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Armor and Appeal

Laminates Protect and Pizzazz

Part 1 of 4

By Kim Crowley

Laminates add coating to prints, protecting them from multiple sources of damage, heightening visibility, connoting a dramatic effect, and easing installation and removal. The reward is a long lasting, attractive product.

"Today, more than ever, lamination is viewed as a requirement and no longer as a choice," states Matt Buckley, technical specialist, FDC Graphic Films Inc. "Laminates are used for three main reasons—to protect a graphic, change its finish, or make it easier to apply."

Composition Systems Inc. (CSI), a print service provider (PSP) in Falls Church, VA, uses laminates on a variety of projects—from vehicle graphics and posters, to adhesive vinyl wall murals. "We normally recommend lamination when the graphic is displayed for longer than a few days," notes Rob Harris, COO, CSI. CSI views laminations as insurance against damage. Harris estimates that at least 90 percent of CSI’s photographic output and about 85 percent of adhesive vinyl output is laminated.

"All large format prints should utilize a laminate. It is an opportunity to add value to your print as well as increase revenue for your business," states Brian Franks, director sales and marketing, Advanced Greig Laminators, Inc. Laminates prevent ink fade, alter finish, attract attention, minimize scratching, add durability, and create rigidity, he notes.

Lamination can add an extra stream of revenue for a PSP, but mainly it serves to beautify and protect. "We don't generate a tremendous amount of profit when we laminate, but we normally sell it to our clients as peace of mind so they will not come back and reprint the job," says Harris.

Avoid Hazards
Many unavoidable elements influence the longevity and polished look of printed graphics. "Laminates are a universal surface protection on digital media," says Martin Kugler, corporate communications manager, Hexis. "Depending on the expected type of wear we recommend vinyl cold laminates against environmental aggressions and polyester laminates against graffiti and vandalism," he adds.

Abrasions, marks, and scratches result from human hands and feet; dust, graffiti, road hazards, transport, and installation are added factors. Laminates protect from these problems and are especially relevant for vehicle wraps, trade show graphics, marketing materials, and floor graphics.

"Laminates should be used any time specifications for durability are higher than the capabilities of the ink/media combination used," states Patrick Forney, product manager and Chuck McGettrick, North American sales manager, Clearstar LP.

Peter Spotto, sales manager, dreamScape, advises laminating wall coverings to protect against stains and abrasion. "This is especially necessary for installations in high-traffic areas—such as hallways, amusement parks, stores, play areas, etc.—where there is an increased chance of damage to the surface."

UV light causes large format digital prints to fade. "When a finished digital print is in the sun for an extended period of time, it is not uncommon for companies to use a laminate," says Susie Mendelssohn, marketing, Triangle Digital INX. Although, she confesses, "The need for laminates seems to have decreased due to the changes in inks’ fade resistance. Most inks require a laminate, but these days solvent inks provide up to two to three years outdoor durability and in many cases, applications don’t even stay out that long."

Different media requires specific laminates. A liquid laminate is better suited for canvas due to texture, states Jim Manelski, president, BullDog Digital Imaging Products. "Canvas prints produced on water-based printers need a liquid laminate to protect the print from moisture, abrasion, and fading. Canvas printed on solvent printers do not necessarily require a liquid laminate, but many people still coat solvent prints for added protection or to achieve a desired sheen," says Manelski.

Heighten Visibility with Multiple Usage
A large format print is only successful or appreciated if it is clearly visible. Targeted lamination controls glare in overhead or harsh lighting situations. "A matte finish is common for interior graphics or in locations where there are cameras," says Tim Boxeth, marketing manager, 3M Graphics Market Center.

Judy Bellah, public relations manager, Clear Focus Imaging, Inc., says shops choose to laminate graphics to "maintain visibility by preventing the window film’s holes from filling with water when it rains or when the window is washed."

Lance Hutt, global digital product manager, Avery Graphics, says overlaminates also offer a design function. "The matte look is a popular trend for vehicles. Avery products are used to achieve this look, which is more durable and easier to maintain than paint," he claims.

Other customers request a gloss finish. "A gloss overlaminate is very common for vehicle wraps to provide a wet-paint look," explains Boxeth. Using a gloss finish attracts attention and also helps give color a vibrant pop.

Selectively laminating areas within a print draws the eye to points of interest and can yield outstanding results. "We experimented with laminating only certain parts of prints for visual effect," states CSI’s Harris. Specialized laminates enhance the print and help convey a particular marketing message. For example, use a frost coat for a winter ski resort ad or a glitter laminate for a jewelry store poster.

Several laminates create a surface for limited dry erase use. This application comes in handy for maps, presentation materials, fundraising goal posters, and message boards.

Easy Application
"With constant improvements in ink technology, more customers may begin to laminate less for the protection value and more to change the finish or make application easier," suggests FDC’s Buckley.

Laminates also add extra thickness to graphics. "They help build a thicker, more manageable product to handle," says Robert Rundle, viscom market manager, Ritrama Inc. "Application is typically easier with added thickness, whether for small helmet decals or vehicle wraps," says Buckley.

Removal is also easier with laminates. "A laminated graphic tends to come off more easily than an unlaminated one—although ease of removal depends in part on how long the graphic was left on," admits Clear Focus’ Bellah.

The Power of Lamination
Laminates are rewarding to both PSPs and their customers. "It’s a profitable process and it widens our ability to offer more complex projects to our clientele," says Alejandro Scotti, production manager, Influence Graphics, a New York City-based digital printer. "Clients are always looking for one stop shopping."

"Increasingly PSPs understand the benefits of offering lamination, the value it adds to the print, and the importance it has in generating more margin while improving value to the print purchaser," says Buckley. With this variety it is difficult to find a PSP not utilizing laminates. Next week read about various products available on the market.

Feb2009, Digital Output

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