Thursday, 08 Oct 2015 14:13 GMT

Laminating and Encapsulating

In today's tightening economy, everything has to last longer. Sophie Jones investigates the latest finishing technologies that can safeguard both your output and your business

Protect and defend

In an economy where people are tightening their belts, material goods have to last longer. From the ‘make do and mend’ attitude instilled during the austerity of the Second World War, to today's trend for ‘upcycling’ old furniture or clothes to give them cost-effective alternative uses, pinching the pennies becomes part of the fabric of society in times of need.

Though we can happily say that the credit crunch is not squeezing us all quite as tightly as it was five years ago, it does not mean that print businesses are not still considering ways to cut costs down, while keeping output quality high—many a printing firm will find themselves having to sacrifice one for the other. Customers appreciate the promise of the longevity of their print work, because there is no sense in spending a lot on something that will have to be replaced in a few months.

There is one area of the finishing sector that is a metaphor in itself for adding value and longevity to a material; and that is laminating. Whether it is adding that layer of practically undetectable plastic film to a precious photograph, or encapsulating a large poster entirely to protect it from the elements, the addition of this service to a print room’s arsenal gives benefits on a small (print-based) and large (firm-based) scale.

Simple yet effective

David Smith, marketing communications manager of Vivid Laminating Technologies, points out that laminating and encapsulating is a simple yet brilliantly effective way of ensuring the longevity of print, as well as opening up new markets. He says: “Encapsulating a print makes it water-proof and also protects it from grease and spills.

Encapsulation on roll-fed systems can therefore bring in all kinds of extra revenue where longer format print is in use. Blueprints and maps, large banners and posters can all be protected from rain, mud, and snow.

(Above & below) David Smith of Vivid notes that laminating machines can offer special effects like UV spotting to add further value to print

“Most restaurants will either laminate or encapsulate their menus so they can be re-used. More and more pubs are transforming themselves to offer food services to customers and a waterproofed menu is a massive benefit to these types of businesses.”

Smith however recognises that printers who have always sourced their laminating work from trade finishers may not see the financial benefit in investing in in-house laminating and encapsulating machinery, but he argues that it can be an ideal solution in times of austerity, especially using some of the newest developments in technology.

(Above & below) Vivid Laminating's Matrix Duplex Laminating System recently won the award from Printing News in the USA for Reader’s Choice Top Product

He says: “Offering an in-house service to laminate, encapsulate, finish with foil, holographic films and spot UV effects not only saves time, it also saves revenue. Many printers would either outsource these more specialist finishing options, or not offer them to their customers in the first place. Companies can now bring all of these amazing finishing options in-house for the first time, and all from one system.

Offering an in-house service to laminate, encapsulate, finish with foil, holographic films, and spot UV effects not only saves time, it also saves revenue

“Workshop space can sometimes be tight, especially in high street copy and print shops and smaller format digital printers. Purchasing one multifunctional system that can laminate single sided, double sided and encapsulate is therefore one of the best choices for printers.”

Vivid's Matrix Duplex Laminating System, which Smith refers to, has certainly impressed on the global scene, recently winning the award from Printing News in the USA for Reader’s Choice Top Product. It seems the Duplex's multifunctional attributes mark it out as a cost-saving piece of kit, being able to laminate both single and double sided, and encapsulate, all on the same machine.

However, Vivid has more tricks up its sleeve to adapt the already multifunctional kit for all kinds of different applications, says Smith, with a particular emphasis on book covers. He says: “We’ve also recently launched our Flatbook System that works in synchronisation with all versions of the Matrix and Matrix Duo systems. It cleverly cuts out a channel of OPP film as it laminates, allowing the glue to sit directly in the book spine. Perfect and PUR binding systems can then be used to create a completely flat book cover.

“Cover curl has always been an issue in the print industry, usually overcome by using specialist expensive films. With the Flatbook in place, standard and more economical OPP film can be used, with huge cost-saving benefits.”

Smith continues, outlining that the newest developments to the machine go even beyond mere laminating, into the realms of special effects, which are becoming an extremely lucrative service. He says: “I’m also really excited about our newest development for the Matrix Duplex and Pneumatic systems. Printers can now create stunning finishes using all kinds of coloured foils, holographic films and spot UV-style effects. Expensive dies aren’t required to do this. It can all be done on the Matrix.

“Foiling and spot UV have always traditionally been very specialist and expensive outsourced finishing opt-ions, so many printers haven’t been able to offer this to their customers. But now with the Matrix installed, they can bring all of this in-house.

“I believe it will transform how small-run print shops finish, especially in the wedding stationery, high end, bespoke print, packaging, and traditional stationery markets.”

Yet, with the rise of digital print, even those printers who were offering these in-house services found them-selves often to be back to square one. Smith explains: “When printing digitally, digital film was always a requirement when laminating. This can be more costly than standard film, which is normally used on litho prints.

“Laminating using the Matrix Pneumatic Systems means that standard film can be used with digital prints, so even more savings can be made. This is due to the extra pressure created by the pneumatic rollers and an even greater bond to the print is achieved.”

A flexible approach

Another manufacturer that is concerned with printers securing their future, along with the future of their print output, is Worcestershire-based D and K Europe, which has more than 30 years of experience providing economical and reliable solutions to the laminating and encapsulating markets.

Karen Turner, D and K’s commercial manager, says: “We manufacture both laminating and encapsulating machines from desktop to fully automated, high speed systems plus an extensive film range. We have been manufacturing machines for more than 30 years, and during this time have built our reputation on a flexible approach to providing solutions for customers finishing requirements, and being able to reach quickly to the market changes.

“In addition to our standard range D and K is using its wealth of engineering experience and print finishing appli-cation knowledge to develop customised machine solutions for a number of users.”

Because of this, explains Turner, the company understands some of the huge pressures printers are under when it comes to purchasing new finishing equipment. She says: “Markets can change fairly quickly so printers need to bear this in mind when making the purchasing decision. A machine that will fulfil needs now might not in one or two years’ time so trying to future-proof your purchase is essential.”

For this reason, D and K has also focused on building their machines to suit as wide a range of applications and markets as possible. Turner explains: “Recent developments in our range include B1 and B2 landscape machines, which mean the sheet can be fed either portrait or landscape to over-come any potential issues with grain direction or sealed/coated sheets.

D and K Europe’s EuropaPB double-sided laminator is ideal for the emerging Photobook market

“Europa and Jupiter PB are our double-sided laminators and are ideal for the emerging Photobook market and also Europa EL, with in-line embossing using standard laminating films.

“The benefits of investing in this equipment include being able to market yourself as a ‘one stop shop’, which cuts down on lead times and also makes you more competitive by not incurring any of the additional costs associated with sending work out.”

The benefits of investing in this equipment include being able to market yourself as a 'one stop shop', which cuts down on lead times and also makes you more competitive

Turner does have a word of warning for printers purchasing these machines on a whim though, saying that the two biggest mistakes she often sees are: “When printers buy a low volume machine that might be okay to start with but does not cope with increased volumes; and when they buy a machine with limited capabilities for heating, pressure and speed, making it difficult to produce good quality work.”

Sustainable production

Another company which has its finger on the pulse of the print industry’s needs is Terry Cooper Services (TCS), one of the UK’s leading suppliers of finishing equipment. Chris Cooper, managing director of TCS, has a strong view of the current climate, and exactly where bringing finishing services such as laminating and encapsulating in-house can make all the difference. He also knows exactly what printers should be looking for in their equipment.

Cooper says: “Operations considering adding the processes of laminating and encapsulating should consider equipment features, production speeds, product flexibility, value for money, ROI, set up times, ease of use, carbon foot print, and environmental sustainability. But they also need to look at the cost benefit of bringing finishing in-house as opposed to outsourcing.

Terry Cooper Services supplies Bagel Systems laminating equipment to the UK

“With laminating, it is not just the machine that should be considered, it is also the laminate film and how this is going to perform with regard to the varied print jobs handled. The right solutions will ensure better results from the outset and prolong the life of the product produced.

O Factoid: Lamination success depends on many factors, including the brand, type, and thickness of the film, the weight of the paper, the type of printer used, and even ink coverage. If you are printing and laminating stock with a lot of black or dark colours, generally a higher temperature is required. O

“Lamination increases both the perceived value and quality of a printed item and also protects the ink, with today’s choice of film laminates gloss, silk, matt, and soft touch matt. This really does give the end product a whole new dimension.”

Lamination increases both the perceived value and quality of a printed item and also protects the ink, with today’s choice of film laminates gloss, silk, matt, and soft touch matt

TCS is the sole UK supplier of Bagel Systems, a manufacturer that is constantly looking to perfect its machinery's performance. For example, Cooper says, Bagel Systems has been concentrating on re-inventing film loading systems on its laminating equipment, giving manifold benefits to the printer.

He explains: “Bagel's new film loader allows multiple reels at once. It becomes extremely handy on high frequency job changeovers, which is ideal for digital printing. If operations need to jump from matt to gloss, then back to matt or/and soft touch continuously, they can all be loaded quickly and accurately. Each one is just one click away.

“Additionally, we understand the printer has to have a fully-equipped solution. All Bagel solutions offer, as standard, expandable shafts for quick film loading, oil heated roller, auto start button, and auto-safe film threading button.

“Once the decision is taken to bring the job in-house, operations take full control of it—all the logistical problems of collection and delivery, delays, damage, and short returns are all gone. Shorter run lengths also become more viable as these are now more cost effective. The lamination process might even be offered without an added charge but to purely add value to which is already a quality print job.”

Bagel Systems has also introduced a number of performance enhancements to increase the lamination productivity of its Digifav B2 Pro. In collaboration with film partner Deprosa, Bagel’s XEHT technology (X-tream Efficient Heat Transfer) has reportedly increased the roller surface by 50 percent and the contact surface between film and roller by 130 percent.

Dean Stayne, sales manager at TCS, explains the benefits of this technology: “XEHT reduces energy consumption, something many print operations take into consideration when making new purchases. But more significantly it improves film and print behaviour during the laminate process resulting in less paper waste and greater production efficiency.”

Combined with the design of the Digifav series, continues Stayne, this can offer huge savings in production speed and cost: “The ultra-compact Digifav series is capable of speeds up to 4,000 sheets an hour, or 30 m/min, up from the previous model’s 22 m/min,” says Stayne.

He adds: “It offers a greater format size of 530 x 750mm and a lower working temperature that is 15 percent less than the Digifav B2. The flexible Digifav B2 Pro ensures consistent quality and significantly reduces waste.”

A world of choice

Intelligent Finishing Systems (IFS) on the other hand  champions Foliant laminating machines, with one of their most popular being the Foliant Gemini C400S (B3+). This is a semi-automatic high pressure laminating machine and separator, which offers professional single side lamination in digital shops and all other printing shops, printing and processing sheets up to B3+ size.

David Pryer, director of The Printed Word, Horsham, West Sussex, recently invested in a Gemini C400A from IFS–which also features a feeder. Having previously been working with a hand-fed laminator for some jobs, and outsourcing the rest, he says that the machine has been a boon to the firm's production.

Intelligent Finishing Systems' Foliant Gemini 400A offers single side lamination for digital shops and print houses producing and processing sheets up to B3+ size

“We had a hand-fed laminator, but were still needing to outsource some jobs which meant a minimum charge and turnaround times of up to two days,” explains Pryer, who adds: “We have a couple of the UK’s only Unibind casemaking solutions that run 120gsm uncoated stock and needed a system that could handle that paper weight. The Gemini did. It also has an extension capability that can cut and laminate six-page work. It is going to be a quick return investment for us.

“Not only have we been able to bring all our outsourced lamination in-house but we can now laminate business cards in-house too and that saves us sending work out. We can be more cost effective and efficient with those orders.”

For larger-scale output, IFS also supplies the Foliant Taurus 530SF, which cites itself as a high speed machine, a rising pile back separation stream feeder and a suction paper feed head, which offers a lot for its compact size.

This end of the market is certainly growing, as testified to by Merthyr Tydfil's Rainbow Print (Wales) joint owner, Darren Roberts. He found that following a new digital press investment, the company needed to upgrade its finishing room in order to make the most of its new presses’ short-run abilities.

Roberts says: “We were sending all our lamination out and getting a great service. But when we put the Linoprint C751 digital press in, the need to turnaround short run work, faster, became clear. We wanted to be able to capitalise on the business essence of digital print and sending work out impacted turnaround times and the cost of jobs.

“We liked the fact the Taurus had a feeding head and is very versatile. It also warms up very quickly and the need to print so many overs is reduced which is a benefit to the company and our clients.”

If you could need more choice at this stage, it is worth mentioning that one of the largest ranges of laminating equipment is available from Friedheim, in the Komfi range.

Marketing manager, Neil Eliott says: “By providing greater control and flexibility in meeting deadlines, as well as improved cost efficiencies, more and more companies are being encouraged to bring laminating ‘in-house’–and meeting the requirements of these ‘newcomers’ as well as established finishing departments is laminating machine specialist Komfi, which provides one of the largest ranges available to cater for all levels of experience, size of companies, and types of jobs.”

One of Friedheim’s flagship systems, the Komfi Sirius 107 laminating machine, features an automatic stacker

Eliott cites Komfi's robust build quality, reliability, and productivity, with a number of updates to make them as efficient as possible. He says: “As a result, it makes Komfi the ideal choice handling all commercial print and digital print, packaging and converting applications.”

Friedheim's Komfi Junior 36 laminating machine is compact and affordable, ideal for start-up users and small-order volume and size

From the Junior 36, a compact, affordable machine, ideal for start-up users and small-order volume and size (B3), to the ‘user-friendly’ Amiga range—characterised by easy operation, and short preparation times for small volume orders—right up to the heavy duty Sagitta range for high-volume and offset print jobs, there is a huge range of laminators for every kind of print firm imaginable. And if these do not suit, there is the customisable Sirius range, which can incorporate specialist formats.

Eliott concludes, saying that along with thermal laminating, Komfi also supplies UV coating and UV spot varnishing models, which have similarly undergone recent upgrades.

Get out there

The message coming from the top, however, is that in order for a print firm to find the right machine for its business, it is important to see the equipment running first hand. How lucky then, that most of these companies will be exhibiting at The Print Show in the Birmingham NEC from October 13th to 15th.
Smith of Vivid Laminating and Encapsulating has revealed that they will be demoing the Matrix with foiling and spot UV options for the very first time at the show. He will be on stand F9 to show customers around and answer any questions.

Similarly, D and K Europe will be present on stand G22, demonstrating their award-winning Europa PB. Turner urges prospective buyers to visit the stand, saying: “If you are considering bringing your lamination in-house then D&K staff will be on hand to give advice and also provide viability studies based on your current outwork spend.”

Meanwhile, Terry Cooper Services and IFS will be demonstrating their laminating and encapsulating solutions on stands C10 and D40 respectively, so there are plenty of opportunities to get your hands on the latest equipment which, as well as preserving your print, could ultimately add years your print business.

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