creation of high-quality labels made from polypropylene. These labels are custom printed with various designs, logos, product information, and branding elements. Once the labels are ready, they are precisely positioned inside the mold cavity, awaiting the injection of molten plastic.

During the injection molding process, the mold is closed, and the molten plastic is injected into the cavity. The plastic surrounds the pre-printed labels, effectively encapsulating them within the final product. Through the application of heat and pressure, the label becomes an integral part of the plastic, ensuring a smooth and glossy finish.


2.2 Advantages and Applications

Advantages of In-Mold Labeling (IML):

• Enhanced Aesthetics

• Durable and Fade-Resistant

• Cost-Effective

• Time Efficiency

• Versatility in Design

Applications of In-Mold Labeling:

• Food Packaging: IML is widely used in food packaging, such as containers for yogurt, margarine, ice cream, and ready-to-eat meals. The labels on these packages enhance branding and provide consumers with essential product information.

• Cosmetic Packaging: Cosmetic products benefit from IML's ability to create visually appealing designs and labels that reflect the brand's image. IML is often used for lipstick tubes, compact cases, and shampoo bottles.

• Consumer Electronics: IML is popular for consumer electronic products like remote controls, computer peripherals, and home appliances. It allows for precise labeling and branding that complements the sleek designs of these devices.

• Automotive Parts: In the automotive industry, IML is applied to various interior and exterior parts, including dashboards, door panels, and center consoles. The labels add a touch of sophistication to the vehicle's interior.

• Household Items: IML finds applications in household items such as kitchenware, storage containers, and decorative products. The labels add value to these items by showcasing brand logos and product information.


3. Key Differences Between IML and IMD

3.1 Manufacturing Process

• In-Mold Labeling (IML): The IML process involves placing pre-printed labels or graphics made from polypropylene inside the mold cavity before injecting molten plastic. The labels are accurately positioned to adhere to the plastic product during the molding process, resulting in a seamless integration of the label and the final product.

 In-Mold Decorating (IMD): In the IMD process, a decorated film or sheet, typically made of polycarbonate or polyester, is inserted into the mold cavity before injection. As the plastic takes shape, it fuses with the decorated film, creating a vibrant and durable finish directly on the surface of the molded product.


3.2 Labeling Process

• In-Mold Labeling (IML): IML employs pre-printed labels made from polypropylene. These labels are printed with high-quality graphics and text, providing detailed and accurate labeling for the product. The labels are precisely placed inside the mold, ensuring proper alignment with the final product.

• In-Mold Decorating (IMD): IMD uses decorated films or sheets that are pre-printed with intricate designs and graphics. The film is inserted into the mold, and as the plastic is injected, it adheres to the film, resulting in a flush, 3D-like appearance on the product's surface.


3.3 Design and Aesthetics

• In-Mold Labeling (IML): IML is ideal for achieving high-definition graphics and vibrant colors. The labels can cover a significant portion of the product's surface, offering ample space for branding elements, product information, and eye-catching designs. The labels have a slightly raised appearance and a smooth, glossy finish.

• In-Mold Decorating (IMD): IMD offers more design flexibility, allowing for intricate patterns, textures, and 3D effects. The decorated film can accommodate complex designs and contours, making it a preferred choice for products with unique and stylish appearances.


3.4 Material Compatibility

• In-Mold Labeling (IML): IML uses labels made from polypropylene, a versatile and widely used plastic material. Polypropylene labels can adhere to various plastic resins, making it compatible with a broad range of products and applications.

• In-Mold Decorating (IMD): IMD employs decorated films or sheets made from materials like polycarbonate or polyester. These films have excellent adhesion properties with specific plastic resins, and their compatibility varies depending on the type of plastic used in the molding process.


3.5 Cost Considerations

• In-Mold Labeling (IML): IML is generally more cost-effective than IMD. The use of polypropylene labels is cost-efficient, and the process requires fewer steps compared to IMD, resulting in reduced production costs.

• In-Mold Decorating (IMD): IMD may be slightly more expensive than IML due to the cost of decorated films or sheets, which can be higher than polypropylene labels. However, the overall cost-effectiveness will depend on the specific requirements of the product and the desired design complexity.


4. Which Method is Best for Your Project?

Choosing the best method for your project between in-mold labeling (IML) and in-mold decoration (IMD) depends on several key factors. Understanding the unique capabilities and benefits of each technology will help you make informed decisions that meet your project requirements. Amazing Plastics gives you the following suggestions based on years of experience in the industry:


Design Complexity and Flexibility:

If your project demands intricate patterns, textures, and 3D-like appearances, In-Mold Decorating (IMD) is the better choice. IMD's capability to accommodate complex designs makes it suitable for products that require sophisticated aesthetics.

On the other hand, if your project focuses on high-definition graphics and vibrant colors, In-Mold Labeling (IML) excels in achieving precise labeling and smooth finishes, making it ideal for products that emphasize branding elements and detailed graphics.


Material Compatibility:

Consider the type of plastic material used in your product. In-Mold Labeling (IML) works well with various plastic resins, as polypropylene labels have excellent compatibility with a wide range of plastics.

In-Mold Decorating (IMD) relies on the adhesion properties of decorated films or sheets with specific plastic resins. Ensure that the decorated film's compatibility aligns with the plastic material used in your project.


Product Application and Industry:

Consider the specific application of your product and the industry it serves. Each method has its strong points in various industries. For instance:

• In-Mold Labeling (IML) is commonly used in food packaging, consumer electronics, and household items, where high-quality labeling and branding are essential.

• In-Mold Decorating (IMD) finds extensive applications in automotive parts, medical devices, and sporting goods, where design versatility and aesthetics take precedence.


Production Volume:

For high-volume production runs, In-Mold Labeling (IML) may be more time-efficient and cost-effective due to its streamlined labeling process during injection molding.

For lower production volumes where design uniqueness is a priority, In-Mold Decorating (IMD) may offer greater design flexibility and customization.


Aesthetics and Branding Goals:

Consider the visual impact you want to create for your product and the branding elements you wish to highlight. IML delivers smooth, glossy finishes with precise label placement, while IMD provides visually striking 3D-like appearances with intricate designs.



In conclusion, the world of manufacturing has witnessed significant advancements in product decoration through the innovative techniques of In-Mold Labeling (IML) and In-Mold Decorating (IMD). These processes have revolutionized the way products are designed, branded, and presented to consumers, offering unparalleled aesthetics and durability.

If your project requires custom plastic injection molding services, or for other related information, please contact us!

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