Overlaminates do more than protect graphics. They also enhance finish, such as glitter, color filters, and matte or gloss. These are used on any graphic application depending on the desired appearance. Common enhancements are finishes such as gloss, luster, and matte; thickness; and texture. Decorative overlaminate finishes such as glitter and color filters are offered by a select number of vendors and considered specialty films.
Change it Up
3M Commercial Graphics’ Scotchcal Overlaminate portfolio provides a range of finishes from high gloss to ultra matte. 3M Scotchcal Gloss Overlaminate 8518 offers a wet paint look and the Scotchcal Ultra-Matte Overlaminate 8915 provides a museum-like quality finish for minimal light reflection.
Advanced Greig Laminators, Inc. (AGL) offers its Cover-Rite line of laminates. Cover-Rite V6e TM features a matte finish to eliminate reflection and Cover-Rite V4.75 T provides a semi-gloss finish to make colors pop.
Arlon Graphics, LLC manufactures several enhancer overlaminates. Series 3420 is a calendered film and Series 3220 is a cast. Wet look overlaminates include Series 3200, an optically clear overlaminate. Metallic overlaminates are found in Series 3220 Crystal Silver Metallic and pearlescent in Series 3200 Pearlescent.
D&K Group Inc.’s newest enhancer laminate is Diamond Hard Velvet Matte. It reduces glare, provides a scruff-resistant surface, and is available in a variety of adhesives—pressure sensitive, low melt, and standard thermal. Diamond Hard Velvet Matte provides durable protection with a soft feel. D&K’s SuperStick Canvas and Brushstroke overlays give a print the appearance of it being produced on real canvas.
FDC Graphic Films, Inc. offers laminates in three performance ranges that provide the underlying graphic with a glossy, luster, matte, or textured finish.
GBC’s Octiva line provides texture finishes. Octiva Lo-Melt Emboss 50, Lo-Melt Canvas, and Lo-Melt Textured Satin are used to provide a unique appearance to any graphic.
LexJet Corporation offers various finishes, thicknesses, and textures in its line of overlaminates.
Lintec of America’s Mistlass product line offers polyester and vinyl films with textured or frosted finishes. Additionally, the company’s Revi overlaminates are iridescent and change colors depending on the angle of view.
MACtac Graphic Products’ PERMACOLOR line offers PermaFlex PF6400, PF6300, and IP6200, which provide deeply textured attributes. PERMACOLOR Enhancers 6300 add sparkle to an underlying graphic and the newest option, PERMACOLOR DecoLam offers finishes such as brushed metal, fine and course wood grain, clear carbon fiber, leather, and velvet flock.
Oracal USA’s ORAGUARD 290F Optically Clear Cast PVC Laminating Film is a 2-mil optically clear cast available in a gloss finish to provide high levels of clarity. “People use our laminating films as a spot varnish on a printed document. If there are words on a digital film they use one of our laminating films to cover just the words and not the image to enhance the words,” explains Lisa Humrich, marketing manager, Oracal.
Ritrama Inc. offers a clear carbon fiber cast vinyl used for vehicle wraps or any other graphic print.
RTape Corp.’s Eclypse line of polycarbonate overlaminates offers a velvety texture, which deadens the distracting glare of overheard lights. Also, when used as a floor graphic, the texture works to prevent slippage.
Appearance Versus Function
There are mixed reactions when deciding what is the primary motive of an overlaminate—finish or protection? Most times, protection is a given and the finish is the added benefit. This is true for both traditional overlaminates and decorative films.
“All MACtac laminating films are specifically designed to protect the image because that is the number one criteria of a laminate. The additional benefit of creating a unique look for a printed image is a powerful incentive for the customer and an easy up sell for the print provider,” explains Jeffrey Stadelman, technical marketing manager, MACtac.
“Print providers simply offer lamination because it is necessary to protect the image,” agrees Tim T. Sowinski, product manager, GBC. However, he goes on to point out that print providers can grow revenues by offering a wider variety of finishes and educating customers on how lamination enhances a product.
Others see finish as a primary reason to use an overlaminate. This largely depends on where an application is placed. “In the case of using decorative overlaminates, protection is a secondary reason. Often matte laminates are used for indoor graphics to cut the glare from overhead lighting, while metallic and pearlescent laminates give a printed graphic depth,” shares Ritchie Daize, international digital sales manager, Arlon.
Realistically, all overlaminates are used to change the look of a graphic. “Decorative films offer a look that cannot easily be duplicated in the graphic itself. The protection they offer is secondary to the look that is being achieved,” says Robert Rundle, viscom market manager, Ritrama.
“A laminate is selected when there is a need to improve the finish or functionality of a print,” seconds Tim Saul, business development manager, D&K.
However, Tony Caruso, Eastern regional sales, AGL, is adamant that a print provider shouldn’t have to choose between appearance and function. “A high-quality laminate should enhance and protect digital graphics. One shouldn’t sacrifice the other,” he explains.
The Presence of Ink
With continued advancements in ink durability, many print providers eliminate the overlaminate step in the production process. While this may work in certain scenarios, it isn’t an option for every application. Factors such as where a graphic will be placed and how long it will be installed come into play.
“Even with ongoing advancements in inkjet printing, there continues to be a need to protect and add durability to printed graphics. Overlaminates offer value-added benefits beyond a basic graphic, such as extending print life beyond that of the ink,” explains Saul.
“Overlaminates are still a great way to protect a graphic from long-term UV exposure. The popularity of white ink and reverse imaging/second surface mounting of graphics changes how overlaminates are used. It may be more important in the future for the base film to have some UV protection,” foresees Adam Larsen, marketing supervisor, 3M.
Dione Metnick, product manager, LexJet, argues that there is less of a need for overlaminates, which is why enhancer films are used less for durability and more for providing a different finish. It is noted that a finish doesn’t necessarily have to be decorative. In some instances, it may add rigidity or slip resistance for floor and carpet graphics.
“Recent ink advancements provide the industry with more robust inks that offer greater scratch, water, and wear resistance. These advancements allow PSPs to print directly to these films, eliminating overlamination,” says John Coyne, sales manager, Lintec.
According to Daize, common laminates are those offering a wet look and matte finish. Metallic and pearlescent are still considered specialty products, mostly used in vehicle wraps and corporate interiors.
Using the term specialty implies a niche product. This is how FDC views overlaminates with decorative options. “FDC does not see decorative films as a significant growth opportunity. It is a design option when traditional laminate finishes or ink alternatives cannot fit the specific needs of the client,” shares Matt Buckley, marketing and technical manager, FDC.
It’s a mixed reaction when it comes to the primary usage of today’s overlaminate. Instead of this product going by the way side, it has conformed to offer enhanced appearance. Both traditional overlaminates—with matte or gloss, a wet look, or different textures—and decorative finishes used in specialty applications for their metallic or pearlescent features, get the job done.
“In selecting the right overlaminate for the job, the most important consideration is the application,” recommends Jim Hingst, business development manager, RTape. Not every digital print job may require an overlaminate for protection, but it many cases it may be needed to enhance its appearance.
In the next part of our series, we offer information on liquid coatings and one end user shares their story.