If you have attempted to decorate polyolefin plastics for any durable goods like a trash can, kayak, waste bin, beverage cooler, storage or tote bin, plastic handles, reusable beverage containers, medical storage devices, automotive components under the hood or inside the vehicle or signage then read on.
It is highly likely that you or your company has chosen a method for decorating or labeling plastics that has long touted itself as being a viable method for permanently labeling a plastic product and reinforcing your brand image.
Scientifically speaking, that is not possible especially if you have previously experienced labeling with stickers, pad prints, heat transfers, hot stamp foils or in-mold labeling (IML’s). There are several reasons that is not possible and reading on you will discover some of those labeling pitfalls as the…
10 Things To Avoid When Decorating Plastics:
#1 Avoid Labels That Rely On “Adhesion”
Adhesion means all those stickers, heat transfers, in-mold labels and others that rely on some kind of glue to get your labeling to try and stick onto the surface of the plastic part for as long as they can. This will eventually result in a failed branding either in production or out in the field. Nothing wants to “stick” to plastics.
Historically and progressively looking forward at the most abundantly used plastic type worldwide for durable goods, we see polyolefin plastics. Polyolefins are inherently difficult to decorate and will reject adhesion or glue based materials, plus any non-compatible materials. So it is best to look for a label that relies on pure “cohesion”, which means a 100% melding of like materials together to become one.
#2 Avoid Labels That Use Non-Compatible Inks
Existing label technologies will give you the same pitch that their labels will provide the visibility you want. Be aware that all of those off-the-shelf non-compatible inks were originally made for the paper and textiles industry and not for the plastics industry. These regular inks cannot endure the flexing and temperature fluctuations along with a plastic part and over time you will end up with cracked, flaking and smudging brand imagery out in the field. Those inks cannot meld via pure cohesion into the polyolefin durable good.
#3 Avoid Labels That Rely On Base Layer Substrates
Stickers, in-mold labels, heat transfers and some others inherently print those non-compatible inks straight onto a base layer substrate of some kind, that is usually paper, and that becomes the foundation of your brand imagery that sits on the surface of the plastic part. Problem with this, even if the adhesive seems to be lasting a long time, the inks begin to fail and degrade first, leaving you with an unsightly white blank block on your part. No branding remains. Good luck explaining why your logo looks like a white square.
#4 Avoid Additional Cycles & Processing Time
Remember, if you’re trying to use a labeling method for plastics that is not a pure cohesion of materials, you are going to run into scrap issues. This means having to re-run that plastic part again and again before it enters the field. This will cost your company money and result in backlashing a possible buildup of negative customer reviews, affecting the brand name and image you are trying to preserve.
Another hidden process in cycle times is the added time and money when labels are forced to involve any surface pre-treatments. These processes attempt to change the surface of the part to readily receive a label with more “enhanced” adhesive properties, or lowered surface energy (LSE). The surface pre-treatments also change the rate at which the molecular structure of the plastic remains durable, actually speeding up any possible degrading process that the plastic undergoes.
So initially, a surface treatment will assist the non-compatible labeling material to be more readily embedded into the part for a permanent “look”. Then, once out in the field and exposed to the elements, the surface of the part is actually accelerated into being degraded more quickly. In simple terms, it’s like when someone drinks a highly caffeinated drink (surface pre-treatment) for being more alert and ready for an activity, but only to find that the crash afterwards can come quickly and leave the person feeling slow and sluggish (degrading more quickly).
#5 Avoid Labels That Claim UV / Clear Coat Permanence
There are many “adhesion” or heat transferring labeling methods that will claim to be permanent. Part of those claims will bolster their labels with an enhanced “feature”, and to fulfill that claim they will commonly use a layering material known as a UV or clear coat top layer. Basically this means they are adding a thin laminate type top that covers or shields the paper or non-compatible inks below them for a temporary amount of time. Your label may look great with this feature, nice and glossy, but once that top coating fails, your image below will be left to degrade quickly.
#6 Avoid Non-Green Labeling Whenever Possible
For any company, brand or individual, it is always a smart and thoughtful choice to be aware of “green” initiatives available and make use of them. Recyclable and reusable materials should be made ready for ease of processing and requiring less energy and time to be circulated back into a production ready product. Labeling methods like stickers, heat transfers, foils, in-mold labels and regular off the shelf inks have not seemed to answer this initiative as we hope. Extra time, energy and money will be spent to try and separate any scrapped part and non-compatible label material. They are not fully recyclable or reusable and not environmentally friendly. A “green” label initiative should be looked at, knowing that scrap is hard to avoid and it will eventually come up during your polyolefin part decoration process. Let’s do our part.
#7 Avoid Engravings You Can’t See
Another common approach for branding or decorating a polyolefin plastic part is to have your logo, text or message engraved into the actual mold design. Or sometimes a separate tooling mold block would have that engraving and it would be added in during the molding process. This approach has a few problems. Engravings can interrupt the flow of plastic materials when the part is being made and can cause imperfections like flow marks, streaks or small gapping of where the material should appear, leaving that logo or decorative area appearing imperfect.
Even if molded perfectly with the engraving, you probably will have a witness line that may show as a blocked area around your branded message. Or the visibility of your engraving is limited by the color of plastic and only being able to see the contrast of the engraved area at closer distances. Anything more than a few feet away in dim lighting and your message is lost.
Many times, a method of layering or stamping inks on the raised areas of the engraving is used to make it more visible. This is commonly called “tipping” as the inks are added just on the tips of the raised areas. The problem again with this is that those inks are regular off the shelf inks made for the paper and textile industry that will degrade quickly and fade away as soon as they are exposed to UV, chemicals, cleaners, oils, fuels, temperature fluctuations and general wear and tear out in the field. That will then leave you with a blank engraving that is hard to spot from any distance. Leaving your brand or message invisible to customers.
#8 Avoid Labeling That Can Cause Liability Issues
If you have relied on the previous labeling methods mentioned or engravings, you may be vulnerable to labels that degrade and fail for the various reasons already mentioned, which in turn cannot retain any kind of regulatory, legal, patent or warning message on your polyolefin products. If required by law to display something to a user on your product, and that message or image fails, that could open you up to a lawsuit, bringing you, your brand and company down.
The only way to overcome this is by looking for a true and pure cohesion labeling method that is reliable, is applied only once and is durable against UV, weathering, chemicals and testing against challenges that your polyolefin parts face out in the field. Pure cohesion based labels will pass these tests and last the life of the plastic product.
#9 Avoid Loss of Brand Recognition
Both start-up companies and large established businesses alike should nurture the importance and weight of their brand image and brand recognition. A large perception of value that occurs to buyers or customers is the consistency of brand messaging that occurs on their products. Weight is heavily placed on your immediate brand logo and company tagline. If your brand or messaging is fading, what does that tell your customers? Or how can your products be recognized amidst the competition if no logo is there any longer? A brands message and logo should be visible and prevalent for years to come on a durable good. By definition, a durable good is considered to last atleast 3 years or more out in the field and yields a utility value overtime. If you care about your brands growth, profit and customer review, you are going to want to maintain a durable labeling technology to uphold your brand.
#10 Avoid Lost Profits
As previously mentioned, there are several existing labeling methods that will sell you into a belief of permanence to your brand on your polyolefin products. But truthfully, those materials and processes, by their nature cannot purely meld and bond into the plastic to become one. They try and use glue to stick temporarily or add a shiny gloss topcoat. Unfortunately, even if they cost a fraction to get you started cheaply into a decoration cycle, they will fail to retain your brand image and message.
Other labeling method companies won’t tell you that polyolefin plastics are difficult to permanently decorate. By researching and understanding that polyolefins will repel almost anything, you will discover that only one labeling technology currently exists worldwide that can undergo pure cohesion into a polyolefin durable part. That same technology is made for polyolefins with automotive grade materials that pass stringent testing parameters to make sure your brand and message is achieved for durability out in the field for which it is intended.
Maintaining lower scrap rates, better ROI, and protection from any liabilities from loss of regulatory or warning messaging needed on a product is possible with this cohesion based label technology. No inks, no adhesive bonders, no paper substrates, no plasma or surface pre-treatments are used in this newer polyolefin labeling technology. Plus, it is made of the same materials that are of your plastic part, so when it comes time as needed, it is green and can be completely recycled and re-grinded with your part.
Warning messages on shopping cart seat flaps, storage tanks of varying size, automotive components under the hood or inside a vehicle, city and municipal messaging on waste bins, traffic signs, medical bins and more project types could all benefit from a pure cohesion based labeling technology for injection molding, rotomolding, thermoforming and more from the company called Mold In Graphic Systems. With over 35 years of experience of innovation and in creating the original labeling technologies that are permanent for polyolefin plastics, their labeling innovations have reported stellar results compared to all other labeling technologies available. Remember to avoid these ten things mentioned when decorating plastics and invest in a labeling technology that will increase your ROI.