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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

The same laminator you’ll use to protect flexible vinyl- or paper-based graphics could also be used to mount prints to stiffer substrates, such as foam board. Besides keeping images secure and resistant to curling, rigid mounting can open up new opportunities in signage and P-O-P displays. Some high-end thermal laminators will even allow you to transfer thermal-resin and dye-sublimation prints from carrier materials to final substrates to produce banners and other fabric-based graphics.

Adding laminating capabilities keeps business in house and eliminates the time and expense of sending jobs out for lamination. If, for example, you’re dealing with a one-off, on-demand print, sending it our for lamination could cost you dearly in terms of turnaround time for your client and money if your service provider maintains strict minimums. You also run the risk of having to reproduce the print if the contractor you hire mishandles your work or fails to manage the variables associated with the lamination process.

The addition of laminating equipment also opens up opportunities to branch out into lucrative niche markets that rely on short-run product finishing. Dan Haan, general manager of Advanced Greig Laminators, says most end users are interested in putting prints through some finishing process, whether it’s adding a textured overlaminate for a trade-show application or mounting a print to a rigid substrate for display in a courtroom. “Most of the industry isn’t satisfied with just a paper poster,” he says.


How do you distinguish between laminating systems?

Most laminators 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, buying the widest laminator you can afford will allow you to run narrower products side by side, improve throughput, prevent 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.

“The best purchase requirement to look for is ease of use,” says Jerry Hill, vice president of sales and marketing at Drytac Corp. “Make sure the laminator works for your application. Don’t get caught up in buying the cheapest thing that looks good. There are subtle differences in laminators, and they can be the difference between getting the job out and pulling your hair out!”


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