Plastic decorating options at GMN

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By Kenny Pravitz | Jun 12, 2018
Plastic decorating options at GMN Plastics

What makes plastic decoration at GMN Plastics unique? Along with dedicated engineers to support your projects from concept to creation, state-of-the-art equipment, a robust quality system, and complementary capabilities to plastic injection molding like value-added assembly, GMN Plastics provides all the decorating options for plastics under a single roof. In this blog, we will be skimming over all the plastic decorating options available at GMN Plastics to understand their core advantages and pitfalls.

1) Pad printing

In the pad printing process, the image is engraved on a plate which is then coated with ink and transferred to the desired surface via a silicone pad.

Advantages of pad printing:

  • Same set-up for multi-color
  • Can accommodate fine artwork and detailed graphics

Limitations of pad printing:

  • Difficult to print on heavy textures or surface finishes
  • Cannot pad print on swooping or curved surfaces
  • Cannot use metallic inks
  • Size restrictions


2) Screen printing

In this method, the artwork is transferred on to the plastic surface using a mesh screen and a squeegee.   

Advantages of screen printing:

  • Quick set-up time
  • Can accommodate larger artwork
  • Ideal for high-volume production

Limitations of screen printing:

  • Can only be performed on flat surfaces
  • Needs different screens for different colors
  • Longer curing times
  • Challenging to achieve finely detailed graphics


3) Hot stamping

This dry printing technique utilizes heat and pressure to transfer colored foil onto the plastic surface.     

Advantages of hot stamping:

  • No ink-mixing or curing of part required
  • Can accommodate metallic colors

Limitations with hot stamping:

  • Ribbon can be expensive due to the minimum order of quantity (MOQ)
  • Raised surfaces only
  • Size restrictions


4) Laser etching

As the name indicates, this technique employs a laser beam to etch a design on the plastic surface which would have otherwise been difficult to mark mechanically.

Advantages of laser etching:

  • Details are permanently etched into the surface of the part
  • Ideal for products with barcodes, lot numbers, backlighting, or intricate artwork

Disadvantages of laser etching:

  • Longer cycle times depending on size and detail of the image
  • Size restrictions


5) Spray painting

Often used in conjunction with laser etching, spray painting utilizes either an automated robotic spray or manual hand-spray method to apply the ink on the desired parts. 

Advantages of spray painting:

  • Can hide flaws on the plastic surface
  • Can utilize the manual method for low-volume to mid-volume production and utilize the automated method for high-volume production
  • Can accommodate multiple colors and materials

Disadvantages of spray painting:

  • Detailed masking may be required, making the process labor-intensive
  • Requires a clean environment
  • Requires longer lead time


6) In-mold decoration (IMD)

The advanced in-mold decoration technique allows for the printing of highly durable and complex three-dimensional shapes.  

Advantages of in-mold decoration:

  • Can achieve compound curves and complex 3D forms
  • Well suited for designs incorporating small windows or backlighting  
  • Offers versatile decoration options
  • Ideal for high-wear applications

Disadvantages of in-mold decoration:

  • Development phase can be long depending on the design
  • Automation can be expensive


To determine the most appropriate plastic decoration technique for any application, there are multiple factors that go into consideration, including the plastic type, environmental requirements (exposure to fluctuating temperatures, humidity, and moisture), component dimensions, cosmetic requirements, regulatory requirements, and production volume. To discuss your unique requirements, request a free design consultation with our experts today.