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In-mold technology

My company is a member of IMDA because the market and IMD technology are constantly evolving, and the IMDA is always on the leading edge of it.
                                         — Erik Johnson, Churchill Container

Ready to learn more
about in-mold labeling, decorating and Electronics?

At the heart of the In-Mold Decorating Association is a desire to encourage industry growth through education and an interconnected network of professionals willing to work together to increase the use of in-mold technologies. IMDA members are all experts who work full-time at the advancement of in-mold processes and markets.

Throughout the year, the IMDA works to provide resources to those who are:

  • learning about the use of in-mold processes,
  • seeking to understand how in-mold processes contribute to sustainability and recyclability goals, and
  • looking for technical guidance to help them in their own operations.

The association also hosts the annual Plastic Product Decorating Summit to bring those experts together to share new advances through paper presentations and panel discussions. The 2024 event will be held September 18-20 in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, area.

In-mold labeling is a process for labeling or decorating a plastic object while the object is being formed in the mold. In the IML process, a label or appliqué is placed in the open mold and held in  position by vacuum ports, electrostatic attraction or other means.

The mold closes and molten plastic resin is extruded or injected into the mold where it conforms to the shape of the object. The hot plastic envelopes the label, making it an integral part of the molded object. The difference between glue-applied labels and in-mold labels is that a glue-applied label is stuck “on” the surface of the plastic object; the in-mold label is imbedded “in” the wall of the object.

Because an in-mold label or decoration is embedded in the wall of the product, it is very durable and nearly impossible to remove from the object. For injection molded tubs, all four sides and the bottom can be decorated with a single label during the molding process, something that pressure-sensitive cannot do.

All post-mold labeling operations, equipment and costs are eliminated – saving production time and costs – because the in-mold labeled product is ejected from the mold fully labeled.

IML usually refers to blow-molded, injection-molded or thermoformed packaging. The term IMD usually refers to decoration of higher-value durable plastic products such as children’s toys, sporting goods, automobile dashboard bezels, cell phone faceplates, etc. The list is almost endless.

In-mold decorated durable goods can be injection molded, blow-molded, rotationally molded, etc.

In-Mold Basics

Just getting started with in-mold labeling, decorating or electronics? This is the place to begin.

Sustainability and Recyclability

In-mold labeling and decorating processes are preferred by brand owners and plastics recyclers.

The Sustainable Choice

In-mold labeling (IML) is more sustainable than other pre-decorating labeling methods because of what it does not have, including:

  • Post-mold flame treaters
  • Post-mold labeling machines
  • Electricity to operate those machines
  • Additional wet or hot melt glue
  • Extra floor space for the labeling machines
  • Release liner to recycle, incinerate or trash

Preferred in the Recycling Stream

With IML, the label is made of the same material as the object it will label. The label is molded (fused) to the container, package or part using heat – no adhesives required. That means:

  • No paper label to separate from the part
  • No adhesives to gum up the screens


Technical Guidelines

The IMDA offers a condensed version of its technical guidelines. The full versions are available to IMDA members in the Members Only section of this website.

Industry Articles

Learn about the molders, label printers, brand owners and industry suppliers involved in in-mold processes. Read about the latest technology, and see what’s new in IML/IMD/IME.


Webinars are offered to IMDA members and to those interested in in-mold technologies. To host a webinar, contact Dianna Brodine, IMDA Managing Director.