If you’re a K-12 school, chances are you laminate a lot of stuff. Most schools use laminators for protecting, enhancing and improving maps, posters, signs, banners, flash cards and educational material. If you’re looking to expand or upgrade your laminating capabilities, this guide is for you. I would like to answer a few questions and point out a few features you should have in your school laminator (found here).
Before I go too much further with this guide, I would like to point out that there are two primary types of laminators. These are pouch and roll. Here is the definition of each:
- Pouch Laminators (found here) – This is a laminator that uses “pouches” to laminate material. These pouches open up like a file folder, allowing you to insert your photo, card, letter, sign or other material. These pouches range in size from just a few inches to 12″ x 18″ in size. These types of laminators are ideal for laminating smaller items and the laminators themselves usually fit on any table or desk.
- Roll Laminators (found here) – These laminators are designed for either laminating larger material, such as maps and posters, or for laminating multiple smaller items at the same time. Simply put, these laminators are designed to laminate more than a pouch laminator. These types of laminators can be used on a desk or table, but are also often put on a laminator card or workstation.
Here are ten features I recommend considering when purchasing a school laminator:
- Laminator Width – Laminators come in all sizes and shapes. Be sure you buy a laminator that accommodates the largest item you need laminated. The most common sizes schools use are 25″ and 27″ wide roll laminators (found here). That’s because these laminators handle posters, maps, signs and banners.
- Film Thickness – Lamination film is available in different thicknesses, referred to as the mil (a thousandth of an inch). The thinnest available is 1.5 mil for roll laminators and 3 mil for pouch laminators. The thickest common film available for all laminators is 10-mil. The most common film for schools is 3 mil, although 1.5 and 5 are also very popular. You can find our laminating pouches here and our lamination rolls here.
- Mounting Capabilities – Some teachers like to laminate a poster or sign onto ¼” foam core board. In the laminating industry, this is referred to as mounting. Many roll laminators come with the ability to mount material while laminating. The thickness tolerance varies, so be sure you know what the laminator can handle if mounting is a required feature.
- Speed – If you need to laminate a lot of stuff in a short period of time, you may want to take the laminator’s speed into account. Laminators all have a set maximum speed. Some have a variable speed. The speed is usually rated in feet per minute.
- Options – A few options you may want to consider in a laminator includes things such as side margin trimmers or a built in slitter for cutting off film after it leaves the laminator. These are purely optional, and many require factory installation, but are definitely something to be aware of prior to making a purchase.
- Adjustable Temperature – Most laminators will allow some sort of temperature adjustment. How much control you have, however, varies from one machine to another. Some simply have you select the mil thickness and the temperature is adjusted accordingly. Others offer a dial that allow you to specifically select a temperature. I personally like to have the ability to select a wide range of temperature settings as different types of lamination film require different temperatures.
- Analog or Digital – Laminators are now available with analog and digital controls. This means a dial or switch, versus a button or even a touch-capable control. This is often more aesthetic than critical in a laminator. Some laminators with digital controls, however, offer even more control over the laminator’s functions than analog controls.
- Brand – Do I have specific brands I like and recommend? You bet! I highly recommend laminators from Laminators Specialties (formerly Banner American), Ledco, Intelli-Lam, Tamerica and Ledco all make top-notch products.
- Switches – I’m not a big fan of the “one switch does all” design. I like to have different switches (or buttons) for different functions. I highly recommend you buy a laminator with independent heat and motor switches. By allowing the laminator to warm up, without the motor running, will help extend the life of your laminator.
- Cooling Fans – This isn’t a critical feature to have for a school laminator. Cooling fans help quickly cool the lamination film as it leaves the machine, which helps cut down on curling, warping and other lamination artifacts and defects.
I hope this guide helps you out. We have been selling laminators since 1980 and are well versed when it comes to laminators. We have years of information we would love to share with you, so please feel free to give us a call at 1-800-658-8788 with any questions. Many schools also like to pay on terms using a Purchase Order. You’ll be happy to know that we accept school purchase orders. They can be faxed or e-mailed in to us.
You can find our entire selection of laminators here. Please feel free to post your comments and questions.