Decorating Options on Plastic Products

Decorating Options on Plastic Products

If you’ve ever stood in a drugstore or grocery store aisle considering which product to choose, chances are you didn’t give a second’s thought to whether the branding and messaging was hot stamped, pad printed, or labeled.

But when you’re responsible for working with a manufacturer to produce injection-molded packages, you have to determine the best decorating technique for the product. The most common types of decorating are Hot Stamping, Pad Printing, External/Sticky Labeling, and In-mold Labeling.

With Hot Stamping, a custom-made die gets mounted on a machine, heated, and it’s then stamped on a piece of transfer foil which adheres to the plastic product. This process creates a slight indent in the product – you can feel it with your finger. (See the photo of the applicator. The ink on the applicator indicating the dosing measurements was applied using Hot Stamping equipment.) Hot Stamping is designed for less complicated Hot stamping on a plastic injection molded partimprints and easier to print on plastic surfaces. Another plus with Hot Stamping is it’s environmentally friendly. It’s a dry process – no solvents or inks are involved so there aren’t any harmful vapors released.

Pad Printing is designed for more complex jobs when fine, legible print is required and/or multiple colors, often on a rounded surface. For example, we manufacture a product for a customer that is printed in three locations using two ink colors. Instructions for use are printed on the plastic medical device that must be legible. Due to the size of the device pad printing is ideal in this application.

External/Sticky Labels are applied after the product has been made. In-mold Labels are applied as the product is made – the label is placed in the mold, and the decorating takes place during the manufacturing process. This process results in a permanent, residue-free label. In-mold Labels are typically used for shorter production runs because the process is more expensive than other forms of decorating.

The choice of decorating method will depend upon the product and the look you wish to achieve. When you’re talking to manufacturers, ask for their decorating recommendation. Also be sure to have a discussion about whether they handle decorating in-house. The answer will impact cost and possibly product quality. For example, if the quality of the decorating doesn’t meet your specifications, is it due to the manufacturer or an outside decorator? There are many variables to consider when choosing your manufacturer and decorator. Ideally, they will be one and the same.

If you have questions about decorating injection molded products, please let us know.