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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

Polyester Polyester is the most expensive face stock. It provides the best clarity and is commonly used for high-end displays. However, unlike vinyl, polyester tends to scratch easily and is not likely the best choice for graphics that will be touched a lot or walked on.

Polypropylene Polypropylene provides a dry-erase surface for easy marking and cleaning. This film is often used on menu boards and courtroom graphics.

General tips
• Use the clearest adhesive that your customer’s budget will allow.
• Thicker films are more rigid and promote layflat.
• Thicker thermal films require more heat (increase your heat setting 10°F for every 5 mils of film).
• Thinner films are more conformable to curves and uneven surfaces.
• High-gloss films cause glare in brightly lit rooms.
• Always consult recognized standards, including building codes, for public safety.
• Keep film tensions as low as possible.
• Run with a nip pressure of 30-60 psi.
• Don’t run too fast—for either pressure sensitive or thermal, set the laminator at 3-5 ft/min.
• Have your laminator tuned up at least once a year.

Liquid laminators
The liquid laminator (Figure 2) is essentially a coating machine. At the most basic level, printed graphics are loaded, coated, and unloaded. Intermediate and final steps in the laminating process vary according to the type of coating in use, whether UV curable, water based, or solvent. For example, media treated with a UV coating would pass through a curing station before it could be unloaded, while a substrate coated with a water-based formulation, depending on the laminator’s level of automation, may travel the course of an infrared drying chamber to hasten the drying process.

Liquid laminators are available in a variety of configurations and format sizes to suit a wide range of applications. Manually operated and automated units are available, as are flatbed and roll-fed types. UV laminators are typically reverse-roll, three-roll systems. Water-based laminators generally flood-coat the substrate and then employ a wire-wound metering rod to reduce the coating’s thickness to the appropriate level. A squeegee or similar device removes the coating from the back side of the substrate. Some key considerations include:


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