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LAMINATING EQUIPMENT -- Sealing the Deal

August 2001
BY CHRIS BAUER


With PRINT 01 just around the corner, and thousands of printers ready to storm the show floor in Chicago, laminating equipment suppliers are confidently standing ready to seal a deal and send many show attendees back to their shops with new laminating gear in tow.

"Most of our customers are looking for compact, automatic machines with standard equipment (including) feeder, calender, separator and collection table, easy installation and low prices," contends Dr. Cesare Sassi of American Binding Co. "A few are also looking for high-speed machines with savings on working time and on raw material costs. Some customers are asking for special options like cleaning brushes or mechanical registers."

Holli DeLong, marketing communications coordinator for D&K Group, reports industry trends like short turnaround times and shorter runs are causing customers to look for faster and cheaper machines that offer compatibility with other finishing equipment. Also, the need to provide pressure-sensitive laminating is also having an affect—trade laminators are starting to do both and, as a result, want machines that can do both, she says.

Getting it Straight
Accurate registration is also a key component that printers are looking for, especially for point-of-purchase jobs, explains Joyce Porter, marketing manager/regional sales manager for Independent Machinery, a distributor of Tünkers laminator/mounters.

"Tünkers offers a tremendous benefit in registration with use of a mechanical system which releases the litho and substrate after proper positioning has been achieved," Porter says. "For quality point-of- purchase work and two-sided applications, it's certainly a big plus."

Tünkers laminator/mounters feature a patented register system at ±1⁄32˝. It mounts litho sheets from 70-lb. paper to 30-pt. board. Board-to-board laminating is also possible. Manual, semi-automatic and fully automatic systems are available. Spot or full laminating is possible on the company's Combinator machine. It can be used for a variety of uses: corrugated, chipboard, foam core, plastics, running at speeds to 2,500 sph.

Brian Franks, vice president of marketing for GBC Films Group, is eyeing several fronts for PRINT 01 attendees with laminating gear on their "to buy" list. "The number one thing is ease of operation," Franks points out. "The demands on the operators today have changed. Productivity is expected to be greater." Along with speed, productivity and ease of operation, he feels reputation of the manufacturer, quality of output and serviceability of the equipment are all also important.

"Price pops in there someplace, but you really get what you pay for," he adds.

At PRINT 01, GBC is introducing the Cyclone, which Franks says is a technologically advanced laminator. "It was designed from the bottom up from a user's perspective," Franks announces. Operators just punch in the sheet size and the feeder/laminator/sheet separator adjusts itself. Film is automatically centered, so it can be easily used by employees not necessarily from the postpress department of a company, giving it more versatility.

While primarily designed for book jackets, Franks says the Cyclone can also be used for laminating packaging jobs, commercial printing, or anything that is normally laminated.

GBC Films Group produces a variety of laminating equipment and films for the commercial printing and wide-format imaging markets. The GBC Orbit 2000 is said to be ideal for the on-demand market. With a built-in feeder and separator, it runs sheets from 8x8˝ up to 14x20˝ at speeds up to 65 fpm.

New at PRINT 01
The previously mentioned GBC Cyclone provides high-speed lamination at speeds up to 300 fpm, and runs sheets up to 32x40˝. Also, the GBC Voyager is a mid-range system that handles sheets up to 31x40˝ at speeds up to 130 fpm.

Providing the graphic arts industry with laminators that meet its ever-changing needs presents a number of challenges for manufacturers. This includes keeping up with the advances in printing technology and changing print trends, says DeLong of D&K Group.

"Some older equipment is not appropriate for the shorter runs and digital printing available today," she admits. Also, since there are numerous competing vendors in the market now, equipment pricing is more competitive. Consequently, manufacturers have to constantly look at their prices, quality and service in order to remain in the game, she stresses. "We are forced to either adapt our current equipment or come up with new equipment to suit the market."

This is not to say that D&K's customers are without challenges of their own. "As digital printers become more economical and improve in quality, customers are looking for inexpensive, but effective, ways to laminate," DeLong continues. "They also want quick service for their machines, same day or next day turnaround on film and better pricing. Faster turnarounds and shorter runs seem to be the trends with which manufacturers must keep up."

D&K markets a wide variety of one- and two-sided thermal laminating equipment and films featuring D&K's rotary heated roller process. The System 3215 NT operates at speeds to 200 fpm (3,600 28x40˝ sph), running and separating polyester, polypropylene and Curl-Free film types. It features the new NT roller, heated without oil or water. Other one-sided equipment includes the System 3210 (100 fpm), System Jr. (35 fpm) and Single-Kote (25 fpm).

HS Double-Kote NT two-sided laminators achieve speeds to 125 fpm (1.5 mil) and use NT roller technology. Other two-sided systems from D&K include the Double-Kote (55 to 60 fpm), DoubleKote Jr. NT (50 fpm) and Dual-Kote (30 fpm).

Another trend, according to Sassi of American Binding, is the use of thermo-adhesive film due to its reliability and simplicity of use, while maintaining a favorable price.

"But customers with big volumes are trying to reduce their raw material prices by using plain films with water adhesives, hot-melt or solventless adhesives," he observes.

American Binding offers ACF/TC laminators, which are entry-level, automatic machines. They include a paper feeder, calender and a separator, which are all enclosed in a single station. These machines are for limited production volumes and small paper sizes.

For Demanding Needs
Also from American Binding, ACF/TM laminators offer a wide range of options, and can be configured to more demanding needs. The laminate, after coupling, is available immediately for the next processing. This machine utilizes a hot-melt adhesive.

Another player in the laminator market, Bobst Group, Flexible Packaging Div., offers products to meet current industry desires. The company's Schiavi Eco-Convert solventless laminators are for both narrow and wide webs. They offer high productivity and low labor cost with one-person operation. Models from specialized, short-run machines to highly automated, high-speed lines with speeds to 1,500 fpm are available.

The Schiavi EcoFlex numerically controlled, duplex laminator is suitable for water, solvent and solventless systems. This five-in-one machine can be equipped with different types of trolleys (gravure, solventless, semi-flexo and PVDC) and can print in register to pre-printed material, such as registered cold seal.

For the future, vendors agree that new technology should equate into even faster, more user-friendly equipment. Also quicker, on-demand machines will become commonplace. The ability to use one adhesive for more jobs will be important for the printers and finishers of the future, as well.

Sassi, of American Binding Co., feels that hot-melt technology will also be an even bigger need. "The system (of the future) will use films of 12 micron where the adhesive will be spread with extreme accuracy to obtain quality products with higher speed, lower costs and no pollution," he predicts.

"Shorter setups and faster turnarounds will continue," adds GBC's Franks. "Our goal is for people to be able to hit a big green button, stand back and say, 'This job is done.' "

As for PRINT 01, laminator and film suppliers seem to be cautiously optimistic in light of the slowed economy and several disappointing trade shows earlier this year.

"It's like a self-fulfilling prophecy," Franks concludes. "Everybody wants it to be better (than the past few trade shows). I believe PRINT 01 will be a great show. Of all the shows this year, including the smaller regional shows, this is the one for which everyone is waiting."

We don't have long to wait now to see if this prophecy holds true. But you can be sure that laminating vendors are ready for the show to bring some hot sales leads.
 

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