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Lamination Equipment

Critically important to the protection of printed wide- and large-format work, SignLink takes a closer look at lamination and the core considerations for sign-makers when investing in new equipment

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Papergraphics picks out the Flexa EasyLite compact laminator as its most popular machine

Lamination Equation 

Printing an outdoor application such as a poster or billboard is one matter, but ensuring it has the right protection to ensure its longevity in what can often be challenging conditions amid the elements is another consideration altogether.

Lamination presents sign-makers with an effective method of not only protecting their work, both in interior and exterior environments, but also the opportunity to add an extra bit of sparkle to printed pieces and make them stand out more to passers-by.

With this in mind, SignLink considers the most important attributes to look out for when purchasing new lamination machinery and highlights some of the latest options available to the market.

Making The Right Choice

A name synonymous with this sector, Vivid Laminating Technologies offers a wide range of options to sign-makers and wide-format printers across the UK. Product and sales manager Lewis Evans says putting in place the right equipment is imperative for all types of finishing in sign-making.

“One of the most important things to consider when investing in a new laminator is that it operates and runs properly and doesn’t wreck any of the work that has been printed,” Evans explains.

O Factoid: Vivid Laminating Technologies’ new Easymount Hybrid, a combined flatbed applicator and laminator solution that launched at FESPA 2023, now holds multiple patents O

“Companies need to be looking at a number of core attributes, including how it operates over a 50m roll, given the size of some signage applications. A good quality silicon roller will operate in a way that a 50m roll of vinyl will run without it running off.

“A quality laminator will also not put crease marks on the printed work, which otherwise would lead to the need to re-print the piece. When applying expensive films to protect the printed work, you need to ensure that it applies perfectly evenly all the way through, doesn’t damage any of the work and you need to have confidence in multiple operators being able to use the equipment easily.”

Looking at Vivid’s collection of lamination solutions for sign-makers and wide-format printing businesses, Lewis has little hesitation in pointing to the Easymount range. In particular, Evans highlights the ease of use for these machines as one of their main selling points, saying that the easier a machine is to use, then the more effective it will be for the user.

“The swing-out arms on the Easymount now load the material in seconds,” Evans explains, adding: “Some machines can take five or ten minutes to change the rolls on, and over the course of a year, that is a lot of production time wasted. We make our laminators easy to use and quick to run work on – that is what you need to be looking for when investing in a new piece of kit in this area.”

One of the most popular options within the Vivid Easymount range is the Easymount Air 1600 Single Hot. The machine uses pneumatic air pressure to control the laminating rollers, allowing users to mount and laminate with high accuracy and speed. The solution can run at speeds of up to 10m a minute and can mount up to 30mm, while additional features include variable speed control and a foot pedal for easier control.

The latest machine in Vivid’s Easymount range comes in the form of the Easymount Hybrid, a machine that offers a flatbed applicator and laminator in a single solution. Launched at the 2023 FESPA Global Print Expo earlier this year, the machine has now been patented and the first models are due to start being installed from December.
“Combining the benefits of both applications into one easy-to-use flatbed laminator and saving on the need for two systems, the Easymount Hybrid laminator is a solution that can help customers improve their competitive edge, and save on space and money,” Vivid says.

Vivid Laminating Technologies will begin installing the  first models of its new Easymount Hybrid in December

“Electromagnetic locking, allows for easy transitioning from roll laminating to application table. The patented floating rollers save time and keeps edges of substrates in perfect condition.”

Growth Potential

Also well placed to offer guidance and solutions here is Papergraphics, which supplies a range of machinery to the industry. Chris Vaughan, content creation at Papergraphics, says print finishing is an excellent way to increase your bottom line.

“When we introduced our Stickybits laminate range more than 15 years ago, many of our customers doubled, and some even tripled their average retail-selling prices by offering a large-format print finishing service,” Vaughan says.

“High-quality lamination equipment is needed to achieve that growth potential. Reliability, ease of use, and a machine built to last are essential, as once you see the profit in print finishing, we’re certain your lamination equipment will get a lot of use.”

As to what companies should be looking for when investing, Vaughan picked out pressure, precision, and control as the fundamental pillars that underpin “flawless lamination”.

“When considering your options, there are a handful of crucial aspects to consider: bigger nip, carefully crowned rollers, precise alignment, balanced pressure, accurate heat control, and the inclusion of pre-programmed systems,” he says.

Offering advice on the subject, Papergraphics’ technical support team advises on a number of areas. These include that larger-diameter nip rollers – the two front rollers on a machine – play a pivotal role in the lamination process. These ensure that the lamination film is under pressure with the substrate for longer, giving a better adhesion and minimising unwanted silvering.

Meanwhile, correctly crowned rollers with carefully calibrated tension springs guarantee pressure is distributed uniformly across the width of the rollers. This prevents costly issues like stretching, rippling, or creasing. 

Papergraphics also advises that well-aligned and perfectly balanced rollers are essential for an uninterrupted roll-to-roll lamination workflow, allowing for high productivity and minimised wastage.

Papergraphics adds that temperature management is paramount. In professional laminators, accurate heat control keeps the temperature consistent throughout the process, which the supplier says is a feature often absent in cheaper alternatives.

In addition, Papergraphics advises looking for pre-programmed systems as they can eliminate the guesswork and help to ensure consistency and quality of output.

As for what Papergraphics has on offer, Vaughan says its most popular machine is the Flexa EasyLite compact laminator. He explains: “It’s a high-quality, well-built, and cost-effective machine, designed for professional large-format lamination, mounting, and encapsulation. We find it easy to use and reliable, so it's perfect for most everyday print finishing needs.