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Roll Laminating Systems

Roll laminators remain firmly in place as a print room staple. Brenda Hodgson looks at some of the new technology that has been incorporated into this essential equipment

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Vivid Laminating Technology’s Easymount Sign EM-S1600H laminator take-up unit allows reel-to-reel lamination of vinyls, banners and graphics

In the pursuit of Quality

“If you start a print business your first purchase will be a printer, but your second one will almost certainly be a laminator,” says Josero managing director Loic Delor.

Lamination is a process used by most printers and sign-makers, primarily to protect and enhance the vibrancy of the finished print, but increasingly also to create special effects such as soft touch, ‘sandtex’, crystal, linen, matt, satin and other textures.

Traditionally roll laminators have been the prime method of application, with the main processes employed with roll laminating being cold, hot, double hot and liquid lamination. Cold lamination uses a pressure sensitive adhesive that, combined with the applied pressure, bonds the film to the substrate and is ideal for use with temperature sensitive substrates. Hot laminating uses high temperatures that cause the adhesive in the laminate to become more liquid to enable bonding to the media, thereby creating a durable laminate that is more resistant to wear and tear. Double hot systems will laminate, mount and encapsulate, giving great flexibility for those requiring multifunctional usage.

Liquid lamination provides very durable protection by applying a liquid coating, whilst maintaining the texture of the substrate, and is regularly used for outdoor applications such as vehicle wraps, banners, and truck covers.

Flatbed applicators represent an alternative method of laminating, offering a simple and accurate way to apply self-adhesive films to many flat and dry substrates, making them suitable for use on flexible face skins and banners, large-format digital prints and other self-adhesive materials, as well as rigid sign panels. However, roll laminators continue to hold their own, with many printers and sign-makers installing both types of machine.

Rolling out

So what have been the recent developments in technology for this print room staple and how do these translate into benefits for printers and sign-makers?

“Overall there aren’t many changes in the roll-to-roll laminator world, except that they haven’t disappeared, as some would have predicted, with the rise of flatbed printers,” Delor continues.

“Roll-to-roll laminators are an essential piece of machinery for all wide-format printers and sign-makers,” he affirms.

“However, the technology hasn’t changed much in the last twenty years; since the machine is primarily mechanical there’s no ‘software update’. However, features such as auto-detect and auto-correct have been implemented to improve work reliability and quality.

O Factoid: laminate (v.) 1660s, "to beat or roll into thin plates," from Latin lamina "thin piece of metal or wood, thin slice, plate, leaf, layer," of unknown origin. Many modern senses are from the noun meaning "an artificial thin layer" (1939), especially a type of plastic adhesive.  O


“They are probably the only manufacturer that presented some innovation in the past few years,” comments Delor, who’s company supplies laminators made by French manufacturer Kala.


The Kala Starter is an entry-level cold roll laminator that is ideally suited to the requirements of the sign-maker with a need for low- to mid volume finishing



He adds: “Kala laminators are more ergonomic and feature a design that tends to get away from the square metal box.”

The latest Kala Mistral laminators 1650 (65”) and 2100 (83”) offer single-sided lamination, simultaneous lamination and adhesive mounting, encapsulation, and board mounting. They are high volume machines with heat assisted rollers, and the 2100 model has the capacity to handle materials right up to 2m wide. Its electronically monitored adjustment system ensures a uniform spread of pressure on the roller contact zone.


Kala Mistral 1650, designed for high volume output, offers single-sided lamination, simultaneous lamination and adhesive mounting, encapsulation, and board mounting



Delor adds: “Even though the machines are little affected by the evolution of technology for computers and electronics, improvement on speed and power consumption are noticeable compared to the older models.”

This view is firmly agreed with by Vivid Laminating Technologies marketing communications manager, David Smith, who observes: “We’ve noticed over the past 18 months that sign-makers and vehicle wrappers have been producing longer graphics for the market.”

We’ve noticed over the past 18 months that sign-makers and vehicle wrappers have been producing longer graphics for the market


In response to this trend, Vivid’s 1.2m, 1.4m and 1.6m wide Easymount laminating systems can now be purchased with an optional motorised take-up unit and the new entry-level Easymount Sign range also includes the take-up unit as standard.


(Above & below)The motorised take-up unit on the entry level Easymount Sign EM-S1600H, is designed and manufactured by Vivid Laminating Technologies



With the take-up unit in place, it allows reel-to-reel lamination of vinyls, banners and graphics, meaning that printed media can be transferred from one core, through the Easymount for lamination and protection, and on to a second core on the take-up unit. This process makes the transportation, movement and installation of the laminated print much easier to handle, whether that is across the workshop to wrap a van or to a building 100 miles away to install a new window graphic. The print stays on the core until needed, thereby saving space and keeping the laminate clean and looking crisp.


 


American dreams

The SGIA Expo in 2014 saw the launch of Drytac’s JetMounter Fuzion XD, which the Ottawa based manufacturer describes as, ‘the next generation’ of its JetMounter  range of roller laminators. The heavy-duty technology is  very specifically designed for print shops and smaller sign-making businesses. With 63” (160cm) laminating width, it incorporates many features that simplify the lamination process for users, such as interchangeable large diameter non-stick silicone rollers; a heat-assist top roller with digital temperature display; a heavy-duty lift mechanism for precise, calibrated pressure control; adjustable speed control up to 20ft/min (6m/min).; and four auto-grip supply or take-up shafts with adjustable brake tension on the operator side for roll-to-roll lamination.

“The Fuzion XD is well equipped to handle a variety of applications such as laminating vehicle wraps, creating window decals or mounting graphics to substrates,” says Drytac product manager, Nate Goodman. He adds: “And we’ve positioned it competitively for those who want to ad roll-to-roll laminating to their shops without the burden of a significant upfront investment.”


“The Fuzion XD is well equipped to handle a variety of applications such as laminating vehicle wraps, creating window decals or mounting graphics to substrates,” says Drytac’s product manager, Nate Goodman



Additional features on this new model include a centre release, fold down feed table with a ‘lay flat’ paper in-feed guide, and maximum nip opening of 1” (2.54cm).

Rolling forward

Overall it is the small adjustments and developments that have been introduced into laminating technology, which are enabling sign-makers to refine and perfect the finish of their printed products. This has allowed them offer an enhanced service to their customers across a wide range of applications and markets, as well as increased profitability.

Traditionally specialising in road and traffic sings, Nottinghamshire sign company Hirst Signs found that customer demand meant they were outsourcing an increasing volume of digital print and so took the decision to diversify.

“We wanted to bring production and quality control in-house,” explains Hirst Signs managing director, Ken Gee.

He adds: “We have built an excellent reputation for good service for our road sign work and wanted to be able to guarantee digital print at the same level.”

We have built an excellent reputation for good service for our road sign work and wanted to be able to guarantee digital print at the same level


Hirst Signs’ choice of an Easymount Sign laminator, from Vivid Laminating Technologies, was the result of a glowing recommendation by their printer supplier.

Gee continues: “We were advised that it is one of the best on the market, easy to use, gives perfect lamination and is trouble-free. And we’ve been very happy with our choice. It has been a good machine and customers are very happy with the quality of the end product.”

Another company to reap benefits from the Easymount range of laminators is Hull based Vehicle Livery Solutions (VLS), which specialises in the production and application of all types of vehicle livery, including full wraps, for both individual vehicles and fleets of all sizes. The addition of an Easymount EM-1400 SH allowed the company to introduce digitally printed livery and wraps, as well as other wide-format digital prints, to its portfolio of services.


The vinyl used on this striking vehicle wrap by Vehicle Livery Solutions of Hull was laminated using an Easymount EM-1400 SH from Vivid Laminating Technologies



“The benefit to our customers is a longer lasting print, with improved quality and finish,” says VLS’s Michael Klopocki, who adds: “The Easymount laminator, with its motorised take-up unit, has also enabled us to speed up production.”


An example of the digitally printed vehicle wraps produced by Vehicle Livery Solutions, laminated using an Easymount EM-1400 SH from Vivid Laminating Technologies



Vivid Laminating’s Smith says that VLS’s experience is increasingly commonplace: “As companies become more adventurous and marketing budgets return to more realistic figures in these post-recession times, firms that can create wide-format graphics can benefit by producing and installing bigger prints.”

So, it would seem that despite the rise of rival technology, the manufacturers of roll laminators have innovated to create systems that are more user-friendly and help produce a better end product. There is also no shortage of choice on the market, with the systems being differentiated on a price to performance ratio. That said, it always pays to work with a supplier who will be willing to go the extra mile and help support your purchase with onsite training and responsive technical help.


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