By Lisa Guerriero
Part 1 of 2
Ink advancements allow print providers to worry less about adhesion, quality, and durability. In some situations, lamination is necessary to improve the image, protect the graphics, or transform the print for a special application. It is important for applications like car wraps, floor graphics, and wall wraps—providing protection or enhancing the image, from anti-graffiti signage at a playground to a faux-canvas layer atop a fine art print.
With the prevalence of high-performance ink, the value of lamination often stems from how it enhances the quality of a print. Some products hide imperfections—like banding—in the graphic.
Additionally, “overlaminating the image improves the contrast between the colors, giving the image better sharpness. The film thickness makes the surface more uniform, which enhances the image,” explains Rob Acker, dealer manager, Graphic Finishing Partners, LLC.
Matte and gloss are lamination staples. Print providers often use mattes to minimize glare and gloss to make color pop.
Many specialized laminates help print providers cultivate customers and meet needs. “Velvet, holographic, linen, sand, and metallic films are on the market that offer users additional creative freedom to produce eye-catching graphics and displays,” notes Garth Bertini, senior marketing/sales manager, USI, Inc.
Many laminates increase the value of a graphic. Print providers can mark up the cost by adding specialty effects and finishes. “Digital printing cannot give the same embossed or glossy effect,” observes Marcus Tam, marketing manager, Eastsign International Ltd.
By laminating graphics, print providers can use them in new ways. Specialty laminates take this a step further. For example, a textured laminate creates a canvas-type look on a fine art print. Dry-erase film converts a school wall into a modern blackboard or a restaurant backdrop into a quick-change menu.
“Lamination can transform your digital graphics into floor graphics, dry-erase menu boards, point of purchase displays, signs, or window graphics,” says Frank Romanello, CEO, Rolinx USA.
Protection extends to both indoor and outdoor use. For interiors, laminating protects from abrasion, dust, and fingerprints. “The key to lamination is providing abrasion protection. It keeps the print looking clean and vibrant for its intended life,” says Ike Harris, president, Daige Inc.
Increasing durability adds to the value of a graphic, even with indoor applications. Most laminated prints can be washed and stored, which makes them ideal for trade show graphics, posters, and displays.
Outdoors, lamination guards against abrasion, moisture, fungus, and in some cases even UV exposure. “Laminating films with a UV protection layer increase the longevity of the materials by increasing the resistance to extreme weather conditions and helps to prevent materials from fading due to prolonged exposure to the sun,” explains Dan Kane, marketing assistant, Royal Sovereign International, Inc.
Some vendors harness a laminate’s protective qualities to create products that target specific markets. “With floor graphics, laminates protect the material from scuffing and provide necessary slip resistance,” points out Nate Goodman, product manager, Drytac Corporation.
Many brands of vehicle wraps, as well as floor graphics, require lamination. Both must withstand wear and tear—and both are two thriving print segments.
“The most common applications we see are vehicle wraps, decals, control labels, exhibits, and display works,” notes Michael Pender, president, Supply55, Inc. “We encourage customers to view lamination as a profit center as it increases the value of the printed images.”
Films with anti-graffiti properties are another popular product, targeting both indoor and outdoor uses. “With it, spray paint and permanent markers wipe clean without the use of harsh or dangerous chemicals,” says Tony Caruso, Eastern regional sales, Advanced Greig Laminators, Inc.
Laminates also protect media during delivery and installation, including some unique scenarios—like providing temporary coverage on fine art prints when they’re moved or stored.
Some devices enable thermal encapsulation of vinyl or paper output. “Cold lamination has become increasingly important as thermal-sensitive printing processes have evolved,” observes Shawn Glen, product manager, Xyron.
Mounting graphics to a base is a popular way to use lamination. “Face mounting using an optically clear transparent adhesive is trending. This is one of the most difficult processes because of the fact that you are looking through the adhesive to see the image and one tiny speck of dust or debris can ruin the piece,” says Steven B. Frazier, project engineer, Coda, Inc. He recommends using a heated laminator to warm the adhesive as it is applied.
Liquid laminators also have a changing role in the graphic arts. “With the rise in popularity of wallcoverings, it’s become abundantly apparent that liquid laminators are uniquely geared towards that application,” notes Sarah Perkins, marketing coordinator, Marabu North America.
Enhancement by Laminate
The role of laminators continue to change, but they remain a highly useful part of a print provider’s arsenal. Laminates protect digitally printed graphics, especially those exposed to foot traffic, wear and tear, and weather.
Specialty laminates also enhance graphics, improving color appearance and adding texture or an enhanced finish. New applications and uses—from dry-erase graphics to anti-graffiti—make lamination a worthwhile investment for many print providers.
Part two of this article highlights laminators that make enhancements and protection possible.
Aug2015, Digital Output DOLM1508