British decorating specialist Comeleon plc has built a steady customer base for its imaging system. Now through E-Comeleon Ltd., it is looking to license its technology to injection molders, potentially giving custom molders a new sales niche.
E-Comeleon's decorating system transfers any digital image onto high-heat plastic components with minimal capital outlay, said sales director Kevin Murtagh at NPE 2003 in Chicago.
The system uses the photo software from any computer system and runs it through an ordinary inkjet printer capable of using sublimation inks. The image is captured on a proprietary foil sold by Comeleon and thermoformed onto the blank injection molded part on a Comeleon press.
E-Comeleon is selling a desk- top press for $3,000, including a five-year license fee, or a flat-bed machine capable of larger-scale production for $30,000.
``If I were to start from zero, it would take the graphic designer maybe an hour to create an image, and potentially 10 minutes from then I've got a finished product,'' he said.
Comeleon launched three years ago solely as a decorator, making a final printed product from parts supplied by the molders. It has produced specialized graphic cell phone covers, computer mouse units and electric shaver covers for a customer that wanted a more youthful look to reach new customers, Murtagh said.
But the logistics of shipping parts to northern England just for decorating do not make sense for every business plan, he said, prompting the business to open its process to more companies. Licensing should open new marketing opportunities for molders working in a languishing sales climate, he said.
``You can mold 100,000 blank parts and warehouse them and decorate them to match a new trend or fashion,'' he said. ``You can use regional tastes or ethnic tastes and you don't end up with a lot of obsolete, useless parts.''
Unlike traditional in-mold film decorating programs, the process also is highly flexible, he said. A molder can opt to make just 20 or 30 pieces of one pattern, and can run multiple designs on one press.
``You can cut and paste 40 of the same images to the printer or 40 individual images,'' he said. ``Rather than doing 10,000 or 20,000 of the same image, you can do 10 or 20.''
The photographic image also can include logos and text, cutting the need for additional printing.
Publicly traded Comeleon is working with technology licensing partner Toaz of Eagen, Minn., to market the system in North America.