This article is written by Marty Mares, General Manager of Mold in Graphic Systems® / Polyfuze Graphics™ Corporation
The goal of every business is to be profitable. So for anyone in the business of decorating injection molded polyolefin, you will find the goal of this article is to educate readers on a new decorating method known as Polyethylene Fuzed Graphics, developed by Polyfuze Graphics ™ Corporation. This article will explain exactly how this state of the art decorating method can increase your profitability.
Durability by Fusion
To begin, you’ll need to forget just about everything you know about traditional decorating methods for injection molded polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP). This includes heat transfers, hot stamp foil, decals, in mold labels (IML), etc. All of these (ink based) decorating methods do their best to “stick” to the surface of the polyolefin based plastic. The technology of Polyethylene Fuzed Graphics however, uses pigmented plastic instead of ink. So instead of trying to “stick” to the surface of PE and PP, Polyethylene Fuzed Graphic applications use heat to literally “fuse” the graphic into the surface of the injection molded polyolefin product being decorated. When this fusion process occurs, the polyolefin product and graphic become one. For injection molded polyolefin products used in outdoor environments or products subject to extreme environmental changes, Polyethylene Fuzed Graphics offer injection molders unbeatable graphic durability. However, upon viewing this technology in person for the first time, even industry veterans often mistake it for heat transfer technology because have never seen pigmented polymer used in place of ink.
Lower Capital Expense
Beyond the ability of this new technology to fuse a graphic and product into one, Polyethylene Fuzed Graphics offer some distinct financial advantages to plastics decorators. For example, unlike an IML, you do not need to have any costly robotics. Polyethylene Fuzed Graphics utilize standard hot stamp/heat transfer equipment to accomplish the application process. When comparing Polyethylene Fuzed Graphics to hot stamp foil and heat transfers it is important to note that the tonnage required is significantly less. Polyethylene Fuzed Graphics only require 75psi vs 400-500psi for hot stamp foil and heat transfers. Simply stated, lower tonnage equals lower equipment cost.
Less Pressure / More Heat
In the world of plastics you have three variables: Time, Heat and Pressure. Polyethylene Fuzed Graphic technology has similar dwell times to foil and heat transfers. However heat and pressure requirements are radically different from traditional methods. The temperature requirement at the silicone die face needs to be 450F. To accomplish this, technicians need machine temperature settings to be at 550F (due to the nature of heat loss through silicone). Although the heat required for the application process is dramatically higher, plastic decorating technicians will experience dwell times around .5 – 1.5 seconds depending on the polyolefin material being decorated.
Most heat transfers larger than about 20 square inches will require the use of a roll on machine, further driving up the capital expense. By comparison, decorators using Polyethylene Fuzed Graphics have successfully decorated areas up to 200 square inches with a vertically driven machine. For many folks in the plastic industry this concept will require a paradigm shift if they have years of experience with hot stamp foil or heat transfers. To help, the illustration below is provided to explain the fundamental machine requirement differences between Polyethylene Fuzed Graphic applications and heat transfer applications.
Formula used for calculating tonnage requirement of vertical press hot stamp machines.
How the formula applies to a 4X5 Heat Transfer and a 4X5 Polyfuze graphic.
The above (vertical press) formula will continue to work for larger size Polyfuze graphics. However, since vertical press machines cannot accommodate most Heat Transfer graphics larger than 20 square inches, investment in a more expensive roll on machine is required.
Overview showing machine cost increase as graphic square inches increase.
In addition to unsurpassed durability performance and lower equipment costs, users of Polyethylene Fuzed Graphics could experience reductions in scrap. Not only are Polyethylene Fuzed Graphics exceptionally forgiving to uneven wall thicknesses, they solve multi-color restriction problems, as they can be manufactured in single-color or multi-color. In other words, the single stamp application of Polyethylene Fuzed Graphics eliminates the need to try to register various colors with hot stamp foil or screen printing. Also noteworthy is the fact that Polyethylene Fuzed Graphics are 100% recyclable. When a polyolefin product decorated by Polyethylene Fuzed Graphics reaches the end of its life cycle, the entire part can be recycled because the graphics are comprised with the same plastic pigments as the part.
Rather than reformulating existing technology, Polyethylene Fuzed Graphics has introduced the plastics industry to a totally unique fusion process, which is more closely related to plastic welding than any existing plastic decorating method. For years, many have attempted to focus on expensive in mold label technology, re-invent hot stamping foil, use stronger adhesive on ink based technology, apply clear coating over inks, etc. The R&D team at Polyfuze Graphics™ Corporation elected to take a completely different track to develop an innovative and permanent solution for decorating olefin products.
This new technology addresses many issues while providing exponential performance benefits because Polyethylene Fuzed Graphics are the only decorating method on the market with the ability to fuse together polyolefin on a sub-surface level.
Polyfuze Graphics™ Corporation, for the injection mold industry, is the sister company of Mold in Graphic Systems® which has 30+ years in the plastics decorating business as a leader for decorating rotationally molded polyolefin products.