By Olivia Cahoon
Part 1 of 2
Despite ink durability advancements, certain digitally printed products still benefit and even require coatings for added durability or a specialty finish. Applying a liquid coating with a liquid laminator creates a more efficient laminating process while also improving turnaround time and granting the ability to adjust the thickness of the lamination layer.
Liquid coating are commonly either water-, solvent-, or UV-based formulations. A variety of finishes are available such as anti-graffiti, dry erase, flexible gloss, flexible matte, gloss, matte, satin, semi gloss, and soft touch.
Liquid Coatings & Laminators
Rather than using a roller or brush, some print service providers (PSPs) opt for using a liquid laminator with a liquid coating. Doing so presents several benefits including an expedited and efficient laminating process, ease of use, and minimal waste.
“Liquid coatings, when applied with a liquid laminator, provide a fast, cost-effective option for enhancing and improving durability to printed products,” shares Bob Leidlein, VP, sales and marketing, Alliance Technology Corporation.
Compared to applying a liquid coating with a roller or brush, the benefits of using a liquid laminator include speed of application, the ability to adjust lamination layer thickness, and an even laydown, reveals Liz Gould, president, IJ Technologies, Inc.
Liquid laminators also present benefits to PSPs. Select machines are single operator use with intermittent attention. Sarah Stafford, sales and marketing, Marabu North America, says this means PSPs only need one operator to coat a 50-meter roll in less than one hour. “The operator can perform other tasks while monitoring the liquid laminator.”
Additionally, liquid laminators typically offer minimal waste. For example, systems like the Marabu StarLam 1600R have a teflon trough to catch the overflow of liquid laminate over the side of the substrate—ensuring the entire substrate is covered. It also has a double filtration system that allows liquid to continue to run through the machine—ensuring minimal waste.
Applying liquid coatings with the use of a liquid laminator is beneficial to a variety of PSPs, most notably those that offer canvas, vehicle wraps, vinyl, and wallcoverings or wallpaper.
Anything printed that will be subjected to the elements can be protected with liquid coatings. “These coatings help protect against UV light, abrasion, weathering, and even graffiti,” shares Angela Argit, marketing manager, Polymeric Group. Additional applications that benefit include vinyl banners, signs, floor graphics, and static clings.
Liquid coatings are also designed for printing onto canvas. Lester Mallet, president, Gluefast, says select coatings enhance and protect the image while shielding the ink from cracking when stretched around a wooden frame.
“A liquid laminate is ideal for canvas gallery wraps because it is more flexible than a film laminate,” agrees Gould. Additionally, liquid coatings provide better adhesion to fabrics and textiles with an uneven surface. A liquid laminate generally provides higher UV protection than a film lamination. “Liquid laminates can also provide a change in the look of the print, for instance transforming a print from matte to gloss or satin.”
In recent years, UV coatings in particular have changed the landscape of printing. Coatings are advantageous compared to film laminates because they not only protect the product, but add desirable properties—both functional and decorative. Argit says these may include mold resistance, flame resistance, flexibility, or enhanced color vibrancy and texture. UV coatings can be applied to cut sheets—eliminating the need for trimming excess materials from the substrate, creating less waste, and saving on labor costs. Coatings also cure instantaneously, which allows for improved turnaround time.
UV-curable liquid coatings are used with a range of applications including business cards, direct mail pieces, wallcoverings, fleet graphics, and point of purchase (POP) signage. “UV liquid coatings work well on styrene, coroplast, di-bond, and adhesive back vinyl for fleet graphics, to name a few options,” offers Leidlein.
Liquid coatings need several features including appropriate viscosity levels and formulation to the designated coating equipment.
To make liquid coatings compatible with laminators for coating canvas, fabric, and vinyl, Gould says the viscosity of the liquid laminate can be adjusted to work with an end user’s laminating machine.
Liquid coatings should also be formulated to match the coating equipment. Typically, most coatings will work in the majority of available coating equipment. “The viscosity and cure parameters might need to be tweaked slightly dependent upon the equipment,” adds Terry Amerine, VP, marketing and sales, Polymeric.
PSPs considering using a liquid coating with a liquid laminator should be knowledgable about the coating’s specifications; the compatibility between the coating, ink, and materials; and any initial costs.
Coatings are usually applied over the entire surface area of the graphic, so they should be compatible with the ink being printed as well as the base substrate. “It is important to understand the specific requirements of end application to ensure the coating will meet them,” offers Amerine.
The materials used should also accept the liquid laminate and laminator. “The laminator should have an adjustable speed setting to avoid bubbles that can occur when a coating is applied too rapidly,” adds Gould.
To ensure the coating is compatible with all the necessary devices and consumables, Leidlein suggests PSPs and shop employees read and review the technical and safety data sheet provided by the liquid coating manufacturers for each liquid coating.
Protect Your Print
Applying a liquid coating with a liquid laminator offers several advantages to PSPs including a more even coating laydown, adjustable thickness layers, and minimal waste. Coatings can be used with a variety of digitally printed applications, including fleet graphics, POP signage, and wallcoverings. Before opting for a liquid coating and laminator, PSPs should check the compatibility between the intended laminator, coating, ink, and media.
Part two of this series shares available liquid coatings compatible with liquid laminators.
May2020, Digital Output