A Layman’s Guide to Laminating Films

Laminating is not rocket science. It can, however, seem to be an art-form. We believe in Murphy's Law. With that said, here are a few tips, tools, and definitions relating to the laminating and mounting industry; otherwise knows as the finishing department. As in any case, please find as many different sources for information and…

Laminating is not rocket science. It can, however, seem to be an art-form. We believe in Murphy's Law. With that said, here are a few tips, tools, and definitions relating to the laminating and mounting industry; otherwise knows as the finishing department. As in any case, please find as many different sources for information and compare the ideas. There is no end-all solution since everyone is different. This is why Crayon's are sold in 256 colors. Laminate is no different. It is available in a very wide range of styles, each with its own attributes. Deciding on the correct laminate can be difficult. Several things must be considered. What finish do you want? Will this be indoor or outdoor? How thick do I want my finished product to be? Am I trying to cut my cost? Below you will find information explaining the different options available in wide format laminate, what they have to offer, their differences, and other helpful information on lamination.

A LAYMAN'S GUIDE TO LAMINATING FILMS

Pressure Sensitive Laminating Films – Cold Laminating Films- PSA Films

In the industry, laminating film is often referred to as over-laminating film. For our discussion as well as for the layman, we will refer to it as just laminating film; This covers both hot and cold films. For this section, we will discuss cold or pressure sensitive laminating films only. These are often referred to as PSA films. A cold laminating film is comprised of a base film layer, and adhesive and a release liner. There are a variety of base films: vinyl, polyester (PET), and polypropylene (OPP) are the most common. Base films are too numerous to list them all. The PSA (pressure sensitive adhesive) may be an aqueous acrylic, solvent acrylic or even rubber based adhesive. Each company has their own standardized adhesive depending on the application. Finally, the last component is the release liner. Release liners vary from a 40lb glassine up to a 1.0 mil polyester liner. All are covered on one side with silicon to allow the laminate to be separated from the liner with ease.

The width of a specific laminating film can vary due to the width of the base films master roll width. Most PSA films are available in a wide gamut of widths, thickness and finishes. Most of the widths have been standardized by the industries needs. Standard sizes available from 25 “up to 61” wide rolls, with standard lengths of 150 'and 300'.

The standard vinyl films are rated for outdoor use for a maximum duration of 1 year. As the quality of the base film and adhesive increases, so does the expected life span of the laminating film. Polyester films are not rated for long-term outdoor use as they will yellow over time. This is an inherent fact in the nature of the polyester.

For the best results, it is highly recommended to use a wide format laminating machine to in conjunction with your PSA films. The laminator in question should have a release take-up mechanism to remove the release liner as the laminating film is being applied to the printed material. Using a laminator will improve your output as well as speed up the entire process as well as eliminate many production headaches. We highly recommend the Seal brand laminators, which we delve into later in this guide.

When utilizing PSA films, one can run across a phenomenon we refer to as silvering. This appears to be a mottling or an area the adhesive did not adhere to the printed media properly. This usually dissipates in few days, however to alleviate this we recommend all our clients to use a modicum of heat, when applying PSA films. We normally recommend about 115-120 F. This will help the adhesive flow out smoothly and potentially eliminate silvering or mottling that may occur.

Several applications that utilize pressure sensitive laminating films:

Vehicle graphics, mouse pads, counter mats, floor graphics, window graphics, motor cross decals, racing decals, port-a-john stickers, bumper stickers, graffiti resistant signs, outdoor signs, wall murals, as well as anything printed on vinyl.

While we did not cover anything related to pressure sensitive laminating films, we made a great start. Read our Next article, All You Ever Wanted to Know about Thermal Laminating Films.