Five manufacturer representatives talk lamination, plus nearly 30 sources of laminators.
“There are many things that factor into the decision of buying a thermal (hot) or pressure-sensitive (cold) laminator,” says Corn, “but what it really comes down to for us is discussing with our customers what they want to get out of the machine now and where they see their business growing with the use of the machine. If they are looking at only doing vehicle wraps, for instance, then the customer would only need to work with a cold laminator. However, the lamination needs of a print shop doing production poster runs would require a hot laminator.”
“It depends on the application,” she continues. “Any graphics printed with aqueous, solvent, UV-curable, or latex technology should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis for lamination, depending upon final application, location (does it need to protect against scratches and fingerprints from passersby?), time frame, special requirements, display lighting, and so forth.”
Yes, choosing between hot and cold laminators all depends on the type of job your shop is dealing with, says Hill. And, he stresses, keep in mind that there is a distinction between a fully heated laminator and a “heat assist” laminator. “On a fully heated laminator, both main rollers are hot and there is an additional set of ‘pull’ rollers to maintain the flatness of thermal laminates,” he says. “This laminator is usually set up to encapsulate prints. However, a heat-assist laminator has only the top roller with a lower heat threshold. Top laminating, like vehicle wraps, are best done with this kind of laminator.”
If you’re working on wallcoverings or vehicle wraps, try liquid laminates, says Mohni. “Many times, wallcoverings require a liquid coating for installation in retail environments – especially for restaurants, where health and safety codes require cleaning to be possible. Vehicle graphics that will be installed for multiple years also use fleet-graphic-grade liquid coatings; these help protect against wear and tear, abrasion and other cleaning processes that buses, box trucks, and other commercial vehicles go through.”