Print Business Glossary_ Laminators and Laminating Films

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If your shop is new to wide-format inkjet printing, it’s helpful to know the many different methods of converting printed banners into ready-to-hang graphics. This print-business glossary covers banner finishing, display hardware, and supplies:

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Print Business Glossary: Laminators and Laminating Films      Laminating equipment for printing and wide-format graphics applies a thin adhesive-backed film to a                             printed piece. Applying a laminating film protects the print from excessive handling or exposure to high                                 levels of abrasion moisture dirt or chemicals that could reduce its useful life. Lamination can also                                 prevent wrinkles creases and smudges in the print or add rigidity or different surface textures and                                 finishes.   A laminated film can be applied to either the front or back of the print or both sides. Some printed                                         materials are ​encapsulated by laminating both the front and back sides with a film wider than the print.                                     The print is trimmed to leave a small border of the laminated film around all edges of the print. When the                                           front-laminating film adhesives bond to the adhesives on the back laminating film moisture dirt and                               chemicals can’t reach the edges or surface of the print.    Restaurant menus bookmarks safety warning labels and equipment operating instructions are often                         encapsulated. Other laminated products include wallet cards educational posters maps and                       adhesive-backed graphics that will be applied to walls floors or vehicles.   Types of Laminating Equipment  Different sizes and models of laminating equipment exist for use in homes schools offices government                               agencies printing firms sign shops and manufacturing plants.   Roll Laminators ​can apply rolls of different types and thicknesses laminating films to printed pieces.                               Desktop roll laminators range from 12 to 27 in. wide. Free-standing ​wide-format roll laminators ​can apply                                 rolls of film up to 63 inches wide. Before outdoor-durable solvent latex and UV-curable inks were                                 introduced wide-format laminators were widely used in all shops that produced wide-format display                           graphics.  The most versatile wide-format roll laminators were designed to apply a wide range of “hot” and “cold”                                   laminating films and mount adhesive-backed graphics to rigid substrates.   Pouch laminators are desktop devices that laminate standard-sized tags wallet cards and badges in                             pre-sized pouches made from laminating films. The pouch laminator operator simply inserts the printed

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document into the pouch and runs it through the laminator. The laminator applies the heat needed to                                   bond the adhesives inside the pouch to the substrate.   Flatbed Laminators Applicators ​are multi-purpose print-shop working tables equipped with rollers                       mounted on a movable gantry. The gantry can be manually moved over the surface of the table to apply                                       to laminate films or pre-masks to prints on rigid or flexible materials. Flatbed laminators are available                                 from sign-equipment wholesalers in sizes up to 51 in. wide and 98 inches long. When the table isn’t being                                       used to apply laminating film or mount adhesive-backed graphics to rigid substrates the work surface                               can be equipped to serve as a light-table and/or cutting mat.   Vacuum Dry-Mount Presses are ​flatbed finishing systems that use a combination of vacuum pressure                             controlled heating and low-melt tissue adhesives to bond all types of canvas and fine art photo prints to                                     foam boards or wood panels for framing. Dry-mount presses are also used to apply low-melt laminating                                 films to inkjet photo prints and art canvas.    Industrial Laminators are different from the graphic laminators that apply clear films and mounting                             adhesives. Industrial laminating equipment combines multiple layers of materials to make composite                         materials to meet specific requirements in the building decor and packaging industries. Each laminated                             composite material is engineered to deliver the specific combination of strength durability and                           aesthetics the application requires.  For example flexible packaging pouches are made from laminated materials that combine eye-catching                           graphics with barrier films and foils that keep air moisture and chemicals from penetrating the package                                 and spoiling the food.   Industrial laminators for flooring combine a printed decor paper with manufactured wood panels and                             surface coatings to create flooring planks that achieve the specified combination of aesthetics                           cleanability and durability.    Graphic Laminating Films  Dozens of laminating films have been created to control the final look and performance of all types of                                     printed materials. Each laminating film uses a different combination of film type surface coating                             adhesive type and release liner. Choosing the right laminating film for a job depends on what types of                                     inks and materials were used to print the job and how the finished print will be used.   For example laminating films for floor graphics are manufactured to add the slip-resistance and                             cleanability the print will need to withstand grocery-store foot traffic. Different laminating films for wall                               graphics can protect the print from graffiti or convert the wall graphic into a dry-erase markable surface.   For graphics printed with UV-curable inks laminated films are formulated to protect the ink from                               scratches. Laminating films for vehicle graphics are thin enough to stick to the super-flexible cast vinyl                                 used wrap the complex curves of a fine sports car or delivery truck. But vehicle-wrap laminating films                                   must be tough enough to protect the printed graphic from road grime as well as car wash brushes water                                       and soap.   Laminating films made with UV inhibitors can reduce the amount of color fading caused by prolonged                                 exposure to sunlight and other sources of UV radiation.  Textured laminating films can add a canvas or linen-like texture to an ordinary photo print.

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High gloss laminating films can change the look and brightness of colors printed on matte papers.   Pressure-Sensitive Cold Roll laminating films use adhesives that don’t require heat to develop a strong                               bond. The adhesives on these films have a protective backing material ​release liner​ that must be                                 removed as the film is applied to the graphic.   A laminator built to apply “cold-roll” laminating films must have a take-up roller that peels the protective                                   release liner away from the adhesive before the pressure is applied to activate it. Cold laminating films                                   typically cost more than heat-activated films but are usually required for use with heat-sensitive materials                               e.g. vinyls and backlit films that can soften and become distorted at high temperatures.   Heat Activated laminating films ​use adhesives that don’t stick to anything until heat is applied to the                                   surface of the film. Wide-format laminators use heated rollers to apply the controlled amounts of heat                                 and pressure to bond a film to different types of substrates.  Heat-activated laminating films applied with the wrong combination of settings will show defects such as                               bubbles wrinkles and delamination around the edges.  The first generation of ​thermal ​laminates required temperatures as high as 240° or 270° to melt.                                 Laminating films with ​low-melt​ or ​heat-assist​ adhesives bond at temperatures in the 185° to 220° range.   Mounting Adhesives are laminating films that have adhesives on both sides. First the laminator applies                               the mounting adhesive to a display board glass acrylic or metal. Then the laminator can mount any                                   graphic printed on a non-adhesive media to the rigid substrate.   Pre-Mask Application Tape ​is applied to the front of contour-cut vinyl letters and decals and multi-panel                                 vinyl graphics. It helps keep the graphics from stretching or peeling until the graphics are ready to be                                     installed to a vehicle window floor or wall. The pre-mask is also used to help lift the cut graphics away                                         from the liner that protects the pressure-sensitive adhesive. After the graphics have squeegeed onto the                               surface the protective pre-mask is removed to reveal scratch-free graphics.   Advances in Laminating Continue  Although protective coatings and outdoor-durable inks and materials have eliminated the need to                           laminate many shorter-term graphics laminating still plays a vital role in protecting graphics that must                               endure long-term exposure to a variety of harsh conditions.  Because you can never be totally sure what type of sign or graphic a customer might ask you to produce                                         it pays to keep up with advances in lamination.   Follow Us on Social Media  Ongoing changes in printing and finishing processes are affecting the way different types of printed                               materials are produced and estimated. This series of print-business glossaries can help you make sense                               of the changing competitive landscape for printing services. Follow Ordant on ​LinkedIn​ ​Facebook​ or                             Twitter​ to learn when the next post in this glossary series is published.    Related Posts:  Print Business Glossary: Laminators and Laminating Films  Print Business Glossary: Automated Wide-Format Graphics Cutters  Print Business Glossary: Finishing Equipment for Offset Presses  Print Business Glossary: Emerging and Niche Print Processes

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