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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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Floor graphics—A 5-mil matte vinyl provides for short-term floor graphics with good slip resistance and protection against the wear and tear of foot traffic and floor cleaners. (See industry standard ASTM D2047 for more information on static coefficient of friction requirements for floor graphics.)

Polycarbonate Polycarbonate is found in 5-, 10- and 15-mil thicknesses and used where stiffness and durability are the key variables in the finished graphic. Two main applications for this material include the following:

Trade-show graphics—Typically 10- and 15- mil products are used for the walls and 5-mil is used for the headers where improved flexibility is required for tight curves. The stiffness found in polycarbonate allows trade-show graphics to fit the curve of display frames. The adhesive must also be extremely cohesive (no separation) when the graphic is repeatedly rolled up for shipping. The finish is mostly a textured finish to avoid glare from the bright lighting often found in exhibit halls.

Floor graphics—Typically 5-mil film is used. This tough, durable film is ideal for graphics requiring longer-term durability in high traffic areas or areas with heavy machinery (Figure 4).

Polyester Polyester is another common facestock for pressure-sensitive laminating films. It also is one of the most expensive. Polyester provides the best clarity and is commonly used for high-end displays found in museums, airports, or anywhere premium graphic quality is essential. However, unlike its counterpart (vinyl), polyester tends to scratch easily and would not necessarily be recommended in places where it will be touched a lot or walked on.

Polypropylene The final face-stock we will discuss is polypropylene, which has a very specific quality that makes it appealing—it provides a "dry-erase" surface for easy marking and erasing. This film is often used on menu boards and courtroom graphics to temporarily mark crime-scene photos or maps.

Thermal laminating films

Thermal laminating films offer you many of the same qualities as pressure-sensitive films (i.e., protection against UV light, glare, fingerprints, oils), while adding rigidity, depth, and color vibrancy. However, the method by which the film is applied and the construction of the films differ.


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