Laminating Techniques

Proper laminating technique is a key element of successful application.  A poor lamination can compromise the performance, and detail of your finished wrap or graphic.  Let's go over a few points to insure your graphics are finished properly.

First, take time to consider why you need an overlaminate.  There are many reasons; the most important being protection from the elements, especially damaging UV light rays and durability throughout the life of the application.  Another consideration could be desired final apperance of the graphic; do you want matte or gloss? In addition overlaminates enhance the image by smoothing out the print and adding depth to the image.  One consideration often over looked is workability of the final graphic.  A cold laminate can add body to a thin vinyl film with will allow for easier installation.  This is very important for a conformable wrap application.

Second, you must allow your printed image the right amount of drying time for curing the inks!  Due to time constraints and pressure from their customers many printers will skip this step.  However, this can be a costly step to eliminate.  Would you rather allow 24 hours for the image to dry and solvents to flash off or re-do the job in three weeks because the laminate is failing?  If an image is not allowed to dry for at least 24 hours prior to lamination the solvents from the ink will get trapped between the laminate and the vinyl causing failure in a short period of time.

Third, as with any machine it is important to maintain and prepare your laminator on a regular schedule.  Every film is different so your laminator should be properly set up to handle the film you are running on any given day.  When preparing your laminator you should always consider the width of the laminating film to the width of the printed image.  Ideally the laminate should be wider then the image but narrower then the overall media.  If that is not the case take precautions to keep exposed adhesive from leaving residue on the rollers.  Next use a practice piece of laminate and media to adjust tension settings on the machine prior to the start of lamination.  Depending on your machine you may need an assistant to pull the material through the back side of the laminator.  If this is the case make sure they pull slowly, in a straight and even motion to eliminate as much stretching of the vinyl as possible.  Too much tension will cause the laminate and vinyl to stretch causing problems during application.

Fourth, beware of dust and dirt.  Even if your shop is extremely clean it is a good idea to have a lint free cloth on hand to wipe away any unexpected dust and dirt.  Make sure to inspect the printed image as you are feeding it through to eliminate any mistakes.  To help eliminate dust you should always have you laminator properly grounded.  If a dust issue continues you can use static string to help trap unwanted dust.

Fifth, after lamination you should always lay the printed, laminate images flat for several hours to allow the laminate to wet-out.  This allows the laminates adhesive to flow, which reduces silvering and possible de-lamination from the printed image.

Finally, never leave the rollers on your laminator compressed.  This will result in flat spots on the rubber rollers, which will eventually mar your lamination process.

With these helpful hits you are now ready to install your completed laminated graphics.  Keep in mind especially with thinner laminates some mottling may occur along with scratching during application.  With a day or so our in the sun these imperfections will disappear leaving a remarkable paint like finish.