So you’ve invested in a wide format ink jet printer and you just printed your first image. Now what? The job isn’t finished until it’s laminated or mounted. Here are some tips on how to do it.
- If possible, store laminates 24 hours prior to use in the same or similar environment as the finishing department. Radical changes in temperature or humidity can create problems.
- Store all laminates upright or make sure they are suspended. Laying laminates on their side, especially pressure-sensitive materials, will create flat spots.
- Polyester based thermal lamination works well when laminating paper based images. However choose a PVC vinyl laminate for over-laminating an image printed on vinyl. Because of their similar composition there is lower chance of de-lamination.
- Before laminating, be sure that the print is clean.
- When applying a laminating film to a print, laminator operators should start with as little tension as possible (unwind brake), adding more tension as it is required.
- Remember that with any laminating film, inadequate pressure can cause silvering which will be particularly visible on darker colors.
- When laminating a print, try to laminate the entire print without stopping. Stopping in the middle of an image can create “hot spots” and/or flat spots.
- Applying a little heat to cold laminating films will reduce silvering and curing time.
- Adjust the take-up shaft in such a way that the release liner is removed just prior to the laminate entering the nip rollers. By reducing the adhesives exposure to the air, there is less chance of picking up dust particles.
- Removing a release liner from a laminate in a “jerky” or stop-and-go fashion (especially clear polyester liners) can create lines in the adhesive, which can then be transferred to your image.
- When laminating on 1 side only, save your release liners and web the liner on the bottom roller of the laminator. As the print is laminated, the release liner will protect the bottom roller from adhesive build-up when your print is smaller that the width of the lamination roll.
If you experience problems when mounting you might not be spending enough time preparing your substrate before coating. This can be the most important step when mounting a print for display, though it is often overlooked. Here are some tips.
- The surface of foam boards, gator foam, etc. is porous and often contains particles that can spoil an otherwise perfect mount. To prepare clay- and veneer-coated foam boards, the surface should be scraped. After scraping the board, wipe the surface with a lint free cloth to remove dust particles.
- The surface of Expanded PVC Boards and Polystyrenes (e.g. Sintra, Core Plast, etc.) should first be wiped down with isopropyl alcohol (99%). This will remove the slip additives applied to these boards at the factory. Be absolutely certain that the alcohol has fully evaporated before applying the adhesive. Do not wipe your substrates with alcohol as they are entering your laminator as you will risk losing adhesion if alcohol gets trapped between the adhesive and the board. You should always allow time for the alcohol to evaporate prior to applying your adhesive.
- Always run your laminator with the least amount of tension possible on the supply shaft. Excessive tension may cause your adhesive to lift or curl your board.
- Draw guidelines on the in-feed table of your laminator. This can become an important reference when mounting to larger substrates. The adhesive material may run off the board at the end if it is not lined up correctly.
- Maintain your equipment. Dirt or debris on your rollers can result in surface imperfections, ruining your prints. Also, adhesive residue left on your rollers can cause uneven hardness across the roller creating more problems for you in the future
- With harder substrates like aluminum, Masonite or acrylic, start by having the top roller of your laminator lowered onto a leader board. Sharp-edged substrates may “chip” the silicone rollers on your laminator, resulting in costly repairs.
- Some foam boards absorb moisture and have a propensity to warp. If, however, you also coat the backside of the board with a suitable laminating film and provide the proper tension, the board should remain flat. Most “bowing” and warping occur as heat exits the board. The heat exits boards at a greater speed through the back of the board causing it to bow towards the back of the board. This film coated on the back of the board helps the heat to escape evenly.
For years, Spiral has been a reliable source for thermal lamination products. We sold our first roll laminator over 40 years ago. Spiral introduced a line of thermal wide format laminates over 10 years ago during the early days of the ink jet printer revolution. And has continued to add to our offerings with mounting adhesives and pressure sensitive laminates for the special applications that require them? For more information on pressure sensitive laminating film and mounting adhesives visit our website.