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Wide-format Laminating

Laminating can offer so much more to sign-makers than simply protection. With this in mind, Rob Fletcher takes a look at some of the technology on offer to help your company finish strong.

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The market for flatbed laminators has surged in recent years as demand for wide-format graphics has grown exponentially. Pictured: Distributed in the UK by Josero, the Bubble-Free Applicator is designed as a high-quality and yet no-frills machine

A strong finish

There are not many better feelings a sign-maker can have than looking at a finished piece of work with an immense sense of pride. Nothing can beat that feeling you get when you look at a completed project as it sits there all shiny and new.

It is important to remember that the only way of achieving this sense of ‘signage euphoria’ is by ensuring you have the best kit to finish a job—otherwise, you are left with a much duller feeling come the end of a job. Lamination remains a key part of production, with the technology help-ing add that extra special feel—and protection—to many completed signage products.

While print devices may give a project its dazzling colour, it is the finishing stage where you can give it an extra edge to leave both yourself and the customer feeling satisfied with the process. With a plethora of laminating kit available to sign-makers, there is certainly no shortage of options in bolstering this part of production.

Buoyant sector

Vivid is one of the companies dedi-cated to the finishing part of the production process, with a host of different technology on offer—laminating kit proving a big part of this offering. David Smith, marketing and comm-unications manager, says it is critical to pay attention to this part of production if you are to keep customers pleased.

David Smith, marketing and communications manager of Vivid, says the firm has witnessed a significant bump in interest around its Easymount range during the last year


He explains: “A sign-maker could design and print an amazing exhibition graphic for a company, using all kinds of inks and techniques, but if the piece isn’t finished correctly or the vinyl and laminate used haven’t been matched, then all you’re left with is an inferior looking product and a very dissatisfied customer.

“From small desktop pouch laminators for schools, to single side film laminators for litho and digital printers, to wide-format laminators for sign-makers and vehicle wrapping companies—we have it all.

“We also supply our Boss Premium Brand wide-format laminating film. It’s suitable for aqueous and solvent printers and is available as pressure sensitive over laminates, self wound mount film, optically clear mount film, printable bloc light films and anti graffiti (UV) film.”

Smith says that sales of its Easymount wide-format laminator proved to be ‘buoyant’ during the course of 2013, describing the range as ‘perfect’ for the graphics and signage industry.

They will laminate signs, roll-up and pop-up displays, floor graphics, vehicle wraps, point-of-sale (POS) displays, posters, and exhibition graphics

He continues: “They will laminate signs, roll-up and pop-up displays, floor graphics, vehicle wraps, point-of-sale (POS) displays, posters, and exhibition graphics.

“I was visiting a sign-maker the other month and they had an Easymount installed to laminate their work. We asked them how they felt they were getting on with the Easymount—and their response was, ‘it just works’. I think that sums up the Easymount; there’s nothing glamorous or beautiful about them; they’re just a strong, reliable, and very well made machine.”

Distributed by Vivid, Boss Premium Brand laminating film is a sign industry staple




Looking ahead, Smith recommends that companies keep an eye out for a new single hot roller laminator on offer from Vivid. The Easymount EM-1600 will be the latest addition to the Easymount range and is scheduled to makes its industry debut at Ipex 2014. 

“It allows you to laminate reel-to-reel, meaning the print comes off one reel, goes through the Easymount to be laminated, and feeds itself back onto a second reel, so it’s really easy to then move the print when it’s finished,” he says, adding: “It also has a drop down feed table and this makes it very straightforward to access the rollers to install the laminating film.”

Backbone of production

A fellow finishing specialist is Terry Cooper Services (TCS), with Dean Stayne, sales manager, explaining that sign-makers should think carefully about diversifying into producing small-format digital print jobs, such as flyers, brochures, and menus.

Referencing his company’s own end of the supply chain in this sector he comments: “For some companies, the laminator is the backbone of the print department.

“That said, it’s often the way that such a staple item in the print finishing process is only ever replaced when it has to be.

“Return on investment (ROI) with new print technology can be easily negated if the print finishing equipment isn’t up to a good standard. A good investment can increase workflow, increase profits and the ROI can be faster than some other investments of this size.”

Leon Watson, Spandex UK’s general manager, highlights the Rollsroller Light Flatbed as one of the many lamination products that are seeing increasing levels of demand


With this in mind, Stayne points to the various equipment TCS has on offer within its Bagel laminator range—devices he says are targeted at the print finishing and graphic arts sectors.

Stayne says the Minilam B3 model is ‘ideal’ for digital print jobs, with the hand-fed system allowing users to work up to 72cm length print sheets at a maximum speed of 15m/min. In addition, the Digifav B2 device is available in automatic or hand-fed version, suited to short-run digital and litho jobs, and can handle media weights of up to 350gsm at a prod-uction speed of 22m/min. Elsewhere, the Kikuzen B1 model can laminate digital, B2 landscape, and B1 vertical offset prints.

As well as the Bagel range, Stayne says TCS is to introduce a number of smaller models to it own Premier brand—including the new Premier Laminator: “This is an A4 roll lami-nator perfect for the digital printing shops, schools, and offices due to its smaller footprint. In a choice of blue or grey as standard, the laminators are durable, efficient, have touch-screen operation, and the latest safety features.”

Most important step

Industry supplier Spandex is another company that is keen to highlight the importance of finishing in the overall production process. Supplying both finishing equipment and materials, the firm is well equipped to pass on its knowledge to the industry, as well as supply companies with the right kit to ensure a job is completed in an effec-tive manner. Leon Watson, Spandex’s UK general manager, says it is critical companies take the same approach in placing a great value on the finishing side of the business.

Terry Cooper Services offers a host of laminating equipment such as the Minilam, which allows users to operate at 72cm length print sheets


“Finishing is probably the most important step in the process,” he says, adding: “The print finishing process, if done correctly, can add real value and ensure repeat business.”

Watson quickly moves on to say just how well Spandex is equipped to help sign-makers bolster their finishing offering—claiming the supplier can assist companies of all sizes in this area.

He continues: “Spandex offers a full range of laminators for the ‘hobby’ printer, all the way through to the professional print houses.

We have some new advancements coming with both our print finishing partners, Rolls-Roller and Vivid, and you will also see some break-through products in liquid lamination

“In addition, we are the largest European distributor of the RollsRoller Applicator. This is a unique piece of equipment that allows the user to apply up to 80sq/m of graphics in just one hour. It is fast becoming the most important piece of production equip-ment in the shop.”

Watson continues: “We have some new advancements coming with both our print finishing partners, Rolls-Roller and Vivid, and you will also see some break-through products in liquid lamination.

Spandex UK?general manager, Leon Watson, highlights environmentally-friendly laminating products such as 3M’s Envision range as top sellers


“We have just launched the new RollsRoller Light Flatbed Applicator, which offers many of the same features as the original RollsRoller, but it has a lower price point and comes in a ‘flatpack’ format, making it accessible to the smallest of graphics workshops.”

Watson goes on to say that Spandex is also committed to more environ-mentally-friendly laminating products
—an area which it has identified is set for further growth, as more companies adopt greener practices. He highlights 2013 launches of the Envision range from 3M and TrueImpact from Avery Dennison as examples of this point.
 
A liquid solution

While there is obviously plenty of kit around in lamination, one type of technology that is making waves (no pun intended) is liquid lamination. Digital imaging products distributor Landor is one company that can vouch for the increased interest in this equipment, as the firm offers a recognised range of liquid protective coatings for the inkjet print market.

Derric Landor, founder and managing director of Landor UK, explains: “We provide and support a range of water-based and UV-based prot-ective ‘liquid laminates’, where more often than not the use of trad-itional film-based lamination and protection does not work or will not meet the criteria of the substrate, inks, or environment conditions. The real key to liquid lamination is its flexibility and ease to coat and bond to most subs-trates.”
Landor explains that for a flexible substrate, liquid protective coatings in most cases will naturally bond and adapt to the surfaces, rather than produce undesired rigidity like film lamination does.

Derric Landor, founder and managing director of Landor UK, says liquid lamination does not require ‘key investment’ and can be applied using a hand roller, paint pad or spray gun

 


He goes on to say that capital expenditure is ‘essential’ in order for film laminates to produce a quality bond of adhesive film to substrate. However, he notes that liquid lamin-ation does not require ‘key investment’ for small or occasional use as it can be done with a hand roller, paint pad, or spray gun.

He continues: “Some films have excellent conformability and stability and frequently the user will prefer to stick to the better known methods and the semi-automated ‘dry’ method, in preference to the manual ‘wet’ method. For example, a PVC banner is not compatible with film protection and the only means available to protect it is liquid protective coatings.

“For the larger and more regular projects, liquid lamination can be carried out by roll-to-roll coating machines. Vehicle graphics, wallpap-ers, canvas, and outdoor flex face signage, for example, have established success using liquid lamination.”

Landor concludes: “We have a large liquid lamination demonstration facility where customers can either visit to test samples or run a complete job. Further to this, customers are welcome to test or rent these machines to get a better understanding of what liquid lamination can really do to improve their commercial advantage.”

O Factoid: Wide-format laminating technology pre-dates its roll-to-roll print cousins. Early systems were used to protect the output of the first CNC vinyl cutting systems for use in applications such as shop sign-lettering and vehicle livery O

Although the printing and prod-uction of work remains the main focus in the process, it is key for companies to pay particular attention to lamination. Finishing a job in an effective manner can really bring a piece to life, leave your customers satisfied, and allow you to reap the rewards lamin-ation can bring.

Add some second-hand strength to your signs

With the economy only showing reluctant signs of recovery, it is always good to have another option to the brand new, top of the price range machines.

This is where Laaco Laminates steps in. It is focusing on the second-hand and refurbished machine market, as director Simon Dobson explains: “We buy back a lot of second-hand machines that have had their rollers slashed, or when some of the simple electronics don’t work. We will put a brand new set of rollers on, to the manufacturers spec-ification.

“In most cases, especially with the solid heavy machines like the Seals, the actual machine is in very good condition; it’s only the rollers that are faulty. We have been deal-ing with laminators for 25 years, so when we sell back a refurbished machine we also install it, and can train the people how to get the best out of it with the minimum amount of materials wasted.”

The director of Laaco Laminates, Simon Dobson, explains there is a booming market for second hand laminating machinery, with brands such as Seal proving particularly robust and in need of very little repair


Dobson goes on to say that the demand in this market is good, with many people preferring to stick with an older machine that they and their staff are familiar with, rather than investing in new, cheaper, Chinese models.

 


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