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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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What do laminating films have in common with an algebraic expression like 3x + 1 = 10? The process of selecting film is not as finite as the solution to this equation, but the process does involve an "x" factor of its own. When determining what laminating film will best satisfy your needs, you must consider all the variables. But what are the variables? How do you solve for "x"?

Before we get out the calculators and No. 2 pencils, it's important to ask the following question: Why laminate in the first place? The simple answer is to increase your graphic's longevity and maintain its appearance. But there are other reasons to consider adding a laminating film:

• protection against ultraviolet (UV) light, which cause graphics to fade
• protection against fingerprints, cleaners, oils, etc.
• added color depth and vibrancy
• added rigidity for easy handling

Because screen printers already utilize UV inks, which makes the finished product inherently resistant to the elements, choosing a laminating film may be a whole new equation. But even in screen printing there are those prints that require a little extra protection, such as applications in high-traffic areas that are susceptible to scratching. In addition, many screen printers are expanding their capabilities into large-format digital printing, which often requires the protection of a laminating film.

For any printer—screen, digital or otherwise—it is important to understand the variety of laminating films available and when each type should be used. In this article, we will focus on two types of laminating films: pressure sensitive and thermal. Both types are defined by how they are applied, and both have separate considerations that will give printers the look, feel, and durability the job requires.

Laying the groundwork

The first step in figuring out the "x" is a big one: determining what type of laminating equipment is available to you (Figure 1). Does the shop only have cold-roll laminating equipment, appropriate for pressure-sensitive films? Or does the laminator also have the ability to heat the rolls to 250°F, necessary for thermal-film application? Establishing this immediately narrows the laminating options to just pressure sensitive or to both pressure sensitive and thermal.

Here are a few questions a graphic supplier should ask to help in product selection:


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