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Laminators and Laminating Machines

Updated on September 10, 2014

Laminating, Lets Get Started

Laminators or Laminating Machines can range in price from as low as £30 for a basic office laminator to over £1000 for a heavy duty roll laminating machine. This lens is designed to explain what laminating is, the types of laminator available and tell you about anything else laminator related that might be useful!

GBC Laminators
GBC Laminators

A Guide to Laminating

What is 'laminating'? Dictionary definitions suggest that lamination is a process of placing something between layers of plastic and glueing them with heat and/or pressure, usually with an adhesive. Sounds straightforward enough but there are principally three types of lamination in the office environment, these being:

Pouch Lamination

Heated Roll Lamination

Cold Roll Lamination

Their primary function is to embellish or protect printed works. Which type is best depends on what you need to laminate, for what purpose and your budget.

Pouch Laminators

Pouch laminators are relatively inexpensive and are probably the most popular type for general office and home use and are ideal for business report covers, photographs, i.d. cards etc.

Pouch laminators use a lamination pocket or pouch which has a central seam which when folded over creates a pocket to insert the material to be laminated prior to running the pouch through the laminating machine. As the pouch goes through the laminator, the glue on the inside surfaces of the pouch is heated, causing the lamination film to adhere to the object being laminated.

The pouch passes between rollers which squeezes out any air bubbles and creates a strong bond and tight seal. Some excess glue may be squeezed out the sides of the pouch and some laminating machines use a pouch carrier to catch this excess glue to ensure it doesn't gum up the laminator and to provide rigidity to the pouch to prevent any jams in the laminating machine.

Heated Roll Laminators

The process used is similar to pouch laminators but Heated Roll Laminators are for more industrial or high volume office work and for large format prints. They are quicker to laminate in volume as they use one or two large rolls of lamination film. The film used in the roll laminator has a heat-activated glue on one side of the lamination that sticks to the print when it is run through the laminator. One roll is situated on top of the machine, while a second roll of film is simultaneously fed from the underside. The top roll laminates the top of the print, while the bottom roll laminates the bottom and once laminated, a blade is used to cut the laminated object from the machine.

Cold Roll Laminators

Cold Roll Laminators do not use heat to laminate. Instead they use a plastic film coated with an adhesive which is activated by pressure as it passes through rollers. This process is particularly useful when you need to laminate things which might be damaged by heat such as wax based ink or fabrics, vinyl or low temperature melt plastics. In addition, many large format inkjet printers use ink which is susceptible to damage by heat caused by Heated Roll Lamination.

Finally

For the majority of offices, pouch lamination will be more than adequate with the Roll laminators only being necessary for specialist, industrial or high volume use. But like most things in life, you get what you pay for. Make sure you understand what you need, some laminators have only one temperature setting, others can vary the temperature according to the pouch thickness, other pouch laminators have 2 rollers, some others 6, the more rollers, the better the result.

How To Use a Laminator

This is a great simple video that demonstrates the basics of laminating using the most common type of pouch laminating machine.

Laminating Pouches
Laminating Pouches

Laminating Pouches

Laminating Pouches can come in a number of different sizes, these being;

Paper A1

Paper A2

Paper A3

Paper A4

Paper A5

Paper A6

Paper A7

Credit Card (54x86mm)

IBM (59x83mm)

ID (60x90mm)

Key Card (64x99mm)

Luggage (64x108mm)

Military (65x95mm)

Badge (67x95mm)

Pouch thickness is measured in microns (1 micron being 1/1000th of an inch). The thicker the pouch, the more rigid the finished lamination. There are usually 5 thicknesses to choose from:

150 Micron

200 Micron

250 Micron

350 Micron

500 Micron

Be aware that the thinner pouches can't necessarily tolerate the higher range of temperatures that the thicker ones can.

Laminating Pouches come in a gloss finish or matt finish. A gloss finish is great for clarity and impact and are ideal for photos, presentation packs, reports and a matt finish is great for material which is to go outside or in brightly lit areas where light reflection may be an issue. In addition, look to see whether the laminating pouch has rounded or pointed corners, the thinking being that the rounded corners are 'safer' to handle.

Laminating Pouches
Laminating Pouches

Laminating Pouch Features

Pouch Laminators are used to protect paper by encasing it in a thin layer of plastic. This is a quick and low cost solution to prolong the life of frequently handled documents such as phone lists, notices or menu's.

Once you've bought a laminator they are relatively cheap to run with the only other item needed to operate them being a laminating pouch. Laminating pouches normally come in packs of 100 and start from under £10 to purchase for the thinnest types. All in all the laminating process is a very simple one and once you've read the machine operating manual you will have no problems. There are some factors to consider when purchasing your laminating pouches which are outlines below.

Choosing the Right Size

This is the most important consideration when purchasing your laminating pouches. They come in many different sizes ranging from ID to A2, however the maximum size you can purchase will be governed by the size of your laminating machine. Whenever you laminate make sure the selected pouch is big enough to provide a ¼" border around the edge of the paper. This will ensure good adhesion so your pouch remains properly sealed.

Choosing the Thickness

The thickness of a laminating pouch is measured on Micron's, with one micron being one-millionth of a metre. Most laminating pouches will range from 150 microns to 350 microns. Those at the higher end of this scale provide a more rigid finished document. Not all laminators take the full spectrum of thicknesses so take a look at your user manual before purchasing.

The Type of Finish

There are two choices of finish available, these being Matt or Gloss. The type you choose may simply be down to personal preference or be determined by the intended use of the document. Matt finished pouches have a more professional feel and can also be written on which makes them good for training material. Gloss finished pouches stand out more and this lends them to being used for notices which need to catch people eye.

Corner Options

Only two choices again with rounded or square corners being your options. Your decision here may also come down to personal choice. One point worth noting is that square corners can sometimes be sharp which could make them a hazard to young children.

Laminating Do's and Dont's

A great video from GBC on the do's and dont's of laminating.

GBC Auto Ultima A3 Laminator - A Laminating Heavyweight

The GBC Ultima is a departmental A3 laminator designed to support multiple users. Whether you need to laminate a single document or a number of items the Ultima will handle this with a touch of a button.

Helpful Laminating Links

If you need more information on Laminating and can't find what you're looking for on our page then please try some of these recommended links below.

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