AWA IMLCON 2018 – A strong focus on in-mould labelling and decoration

Europe on the forefront: the global in-mould label market by region in 2017 (Source: AWA)

THE NETHERLANDS • For two days this AWA event focussed on IML (in-mould labelling), IMD (in-mould decoration) and – for the first time – on IME (in-mould electronics). The discussion began by defining the terms. In-mould labelling and In-mould decoration. A review written by NarrowWebTech editor Rosina Obermayer – a picture gallery is included at the end of this article.

Corey Reardon stated that AWA Alexander Watson Associates uses the following definitions:


Definition of in-mould labelling*

  • commonly used for disposable consumer packaging that has a short life span. Applications include food containers, cosmetic and personal care product containers, petrochemical and paint containers, and household product containers
  • it is usually employed in high speed, thin walled, multi-cavity injection mould machines. The labels are usually printed on very thin polypropylene film. Life span of the product is measured in months and the cost of the labels are low
  • IML is better suited for high-run production

[*Editorial comment: NarrowWebTech uses the British spelling “in-mould (labelling)” instead of “in-mold (labelling)”, as used by AWA]

Europe on the forefront: the global in-mould label market by region in 2017 (Source: AWA)

Definition of in-mould decoration (in-mold decoration)

  • A process that decorates plastic components or parts during the plastic injection moulding cycle. The main applications using IMD include automotive, consumer electronics/durables, medical and industrial
  • IMD uses pre-printed or decorated films that are moulded to form 2D or 3D containers, shapes, parts, etc. to provide a durable and decorated surface of which the original film forms an integral part of the component
  • IMD is most often used for products requiring higher value that require durability and long-life spans

As IME is not very relevant for the label industry and also quite special in its requirements and properties, this article will focus on IML and, partly, on IMD.

The IML/IMD/IME markets

The global market for in-mould labelling (IML) in 2017 was 1.243 million sqm with a growth rate of 4.2%. Europe is the largest global market; food is the largest end-use. (Source: Corey Reardon, AWA)

In-mould decoration (IMD) had a global market of 14.7 million sqm in 2017, with a growth rate of 8.1%. Asia is the largest global market; automotive is the largest end-use segment. (Source: Corey Reardon, AWA)

In comparison, the in-mould electronics (IME): market in 2017 was 2.2 million sqm, with a growth rate of about 10% with a strong focus on automotive (= largest end-use segment).

Back to the market share of IML in the label market: IML covers 2% of the global label market, the largest shares use pressure-sensitive labels (40%) and glue-applied (34%), advised by Sarah Rigby from AWA Alexander Watson Associates.

Printer’s perspective

After the plenary session the audience separated into two sections: IML/IMD and IME. In the IML session the printer’s perspective of the market was given by Isidore Leiser from Stratus Packaging Europe, who stated that solutions in IML are more and more dependent on the needs of the customer and he came to the conclusion, that:

  • More solutions are possible today thanks to new printing techniques and combination of printing techniques
  • Big changes are occurring in the packaging sector and will have an impact of IML market such as:
  • Digitalization
  • Internet of things
  • Ban on plastic
  • Environment
  • Food safety issues
  • Reduction of print runs
    and so one…

Arthur Erdem from Brigl & Bergmeister covered the paper angle, since Brigl & Bergmeister has two paper mills in Austria and Slovenia. He identified the circular economy act, the waste management act and the shortage of resources as common problems for the paper and plastic segments. Following this, he presented two recycling solutions characterized– according to Erdem – by the fact that the recovered recyclate can be reused in its original application.

Anyway, the new European packaging directive is a huge topic of discussion, whether talking about recycling methods or the definition of upcycling and downcycling. As long as the directive is not final it is difficult to come to a satisfying conclusion.

As he states the European label market is quite a differentiated one (Source: Rosina Obermayer)

More aspects

For sure, there were further interesting presentations covering important issues, like Stefan Vyge from Yupo mentioning Augmented Reality IML labels and the future opportunities of IML.

A whole different point of view came from Emanuela Bardi from Taghleef Industries, addressing the generation question. Future packaging, so she states, has to meet the demands not only of Generation Y (age 22 to 36), Generation Z (age 7 to 21) but the demands of the very young generation (aged under 7) which have not as yet a name. Bardi suggests the name “alpha generation”, as Z is the last alphabetic character. She was not yet able to say what future packaging will look like and how the POS will be in the future.

But, “IML goes digital”, as Francisco Eichhorn from HP Indigo commented. In his opinion, even the basic needs in today’s digital world have changed to include batteries and Wifi. “The label market as we know it today will continually change” Eichhorn states.


Corey Reardon from AWA, summed up at the end of the two-day-event by stating: “The only constant is change!”

However, it was very interesting to be at the AWA IMLCON / IMDCON / IMECON in September 2018 in Amsterdam as it gave an insight as to what the industry currently looks like. A “real innovation” was not discussed, but it was encouraging to see how the industry works together, how they discuss topics like environmental impact, possibilities to optimize the POS or even the definition of IML and IMD.

The next edition of the event will be in Chicago, IL, USA in 2019.

Source of all pictures: Rosina Obermayer

A warm welcome to the AWA IMLCON / IMDCOM / IMECON not only from the welcome desk…
… but also from Corey Reardon from AWA Alexander Watson Associates. (Source: Rosina Obermayer)
As he states the European label market is quite a differentiated one (Source: Rosina Obermayer)
What keeps you up at night regarding your industry?” asked Corey the panel discussion (Source: Rosina Obermayer)
The answers from Arthur Erdem from Brigl & Bergmeister, Isidore Leiser from Stratus Packaging Europe, Dr Margreet de Kok from Holst Center and Mashall Paterson from Advanced Decorative Systems (f.l.t.r.) were broad: From the panellists asking questions (back) like “what will the industry be like in 15 or 20 years?”, “what value do we bring?” or “how do we create value for which the consumer will pay?”
A few market data by AWA: Europe on the forefront: this is how the global in-mould label market by region looked like in 2017 (Source: AWA)
Global label market by technology 2017: IML shares 2% of the market, the greatest shares have self-adhesive labels (40%) and glue-applied labels (35%) (Source: AWA)
A closer look to the global in-mould label market by end use in 2017: food covers more than two third (67%) in this regard (Source: AWA)
Back to conference: Another point being discussed by the whole industry is waste. As Arthur Erdem from Brigl & Bergmeister points out, annual waste in 2020 is forecast to be about 10 million, in comparison to today’s 3.5 million (Source: Rosina Obermayer)
But also the fact, that “IML goes digital”, as Eichhorn from HP Indigo presented (Source: Rosina Obermayer)
The AWA IMLCON / IMDCON / IMECON 2018 in Amsterdam was accompanied by a table-top exhibition with a range of companies (Source: Rosina Obermayer)
Corey Reardon from AWA closes the event. The 2019’ edition of the event will be in Chicago in the USA (Source: Rosina Obermayer)

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