Canadian Plastics

Bold and Beautiful:

By Rebecca Reid, associate editor   

Like it or not, success of any product, not just those made with plastic, hinges on the 'oohs' and 'aahs' it elicits from customers....

Like it or not, success of any product, not just those made with plastic, hinges on the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ it elicits from customers.

That’s why processors need to keep improving the way their products look. Just like in relationships, attraction wanes if the partners don’t keep themselves looking spiffy, and the last thing any processor wants is to be dumped by a beloved customer.

To prevent serious problems in the decorating process, Ken Thuro, president of Cassco Machines said processors should consider how the part would be decorated during the design, not during manufacturing.

“Often, people will come in with fairly complex parts, drop it someone’s desk and say, ‘We have to print this,’ and we have to assemble this part to this part,” he said. “At that point, it’s very late in the game…”


That’s why Thuro recommends involving technology providers during design so they look for any red flags that might impede the decorating process.

“The earlier in the design that we can see a part, the better position we’re in if there are any red flags,” he said. “A lot of the automotive manufacturers are thinking about design, assembly and decorating as a whole package when they make the part.”

Another consideration is whether the decoration is going to be a simple mark or a true decoration that adds value to the part, and what environmental conditions that part will be subjected to.


Although there are many options when it comes to decorating, Thuro said heat transfer decorating has come a long way in recent years.

“A lot of companies still have the mindset that heat transfer decorating is a very old technology, but it’s not the same technology that existed a hundred years ago,” he said.

Now, the options exist for processors to combine decorating and assembly into one unit, he added.

But when it comes to heat transfer decorating, Canadians primarily stick to silk-screen printed transfers because they are high quality and have better opacity than other decorating technologies. This is because the pigments are denser with silk screens; heavier layers of pigments can be laid down, he explained.

“Silk screen tends to be less expensive for short runs because the silk screens are less expensive to produce than a roto gravure that has to be etched,” Thuro noted. “In longer runs the cost benefits of silk screen tend to level off because the silk screening press is slower than a gravure press. However, the speeds [of a gravure press] are much faster so the break-even point on cost is quite a bit different than silk screen transfers,” he noted. “But there’s a line where the price meets because you have lower set up costs with silk screen transfers, but the actual machinery has speed limitations.”

However, while silk screen provides the best opacity, gravure provides the best image.

Flexoprinting essentially employs a big rubber stamp to transfer the image. Although the transferred images tend to be of lower quality than silk screened or roto gravure transferred images, the fast speed of flexoprinting machines makes it popular for items where image quality isn’t as crucial, such as polybags.

But many processors are choosing to use heat-transfer decals to stay away from ink. This way, processors can more easily satisfy requirements for chemical-resistance and UV-stability, for example.

Many are moving away from traditional methods and are moving into in-molding labeling. But sometimes these traditional methods can actually be less expensive.


Even though an in-mold label can appear to be more cost-effective than a pressure-sensitive decal, processors can often be mistaken, said Bob Travis, president of In-mold Graphic Solutions, a division of Romo Inc.

Travis described a method to measure the cost of in-mold decoration compared to other methods like hot stamping, pad printing and decal application. It’s a detailed process, with which In-Mold Graphics can assist their customers.

First, processors need to calculate the cost of manufacturing and the revenue generated from a product. This includes how many products they expect to manufacture per year over the life of a program and how much they invested in their previous decorating equipment.

Plus, they need to determine how much it would cost to implement end-of-arm tooling and robotics for in-mold decoration, and the percentage of robot cost assigned to the application.

In the second step, processors need to add up the costs associated with their traditional decorating methods. This includes the piece price, or impression cost, and the hourly cost of labour associated with the traditional process.

Additionally, processors need to determine how many parts are decorated per hour, and how much scrap this method produces. Part of this calculation also involves the cost of molding the part. Plus they need to rework the cost of removing and replacing the traditional graphic.

Thirdly, Travis recommends calculating how much in-mold decoration will cost on a per-piece basis, the hourly cost of molding, what the hourly throughput is, the expected increase in cycling time for molding, and the expected per cent of scrap generated using in-mold decoration. Typically, cycle times should increase by about three seconds, and percentage of scrap should be about two per cent, he said.

Inputting the data into a spreadsheet is an easy way for processors to calculate the incremental cash flow, he said.

“The key is to calculate all cost at the unit level so that the total incremental cash flow for each of an application’s life can be determined by multiplying the anticipated annual sales,” he wrote in his report. “When the annual cash flow for the useful life of the product is calculated, the investment cash flow costs also must be subtracted from the first year to get a complete picture of cash flows.”

The next step is to calculate the net present value (NPV) using the NPV formula in a Microsoft Corp. Excel spreadsheet.

“If the NPV of the stream of cash flows is greater than or equal to zero, then the investment in in-mold decorating will provide a return to the molder that meets or exceeds investment expectations,” he said. If it’s less, sticking with the traditional decorating method is the best way to go.


When it comes to in-mold labeling technology, high-speed, automated machines, integrated with injection molding machines are the new black.

The Hylectric 120 injection molding machine from Husky Injection Molding Systems Ltd., in Bolton, Ont., features automated mold and in-mold labeling automation from SysTec Komplettsysteme GmbH in Bad Urach, Germany.

Last fall, as part of a demonstration, Husky produced a 200 mL, square container with labels on all four sides and the bottom in 2.3 seconds using an in-molding labeling system at the Fakuma trade show in Germany. At the K Show in 2004, Husky demonstrated an in-mold labeling system with a 3.4-second cycle. The Hylectic 120 knocks that time down by 30 per cent, the company said.

Using mechanical SwingChutes — take-out arms that rotate into position — rather than a robot allows for a mold dwell time of 0.03 seconds or less. Unlike the SwingChutes, a side-entry robot would require the clamp to reach the open position before entering the molding area, increasing cycle time by at least 0.5 seconds.

These faster, integrated machines are enabling processors to increase productivity and floor space. However, as In-Mold Solutions’ Travis said, although in-mold decorating can appear cheaper, appearances can be deceiving. And before investing heavily in new machinery, make sure the move will result in saving or making money.


When Pad Print Machinery of Vermont unveiled its Lens Printing System, Montreal-based Nikon Optical Canada Inc. deployed the technology because it
produces fewer errors than traditional lens-printing processes.

Now, optometrists, opticians and opthamologists can more easily provide clients with the best vision possible because the Lens Printing System uses a different method of pinpointing the lens’ optical centre.

It involves two pad printing technologies. First, the machine operator can choose between 20 different styles of lenses and shapes with a simple keystroke. The second uses a video camera and monitor to make it easier to see the imperceptible lens markings and get them aligned perfectly in the crosshairs in the screen.

Credit: Pad Print Machinery of Vermont is headquartered in East Dorset, Vt.


Stories continue below

Print this page

Related Stories