By Cassandra Balentine
Part 2 of 2
Print service providers continually demand finishing units to step up to match the functionally offered by the latest print technologies.
Several trends are driving the latest features found on wide format laminators, which may include automation, microprocessing, integration, and connectivity.
The first part of this series discussed some of these advancements and drivers behind them. Here we highlight features offered by select laminator providers.
Advanced Greig Laminators (AGL)
AGL manufactures a range of laminators for every budget and lamination requirement for wide format graphics. At the heart of every laminator it builds—from the entry level Compadre to the powerful 8000—there are the features that make an AGL laminator, an AGL. Every AGL laminator is made in the U.S. with features that include a heavy-duty steel frame, proprietary non-crowned nip roller design, precise pneumatic roller control, repeatable tension control for precise film tension, and heavy-duty advanced heating system.
“When working with a manufacturer like AGL, features can be designed to address a customer’s specific application,” says Tony Caruso, regional sales manager, AGL. From static control to film slitting and everything in between. AGL’s team of engineers can help a customer determine what features are must have and what features would be nice to have.
Eastsign International Ltd.
Frank Wu, marketing manager, Eastsign, says thanks to competition, Eastsign has been pushed to create something special when it comes to lamination. The company has launched many innovative machines with unique functions in last decade.
It debuted it first pneumatic lifting system for large format laminators in 2011, and in Spring 2015 it brought the first vertical cutting function, and two years later upgraded all the roll shafts to auto-lockable and exchangeable. “This immensely saves material loading time. In the year 2019, our first voice control smart machine with third generation laser tracking cutting system launched. The great news is that the smart machine become a 50-meter-a-minute monster in 2021,” he shares.
Graphic Finishing Partners, LLC (Gfp)
The Gfp 663TH is the latest in a line of “Smart Finishing Technology” machines available from Gfp.This machine incorporates a digital color graphic display for most operating functions. The microprocessor includes, among other things, onboard visual operating tutorials, service menus for fine tuning adjustments, electronic roller gap and pressure adjustment and monitoring, and film tension sensors, which provide a feedback loop to generate operator warning alerts in the case of excess web tension, which causes curled output.
The Gfp 663TH features an onboard roll label printer. Once you tell the machine what type of film you are using and how long the roll is to start, it tracks how much film is used. Then the onboard printer will provide a roll label with date used, film description, and remaining feet on the roll. This helps identify the age, type of film, and how many feet remain on all those film rolls users have standing up around a shop. The next time that roll is used, you can input the remaining footage from the roll label and the machine will warn you when you are nearing the end of the roll. This way, the laminator can keep you from feeding a five-foot image when you only have three feet of film left on the roll. “These are the types of operational improvements Gfp Smart Finishing Technology is providing today and in the future,” shares Mitchell Noble, marketing consultant, Gfp.
“These features are not new technology but putting technology to use in a way that improves the operation of a laminator is the smart use of technology. For example, surface moisture detection is not new technology, but we all know prints should be dry before they are laminated to prevent all kinds of bad reactions from moisture trapped under the laminate. So why doesn’t the laminator sense the surface of the print before it enters the machine? This could avoid the biggest irritation with lamination. Finding out after the fact that the print was too wet. That’s Gfp Smart Finishing Technology,” continues Noble.
The new Gfp 663TH features Bluetooth connectivity, but only for monitoring machine status, so far. “There are some safety issues that need to be addressed for sure before true operation can be done via voice or network connection, but it will happen. The problem is not the technology ideas but managing that cost/benefit ratio. Companies have tried smart technology machines in the past, most were discontinued because the costs escalated out of control. The key will be where do you stop rather than what you can do,” concludes Noble.
Kala Finishing Systems
The latest features offered on Kala include automatic calibration, electronic nip adjustment, remote control, programmable memory settings, programmable standby mode, intuitive control panel, dual feeding, and LED light kit.
The machines themselves feature a one piece welded steel frame, which is designed to provide superior rigidity, prevents frame from torquing, and results in tighter tolerances and perfect tracking, according to Frank Romanello, VP of sales, Kala. Additionally, a built-in storage area stores up to four rolls of material for a quick and easy product switch.
Safety is also important. “We consider operator safety an essential design element and unlike other exotic products, we strictly comply with the latest machinery directives,” says Romanello. Its laminators offer self-checking a laser eye prevent operator injuries, a safety switch on swing out in-feed tray stops the rollers from turning when in the upward position, and emergency stop switches easily accessible from the front and back of the machine. “When any of the safety features are triggered, the reset button on the control panel will flash red. Simply pressing the reset button will reactivate the system. An audible beep sound will indicate the reverse mode has been engaged.”
Technology continues to advance, along with it every aspect of the printing and finishing world evolves to keep pace. Today’s laminators feature everything from automatic calibration and tension to programmable memory, intuitive user interfaces, and sensors that provide operator feedback.
Jul2021, Digital Output