Rotomolding Plastics Spell Problems For Decorators
Ag Companies Find New Workaround For Branding
Very large water tanks are molded inside huge ovens, with the PE powder tumbling inside enclosed molds at elevated oven temperatures, conforming the plastic into the desired shape. Molds are precisely fabricated, with a wide choice of shot peened textures and custom recesses available. A huge rotating arm fixture exits the oven with the water tank mold still attached. After a thorough cooling process, an impressively finished, durable water tank is complete and pretty much ready for actual field use. A significant investment in time, energy and materials has been made, and manufacturers should seek to differentiate their products from their competitors. The missing ingredient now circles back to rotomolders to permanently label that product with their brand name.
When decorating plastic parts, many seek simplicity. For some, this could mean grabbing a stencil that represents their brand, along with some paint to spray imagery onto the plastic. Another approach might be to use stickers, decals and other labeling technologies that are considered easy-to-use and an appropriate choice for decorating plastics. Simplicity is convenient, but as money is saved upfront, will there be a price to pay later on? Is the easy option necessarily the best choice to make for decorating plastic parts? When it comes to permanently labeling PE, the science behind everything related to decorating polyolefin plastic parts almost always says the opposite.
Rotomolded PE will always present a challenge for molders wanting to decorate with true permanence. Poor adhesion characteristics, a feature of every PE product, point in a direction away from labeling with materials that do not bond to the plastic. Even with many types of plastic surface treatments, just like the concept of “oil and water not mixing”, sub-standard decorating efforts with stenciled paint, stickers, decals and other labeling methods have left companies with degraded product branding that separates from the plastic surface over time.
As plastic products move off the shelf and out into the field, fading of stickers, decals and other labeling types results in lost value because the product can no longer tell a story of functionality and brand precedence. To address this problem, a revolutionary standard in labeling and decoration for rotomolded plastics called “Mold in Graphics®” was developed and has been in place for over 35 years. Mold in Graphics have become an internationally recognized solution for the growing rotomolding industry, but there is still some confusion regarding when a rotomolder should choose this unique labeling technology over other methods for labeling plastics parts.
A Mold In Graphic® is a legitimate raw material, not some sort of slap-on in-mold or post-mold sticker, and the pay-off is a solution for long-term brand upkeep which ensures product value over time. This original solution has become the decorating technology of choice for a number of Australian and New Zealand tank suppliers.
Trans Tank International, a company based in Northern Victoria, Australia, has recently experienced an upgrade in its branding by utilizing the 5th generation of Mold In Graphics® from United States Company Mold In Graphic Systems®. Fitting the bill for their branding needs and performance reliability in the field, Trans Tank International found the MIG® 5 graphics, by discovering how the Mold In Graphic technology was the only genuinely permanent labeling tech for rotomolders.
The 5th generation Mold In Graphics, also known as the MIG® 5 graphic, is a new formulation tailored to address the many in-mold challenges associated with decorating PE products during the molding process. Heavy shot peens, textured mold surfaces, adhesive overuse, awkward angles for label positioning and tumbling powder inside large agriculture and chemical tank molds all presented a challenge for earlier generation Mold In Graphics. Like all graphic products from Mold in Graphic Systems, the MIG 5 Graphic is a polymer-based technology, using pigmented polymer for graphic printing instead of traditional inks. Since the pigmented polymers used are the same material as the plastic product being decorated, they are able to literally mold in to the part on a subsurface level. Other decorating methods are not able to achieve lasting subsurface part decoration, because they use inks and incompatible substrates, materials that are totally foreign to PE plastic.
With the MIG 5, rotomolders can quickly and efficiently apply permanent branding to hot or cool mold surfaces, between cook cycles. Heavy shot weights or textures won’t break down the MIG 5’s artwork during the early stages of the heating cycle. The MIG 5 Graphic features a built in adhesive so there is no mess associated with adhesive overspray. Furthermore, the pressure-activated adhesive is not sticky to the touch, meaning the graphic transfers can be easily slid into position on the mold, which is particularly useful if the mold access is awkward.
The MIG 5 Graphics technology helped Trans Tank International overcome the science behind why rotomolded plastics were so problematic to permanently decorate and why regular paints, decals, stickers or other methods could not last on the surface of their plastic parts in the field. In the past, UV, weathering and chemical exposure had always broken down and degraded other labeling methods that were attached to the face of their plastics products in one form or another.
Andre Buchner, owner and director of TTI, has been directly involved with the implementation of the MIG 5 at Trans Tank International and states, “As a company there are two things which are very important to us: One is safety – the safety of our staff, customers and products and the second is branding. That is why our partnership with Mold In Graphic Systems (MIGS) is so significant to us. When we make a rotationally molded product, we want that product to permanently bear any warnings or instructions, along with our brand. Having tried a number of graphic options over the years, with varying degrees of success, we can say that we have found the MIG 5 to be the perfect answer to our needs. MIGS are very easy to deal with. Their service is excellent and the products are delivered timeously. More importantly, our molding staff find the graphics easy to apply and the results are consistent, predictable and satisfying. We know with confidence that a MIG 5 graphic, correctly applied, will bake itself into the wall of the product and will be there for years to come, providing the safety instructions and the branding that our customers expect of our products”.
Many other agricultural companies in Australia and around the world are now embracing this new strategic branding approach and have chosen the MIG 5 graphics. Overcoming the pitfalls of non-permanent labeling methods for plastics, and discovering a new branding approach for durable goods, is a choice that infuses new life into a brand. Paying a premium for the branding of durable plastic goods is more than outweighed by the fact that polymer-based labeling technology is the only method that relies on the pure cohesion of compatible plastic materials, which become one and the same as the surface of the plastic part being decorated. Other technologies rely on the adhesion of temporary glues or use materials that do not hold up to the extreme temperatures or long cycle times associated with rotomolding large, heavy tanks, let alone stand up to long term UV, weathering and chemical exposure.
Rotomolders and decorators of plastics, with long-term branding in mind, are encouraged to consider their bottom line, when evaluating a branding effort that relies on a truly permanent technology like the MIG® 5 Mold In Graphics® from Mold In Graphic Systems®.