Liquid coatings are not commonly used in wide format print. Coatings are predominately seen in the narrow format space. However depending on the application, many print service providers (PSPs) find liquid coatings a cost-effective means to protecting their graphics.
“Liquid laminates are almost always more cost effective. Small jobs are coated by hand using a paint brush or roll, or larger jobs are completed using a liquid laminator. Not only is the cost per square foot less expensive with liquid laminate, but it can be applied without the end user having to buy expensive laminating equipment,” shares Patrick Forney, product manager, Marabu North America LP.
How does a PSP choose between a liquid or a film coating? Alex Ried, product manager, LexJet Corporation, says the deciding factor mostly depends on aesthetics or just plain user preference. Typically, fine art-type applications are coated with liquid finishers. This can be anything canvas-based from photos to wallcoverings. The benefit of liquid coatings is in their flexibility, which is why banners are another great application to consider. No cracking occurs when graphics protected by liquid laminates are bent.
Similar to overlaminate films, liquid laminates offer UV and chemical protection and also are available in a variety of finishes—gloss, semi gloss, and matte.
Real World Liquid Lam
Illusions Inc. was founded in 1986 and began manufacturing automotive graphics in 2000. It houses 17 employees with one location in Hudson, FL. To finish its vast line of automotive graphics, the company relies on a Marabu StarLam 1600R roll-to-roll liquid laminator.
Originally the PSP would spray graphics with an automotive clear coat, but this took time and was costly. Today the laminator helps streamline workflow and get work quickly out the door. According to Stephen Passione, operations manager, Illusions, the output mimics a sprayed automotive clear coat.
The cost effectiveness of using a liquid coating for its automotive work is really what sold Illusions. Liquid costs them about $0.09 per square foot, versus $0.50 for film. Passione admits the company uses minimal film overlaminate. When they do, it is mostly for full vehicle wrap jobs.
Marabu’s ClearShield water-based liquid laminate is not only inexpensive, but provides the PSP with a great looking finish minus a lot of labor. Easy to use, both gloss and matte finishes offer a five to seven year protection.
“The liquid lamination makes the artwork pop and gives extra life to the graphics, wherever they may travel. It makes the graphics much more valuable to the end user, even if they don’t realize it,” continues Passione.
Illusions’ graphics are seen across Australia, Canada, and the U.S. Not only do they liquid laminate for professional installers, they also are original equipment manufacturers for RV plants in Elkart, IN and Portland, OR.
Liquid laminate is essential to Illusions’ business, as it can’t offer its products without a protective coating. Cars require protection from dust, dirt, and other elements that could cause abrasion, in addition to common concerns such as UV light and precipitation.
It’s Your Decision