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Assessing the Variables In Laminating-Film Selection

(October 2006) posted on Tue Oct 10, 2006

Find out how to distinguish amoung the varieties of laminating, the films on the market today and learn what criteria to consider when matching overlaminates with your applications.


By Jeff Stadelman

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Let's get the easy parts out of the way first: the adhesive and liner. The quality of the adhesive is determined by the needs of the customer. Adhesive quality is already factored into the "good/better/best" formula. We'll start with "good." Simply put, "good" means "good enough" for most customers—the film provides clarity, cleanliness, smoothness, etc. "Good" grade pressure-sensitive laminating films typically are used in digitally produced graphics that are intended for short-term use (three to six months) and for viewing from a distance.

The "better" grade laminating films provide improved durability, cleanliness, smoothness, etc. They are designed for use in closer-viewing applications that require a longer lifespan (six months to one year). Finally, the "best" grade films offer the highest quality UV protection, clean-room quality, and two- to five-year durability.

The liner is instrumental in the performance of pressure-sensitive laminating film during the finishing processes. The smoother the liner, the smoother the adhesive. And the smoother the adhesive, the better the adhesive wets out during application, resulting in a clearer finished graphic. Also, higher quality liners provide improved stability during the laminating process, resulting in more consistent results and faster laminating speeds.

Face stocks are a little trickier as there are several options to consider with varying pros and cons for each.

Vinyl

Vinyl is the most common face stock for pressure-sensitive laminating films because it is relatively inexpensive, has excellent layflat and conformability characteristics, and it is very durable. It is also very easy to change the gloss level of vinyl stock during manufacturing, which further drives cost down. Both cast and calendered vinyls are used for laminating films. The choice of which type to employ depends on the end-use application and the cost the customer is willing to bear.

Common applications and recommended thicknesses for pressure-sensitive vinyl films include the following:

Vehicle wraps and fleet marking—A cast 2-mil vinyl is recommended for vehicle graphics (Figure 2). The face stock is kept thin to maintain high conformability.

Point-of-purchase (P-O-P)—The recommended thickness for P-O-P is 3.0-3.5 mil. The thicker material allows for improved image depth and ease of handling on both the laminator and during installation (Figure 3). In addition, this product is typically less costly than other options.


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