by Nicole Mitchell, editor, Plastics Decorating
The drinkware market is filled with branded, reusable cups, many of which are made with similar materials and processes. Originally created to add to Sussex IM’s custom brands portfolio, ONETUMBLER has allowed the company to enter into the drinkware business while standing out in the crowd.
At its start, ONETUMBLER was an acrylic-based product with a paper insert. To turn the drinkware into something truly unique, those at Sussex IM, Sussex, Wisconsin, decided to switch up the manufacturing process to include in-mold labeling (IML) instead. Doing so meant utilizing a process that its team already was familiar with and, in turn, offering Sussex IM the advantage of the benefits provided by digital printing and IML.
Digital graphics, endless variety
“We specifically chose digitally produced in-mold label graphics based on technology we had used with other similar products and constructions,” Jeff Slusarski, sales and business development, said.
In a saturated market, digital artwork production allowed quick graphic changes to respond to sales volume and design trends, and ONETUMBLER promotes the ability for its customers to create “customized designs tailored to regional, seasonal and even local interests,” according to the product website. With tumbler sizes ranging from 12 to 20 ounces, the artwork also needed to adjust to the height and capacity of the drinkware chosen.
“By choosing digital over standard offset or other large-volume processes, we were able to approach the market from a different perspective to maximize design SKU quantities,” Slusarski added.
The tooling used to produce ONETUMBLER drinkware was acquired at the start of the project, but “there were some tooling modifications we needed to make for it to be receptive to in-mold label graphics,” Slusarski said. “Then, when we chose the label construction – and that was in partnership with our digital print supplier, InkWorks Printing, LLC – we needed to understand what type of features we wanted, not only from a graphics perspective, but also from a quality one.”
These features included the feel and functional use of the product. The company engineered a variety of labels that now are available to the customer, including textured, soft touch, gloss, metallic, antimicrobial and holographic. The different substrates and adhesives that are used must withstand both the injection molding process and the rigors of ONETUMBLER’s intended end use, which would include dishwashing and day-to-day bumps and drops.
“Without the IML, you can’t have those different finishes without very expensive tooling modifications,” Jim Naatz, business development, said. “We’re able to accomplish that with the IML at a very low cost.”
Automated production and quality
Sussex IM used innovative technology and processes to create its ONETUMBLER product line. As previously mentioned, IML processes needed to be modified by the Sussex IM team to create its unique tumblers.
“The labels are created and applied using a laminated IML process, with adhesives and substrates that are proprietary to our digital print partner,” Slusarski said. “Then, from a technology perspective, to be able to manage that many label types, we developed a system that helps with mass customization.”
The next step in the process involves automation. “We have our own automation team,” Slusarski said. “So, with coordination, our internal engineers developed the automation equipment. The automation then takes those labels, puts them in the mold cavities and fuses them together with the product.”
Due to the variety of labels that ONETUMBLER offers, this takes extra time, as each label needs to be handled and managed differently. After injection molding, the drinkware is checked for picture-perfect graphics and good label placement as the team preps the product for the final packaging for the customer.
Customized in the USA
The drinkware marketplace is flooded with competitors, so how does ONETUMBLER stand apart from the others? Sussex IM is proud that its ONETUMBLER is 100% made in the USA, which Slusarski believes to be a good selling point for the company. Not only that, but with each design, feel or size change, the tumbler can look completely different.
“With the features and benefits offered through the IML process, the product never gets old or stale with those designs and lamination changes,” Slusarski said. “And the price stays reasonable, too.”