dcsimg Covestro – Films – Film Insert Molding (FIM)

Makrofol® and Bayfol®

Film Insert Molding (FIM)

Film insert molding (FIM) makes it possible to fabricate complexly shaped plastic components with a decorated or functional surface in just a single processing step.


In this process, a plastic film, usually decorated by printing on the back, is shaped, trimmed and the resultant preform placed in an injection mold, where it is back-injected with a thermoplastic. A type of in-mold decoration, this process eliminates separate steps, such as coating or painting, that otherwise are required to subsequently decorate or functionalize components. This results in considerable savings in terms of manufacturing costs, time and machine investments, but also in extensive flexibility.
The decorated film is what gives a component its appearance. Its decorative appearance (monochrome, multicolored, metallic effects, integrated symbols, transmitted light design), surface impression (glossy, textured, matte) and high gloss can be set selectively. There is hardly any other method with which the decoration of parts can be changed so quickly without interrupting production, i.e. simply by inserting films with different printed decorations from shot to shot. Additional properties, such as media and UV resistance, scratch and abrasion resistance, electrical conductivity or a soft-touch finish, can be achieved through the use of special composite or coated films.

Printing

The established printing technique for the FIM method is screen printing. Because of the necessary forming, the printing inks must be highly flexible and adhere well to the film. Furthermore, they must be able to withstand the thermal load and shear forces of the injection molding melt. These requirements are met by Noriphan® HTR N screen printing ink from Pröll KG, which was specially developed for Makrofol® and Bayfol®. Apart from screen printing, the films can also be decorated by means of digital and offset printing.

Forming

Cold or hot forming processes can be applied to shape the films. One important milestone was the development of the high pressure forming (HPF) process, with which a printed film can be shaped in the region of its softening temperature using compressed air. Printed symbols remain in position with pinpoint accuracy. Even large components, such as center consoles for passenger cars, can now be fabricated as a single piece from our films using HPF (Niebling GmbH). Another shaping technique is thermoforming. In this process, the film is heated to significantly above its softening temperature and then formed. This method is used, for example, when decorative features do not need to be positioned with pinpoint accuracy

Trimming

Punching and steel-rule die-cutting are the established methods in volume production for trimming formed films along edges and recesses. Milling cutters or blasting (laser, water) are used for small batch production or preliminary trials.

Back-injection

Prior to back-injection, all dust and other contaminants must be removed from the film surface. Automated handling machines place the film in the mold to ensure reproducible and efficient production results. Depending on the geometry of the film, it may be necessary to improve its hold in the injection mold, for example by mechanical or electrostatic means. In the case of long flow paths, the use of needle valve nozzles in the cascade control unit has proven effective in avoiding creases. Important for sustainable, efficient manufacturing: Recycled material also is suitable for back-injection, because it is the decorated film surface that determines the appearance of the component. Back-injection can be a one-component (1K) or two-component (2K) process. Injection-compression molding is very effective in the FIM process.


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