By Lindsey Roman
Part 1 of 2
In this day of rapid technological advancement, the laminator is one machine that stands the test of time. Lamination still holds value despite of ink advancements that result in a more durable and longer lasting finish.
In terms of functionality, lamination protects a graphic from human touch in addition to weather-related issues like UV rays and precipitation. There is also value in laminating in regards to appearance, specific substrates and methods can provide textural and visual qualities not achievable with an unlaminated graphic. Both hot and cold laminators provide these benefits.
Functionality of Lamination
Lamination can make jobs like vehicle wraps much easier by adding weight and sturdiness for a cleaner installation process or it can be used as a protective, keeping a graphic safe from graffiti. Lamination acts as insurance on a graphic. “It protects against scratches or environmental effects,” states Bernd Rüter, sales and marketing, Dataplot GmbH.
This proves useful for a variety of applications. According to Michael Pender, president, Supply55, Inc., “we see users laminating printed pressure-sensitive output including vehicle wraps, stickers, decals, and control labels.” He also lists point of purchase (POP) signs, trade show displays, floor graphics, dry erase boards, anti-graffiti signs, perforated window film, and photo mounting as just a few of the products laminating benefits.
In fact, lamination can be a mandatory part of certain print processes. “Vehicle and fleet graphics as well as graffiti-prone applications are two areas where overlaminating film protection are still a requirement,” says Dan Haan, GM, Advanced Greig Laminators, Inc.
Another use for a laminator is mounting prints. As Jeff Stover, owner, Artgrafix, details laminators can mount prints wider than 20 inches. “While there are more expensive printers which print directly onto board, the bulk of the printers in place are not capable of this,” he says.
Donald Olson, product manager, GBC/ACCO Brands, notes, “many applications require laminating and/or mounting to complete. Trade show and POP displays gain rigidity needed to stand up.”
Besides serving a functional purpose, lamination can greatly increase the overall image quality of a print in unique ways. “Overlaminating the image improves the contrast between the colors giving the image better sharpness,” explains Rob Acker, dealer manager, Graphic Finishing Partners, LLC. “The film thickness makes the surface more uniform, which enhances the image.” He states that to the end user, better image quality adds a higher “perceived value,” which translates into profit for print providers.
With a range of finishes available, lamination provides an almost tactile, more pleasing to the eye quality that a product would not otherwise have on its own. “Laminating films come in gloss, satin, matte, luster, velvet, canvas, and a variety of other unique specialty finishes,” lists Garth Bertini, senior market/sales manager, USI, Inc. “These finishes often are distinctive to laminating film and add value because of aesthetic quality and durability.”
Hot and Cold
Laminators are either thermal—hot, or cold. While hot laminators once held the larger share of the market, cold laminators are increasingly popular due to increased speed and expanded capabilities.
Hot laminators have been in use for decades. “An advantage of thermal laminators is that a user can mount, laminate, and pre-mask, as well as encapsulate materials. This provides more flexibility in the jobs they can take on,” offers Dan Kane, marketing manager – graphics, Royal Sovereign International, Inc.
“I believe cold laminators are used more frequently as a result of the time and power required to heat a laminator,” expresses Nate Goodman, product manager, Drytac. “Cold laminates usually have a faster processing speed and can be used with a wider range of materials, such as photo and inkjet paper, due to heat sensitivity,” he continues.
There are now numerous options available for a cold laminator with heat assist. As Eric Wang, GM, Eastsign International, states, “cold lamination with heat assist is very popular because heat assist avoids slivering.” He also explains that the cost of a cold laminator is more affordable, the price of cold laminating film has decreased, and a wide variety of finishes are now available.
It is important to note, however, that when analyzing the need for a laminator, the decision of whether to purchase hot, cold, or with heat assist is just one option to take into consideration. “Other features include width, nip size, and ease of use,” details Olson.
Preservation and Prestige
Laminators offer a valuable means of preserving images of all kinds for use outdoors and indoors. A longer product life with visibility in as many places as possible creates more profit. Lamination can make graphics jump to life with extra vivid color and provide unique textures, adding prestige in the eyes of customers.
Part two of this Web-exclusive series lists laminator vendors and their newest models.
Aug2016, Digital Output DOLAM1608