Lamination and mounting strategies

A laminator can also be used to mount decals to substrates. The rollers ensure no bubbles are left in the media.

Prints may be mounted onto card stock, foam-core materials, rigid styrene- core display boards, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) boards, plywood, polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) or aluminum, just to name a few options.

Documents are often mounted to a substrate to help preserve them. By hanging a document on a wall, for example, it is preserved simply by getting it out of harm’s way.

Many archival papers used with today’s inkjet printers are rated to last for more than 100 years. Once printed, they are mounted to an acid-free foam-core substrate, using a pH-neutral mounting adhesive, and framed. It is important to use both materials and processes that will not cause the print to suffer any degradation.

Another technique popular with many photographers and art galleries is to mount prints onto an aluminum composite material (ACM) with archival properties. This is a lightweight alternative to aluminum panels.

Adding value
Finishing graphics through lamination and mounting increases their value. A typical 0.6 x 0.9-m (2 x 3-ft) inkjet-printed poster, for example, may sell for anywhere from $24 to $48, depending on the specific market. Once it is gloss-laminated and mounted to a foam-core substrate, however, it will sell for anywhere from $60 to $90.

Some laminator models are available in both dual-heat and single-heat versions.

Some laminator models are available in both dual-heat and single-heat versions.

Another way lamination and mounting can add value is by enabling new applications.

Window graphics
Retail windows are often underused when it comes to marketing. The upper 20 per cent of a window’s area, especially, is the best place to display window graphics, as it is generally not used at all but provides ideal sightlines. As more retailers recognize this opportunity, there is a growing trend for temporary window graphics.

It has also become simple for PSPs to produce window graphics by laminating the print with an optically clear, low-tack, two-sided, cold-applied adhesive. One side of the adhesive is permanent, which is applied to the graphics, and the other is temporary, which is applied to the window pane.

As the adhesive is clear, it does not affect the appearance of the printed graphics as light shines through the window. There is no need for a specialist to install the graphics; they can be applied to the window using a piece of rigid plastic, even just a credit card, and if they are crooked, they can be removed and re-applied. And when the promotion is over, the graphics can be removed without having to scrape away the adhesive from the glass.

Roll-up banner stands
Roll-up banner stands are popular because they are easy to set up and move around. It is common today to see them not only at trade shows, but also in mainstream retail environments, like Home Depot and Lowe’s, and in front lobbies.

The hardware has become very affordable, making these applications accessible for any print shop. The key is to print the graphics on a suitable material, like poly-banner or vinyl, laminate them and then assemble the stand.

Face-mounted graphics
In high-end retail stores and art galleries, it is becoming common to see graphics face-mounted onto PMMA, a transparent polycarbonate.

Finishing these graphics involves applying an optically clear adhesive to the printed side of the graphic, rather than the back, and then applying the printed side to the PMMA. This way, the graphics are actually viewed through the polycarbonate, which protects them.

Similar techniques can be used to apply signage to lightboxes’ glass surfaces, for backlit applications.

Temporary window graphics can be produced by laminating a two-sided adhesive to a printed graphic. Photo courtesy Flexcon

Temporary window graphics can be produced by laminating a two-sided adhesive to a printed graphic. Photo courtesy Flexcon

Floor graphics
In the past, floor graphics for stores and other environments had to be supplied by specialized screenprinting companies, but today, anyone with inkjet printing technology can produce them. The key is to prevent people from slipping or sliding as they walk on the graphics. Thus, the prints must be laminated with a safety-certified slip-resistant coating. These are rated to ensure the floor will be no more slippery than it was before the graphic was applied.

A long-term investment
While inkjet printing technology changes year after year, achieving better quality and faster throughput, laminators have not changed as much. The average lifespan of a wide-format inkjet printer is about three years. A laminator will outlast that by many years.

If a shop is new to lamination and mounting, it is important to start by practising with a few small pieces before working up to larger sizes. Once a handful of processes are learned well, however, the shop will easily be able to add 30 or more applications to its product line.

David Ferguson is a large-format graphics specialist for GBC Canada, which sells laminators, adhesives and laminates, and the former co-owner of a large-format print shop. This article is based on a seminar he presented at the 2013 Graphics Canada trade show. For more information, contact him via e-mail at

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