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Print Preservation: A Look at Wide-Format Laminators

(October 2008) posted on Fri Oct 10, 2008

The laminator is your first line of defense when you need to shield and enhance your screen-and digitally printed graphics. Learn about the types of machines on the market and find out how a laminator can help you expand your capabilities and customer base.

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By Ben P. Rosenfield

You’ve just polished off a massive print run using inks and media guaranteed to meet your customer’s requirements for outdoor durability. Production was smooth. Your staff even finished the job a couple of days ahead of schedule. Just as you start to crack the smile that screams success, your client calls and informs you that dozens of signs must be rerouted to locations known for their merciless treatment of even the toughest graphics.

Your smile fades. You begin to panic. You glance at your finishing department and realize that the diecutter won’t help you out of this jam. The grommeter? Nope. The sonic welder? Not a chance. Ah ha! The laminator! Aren’t you glad now that you made that equipment investment?

A laminator can help you avoid such harrowing situations, but selecting from the broad range of laminator models, sizes, and options can be challenging. The following discussion is designed to help you evaluate laminating equipment and determine which type of system will best enable you to become a full-service graphics specialist.


What can laminating do for you?

The notion that a laminator is only useful for image enhancement and protection sells the technology short. Sure, using a laminator to add a protective barrier to a graphic increases the durability and useful life of the print—but the laminator also may be used to serve a greater purpose. It can act as a print converter by mounting and bonding lots of printable materials of different thicknesses (Figure 1).

What’s the current state of your business? Where do you plan to take it? The answers to these questions have a lot to do with determining whether and how a laminator might fit into your operation. A laminator will enable those who work with vehicle graphics or outdoor displays to provide those graphics with extra resistance to damage from the elements and fading caused by UV exposure. This extra protection is most beneficial for prints produced on aqueous inkjet printers, which have limited resistance to outdoor conditions. But even inkjet and screen-printed graphics produced with solvent-based or UV inks will see extra durability from overlaminating.


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