Article by Marty Mares, New Business Development Manager, iMIG Systems
Throughout the history of the plastics decorating industry there have only been a limited number of ways to decorate polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP) and other olefin based products. These methods include in mold labels (IML’s), foils, heat transfers, stickers, screen printing and pad printing. All of the previous decorating methods vary in one way or another but the one thing they each have in common is susceptibility to removal or wear and fading over time. It is a fact that all of the previous plastic decorating methods can be physically removed or will fail following prolonged exposure to the environment around them. Another challenge for manufacturers associated with traditional plastics decorating methods is scrap rate. In some cases scrap rate can be as high as 20%. Lack of color options for hot stamp foil and cost associated with robotics for IML’s are among further challenges which have plagued plastic decorating companies for many decades.
What makes Polyfuze Graphics so different than all other plastic decorating methods?
Secret #1: Molecular Structure
The most distinct difference lies at the heart of the technology. The Polyfuze graphic is polymer based instead of traditional ink like all other methods. This unique topology allows the Polyfuze graphic to do what other methods cannot do. Instead of attempting to “stick” to the surface of polyethylene or polypropylene, Polyfuze literally “fuses” into injection molded polyethylene and polypropylene. This new but proven process of Polyethylene Fuzed Graphics involves heating a PE or PP part and Polyfuze graphic simultaneously then pressing them together. The two pieces will then cool together to form a single permanent welded bond. The process of Polyethylene Fuzed Graphics works and is being used by many companies for a wide range of product applications including rollout carts in the waste management industry, warning labels for shopping carts and a variety of reusable packaging containers.
Secret #2: Heat, Time & Pressure
The Polyfuze graphic uses standard hot stamp machinery. However, the heat, time and pressure for application is very different from traditional methods. Polyethylene Fuzed Graphics (the Polyfuze graphic) requires 450F on the silicone die face. You will need to set your machine at 550F in order to accomplish this task (due to the nature of silicone). Although the heat required for the application process is dramatically higher, you will see similar dwell times of around .5 of a second depending on the material used for your part. Pressure requirements are significantly less for a Polyfuze graphic. Where hot stamp foil require 400 psi, the Polyfuze graphic requires just 75 psi. This fact provides the enormous benefit of being able to apply a much larger Polyfuze graphic with a smaller tonnage hot stamp machine.
Secret #3: Durability
Beyond having a unique composition and differences related to application, the most distinguishing characteristic of the Polyfuze graphic technology is its ability to withstand removal and typical degeneration from injection molded polyethylene and polypropylene. Here again it is important to recognize that Polyfuze does not stick to PE or PP. Rather, the Polyfuze graphic “fuses” with PE and PP to become one with the injection molded part. To claim the Polyfuze graphic application is 100% permanent IMIG Systems invested extensive time to compile data to support its claim.
Polyfuze Graphic Test Summary
- Tape Test D3359-09 Crosshatch: 100% Passed Tape Test
- QUV Accelerated Weatherometer Test: 2,000 hour cycle, 8 hour 70°C (158°F) with an Irradiance of 1.4 hours at 50°C (122°F) condensation: 100% Passed Tape Test
- Heat Test at 77°C (170°F) for 120 hours: 100% Passed Tape Test
- Low Temperature Impact Resistance Test: 10 lbs. at -40°C (-40°F): 100% Passed Tape Test
- Flex Test: 240 hours of continuous flexing at 21°C (70°F): 100% Passed Tape Test
- Heat Cycle Test: 2 hours at -40°C (-40°F), 2 hours at 77°C (170°F): 100% Passed Tape Test
- Pressure Wash Test: 3 minutes at 1,200 psi, 49°C (120°F) maximum temperature, 90 degree nozzle angle at six inch distance: 100% Passed Tape Test
- Chemical Test: 21 °C (70°F)
As companies seek methods of plastic decorating which will improve long-term performance and lower costs, it’s also important to understand that the application process associated with Polyfuze produces virtually no scrap. And in the event that a PE or PP part reaches the end of its life cycle, the Polyfuze graphic is able to be recycled along with the part because it is virtually all the same material.
Beyond the importance of having a permanent and affordable polyolefin decorating method to support a company’s brand identity, permanent labeling of polyethylene can also minimize liability exposure for products requiring noticeable warning label information. A permanent label on reusable polyolefin products can also be helpful when calling out property information to deter theft. One step further is the addition of barcoding, QR codes or Data Matrix codes on a product to help traceability and asset management. For some businesses failure of traditional style labeling on their polyolefin products accounts for a significant loss in profitability. In cases where warning information is required, loss of traditional style labeling can lead to litigation. The Polyfuze graphic technology addresses all of these issues while providing exponential performance benefits over all previous plastic decorating methods. The bottom line is Polyethylene Fuzed Graphics (Polyfuze graphic) is the only decorating method with the ability to remain intact for the life of any polyethylene, polypropylene or olefin based part it is fused with.
In summary, this article hopes to help the reader understand the Polyfuze graphic technology, but it also hopes to inspire people to look beyond traditional style methods for decorating polyolefin.
IMIG Systems is a division of Mold in Graphic Systems. Even after 30 years in the plastic decorating business as a leader for decorating rotationally molded polyethylene products, the company maintains a strong passion for development of new decorative technology along with a desire for all US manufacturers to drive our collective vertical innovation so we can maintain an edge in the global market place.
For more information, visit http://tattooyourplastic.com