by Dianna Brodine, newly appointed managing director, IMDA
In 2005, the In-Mold Decorating Association (IMDA) was incorporated in Arizona, where Ron and Myra Schultz were living at the time. Schultz is a chemist with a long history in the in-mold labeling industry and, as the decorating technology gained popularity among brand owners and converters, he answered a growing call for a formal organization.
Fifteen years later, Schultz has stepped down as the IMDA executive director. In a press release from the organization, Bob Travis, president of InkWorks Printing, LLC, and president of the IMDA Board of Directors, said, “Ron Schultz has been a vital part of the In-Mold Decorating Association since its inception. Together with his wife, Myra, Ron has established the association as a leading educational source for the molders, printers, material suppliers and equipment manufacturers that compose the in-mold decorating and labeling production chain. He will be greatly missed, but his retirement is well deserved.”
Plastics Decorating magazine – published by Peterson Publications, the group now tasked with management of the IMDA – spoke to Schultz about his history in in-mold decorating and labeling, as well as the formation of the association.
How did you get your start in IML?
I’m a chemist, and my specialty was adhesives and flexible packaging. In the mid- to late-1970s, I was working for in the laboratories of Morton Chemical, which, along with Morton Salt, was a part of Morton International. One of the areas I worked in was heat-sealable coatings. We had an inquiry from a converter, which ultimately became Multi-Color, looking for a heat-sealable coating that we could try on a newfangled technology called in-mold labeling. None of us had heard of it, so I grabbed some samples and got to work. The solution we created became the first in-mold label in the United States, first used on Downy® fabric softener bottles. It grew from there. In fact, Morton was supplying a huge tonnage of these heat-seal coatings – called gel lacquers – to Multi-Color. It is essentially a solvent solution of a hot melt, applied at elevated temperatures – 120 to 150°F – on a gravure press. That was the beginning of it.
What was the first step in the formation of the IMDA?
When I left Morton in 1989, I set up my own consulting company – RBS Technologies, Inc, – and the first thing we did was put together a seminar called “The ABC’s of IML®.” Then in 1991, RBS Technologies put together a conference called IMLCON, featuring invited papers and workshops. It quickly became an industry staple. We were doing that conference in Shanghai in 2002 when we were approached by Alexander Watson Associates (AWA) with interest in buying the conference. RBS Technologies sold AWA the IMLCON name, and they still are doing the conference to this day, with the addition of IMDCON and IMECON.
The ABC’s of IML kept rolling along, held once or twice a year in a hotel near our home in Chicago. A lot of industry leaders have gone through that one-day seminar, although it hasn’t been presented since 2019, given the COVID-19 pandemic.
How did that event transition into an association?
Several industry members who had been involved in the conference came to me with the idea of forming some sort of an organization because there was no one representing those companies doing in-mold labeling and decorating. We looked at aligning with SPE, but that would push us toward molded products; and we looked at aligning with TLMI, but that would only accommodate the printers. So, in 2005, we formed the In-Mold Decorating Association (IMDA), incorporated in Arizona.
What have been some of the biggest initiatives from IMDA?
One of our first steps was establishing an awards competition – the first year for that was 2007, and we were doing it in coordination with AWA and its IMLCON event, which lasted a couple of years until the board of directors decided to strike out on our own with the IMDA Symposium.
The first IMDA Symposium was held in 2013 in Lowell, Massachusetts, with the University of Massachusetts plastics group. It was a huge success and became an annual event, held in a variety of locations. One of the most successful symposiums was in San Diego with one of our members – Distinctive Plastics (DPI). Tim Curnutt, president of DPI, shut down production and opened his facility for two days while we held sessions and on-press demonstrations.
IMDA also adopted the already existing IML Industry Standards Committee. The IMDA website, at www.imdassociation.com, contains technical guidelines created by the committee – summaries of which are available to everyone with a more detailed set on the members-only side of the website. There’s a vast amount of knowledge within our association membership and having a set of industry standards allows us to consolidate and share that knowledge. Another thing we’ve done is create a “Meet the Experts” arrangement at the various tradeshows where we exhibit. We enlist IMDA members to share the booth with us so event attendees can come to us and get answers to their in-mold questions. In fact, the association tagline is “Real Experts, Real Answers, Real Value.”
What was Myra Schultz’s role in the IMDA?
My wife, Myra, is a registered nurse as well as a certified project manager. She spent 25 years in the operating room and, after she left the hospital environment, got involved with hospital software, managing multi-million-dollar projects. In that role, she was always traveling, but that got old after a while. In the meantime, as IMDA kept rolling along, I needed help. She jumped in.
Over the years, Myra designed and ran the website. She also helped set up, organize and manage the symposium. Her contribution to IMDA really has been invaluable. We used her expertise quite a bit.
What has been your biggest joy in working with the association?
The people. I will miss the people – the members of the board of directors, the association members I’ve worked with and the other industry people we have met throughout the years. We’ve been doing this now for 15 years – and if you begin with 1989 when we started with the ABC’s of IML, it’s been even longer.
I knew there would come a time when the board of directors would need to start thinking about how to ensure IMDA continues. It’s too important to let die. I’m glad to see that Bob Travis and the board of directors have come together with Peterson Publications. This is a good fit.