Finishing solutions for large-format printers

ImageThe last several years have seen rapid developments in digital printing systems. Print providers of all types—from sign shops to commercial quick printers and corporate in–plants have taken advantage of the developments in digital printing technology. But once a job has been printed, finishing options such as mounting, trimming, or laminating may be required in order to meet various customer needs, which offers a great opportunity to increase your revenue potential by bringing these services in–house. Profits from every finished product soon repay any equipment investment you may have made.

Laminating your prints goes beyond protecting them from possible coffee spills or the hazards of weather outside. Laminating will enhance prints by transforming them into a vibrant graphic, with the option of adding special effects or textures that cannot be achieved through printing alone. A laminated print has body and stability, and is protected from fading and deterioration.

Both hot (thermal) and cold (pressure–sensitive) laminators are used in the industry. In general, the thermal laminating process is much less costly than pressure–sensitive, so a thermal laminator is the obvious choice if it will work for your applications. However, if you plan to laminate a product that was printed with wax–based ink, a product that has a rough texture, or a product with high moisture content (such as photographs), you may want to consider using a pressure–sensitive process. Cold or liquid lamination is also generally used for outdoor prints (since the laminate expands and contracts better with the print). To determine the right machine, you need to match up the laminator to the volume and type of prints you are going to produce.

Should you use heat–activated or pressure–sensitive? Conventionally printed graphics usually lend themselves to either mounting process. However, when coated papers are being mounted to coated substrates, cold mounting will be more reliable. In digital imaging applications, PSA (pressure sensitive adhesives) are being used more often than dry mount adhesives. They can be run a lot faster, and they lend themselves to relatively high speed simultaneous mounting and laminating.

Conventional dry–mount adhesives often don’t do a good job of holding coated inkjet papers to coated mounting materials such as foam board. While some new heat–activated adhesives have been developed especially for coated papers and mounting boards, many imaging businesses still use cold, pressure–sensitive adhesives for mounting, though some PSA films and adhesives adhere faster when a small amount of heat is applied.

Trimming & Finishing Solutions
A multi–cut wall–mount system offers the greatest versatility for production–orientated environments. These units mount on the wall and are capable of cutting Sintra, Foam Board, Aluminum, Glass, and Plexiglas just to name but a few. They offer vertical cutting up to 63” in length by any width at a thickness of up to 1/2”.

Alternatively, the SEAL EasyCut is an economical general purpose cutter for a wide range of sheet materials, including foam centered materials and rigid materials up to 1/2” thick and comes in two sizes—40” and 60”.

Seal’s AccuCut Table Mount System offers the highest accuracy possible in table–mounted cutting/trimming.
The AccuCut cuts substrates up to 3/8” thick and can be purchased with the AccuTrim attachment for cutting flexible medias and substrates including paper, cardboard, vinyl, polyester, and certain non–ferrous metals. The AccuTable mounting system is available in either a 60” or 100” (cut plane) version.

Begin with the End in Mind
If you are just starting in wide format, or are a small company with a limited budget, it makes more sense to find a practical laminator that is easy for you and your staff to use, since there can be quite a learning curve to work with the larger, more production–orientated mounting and laminating solutions.

Seal is the premier name in commercial laminating and mounting equipment, and their products are excellent, though there is a cost premium. GBC and Royal Sovereign are other large companies that have been around for a long time and offer excellent products and value.
There are many finishing solutions available that can increase the productivity of your shop with minimal operating costs and will add profitable new capabilities for your customers and clients. Whether you are a sign shop, commercial printer, or an in–plant reprographics facility, a finishing technology purchase will provide significant gains for your business.   

Peter Dulis
Wide Format Printing Specialist