For the printer and laminator equipment, as long as the existing printer satisfies the requirements of the shop and can provide the expected output necessary to retain high quality and customer satisfaction. For example; if you have a 60-inch inkjet printer and you are running 60-inch prints, then it makes sense to purchase a laminator that is at least 60 inches wide. If you have a 42-inch printer and you find yourself outsourcing wider print jobs you would be better served to upgrade your printer, or add another printer to the production floor, and purchase a laminator that is the same width as the new printer. This will allow you to handle the finishing requirements of both devices.
It is always important to ask the question; “where will I be in a year, three years, five years?” Just because your existing printer is 42 inches and all your current jobs are 42 inches or smaller does not mean that in a year or two you will not be taking on new business that requires wider material.
Plan for the future when you purchase your laminator—with a wider laminator you can always finish narrower prints, but you cannot finish wider images with a narrower machine. Think about new opportunities and what those opportunities mean with regard to finishing requirements.
Corey: Regarding matching printing equipment and finishing equipment, obviously you want the finishing equipment to be wide enough to accommodate the prints. Second, most clients are buying solvent or UV curable printers and the trend is to buy a “cold” pressure sensitive laminator since the printable materials coming off these printers typically work better with cold laminates.
Cowart: Yes they do. Some products only laminate well with pressure sensitive laminates, some will work well with both thermal laminates as well as pressure sensitive laminates.
Milazzo: Rather than marrying up the equipment with the finishing equipment, I believe it is more important to marry up the applications being run with the finishing equipment. All wide format printers (aqueous, eco-solvent, solvent & UV) can benefit from lamination depending upon the application. Lamination can preserve, protect, enhance, give rigidity or texture to the output of any of the above print engines. Even solvent & UV inks can scratch. Dye based aqueous can fade over time. Eco solvent & UV printed materials that are printed roll to roll can be run more efficiently on wide format laminators that have enough unwinds/rewinds to accommodate this application.
Saul: Partnering a laminator with the type of printer a print shop has is a priority. When considering the purchase of a laminator it is best to consult with your reseller or the manufacturer. Let them know the applications and growth potential within your plan.
Thermal / pressure sensitive laminators vs. pressure sensitive only laminators have different production control and may not work with all printing output inks. The cost of laminators varies, which will determine the cost of films you may use. Typically, thermal/ pressure sensitive laminators offer the best ROI because a print shop can use thermal vs. pressure sensitive films for indoor print applications. Thermal films cost less money than pressure sensitive. Over time of use, that can relate to dollars the print shop can save.
Another consideration is the thickness of printed material to be laminated. Popular flatbed printers can print up to several inches thick. When choosing a laminator, it is important to match up the aperture or opening of the nip rollers on a laminator to match or exceed the maximum printing thickness of the printer.
Effectively laminating wide-format prints requires enough floor space to work on the preparation and finishing of the laminated prints. If you are going to laminate 4x8-foot prints, the shop will need a preparation table in front of the laminator and a finishing table at the output end to support and run the large print through. Definitely consider your available floor space and the finishing equipment’s footprint when judging options for your operation.