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A Look at Film and Liquid Laminators

(December 2013) posted on Wed Nov 20, 2013

Film and liquid laminators enhance the quality, appearance, and longevity of screen- and digitally printed graphic materials.

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By Screen Printing's Solution Sourcebook

Most film laminators (Figure 1) are so similar in purpose that choosing from the many options and models can be tough. Your best bet is to start by considering the laminator size. In general, it’s best to buy the widest laminator you can afford. A wide laminator will allow you to run narrower products side by side, improve throughput, prevent film waste, and grow into larger, more demanding applications. If space is a concern, some wide-format models feature conservative footprints and are ideal for tight production areas. Here are some additional considerations: 

Cold vs. thermal Choosing between thermal and cold laminating units is an important decision. A thermal unit can process cold laminates (those that adhere to the graphic substrate with a pressure-sensitive adhesive) and thermal laminates (those that feature a heat-activated adhesive), while a cold unit can only apply pressure-sensitive laminating materials.

Construction Open architecture is a must, especially when it comes to larger laminators used in high-volume production environments. Operators need to be able to replace web rolls of laminating film easily and access internal mechanisms, circuitry, and other parts.

Rollers Rollers are responsible for bringing the graphic material and laminate into contact with one another, so selecting the most effective type is essential for consistent, high-quality results. Wide-format laminators, because of their size, are sometimes prone to problems in applying adequate pressure across the entire width of the products that pass through them. Here, straight rollers facilitate uniform contact, even at very light nip pressures, while crowned roller make contact in the center of the rolls before making contact across the roll face.

Heat sources and cooling Most thermal laminators rely on a suspended heat source that runs through the nip rollers. The heater’s duty cycle involves bringing itself up to operating temperatures, heating the surrounding ambient air, and maintaining those temperatures. Contact heat sources actually touch the inside surface of the roller assemblies and are, therefore, designed to provide faster thermal-recovery rates and consistent temperature across the roll face.


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