“A lot of sign guys mount by hand, but they should let the laminator do that. It’s much faster and you get a higher yield. The laminator can also apply decals. You’ll print on a media like paper, apply adhesives to the bottom, and over-laminate to the top. A lot of guys don’t even know you can do that.”
Angie Mohni, vice president of marketing for Elkridge, Md.-based Neschen Americas, a manufacturer and distributor of finishing products and inkjet media to the wide-format graphics market in North and South America, also stresses looking deep into the future when sizing up a possible purchase.
For instance, many PSPs have 54-inch printers, but in the future may be running a 60- and 64-inch printer, and should strongly consider buying a laminator to support those future printing capabilities, she says.
“The same thing goes for buying a cold machine versus a hot machine,” she adds. “If you’re only doing cold lamination now, that’s fine. But what are your plans for expansion? Might you get into hot lamination? If so, doesn’t it make sense to buy a hot machine that can do both hot and cold lamination?”
Also key is an investment in the right people and right training, ensuring well-trained personnel are kept contented and loyal. “If you continually switch out personnel, and don’t treat it like the investment it is, it’s going to yield bad product, unhappy customers, and inefficiencies in your business,” Nerenhausen says. “If your laminating guy screws up the print, you have to go back and do it again, and you begin to logjam your production department.”
Good finishing people “pay for themselves tenfold,” he adds.
Agreeing is Mohni, who says there is no better way to optimize an investment in finishing equipment than education and training focused on full capabilities. “Not knowing how to use [a laminator] can result in wasting lamination film, in large part because print service providers don't properly web the machine, meaning they are throwing money away,” Mohni says.
“There are lots of money saving productivity tips and tricks that manufacturers such as Neschen Americas can give operators in order to ensure they are the most profitable they can be.”
Edwin Ramos, sales manager for North America, and Tim Sowinski, category manager, both representing Lincolnshire, Ill.-based GBC, are two more experts touting training as a crucial step in optimizing finishing equipment ROI.
Part of GBC’s applications training, Sowinski says, is an assessment to determine how PSPs are currently using lamination, and of how much work they may be turning away because they feel it’s too costly or difficult.
Adds Ramos: “The thing I see is a lot of shops producing lots of waste. We’ll help them with textured films, gloss, matte, canvas. We’ll show them how to maximize the changeovers, limit the waste, and use a product that can handle multiple applications with one kind of solution.”
The Right Products
Getting the most from an investment in high-end wide-format finishing equipment also calls for the right materials. Know the products that will be used, Nerenhausen says. If inferior vinyl is used on prints to be displayed outdoors, shrinking issues can result. The edges can be exposed, or the vinyl may warp in the sun. “You print on some polyester and throw vinyl laminate on top, they don’t expand and contract the same way, and the graphic can go haywire,” he says.
Knowing the right product for the job also means not wasting money.
“Some shops try to get too specific for an individual job,” he says. “We see people spending a lot of money on materials for a single job, when they should have either not taken the job, or used something already on their shelf.”
Also recognize that different visual impacts can be achieved by using the right material, such as canvas laminates that provides the look of canvas, while permitting use of conventional paper as opposed to more expensive substrates, Sowinski says. “There are a variety of things [print providers] can offer that can help differentiate them from the shop down the street,” he adds.
Another expert who stresses the use of the right materials is Frank Corey, senior sales and marketing manager for North Haven, Ct.-based Quality Media & Laminating Solutions. The 21-year-old company is a major supplier of adhesives and laminates for the wide-format digital printing market.