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Tips and Tricks : The Importance of Laminating 

Why overlaminate? 
Overlaminates are used to extend the lifespan of digital films by incorporating protective qualities such as humidity, abrasion, UV and solvent resistance. There are alternative ways for laminates to be used, such as applying a textured effect to the digital print thus altering the final appearance.

This article will explore the benefits for laminates and provide a comparison on which laminate is more effective and the rules behind achieving your laminating goals.

Four reasons why overlaminating will benefit your digital prints:

Effect
• Gloss laminates can help sharpen colours and contrast to give the illusion of a higher level of detail in the print.
• Matte laminates soften colours and reduces contrast. It is an excellent finish for hiding imperfections and ideal for interior applications to minimise the glare of in-store lighting.
• Satin laminates are halfway between a gloss and a matte, so offer the best of both worlds.

Protection 
Laminates protect prints from scratches, chemicals, graffiti and other contaminants while also making prints easier to clean.

Durability
Some laminates have special UV inhibitors built in them to protect the ink and prolong the durability and colour intensity of the inks.

Application 
Lamination can give a print more rigidity which makes application easier.

What’s the difference – clear coat liquid laminates and overlaminate vinyl films 
Clear coating or liquid lamination has always been a popular alternative to vinyl film lamination because of its compatibility with many mainstream printable media.

The main advantage of clear coating is not having to add another layer of PVC. For some applications like vehicle wraps it means you can conform the film more without cutting to relieve tension. However, you need to be completely confident that the clear coat system you are using is compatible with the film, as some clear coats will restrict conformability and have an adverse effect on the adhesive. If the graphic is exposed to regular abrasion then a clear coat/liquid laminate can quickly be eroded, exposing the ink and limiting the life of the graphic.

On the other hand, the advantages of using a PVC vinyl film laminate will give you a better protection on graphics from UV and abrasion. Be sure to laminate with the correct film - understand which laminate is compatible with the base film. Film laminates increase the thickness of the graphic which can make for easier installation. Lamination can also give you different effects (gloss, matte, satin). Textured laminates can provide slip resistance for floor graphics or a unique appearance and specialised polyesters can provide graffiti protection.

The rules of laminating 
A critical aspect for successful lamination is to ensure the print is totally dry. Drying, or completely outgassing, before laminating is essential. If the print is still wet, the solvents will be trapped between the vinyl film layers and continue to attack the base media. This can cause delamination of the laminate or adhesion problems to the substrate. While this sounds like common sense, inadequate drying of prints is still very prevalent in the industry. As printers strive to meet customer demands the pressure for a fast output is compromising correct conversion procedures. One of the biggest causes of print failures in the market is due to incorrect drying.

The other key to successful laminating is to use compatible products – Monomeric with Monomeric, Polymeric with Polymeric, Cast with Cast.  There are exceptions of course e.g. Polyesters can be used to laminate PVCs. The problem is that different products expand and shrink at different rates. The adhesive is like a fluid layer in between which allows for movement. If one layer moves differently you may get problems like delamination or tunnelling.

Ideally you would use the same brand of product and follow the supplier’s recommendations. This will ensure compatibility and also ensure your film warranties remain valid. Some manufacturers may void warranties if other products are combined. This isn’t saying that all manufacturers will void the warranty. However, if there is an issue with the graphics and performance, it does make evaluating and testing which brand was more responsible a lot more challenging to determine. 

By following these basic steps in the selection and conversion process you can eliminate any unnecessary risks.

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