How to buy the right laminator for the job

Laminators make a good addition to any office environment. They are a quick and easy way to protect photographs and other documents. Lamination protects documents by permanently bonding clear plastic film to one or both sides of the item. This makes them tear-proof and waterproof; protects items from moisture and environmental damage; prevents creasing and wrinkling; prevents staining and smudging; and prolongs life by preventing light damage.
There are a number of different types of laminators to choose from.

Remember the following:

The volume of documents to be laminated will determine which type of laminator you will need. Compact, desktop laminators are ideal for small offices, while commercial laminators are designed for high volume use in commercial applications. A commercial laminator offers long lasting dependability, durability, low maintenance and high quality lamination.
Depending on the type of machine, a card carrier or laminating pouch carrier sheet will be required. More expensive laminators have adjustable speed and heat settings.

Types of laminators
Pouch laminators use a lamination pouch that is usually sealed on one side, and coated with a heat-activated film that adheres to the product being laminated as it runs through the machine. The document is bonded to the substrate (which can be any number of board products, such as paper or card) or another sheet of laminate plastic. The pouch that holds the document, laminate and substrate is passed under pressure through a set of heated rollers. This ensures that all the adhesive layers bond to one another.

Pouch laminators are ideal for use in the home or in a small office environment. The machines are relatively inexpensive and quite effective. They have a small footprint and won’t take up much space.

Heated roll laminators use heated rollers to melt a glue that is extruded on to lamination film. The film is then applied, under pressure, to the substrate using rollers. Heated roll laminators are used to embellish or protect documents or photographs. These machines vary in size from those suitable for an office to industrial-sized machines. Industrial machines are used by businesses such as printers for high-quality, high-quantity output.

The primary advantage of using a heated roll laminator is speed. The melting of the glue prior to applying the film to the substrate allows for a much faster application of the film. Laminates and adhesives used in heated roll laminators can be up to 50% cheaper than cold roll laminates. The materials are non-adhesive until heated, which makes them easier to handle. Because glue is solid at room temperature, this type of lamination is less likely to shift or warp.
Cold roll laminators use a plastic film that is coated with an adhesive and has a glossy backing. The glossy backing doesn’t stick to the glue, and when it is removed the adhesive is exposed. It then sticks directly on to the item which is to be laminated. Cold lamination has the benefit of being suitable for items which could be damaged by heat. These include items made of vinyl or documents printed with wax-based ink.

Cold laminators range from simple, two-roller machines to large, complex motor-driven machines. The rise of inkjet printers, and their use of inks and papers damaged by heat, increased the popularity of cold roll lamination. Cold laminating processes are used outside of the print industry too, such as when coating a sheet of glass with a protective film. They are also used for laying down adhesive films in the sign-making industry.

Tips for problem-free laminating
• Ensure that you have the right type and weight of pouch for the item to be laminated.
• Ensure that the machine is properly warmed up to the right temperature.
• Use a card carrier if appropriate.
• Ensure that the item to be laminated is right up to the sealed edge of the pouch, allowing a 2mm (minimum) border around the rest of the document to avoid jamming.
• Do not use homemade, chopped up pouches. You can always cut the item down to size after it has been laminated.
• Ensure that the pouch to be used is the correct size for the job.
• If you are attempting to use a pouch with several items inside it, always use a carrier sheet whether your machine requires it or not. Be sure to leave adequate space between each item so that you can cut them down after lamination.
• When cutting laminated items, be sure to leave a “seal” around the edge of the document. If you attempt to cut all the way to the edge of the document your laminate may come apart.
• When laminating irregular surfaces such as embossed or textured originals, it may be necessary to send the item through the machine twice to avoid wrinkling.
• Make sure that all pouches are fed in sealed end first.
• Ensure that the rollers and plate are cleaned regularly, as this prevents the build-up of sticky residue which can also cause pouches to jam. Heat the machine to normal laminating temperature and then pass a non glossy piece of card through the machine as if laminating.
• If a pouch is trapped, do not feed anything into the machine to push it out, contact the manufacturer. Do not attempt to carry out repairs before consulting the manufacturer as you may inadvertently cause more damage.
• Never attempt to laminate an irreplaceable document. With items such as photographs, it is best to make copies rather than try and laminate originals.
• Always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for your laminator.

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