||What to Consider When Buying a Laminator?|
|Buying a wide format laminator can be a significant capital investment and for some businesses, a one-time purchase. |
Use this guide as part of your laminator selection process to identify the best equipment for your business today - and as it grows in the future.
Your Prints & Images
How wide are your prints?
To determine the laminator width you will need, consider the widest prints you currently produce or use to produce graphics that require lamination.
Roller laminators that use film generally fall within one of the following four width categories:
|25” and under||61” and under|
|43” and under||80” and under|
Automated coaters that apply a liquid laminate generally fall within one of these categories:
60” and under
8' 6” and under
10' 10” and under
16' 8” and under
Note: Allow 1- 3” additional inches to your widest print width when deciding on a laminator. Ask your laminator
provider for the ‘full working width’ measurements.
What type of prints?
Although most laminators will process many print technologies, there are exceptions to the rule. Identify
which type of prints you mostly intend to laminate to ensure compatibility with your laminator.
Finished Products for Application
What would you like to produce?
Use the checklist below to identify which of these products, that can be made with lamination, you would
like to offer. This will determine the application capability you will need from your new laminator.
Based on your selected applications, ask your laminator provider whether a film laminator or liquid coater would
be best for your business.
Will you need your laminator to mount, laminate and encapsulate? Refer below for help with this decision.
Mounting - The process of permanently or semi-permanently affixing a printed image to a rigid substrate using an adhesive.
Laminating - The application of a "film" to the face of a printed image for color enhancement, durability or a
Encapsulating - The sealing of a printed image above and below with a heat-activated laminate, leaving a 1/8"
to 1/4" border around the outside perimeter when trimming.
If you want to produce rigid displays – try to anticipate the thickness of your substrates. This will
affect the nip opening measurement on your laminator.
If you plan to fully encapsulate your widest prints with a sealed edge - this will determine the full heated working
width of your laminator.
Also try to anticipate the ratio of encapsulation to mounting applications you are likely to produce as
certain laminators are designed to specialize in certain applications.
Wide format laminators vary in terms of robustness and strength. Approximate the volume of prints you would
likely produce in a day or week and ask your laminator provider whether the model you are interested in will
cope with your production demands and the frequency with which you will use the laminator.
If your volume is up to 20 prints per day:
• You may only need a basic laminator with a low start-up
cost and slower operating speeds.
If your volume is over 20 prints per day:
• Ask about features that speed up your change-over of
• Ask about highest possible production speeds for both
hot and cold processing.
Hot or Cold?
Laminators are generally heated with one or more heated rollers or are completely cold. Heated laminators
can process heat-activated, heat-assist or pressure-sensitive materials; whereas cold laminators can only
process pressure-sensitive materials.
Factors affecting your decision on a hot versus cold laminator are generally:
Price – Cold laminators can be significantly less expensive than heated ones.
Material usage – Heated laminators allow you to select from every type of laminating material and process at
varying temperatures to optimize the bond and performance.
Application needs – Selected applications require heat; i.e., true encapsulation.
Ease of Use
Depending on whether the intended laminator operator is a novice or experienced finisher – ask your laminator
provider which model would best suit your needs. If you intend to bring in other laminator operators or have
a high staff turnover – share this with your laminator provider and ask if a new operator can quickly and
easily be trained on the laminator in which you are interested.
Ask your laminator provider what sets his line of laminators apart from the rest and whether there are any
unique functional aspects.
Common ease-of-use features to look for include:
• Auto-grip shafts for easy loading
• Pre-set controls for speed, temperature and pressure
according to application
• Application settings guide
The quality and choice of the roller affects the performance of the laminator and helps to get the best results from your laminating materials.
Ask your laminator provider about the type and size of rollers featured on the laminator and how they compare with
other laminator brands.
Large diameter rollers process quickly and the heat and pressure contact with the graphics is greater than with
Speed & Pressure Controls
Laminators can operate at speeds of up to 20 feet per minute and generally have two types of pressure control:
Pneumatic pressure is automated, often with pre-sets for fast and easy processing. This type of control requires a
compressed air supply. Manual pressure allows the operator to control the finest detail and make multiple height
adjustments in between fixed increments. This option does not need additional air supply and is ideal for experienced
Ask your laminator provider if the laminator is accredited with industry regulations; i.e., CE, cETL etc. Also ask about
features that safeguard the operator while the laminator is in use. Common safety features include:
• Safety eyes
• Multiple emergency stops
Initial Investment Budget
Wide format laminators vary greatly in price and this is usually based on the feature set of the machine and whether
it will process hot or cold materials.
Identify a budget that you can afford and be sure to match that against the functionality you need for your business.
Remember: Today’s capabilities are tomorrow’s limitations; however, do not be oversold with functionality you will never use.
If the laminator you need is above your budget, ask your laminator provider about which payment options they offer.
Many providers now offer lease options, delayed payment and purchase-to-own programs that make your laminator
Tip: Check out any tax savings you could enjoy based on the latest capital equipment tax laws – ask your accountant or tax advisor for details.
When a price is quoted - ask about what is not included but what will be needed when purchasing the laminator; i.e., training, power cables and electricity set-up, materials, air compressor (if applicable), cutting and trimming accessories, etc.
Return on Investment
Ask your laminator provider for an approximate return on investment model for the laminator in which you are interested. Your current circumstances need to be factored in; i.e., are you currently out-sourcing your finishing?
If you will be getting involved in lamination for the first time, ask what potential revenue can be generated by
adding finishing to your business.
Ask your laminator provider how much it will cost to maintain your laminator in top condition over the next
one, five and ten years.
Ask about parts that may need changing, their availability and what the manufacturer’s policy is for
supporting parts on machines that have been discontinued. Ask about any optional maintenance
programs and their average costs.
Logistics & Installation
Space and creating an environment to maximize ‘workflow’ is a big consideration. Ask your laminator
provider how large a work area (not footprint of machine) is required to efficiently and effectively run the machine.
Note: This will include the footprint of the machine and enough space around the machine for feeding prints into
and out of the laminator.
Many laminators require a dedicated, heavy-duty power supply. Check the power requirements and get advice
from an electrician on installing the appropriate power supply for the installation of your new laminator.
Training & Support
New to lamination?
Ask your laminator provider which models are recommended for new users. Many models on the market
today offer pre-set controls and easy-loading mechanisms to help the new user get started quickly.
Check out the training options and post-installation support available. Check if training and support is free
with the installation or available for a fee. Ask about technical support hotlines or on-line training videos to help you overcome any problem with using your laminator.
Experienced laminator users?
Although the lamination process has not changed, a new laminator may include features on which you will need to be trained. Check out training options and costs.
Some laminator providers offer advanced training programs to increase your profitability through
techniques that reduce waste, and train on how to produce the latest and most innovative products. Ask your
laminator provider if this is available.
Warranty & Performance
Check out what is covered (labor, parts, etc.) and for how long with the standard warranty package. Ask how
that compares with other manufacturers and whether there are any extended warranty programs available.
Ask your laminator provider to go over the process for claiming against the laminator warranty and who to
contact once the warranty period has expired. Ask for a list of supported applications that can be run
through the laminator and/or a list of unsupported applications. Ask which materials can be used on the
laminator with guaranteed performance.
Trade-ins and Upgrades
As you grow your business your application needs may change. Ask your laminator provider for any trade-in or
upgrade options should this apply to you in the future.
Ask your laminator provider for names of businesses who have purchased the model in which you are interested. This will give you a view of how they have applied finishing to their business and the laminator performance. If you
speak with the company directly, you might like to ask:
• What are your likes and dislikes about your laminator?
• When did you purchase and have you had to service it?
• What type of processes and products do you produce?
• If you bought a new laminator tomorrow what would
you do differently?
• Have you had any unresolved issues with your provider?
If this is not practical, ask for any published testimonials from recent and long-standing customers.
Selling your ‘Finished’ Services
Before buying a laminator, make sure you fully understand the prices for which you can sell your finished products. If you have previously out-sourced your finishing you will already know this and can soon enjoy the profitability from bringing your finishing ‘in-house’.
If you are offering finishing graphics for the first time, undertake some research with your local competitors to
establish some market prices.
Ask about materials with unique finishes, textures or properties that will set your products apart from the
competition. Ask if there are any sample swatches or selling tools available that will help you promote and sell.
And finally, establish a niche market and focus on it. Become a strong supplier in particular markets; i.e.,
courtroom graphics, where you will get referrals and repeat business.
To download a printer friendly version of this guide click here!