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HOME » LAMINATORS » Lamination Guide

Lamination Guide

Why use Laminate?

Lamination is an effective way to protect and preserve materials from destruction or deterioration. Laminating posters, banners or articles significantly enhances and preserves colors in pictures and ads. Laminating also increases the strength and rigidity of printed, protecting materials from water damage while giving them a professional appearance. Laminating is ideal for preserving material that is handled often.

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Criteria for choosing a laminator.

There are some factors to consider before choosing and purchasing a laminator. It’s a good idea to keep in mind what you will laminate now and what you may need to laminate in the future.

What will your lamination output volume be?
When picking out a laminator take into consideration how many items you will have to laminate per day/per hour. Some laminators are faster than others and produce better quality laminations.

What is the size and thickness of the media you’ll be laminating?
Since laminators come in various sizes, and price increases with size, be sure your choice isn’t too big or too small to accommodate your workload. Some pouch laminators have limitations of 4”, while others will laminate up to 18” wide. Some roll laminators have limitations of 12” and others can laminate up to 63”.

Lamination film is also available in different lengths and thickness. Thinner laminate film is pliable and easy to move, whereas thicker film is firm and harder to bend. Some laminators have limits on the film thickness it can handle.

How long do you your documents need to last?
Certain types of laminating film will preserve your documents longer. If the longevity of the laminated document isn’t an issue, a less expensive type of lamination film can be used. If a document needs to last a long duration of time then it would be prudent to use a thicker laminating film, like acid-free film and/or UV film.

Will you be laminating documents or photographs?
Some laminators are designed to work better with different types of media. Some pouch laminators will work better with photographs, and some cannot laminate anything thicker than standard paper. There are laminators that have capacity for products that are 1/2” thick. Posters, too broad for pouch models, would have to be laminated by a roll laminator.

Do you have limited space?
Laminators can be big and take up excess space. Pouch laminators, in most cases, are able to fit on a tabletop. Roll laminators usually take up more space and are harder to move. You can make better use of space by choosing a laminator that can be mobile. Mounting the laminator on a cart would make moving a roll laminator around from room to room much easier. Otherwise, desktop pouch laminators are easy to move from table to table.

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Types of lamination/film

Pouch Laminators
Pouch laminators are the most widely used laminator on the market. They are easy to use, produce good laminations, and are portable.

Pouch laminators are available in various shapes and sizes. The most common sizes are usually 4” and 12” laminators.

Pouch laminators have their name because they use a lamination pouch that is usually sealed on one side. The pouch’s inside has a coat of a heat-activated film that sticks to the product as it runs through the laminator.

The amount of rollers a laminator has varies per model. Lamination film is fed through the unit by the rollers that evenly distribute heat and keep the lamination film pressed firmly shut during the lamination process. Less expensive laminators will usually have two rollers while professional laminators have four rollers. Photo-quality laminators can have up to six rollers.

Rollers evenly distribute heat over the laminate, which makes for a smoother, more professional look. Products being laminated in a two rollers model may need to make two passes to be properly laminated. Four roller style models will laminate the product with one pass and provide a more professional appearance, sans waves or defects.

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Pouch Laminator Film
"You will want to know what your application will be before choosing a lamination film."

Because there are several different types of laminating projects, there are several different types of film. What you are laminating will dictate the film that should be used.
  • Standard Clear Film - The most common form of film used for lamination. Standard Film is imported which keeps the cost of standard clear film less than the U.S.-made Select Film. Standard Clear Film was poorer quality that Select Film in the past, but is now about the same
  • Select Film - Lamination film made in the U.S.A. It is considered the best quality, thus Select Film costs more than Standard Clear Film.
  • Matte Film – Laminating pouches that have a granular, frosted texture that reduces glare. As a result of this texturing the pouches accept pencil, pen, marker, and reduce smudging. Matte film is ideal for indoor and outdoor applications.
  • Pressure-Sensitive Pouch – These pouches feature an adhesive backing that can be peeled and bonded to a surface after passing through a laminator.
  • UV/UL Pouches - These are primarily used for outdoor laminating projects. The UV/UL Pouches are designed to prevent fading by filtering out harmful UV/UL rays from the sun.
Some laminators are limited by the thickness of lamination film they can accommodate. The thickness of a lamination pouch is gauged in mil(thousandths of an inch).

Pouch lamination film can be bought in increments of five mil, seven mil or ten mil. Five mil is very pliable. The 10 mil is very tough and rigid.

Lamination film must be placed in a carrier before feeding it through a laminator. The carrier is a poster board folder with a glossy inside. The carrier prevents excess lamination glue from getting on your rollers. Failure to use the carrier will cause the quality of the lamination to decrease, and damage the laminator.

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Roll Laminators

Roll lamination is predominate in schools and print shops. Roll lamination is a good choice for high volume lamination and for laminating large documents or posters.

Roll laminators use two large rolls of film that look like a large roll of Saran Wrap. One of the laminating film rolls mounts on the machine over the second roll of film. The top roll adheres to the media, laminating the topside, while the bottom roll laminates the bottom side. Scissors are used to trim the finished document from the machine.

The film the roll laminator uses has heat-activated glue on the inner side so the lamination sticks to the document while feeding through the laminator. Be careful when loading new film into a roll laminator, because if the film is installed backwards it will coat parts of the laminator with hot, sticky lamination adhesive, ruining the machine. Never use sharp objects to load new film into a laminator; it may cause irreversible damage to costly Teflon-coated parts.

Roll Laminator Film

There is numerous types of film for roll laminators. Determine what you will be laminating before choosing a lamination film.
  • Clear Film - An average film that will bind to most ink lay downs. Clear is popular with schools and copy shops because it works on a lot of substances. Clear gives documents a fine glassy appearance. Temperature range: 210°-275°
  • Matte Film - Matte is a high-quality type of film that is popular because it produces a glare-free finish. Matte’s slightly granular and frosted texture reduces glare. Matte will work with pencil, pen, and marker. Temperature range: 210°-275°
  • UV Roll Film - UV is a transparent film with the added bonus of UV protection. Prints made with UV film last up to five times longer than other laminates. Temperature range: 185°-195°
These are a sample of common types of film. There are many other film types that can be used with roll laminators. A further list of lamination film can be found at this link.

Roll film also comes in different gauges (thousandths of an inch). The gauge is available in 1.5 mil, three mil, five mil and ten mil. Some roll laminators are restricted as to how thick of film gauge they can use. For quality purposes be sure to use film that works with your laminator.

Laminators use film with different core thicknesses. The core is the hole that runs through the center of the lamination film. Most laminators, 12 to 27 inches, use lamination with a one inch core. Roll laminators, 40+ inches, use anywhere from a 2 1/4-inch core up to a three inch core. Your laminator manual will explain what size core to use.

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Cold Laminators

Cold roll and pouch laminators don’t use heat to seal the film. The cold roll/pouch lamination film as a sticky side that is pressure-sensitive, sticking to the product when brought into contact.

Cold lamination is good for use with products that can be damaged by heat, such as wax-based ink that can be melted by heat.

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