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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

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, but also must be able to readily access internal mechanisms, circuitry, and other parts. Sturdy casters, steel-shaft rollers, rust-resistant materials, sealed bearings, and color-coded wiring for easy tracing all make life easier on laminator owners and operators.

Additionally, the combination of a pneumatic brake and clutch found on some units may provide users with a convenient and effective way to control film tension. Pneumatics are designed to allow operators to dial in specific film tension levels prior to starting the process. “Also look for longevity, quality construction, availability of spare parts, and certified people to install those parts,” says Mike Hannon, president of LEDCO, Inc.

Rollers Rollers are a laminator’s heart and soul. They’re 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.

Because of their size, wide-format laminators sometimes are prone to problems in applying adequate pressure across the entire width of the products that pass through them. Some manufacturers have attempted to remedy this problem by installing crowned rollers. However, not everyone finds this type of roller to be an adequate solution. Haan explains that crowned rollers make contact in the center of the rolls before making contact across the roll face. “You’re going to be touching material harder in the center before you drive the outsides of the material,” he says. “That creates wrinkling or boat waking. Until a crowned nip roller is fully deflected, you’ll get an uneven footprint at the nip point of the rollers.”

He also notes that straight rollers are preferable because they facilitate uniform contact, even at very light nip pressures. Haan credits straight rollers with ensuring even throughput and predictable web handling of the film and media being laminated.

Many manufacturers will tell you that taking care of the nip rollers is a top priority because they come in direct contact with the products you’re processing. You should be most concerned about surface flaws, adhesive buildup, or other blemishes on the rollers that could show up in the finished products.


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