Posts Tagged ‘Photo Laminators’

Can Any Laminator Be Used with Photos?

Wednesday, June 5th, 2013

Akiles Pro-Lam Photo LaminatorI spoke with a customer a few days ago who wondered if any laminator could be used to laminate photos. They had apparently been doing research online and had come across a few photo forums where people were saying you simply couldn’t do it yourself and have the results come out right. It sounded to me like this person had come across a lot of vague and incorrect information. After speaking with the customer, I helped answer a few questions and pointed them in the right direction. I would like to help you, the reader, learn more about laminators (found here), photos and which models will get the job done right.

Laminating a photograph can be a stressful event. Regardless of whether the photo was created using a printer or produced in a lab, nobody wants to ruin the photo while laminating it. Some prints are one-of-a-kind items that can’t be reproduced. In order to understand why some laminators work and others don’t, I would like to cover the differences in laminators.

Speedy-Lam 330R-10 10 Roller LaminatorFirst off, the most popular laminator used with photos is the pouch laminator (found here). These laminators use pouches of film that open and close much like a file folder. You basically insert the item you need laminated inside the pouch, place it in a special carrier and run it through the laminator. While cold (pressure sensitive) pouch laminators do exist, thermal (aka hot) laminators are what the professionals use to laminate photos.

Pouch laminators are broken up into different categories, depending on the built-in features. The two most common categories you will find are mil thickness (how thick a film it can use) and the amount of rollers that are inside the machine. Let me start with the mil thickness.

The mil thickness is the actual thickness of the laminating pouch the laminator can handle. A mil is a thousandth of an inch, which is about 0.025mm. The higher the mil number, the thicker the pouch. Laminating pouches (found here) are broken up into 3, 5, 7 and 10 mil thicknesses. Most people use a 5 mil pouch when laminating documents and photos. The 7 and 10 are usually only used with a lot of rigidity and stability are needed, perhaps for a sign. The 3 mil thickness is usually only found with larger pouches, such as those used with restaurant menus.

The roller number is the amount of rubber rollers used in the machine’s design. The minimum number you can have is two, one on the top and one on the bottom. These rollers are what help adhere the hot glue to the item being laminated. These rollers are sometimes heated. The more rollers you have, the better the results. I personally recommend you stay away from two-roller laminators all together as they are generally cheap. Four roller laminators are excellent for laminating paper and documents.

When it comes to laminating photos, especially on a regular basis, I recommend going with 6 rollers or more. This will allow the laminator to produce high-quality results. You won’t end up with artifacts such as bubbles, cloudiness, ripples and other flaws. I have seen photo laminators out there with six, eight and even 10 rollers. These rollers help apply pressure, deliver heat and remove head (towards the end of the process). Can you laminate a photo with a four-roller laminator? Sure, and I have seen good results, but I can’t guarantee that you will always have good results.

Here are a few good photo laminators:

Film quality can also be a factor when laminating a photo. Truth be told, the older the lamination film is, the poorer the results will be. I recommend you use film (for photo laminating) no older than a year, perhaps two. Most film manufactured today, even the cheap stuff, usually produces pretty good results.

My recommendation is that you test the laminator and film with a regular piece of paper prier to sacrificing a photograph. If the paper turns out well, you can then move up to testing a photo.

Do you still have questions about laminating photos? Feel free to give us a call at 1-800-658-8788 to speak with one of our experts. We also have a full-time Service Department that can help you find replacement parts for your roll or pouch laminators. You can find our entire selection of laminators here.

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