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ADS Uses Film Insert Molding for Additional Decoration Options

Q: What happens when a company fuses high industry standards with an investment in research?

A: Leading Technology

In-mold decoration (IMD) may describe any of a number of processes in which plastic components are decorated during the injection molding cycle.

ADS often uses the IMD process as a starting point, and then employs distinct processes to create attractive final products. One such process ADS uses is Film Insert Molding (FIM). With FIM, ADS has developed a multi-step process by which a printed film is inserted into the cavity of the mold tool before the plastic resin is injected.

Here’s how it works:

  1. The decorative image is printed on the reverse surface of a clear layer of plastic film.
  2. The printed image is thermo-formed into a 3D shape to match the profile of the finished component.
  3. This film is three-dimensionally trimmed to the required profile using sophisticated 3D stamping dies.
  4. The trimmed part – often referred to as a ‘foil’ – is placed in the cavity half of a mold tool.
  5. The resin is injected to the mold to complete the process.

As a long established supplier of IMD products, the process of Painting and Laser Etching (PLE) plastic components was often considered as a rival technology to ADS’s traditional techniques. However, as our customers demand higher level assemblies, it is clear that PLE is a complimentary technique to IMD, and many of our products actually feature both techniques on the same component.

This innovative technique involves injection molding plastic parts and then painting them — often in multiple layers. The painted parts are then placed in a holding fixture, where a highly accurate and powerful laser etches through the outer layer of paint to reveal the painted colors below. In some cases, the laser will etch through all of the paint to reveal the color of the injected resin below.

Paint and laser etch is most often employed when the icons on a plastic component need to be placed with a very high degree of accuracy.