17 Oct 2005
Marvellous Moulds(HKTDC Electronic Components & Parts, Vol 04,2005)
Vol 4, 2005
Inmold Technology Ltd
|In-mould decoration from Inmold Technology Ltd combines moulding and hot stamping in one cost-effective operation|
IMD, which combines moulding and hot stamping in one operation, is a versatile and cost-effective method of decorating and manufacturing durable plastic parts for a variety of applications and industries including electronics.
Carrier film with printed decorative layers is fed through a mould, where temperature and pressure combine the layers with the moulded plastic unit.
IMD provides numerous benefits including cost-effective integration of components such as lens, body and keypad into a single component, and savings on tooling costs for individual parts.
Add IMD's other advantages, such as the ability to mould products in complicated shapes, excellent hardness, abrasion and chemical resistance and potential to provide economical metallic decoration for short runs, and it's easy to see why Au founded Inmold as an IMD specialist in 2000.
"Back then, the company had only three employees and one injection moulding machine," he recalls. "We supplied product samples for one ODM manufacturer of electronic appliances."
Since then Inmold has grown to employ more than 400 workers whose services are utilised by global clients, who are applying IMD technology to a wide range of products such as mobile phones, MP3 players and electronic watches.
"Although our sales office is in Hong Kong and our production base is on the Chinese mainland, we have R&D teams in both places to service different markets," Au explains.
He believes that IMD is still "relatively new" and its potential is largely unexplored. "When clients first approach us, they usually have only very vague ideas of what they want, so our engineers work closely with their designers to see how our technology can enhance their products," Au explains.
However, he notes that demand for surface decoration has increased tremendously in recent years because it is functional as well as ornamental.
"We can develop components that are resistant to cold, heat or even scratching," Au claims, adding that Inmold's engineers often come up with extremely creative designs. "We also visit clients' factories from time to time to get to know their manufacturing processes better and that greatly helps our R&D."
Inmold produces millions of plastic components a month at its 3,000-square-metre, ISO 9001-certified mainland factory in Shenzhen, using cutting-edge machines imported from Japan and Europe and materials sourced in Europe, the US and Japan.
Au maintains that the company is “very flexible” in terms of minimum order requirements. “We also welcome small orders without imposing any handling charges,” he adds.
Inmold takes pride in its rapid turnaround times, which can be as short as 1-2 weeks because the factory is highly automated and IMD is technology-intensive rather than labour-intensive, and has rigorous quality control procedures.
"Our customers come from Europe, North America, Hong Kong, the mainland and Japan and we have no problem meeting their very different yet very high standards," Au says, adding that he is particularly optimistic about Inmold's prospects on the mainland, where there are both brand owners and ODM manufacturers.
His optimism is underscored by the fact that IMD is very environmentally friendly, producing minimal waste during the manufacturing process. "Inmold sponsored the souvenirs, which were IMD bookmarks moulded with 100% recycled materials, for the recent Green Plastics Industries Awareness Program co-organised by the Hong Kong Plastics Manufacturers Association, the Hong Kong Productivity Council and the Hong Kong Plastics Technology Centre," he adds.
Not surprisingly, given its competitive strengths, Inmold is looking for more opportunities to make the best use of innovative IMD technology. "Electronic products do not yet to make full use of IMD, which can go as far as the imagination allows and can be used in other industries as well," Au claims.
WRITTEN BY RACHEL LEUNG
Inmold Technology Ltd
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