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Business Opportunities

Wide-format Laminating

With high-quality finishing more important than ever, Rob Fletcher takes a look at the latest laminating systems that can help add that extra sparkle to prints

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The Easymount S1600C features ground-breaking pneumatic air technology to ensure the perfect lamination, with no damage to the underlying substrate

A seal on success

Is it just me, or do you sometimes find yourself feeling a little sorry for outdoor signs? If you think about it, the humble sign has to contend with a lot; from the harsh extremes of freezing winter weathers, through to the threat of graffiti by vandals, signs do have something of a tough time.

However, sign-makers can print-service-providers ensure that their applications are protected from such dangers with lamination. And as a bonus, lamination can also add that little bit of extra quality to a sign or
print to help it really stand out to consumers.

With this in mind, we pick out some of the latest laminating systems and solutions available to the market, and examine how people can use this technology to ensure their signs and prints are well protected and ‘pop’ to the public.

Extraordinary applications

As its name may suggest, one of the leading names in lamination technology is Vivid Laminating Systems. Lewis Evans, product manager at the company, says that by investing in quality kit—simply put—sign-makers can ensure that their applications look better and last longer.

Vivid Laminating Systems has a range of films available, including its best-selling lamination product, the new crystal film option. It went on display at The Print Show 2017 and received intense interest from visitors 

“The first, and perhaps most obvious reason for investment, is that lamination protects and adds durability to printed signage, especially where it is to be used externally,” Evans says.

He adds: “Integrated UV inhibitors reduces fading over time. However, that isn’t all, the application of a quality laminate, such as Vivid’s Boss range, actually lifts and enhances the print appearance for a significantly improved overall finish. Boss films work particularly well on Vivid’s award-winning Easy Mount systems.”

Evans builds on this by revealing that Vivid will soon be expanding its range of solutions with the launch of Boss Metallic, which he says is suitable for wide-format printed products.

“Using Color-Logic software, you can create amazing full and spot metallic effects without having to outlay high material cost to produce,” he says, adding: “Because an image with a metallic or an effect applied is viewed on average six times longer than an image without, giving users more impact from their advertising signage.

“This material has a life of three years internal and external and comes in removable and permanent adhesive. Colour options are silver, rose gold, copper and gold.”

Evans also highlights Vivid’s Crystal Film as an option well worth considering, which he says is the company’s best-selling lamination product. It features a tough, anti-glare finish and is also hard-wearing, which Evans says makes it an “all-rounder the ideal solution in many applications including for roll-up banner stands”.

In addition, Evans points sign-makers and PSPs in the direction of ‘Glaminate’, which he says will help them add real value to signage applications: “Quality lamination has the ability to convert the ordinary into something eye-catching and extraordinary.

“An example of this is the new glitter laminate or ‘Glaminate’ film available from Vivid that has been really catching the attention of our customers and is selling very well. This material can also double as a floor graphic and is proving very popular for that application, as well as for exhibition and display work.”

Protect and serve

Also active in this sector is Mimaki, which is represented in the UK and Ireland by exclusive distributor Hybrid Systems. Although perhaps better known for its wide-format print solutions, as Hybrid national sales manager John de la Roche explains, the Mimaki portfolio stretches much further than this.

De la Roche says: “Mimaki has recently launched a competitively priced laminator and matched film that’s specifically designed to partner with the exciting new Mimaki UCJV LED UV printer/cutter range. It’s a heat assist product that improves overlaminate film adhesion, particularly to surfaces printed with UV-curable inks.

Mimaki’s new laminator and matched film has been specifically designed to partner with the new Mimaki UCJV LED UV printer/cutter range. Pictured: the UCJV300 model

“This reduces the potential for the ‘silvering’ effect created by pressure sensitive overlaminates. Due to instant curing, UV inks tend to have a slightly uneven surface, which can trap air bubbles during the laminating process, causing silvery specs that can take away from the appearance of the product.

“Mimaki UCJV prints are instantly dry meaning they can be immediately finished on a Mimaki LA Series laminator.

This complete, harmonised solution ensures reliable performance and quality output for those occasions when a protective overlaminate is required.”

The Mimaki LA Series laminator acts as a heat assist product to improve overlaminate film adhesion on signage applications

Expanding on this, De la Roche goes on to explain why it is so important for sign-makers and PSPs to commit funds to lamination technology, saying that this process can do so much more for applications than to simply protect them from damage.

De la Roche comments: “If you were to speak to a graphics producer and ask them if they have a ‘laminator’ the answer may well be: ‘No, but we have a finishing machine’. In other words, lamination is often seen as the process of finishing the print for any number of reasons but frequently, it’ll be in order to protect the graphics if it’s to be installed in a high-risk area, thus saving it from damage from adverse weather, chemical attack or mechanical abrasion.

The key point is finishing a print to ensure that it is suitable for its application

“The key point is finishing a print to ensure that it is suitable for its application. As well as the important aspect of protecting a print over, lamination can also be used to change the way it looks, for example applying a matte laminate to reduce the reflection caused by interior lighting in a retail or exhibition environment.”

Right to the finish

Swinging back around to the laminating materials on offer and Drytac is on hand to offer solutions. Shaun Holdom, general manager at Drytac, says that while lamination forms part of the finishing process, it should not be the last thing on sign-makers’ minds.

Drytac films can be used across a range of sign applications, but the company warns that users must ensure the product is suitable for their specific project

Holdom expands: “Lamination products are often the last thing printers think about, and for many years printer manufacturers have been striving to remove this process from the production of a print. However, by using the right laminate for the right application, it will enhance the quality of the end product and give customers much wider scope for product application with existing equipment.

“Quality lamination materials boost the longevity of print and ensure colour consistency and vibrancy in signage. Laminates add depth, detail, and mechanical protection—such as anti-graffiti qualities—for printed graphics. Thanks to UV inhibitors, they also help to guarantee light stability.”

With this in mind, Holdom draws attention to some of the latest options on offer from Drytac. Protac Anti-Graffiti UV HCW is a 20-micron outdoor, graffiti-resistant film that wipes clean of virtually any spray paint. The gloss finish also provides a high degree of resistance to ultraviolet light, dirt, and pollutants, while users can clean it with solvents, without danger of damaging the application.

Holdom says: “It is ideal for advertising graphics or displays that will be used outside, especially where graffiti might be a possibility. Good for bus shelters, train stations, and outdoor kiosks.”

Also available from Drytac is Protac Anti-Scratch Matte UV HCW, a premium, 75-micron non-glare matte PVC with a non-marking, anti-scratch surface that is Drytac’s most popular sign lamination product. Coated with a premium solvent adhesive for optimum clarity, it offers UV protection for outdoor applications, making it suitable for signage in high-traffic areas and for graphics displayed under direct lighting.

O Factoid: Although lamination was not widely used until the 1930s, historians believe the process dates back to the mid-1800s, when damaged documents were repaired using translucent paper. O

Drytac also offers Interlam Pro Emerytex UV, a monomeric soft calendared PVC laminating film with a matte pebble finish, coated on one side with a pressure sensitive, aqueous acrylic adhesive that prevents silvering and produces a strong bond to UV inks as well as latex and other ink technologies. It is recommended for tradeshow graphics, POP displays, mouse pads, counter mats, event signage, floor graphics, and other signage where a scuff-resistant finish is required.

Holdom adds: “Using the correct, quality products for specific applications is key. Badly applied, lower-grade materials can ramp up the cost per sqm.t if you factor in the time taken to apply the laminate and the cost of potentially wasted materials.”

This final comment sums up the key message of lamination, in that this process does so much more than just protect the sign application. Investment in quality kit and materials can help give your work the edge, which will in turn translate to positive results for your customers.

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