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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

Speed Throughput is always a concern in a graphics shop. It’s easy to call the laminator the snail in the workflow trail. However, consider that operating the laminator at slower speeds is more likely to yield a greater rate of success. Running a laminator too fast brings the risk of wrinkling, and high speeds will prevent proper bonding should too little pressure and heat be applied. “Faster isn’t always better in this process,” Hannon says, “but you can’t limp along, because printers are getting faster.”

System automation can boost throughput while ensuring greater accuracy (Figure 3). But Hannon cautions that only a properly trained operator can help your shop fully realize the benefits of automation, because “you’ll get consistent results every time, but that could mean getting the job exactly right or wrong every time.”

Bells and whistles Once you’ve determined which fundamental controls your system should have, you can begin to think about options and add-ons that might be useful. Hold-downs are one option that can assist new users in feeding prints into the nip. Static-control devices also are also practical because they help eliminate microparticulates that may be invisible to the human eye but become quite obvious once they’re sandwiched between a graphic and overlaminating film. Looking for some on-the-job entertainment? One laminator currently on the market gives operators on-board video training via a Microsoft Zune digital media player docked to the machine’s control panel (Figure 4).

Safety features Protecting operators is a top priority, especially when there’s the possibility of burning, crushing, catching, grabbing, and other pitfalls. Safety measures come in many flavors, including electric eyes, emergency stops, physical guards, and alarm circuits.


Training concerns

Training is, perhaps, the most abstract concept involved with buying and operating a laminator. For some users, an eight-hour course might suffice. But mastering the “art and craftsmanship of laminating,” as Haan puts it, is an ongoing process. Comprehensive training includes hands-on instruction for loading and unloading films, details about how films differ from one another and interact with each other, and the fine points of managing laminator operation.


The pressure is on


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