The Art & Science Behind Lamination: Trouble Shooting Lamination

Laminating is as much of an art as it is a science. Here are some tips to guide you through operating your roll laminator to provide the best possible lamination output.

Adjusting Your Heat Settings:
It is best when starting out to follow the heat settings that came with your laminator. However, those settings might need to be adjusted depending on the film you are using and the materials you are laminating. Here are the basic rules and theory behind the correct heat settings.

  • If you have too much heat you will notice that the laminate is clear but wavy as it exits the laminator. This is because the film hasn’t had a chance to cool between the two sets of rollers. The solution is to lower the temperature on the laminator. You will need to wait before running additional material to give the laminator time to cool.
  • If you don’t have enough heat or the heat is inconsistent you will get silvering or cloudiness throughout your document. If this happens you will need to adjust the heat to a higher temperature to wet out the adhesive. You may also need to give your laminator enough time to recover heat after a long run of laminating since the temperature of the rollers will drop as heat is transferred to your documents. An additional cause for silvering could be the type of printing methods being used. For instance, ink jet and color copier output have additives in the ink and toner that require specially formulated films.

Adjusting Your Speed Settings:
Depending on the laminating machine you have it will be a single speed machine or a variable speed machine. These comments are only applicable to laminators that have variable speed settings. Changing the speed setting on your laminator can be directly related to the amount of heat that is transferred onto the film.

  • If you notice that the laminate is clear but wavy as it exits the laminator, you have too much heat being absorbed into the film. By increasing the speed of the laminator the film will have less dwell time on the heaters thus reducing the heat absorbed by the film.
  • If you are experiencing silvering or cloudiness throughout your document by lowering the speed you increase the dwell time the film stays on the heaters thus increasing the heat absorbed by the film

Here you can see the symbiotic relationship between temperature and speed. Ultimately, you will need to find a balance between heat and speed to find the right setting for the type of paper that you are laminating.

Adjusting Your Tension Settings:
The tension setting determines how tight the laminate is stretched as it comes off the laminator. Generally, you want to have the lowest possible tension on your film. The idea is to have just enough tension added to the film to remove any wrinkles just before it enters the first set of rollers which are called the nip rollers. A small amount of wrinkling at the top of the roller or heat shoe is OK as long as the wrinkle clears by the time it reaches the nip where the two rolls of film come together.

When loading your film, remove all the tension from the film mandrels. Once the film has been loaded into the machine, gradually add tension to both the top and bottom roller. This must be done evenly or you will see cupping or bowing of the film as it exits the rollers. This is caused by either the top or bottom rolls of film being stretched more than the opposite roll. Additionally, as the film on the roll is being used, the roll of film will weigh less, so you might need to re-adjust your tension settings. Just remember that the tension on both rollers should always be set the same if you are running the same type of film on both sides.

De-Lamination Problems:
With the changes in the print industry moving digitally printed output, de-lamination has become a source of problems. The main issue is related to color copies or digitally printed output with high fuser oil content. If you are having this problem, you may notice that the laminate will easily peel off your finished documents when face trimmed. If you are using this type of digital output you may need to look into using a high tack laminating film such as Color-Bond. This type of film uses a different adhesive chemistry to ensure adhesion to this type of coated output.

So in conclusion, there are elements of chemistry and physics that goes into the lamination process. However the art of lamination comes into play when you as an operator, understands the science behind lamination and can adjust your equipment accordingly to get the perfect output every time.

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