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Market Trends

Large-format Laminating Systems

Laminating does more than just add a layer of protection. Jo Golding finds out how a laminated sign can improve both the image in question and the image of the company

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An example of an offset machine roll foil laminator, adding lamination to a print to protect it from wear and tear

Improve your image

It is more than likely not news to you that laminating is key in sign-making. It offers a layer of protection over your carefully designed and created sign or printed display that can mean the difference between a sign that lasts a year and one that lasts 20. However, have you stopped to think about the many other benefits lamination brings to its users? For instance, a company that has laminated signs creates the impression of professionalism, which in some cases, can lead to future sales.

“Lamination can improve their overall business image, which helps to bring in more sales to them,” says David Smith, marketing communications manager of Vivid Laminating Technologies, a key player in the laminating sector.

He continues: “It also saves the customer money in the long-term, as the finished product can be reused without getting scratched or torn. Valuable graphics are protected, signs and posters are stiffened and low-cost weather-resistant signs can be produced.”

Of course, protection is a big part of lamination. Smith says: “A number of wide-format products such as roll-up banners will be handled many times and laminating films offer protection, preventing them from marking and damage. Lamination improves the appearance of a print, enhancing almost any type of printed materials by deepening and brightening colours and contrast. Some inks will also fade over time, so laminates can include UV qualities for all kinds of outdoor usage.”

Lamination improves the appearance of a print, enhancing almost any type of printed materials

Vivid Laminating Technologies’ award-winning Easymount is the best-selling wide-format laminator in Europe. Options include the entry-level Easymount Sign EMS-650 and EM-S1400C, and the heavy-duty EM-1600 SH, while sizes range from 650 to 2100mm.

The Easymount Air laminator from Vivid Laminating Technologies won the Wide-Format and Signage 2016 Readers' Choice Top Product Awards

Smith also notes the capabilities of the Easymount Air, which won the Wide-Format and Signage 2016 Readers' Choice Top Product Awards in the Finishing: Laminating Equipment category. He says: “It can laminate incredible wide format graphics and board mounts, on one of the most advanced concepts ever seen in a wide format laminator.

“Pneumatic air pressure controls the laminating rollers, allowing you to mount and laminate with amazing accuracy and speed. Rollers can be locked in place at the exact thickness of the board to prevent crushing the front edge and giving rollers a longer life. The roller 'floats' down to sit on the board without damage, even onto glass.

“The revolutionary Easymount Air features 30mm mounting thickness for even more applications and at 10m a minute, is over 50% faster than most other wide format laminating systems.”

Vivid Laminating Technologies has also proved the worth of exhibiting at trade shows having made appearances at Sign and Digital, Packaging Innovations, Drupa, and The Print Show last year.

Duncan Cross, Richard Marlow, Lewis Evans, Charlotte Newman, and Gavin Ward of Vivid Laminating Systems stop for a photo at The Print Show 2016, where the firm released a number of new laminating systems to the UK market

Smith explains: “It was great to return to Sign and Digital UK in 2016 and to make our debut at Packaging Innovations in London. Both shows were very successful for Vivid. We also had an incredibly busy time at drupa, debuting a significant number of new products, as well as signing distribution deals with resellers in many new countries.

“The products we launched at Drupa were then given their UK debut at October’s Print Show. The whole of the Vivid team were inundated with enquiries and we secured many orders of our award-winning Matrix and Easymount Laminating Systems.

Smith is excited to reveal that Vivid Laminating Technologies will be launching a new wide-format product in its Easymount range this year.

“Vivid is renowned for great customer service and commitment,” comments Smith, adding: “We are currently heading towards the final stages of implementing a new cloud-based IT system into the business. This will give us a complete 360-degree view of our customers, suppliers and resellers.

“It will give the business a clearer indication of stock, sales and service management, as well as reporting back on leads, prospects and our marketing activities. We believe it will dramatically transform Vivid, making us more streamlined and profitable, and ultimately able to service our customer base to an even higher standard.

“2017 sees us celebrate our 30th anniversary and move to a new custom-built premise, encompassing a state-of-the-art showroom, offices for the entire team, warehousing and build factory, allowing us to reshore even more of our product range. We are now exporting to over 50 countries globally and we continue to partner with new resellers in the UK.”

Integral part

Another name in laminating is Josero, and managing director Loic Delor believes lamination is “integral” to the final product. He comments: “If you are doing signage or display for the outdoors then the product will be exposed to weather conditions, handling, public, sunshine, etc. The only way to protect the print durably and properly is to laminate. It’s also used for effect, the raw print might come out glossy or matt according the ink and material used, the lamination can change this.”

Josero supplies high-end laminators from the Kala range, the Mistral and the Arkane. Delor explains: “They are high quality products with the price tags that go with them. Full welded frame for extra rigidity allowing a large volume and speedy production. They cater for all aspects of what a top end laminator can do, heated lamination, encapsulation, board mounting and laminating etc.

The Kala Mistral 1650 (65" pictured) and 2100 (83") is a versatile laminator supplied by Josero

“We also supply the sign range of Vivid/Easymount laminators. For printers and sign-makers on a budget, these will allow them to do pretty much all is needed in terms of lamination.”

Delor says the company is doing well and growing as they expected, adding: “We expanded the range of products on offer with the Comagrav flatbed cutting table and pushed a lot on the Josero Spares website.” Josero Spares sells a wide range of spare parts for brands such as Roland, Mimaki, Mutoh, Seiko, and Vutek, as well as many others, helping customers order parts online and have them shipped overnight to the UK and Europe.

Atech is another company in the laminating sector, and has been selling laminators and associated materials for over 25 years. It also offers its customers full service and training support with its team of technical engineers.

Andy Smith, sales director of distributors at Atech says: “What started with traditional film laminators has now grown into a vast product offering that covers from flatbed applicators, to general graphics laminators, to high speed UV liquid coating units and even 3.3m wide roll to roll water-based machines for processing all forms of flexible materials up to and including truck side curtains.

“At the time of FESPA London, Atech chose to specialise in all forms of finishing and as a result has grown substantially to become the leading supplier of practically anything to do with laminating and finishing.”

The company supplies film laminators, UV liquid coaters, and a Burkle UV coater. Smith says: “Whilst few graphic producers offer encapsulation as a service these days, having a roller type laminator for mounting and film laminating is still a seriously important part of every digital production workshop and despite many of these companies having UV flatbed printing capabilities, the roll of the film laminating machine is as popular
as ever.”

The company’s machines from Neschen, the ColdLam 1650 and HotLam 1650 TH, are two roll laminator options with a host of features for ease of use.

Smith adds about the UV liquid coaters: “High speed instant dry UV curing coater/laminators are ideal for high production lamination of boards and flexible materials. They are able to coat with a wide variety of protective liquids, including anti-graffiti protection far faster than a film laminator and with a much lower cost per sq m for the liquid coat.”

Atech also supplies Burkle UV coaters which Smith says can be configured to laminate boards, plastics, wood, as well as thin sheet and flexible roll to roll. It runs at an average speed of 20 linear m/min.

Choose your film

After choosing the machinery, another important factor to consider is the film you will use. Antalis’ head of sign and display channel, Chris Green, explains how the company is the exclusive UK distributor of Drytac, offering a range of laminating films, including technically engineered pressure sensitive and heat activated films for use with roll laminators.

Chris Green of Antalis says lamination is “a must” if you want to create vibrant prints and protect them for a long time

Green says: “The range includes short, medium and long-term laminating solutions, featuring outdoor durable, anti-slip, drywipe, biodegradable and special laminates for UV prints. These specialist laminates deliver a range of finishes, with some of the latest additions offering canvas and leather emboss textured, anti-graffiti, ultra-gloss, anti-scratch, non-glare and even the chalkboard effect.”

Green highlights its specialist laminating films that create the perfect surface for writing, protecting against graffiti and scratching, as well as fire retardancy.

He continues: “Drytac’s Protac Scuff Guard is one such product and is a monomeric PVC matte laminating film coated with a solvent adhesive. Its scuff-resistant, R10 anti-slip textured finish makes it ideal for floor graphics and high traffic displays, an area growing in popularity. Scuff Guard is also recommended for the protection of indoor graphics applications that have a level of surface contact, such as posters and exhibition displays. The textured matte surface provides a non-glare finish which is ideal when lighting conditions cannot be controlled.”

Green says Antalis now offers Drytac lamination products designed to adhere to UV prints due to an increase in the number of customers investing in UV flatbed and roll-to-roll printers.

He adds: “They feature a heavy coat weight adhesive which is a specialised adhesive that sinks into the troughs of the UV ink and to the printing substrate, resulting in a failsafe bond.”

As well as highlighting the earlier mentioned benefits of lamination such as protection from UV light and general wear and tear, and improving the look of the print, Green also notes the way it makes the application process easier.

Green explains: “Lamination makes graphic application an easier process, which usually results in a better quality result. If you imagine being up a ladder or on scaffolding on a windy day, trying to apply a graphic—if that graphic is laminated, it’s thicker, making the finished material easier to handle and therefore apply.”

According to Green, the laminates market in the UK is in decline, mainly due to the growth in the UV printer market which can print directly onto rigid substrates.

He continues: “Whilst we accept that the increased use of this technology will inevitably shrink the market in some areas, there’s a real misconception in the marketplace that if you buy these machines you don’t need to laminate your prints. However, this isn’t the case. If you want to create vibrant prints, apply them to the highest standard and also protect them for the longer term, then lamination is a must.

O Factoid: A key issue with laminating is bubbles under the film. However, this can be avoided by having sufficient tension on the supply roll and feeding the leading edge of the print carefully into the laminator. O

“At Antalis, we believe that laminates have an important role in the future of the sign and display sector and are committed to distributing our full range of successful Drytac lamination products for a long time yet.”

It is clear that lamination provides a plethora of advantages to signage and prints, including adding protection, improving the appearance of the print, adding a professional finish, and making application easier. There are many laminator and film suppliers on the market offering solutions that will make your product stand out and most importantly, stand the test of time.

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