Friday, 19 Aug 2016 15:20 GMT

Laminating and Encapsulating

Laminating is becoming affordable and, due to the move towards push-button technology, easier to operate, as well as offering a wider range of capabilities. Russ Hicks investigates

Smooth operators

Driving the expansion of finishing facilities has to be customer demand for ever-faster job delivery. If one printer cannot produce the work on time, there will be another down the road that will.
Digital print can produce an ever expanding range of short-run work extremely quickly, but if the printer then has to farm the work out to a trade binding house to complete the job, then time gained on the print process can very quickly be lost in transporting the job, let alone the position of the work within the production schedule of the finishing facility.

On the other side of that same coin, the fast thinking print operation is always seeking out advantages over its competition. Adding certain finishing capabilities might allow the company to win more work because it has control over the whole process. As a bonus, it might also mean that the print supplier uncovers a new revenue stream for itself.

One capability that print suppliers have taken to adding of late has been with regard to laminating and encapsulating equipment—either bringing a whole new process into the business or upgrading the rudimentary products that they have for these tasks. Products in this sector have become more affordable, easier to operate, but also more flexible—laminating is just one of the strings to the bow of some of the latest equipment. Foiling and spot UV capabilities have now also become commonplace for many new products, along with a significant expansion in the range of laminate films that have become available to the market.

Increase in demand

Commenting on behalf of equipment suppliers, Ray Hillhouse, vice president of sales and marketing at Morgana Systems, says: “We’ve seen a big increase in the requests for laminators recently.” Morgana supplies Vivid Matrix laminating equipment in the UK.

Hillhouse continues: “Part of this is coming because a wider range of finishes that can be achieved now on small format machines, as well as the different film types for matt, soft touch and gloss finish. The special effects of foiling and spot coating are really catching people’s attention. This potential ‘value add’ is encouraging more people to have their own machine in house, allowing these effects to be carried out on very short-runs really economically.”

Bryan Godwyn, Intelligent Finishing Systems’ (IFS) managing director, concurs: “Supported by a knowledgeable supplier, many more print service providers are considering the value of bringing lamination in house.

“When they weigh up the time and cost implications of sending short-run work out, adding the process to their range of services is a win-win. Making the investment easier is a simple to operate system that ensures sheets are laminated correctly the first time and every time.”

IFS is the UK distributor for the Czech built Foliant product range. Godwyn says: “One of the Foliant’s main benefits is its ability to apply good, constant pressure and keep the sheets flat. Added to that the quality of finish and ease of use of these small-footprint, cost-effective solutions, underpinning their status as a must-have addition.”

The latest innovation from Foliant has been the addition of a Multi-functional Inprinting Unit. This unit makes foiling and spot varnish fast and affordable for short-run and personalised print. This retrofittable solution transforms output from the Vega, Mercury, and Taurus B3 and B2 laminators using the sleeking process—where the foil or varnish is applied to pre-printed black toner. The sheet can then be reprinted mono or four-colour. The Foliant Multi-functional Inprinting Unit offers a wide range of colours including gold, silver, red, green, and a clear gloss for spot varnish.There is an ever-increasing trend for printing companies to invest in high-quality print finishing and bindery machinery. Bringing finishing in-house will have a directly measurable impact on any business for a number of reasons. As well as enabling new market areas to be serviced, it provides existing customers with fresh options for their end products. Then there is the ability to finish work in-house resulting in greater control of time,
scheduling, and budget. It can also help by making planning and pricing more flexible because factors such as workload, staffing, and customer relationships can all be taken into account. A significant longer-term benefit is the freedom it gives them to quote for shorter runs in tighter lead times, and to actively promote a service they might previously have shied away from; this can build business that would otherwise have been lost.

Bringing finishing in house will have a directly measurable impact on any business

Affordable and easy to use

With regard to bringing the process in-house, Bryan Godwyn adds: “The availability of affordable and easy to use systems has had an effect on the market over the last few years and enabled more printers to bring lamination in house. Recently I have seen a huge change in the selling trend from the popular Foliant Gemini C400A B3 automatic laminator to the B2 Foliant Taurus 530SF. This is a robust heavy-duty compact automatic laminator that can produce up to 3,000 B2 sheets per hour but also SRA3 sheets with ease. I see that the commercial printer now wants to cover all lamination work in house not just the short-runs."
For Chris Cooper, managing director of Terry Cooper Services (TCS), it is all about understanding the benefits that can be gained: “Operations should first invest time in understanding the benefits that can be gained from bringing the process in-house. They should consider the cost benefit of offering it as an in-house service as opposed to outsourcing.

Terry Cooper Services distributes laminating products from Bagel Systems, such as the Digifav-B2 Pro

“Then they should look at equipment features, production speeds, product flexibility, value for money, ROI, set-up times, ease of use, carbon footprint, and environmental sustainability. With laminating it is not just the machine that needs to be assessed, it is the laminate film and how this is going to perform with regard to the varied print jobs to be handled. The right technology will give better results from the outset and prolong the life of the product.

“Lamination increases both the perceived value and quality of a printed item and also offers protection to 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.”

TCS distributes laminating products from Bagel Systems. The company has recently developed a double film changer that will aid smoother operation and running of its laminators. Using the changer, customers can load two film reels simultaneously, and swap over effortlessly from one to the other, saving time and considerable effort swapping reels.
Neil Elliott, marketing manager at Friedheim International, agrees on the key issues: “With an increasing number of finishes now available, more and more print is either being laminated or UV coated/spot varnished to make the finished item stand out and also be more durable.

“In the large number of cases it can prove more cost-efficient and cost-effective to laminate in-house, with its ability to provide much greater production control and flexibility in meeting deadlines. This, in turn, leads to a far better customer service.

“Simply being able to control job movements—not always possible when using a trade company—can also reduce transport costs, and as a result more companies are being encouraged to venture down this route.”

Meeting the requirements of these ‘newcomers’, as well as for established finishing departments, is laminating and UV coating/spot varnishing machine specialist Komfi, as distributed by Friedheim in the UK, which provides one of the largest ranges available to cater for all levels of experience, size of company, and types of jobs.

Jubilee Greenwood Press brought all its laminating in-house to become more economic, installing a Komfi laminator from Friedheim

Already renowned for their robust build quality, reliability, and productivity, in the past year Komfi has announced a series of updates and enhancements to the models in its range. This provided additional features and benefits to its already highly efficient and cost-effective thermal laminators and UV coating/spot varnishing machines.

Keep control

The fast paced digital print world demands timely delivery of work. This alone has been reason enough for printers to look carefully at placing work out to trade finishers. Adding days to a delivery schedule is one thing, increasing costs is another, but losing control of the job is perhaps the most critical.

For TCS customer Fox Print of Shepshed, Leicestershire, these were all factors: “We didn’t have a laminator and we were spending a lot of time and money sending the work out. It wasn’t cost effective,” explains production supervisor, Mark Guglielmucci.

We didn’t have a laminator and we were spending a lot of time and money sending the work out

He continues: “We chose the Bagel because it was simple and easy to use. It handles all our lamination requirements whether it is five to ten sheets or two to three thousand sheets. It saves us a lot of time and money as there is no need to outsource anymore. It is so quick to set up that we are happy to do the smallest of runs. Jobs can now be completed and sent out on the same day, there is no waiting or hanging around."

For its first laminator, Fox Print of Shepshed, Leicestershire chose the Minilam-B3 from Bagel Systems

The team at En Route Design and Print of Godstone, Surrey, had both cost and delivery in mind when they replaced an existing laminating device for a larger format machine from IFS. Managing director of En Route, Vince Hogg, explains: “The main reason for the investment was the ability to handle a bigger sheet size and substrates up to 500gsm to match the output of the press. Since we installed the Gemini we have been offering lamination more and more for a whole array of print jobs. One growth niche is 500gsm laminated business cards.” The Foliant Mercury 530 SF professional high speed laminating system is suitable for laminating output from both a Heidelberg SpeedMaster 52 with Anicolor inking technology and a Ricoh Pro C5100 digital press.

The move also eliminates the need to outsource, as Hogg explains: “We can now be sure that we can offer same day delivery confidently and reliably. It also has reduced outsourcing costs and has taken out any production stress. That reflects our ethos across the business where any pain points are addressed to make sure workflow is as smooth as possible.”
Spiralling costs

Liverpool-based Oriel Studios has been in business for over 40 years, specialising in small- and large-format, and using state-of-the-art digital equipment, but has only recently brought its lamination in-house due to the spiralling costs of outsourcing.

Managing director Marcus Cummins says: “We would drive our prints down to another company to be laminated, then go and pick them up when done. Prices were getting higher and the set-up charge alone making it more prohibitive. It is so much more cost-effective to bring it all in-house."

O Factoid: Vivid Laminating Technologies scooped a Top Product Award in the US for its Easymount Air laminator, having won a Top Product Award for its Matrix OPP Laminating Systems six months previous. O

The company is using Vivid Laminating Technologies’ Matrix Laminating System to add a protective laminate film to all kinds of print, from business cards and menus, to brochures and book covers. The system is also capable of adding foils and spot UV-style effects to print without the need for expensive dies.

Vivid Laminating Technologies’ laminators can be used to create a range of spot
UV work

Oriel use Vivid’s premium Boss Laminating Film with the Matrix. Cummins continues: “This Boss film is better than any other laminate we’ve ever used. You are literally talking pence per sheet on the laminate. We’re now looking to bring all of our spot UV and foiling work in-house on the Matrix too. It’s an absolutely brilliant piece of kit and we should have bought one years ago!”

The popular Matrix laminating machine from Vivid Laminating Technologies

High Wycombe-based Jubilee Greenwood Press was keen to be able to handle a wider range of jobs. Development director Mark Cooper says: “We already possessed a small, hand-fed unit to laminate our short-run digital print jobs, but sent anything larger out to trade finishing houses. This procedure began proving both unsatisfactory and uneconomic so we took the decision to bring all our laminating in-house.

“After investigating a few possibilities, I saw a demonstration of a Komfi laminator at Friedheim and this put a big smile on my face. The Amiga 52 model is compact in design, helping with space issues, it is easy to use, offers quality laminating and is very productive.

“By installing the new Komfi Amiga 52 we are now able to offer a better service to our customers by having total control over all our laminating. It is making the short-run work much quicker, and is also allowing us to take on more of the longer print runs. We can better meet tight deadlines when required, have reduced our transport costs, and with the excellent training provided by Friedheim, our operators really enjoy working with the Amiga.”

Cooper concludes with a statement that proves just how useful it is to invest from time to time, as the benefits can truly change your business: “All in all, the decision has been an excellent one, and it has already benefitted us greatly in terms of achieving cost efficiencies in terms of the greater control and productivity.”

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