Also a flat trimmer that can be used with cutting mats or has a base is essential to getting straight cuts without cutting your fingers (makes lesser skilled workers more proficient at trimming). These can cut banners, adhesive vinyl, prints, foamboard, Gator, and Sintra materials.
Milazzo: Since more than 50 percent of the profit in most printing jobs is in the finishing of the printed graphic, a robust finishing department will add additional profits to any shops bottom line. Depending upon the applications being run—outdoor signage, floor and counter graphics, window graphics, trade show graphics, point of purchase signs or backlit displays—lamination finishing will enhance durability while increasing profitability. Lamination also provides rigidity to ease the installation process.
Saul: A print shop should not do without finishing equipment that will render the best return on investment. There are many choices in the marketplace; the print shop needs to make the choice wisely which fits their business model. As a standard, laminators are a great choice due to the options for creating graphics that fit end-user requirements.
Which would be a waste of money?
Conrad: Any money spent on equipment that is used in the pre-flight, RIP, print, and finishing that enables you to provide a quality finished product is never wasted. From the smallest of items such as a quality zippy cutter to the most expensive printer, roller laminator or liquid coater, if it helps get the desired professional result and makes the customer happy, it is money well spent.
Corey: There are two ways you waste money on this type of equipment.
The first is to purchase the “smaller size” (usually 40-inch) laminator or trimmer to go with your first purchase of a narrow printer. Soon, you have to purchase a wider 60-inch printer to remain competitive and a wider laminator and trimmer to work with the wider prints. Buy the larger laminator (60+ inches) and trimmer (to accommodate 4x8-foot boards) initially and save money in the long run.
The second way to waste money is to purchase a bargain basement laminator that does not have one mechanism to adjust the tension across the top roller. On pneumatic (air pressure) and crank operated laminators, you can have the top roller evenly go down by turning a switch (pneumatic) or crank down. On bargain basement laminators, you have a dial on each side of the roller to control the downward tension. Unless you can make these even, you will have wrinkles. It is always a crap shoot with this type of pressure system.
Milazzo: Bringing any equipment into a finishing department under a “buy it and they will come” philosophy is at its core a flawed strategy. A shop owner needs to analyze his business in relationship to the current marketplace. Demand for print is shrinking due to the growing preference for electronic media and printer’s margins are increasingly being squeezed. An effective marketing plan to strategically expand services is a must. Also, printers need to partner with companies that provide on-site service and ongoing customer training to maximize their investments.
Saul: Equipment which can waste money is equipment that is only needed for one time or seasonal business. A laminator is a multi-purposed piece of equipment able to provide solutions for unique applications throughout the year.
What level of expertise/training is required?
Conrad: Operator expertise is where good print shops are separated from “great” print shops. The knowledge and expertise of the designer, printer, cutter, and laminator operator is incredibly important. You can never have enough training. Not only should your specific disciplines be experts at their particular craft, a great print shop ensures they are also cross trained in other departments so as to provide complete coverage all the time. Investing in operator training and education is the key to a print shop’s success.