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Can I do one sided lamination with my roll laminator?

Jeff McRitchie posted this on May 25, 2016

Once or twice a month, I have a photographer or someone in the print trades call me to ask about doing one-sided laminating on a two sided roll laminator. My first response (and the correct response) to these individuals is, “You know that your laminator isn’t designed for that, don’t you?”. However, when they find out that a laminator designed for single sided lamination starts at about $20,000, they suddenly become even more interested in trying single sided lamination on their existing laminator. After explaining to them that it can be somewhat tricky and that results aren’t guaranteed, I then go on to explain how some of my customers have accomplished this. Here’s a couple of tips:

  1. The first problem that you run into when trying to do single sided lamination on a Commerical Two Sided Roll Laminator is that if you aren’t careful you will end up leaving adhesive and wrapping the film around the rollers of your laminator. Most laminators use a Laminating Film on the top and the bottom and the two layers stick to each other in places where material does not need to be laminated. However, with single sided lamination, this is not possible. Here are the three primary ways that people get around this…
    • Some people choose to run a roll of Kraft Paper on the bottom roller of their laminator. The single sided laminating film will adhere to the Kraft Paper anywhere that there isn’t a document. This will protect your rollers but adds to the cost of your finished laminated materials.
    • Some individuals choose to run two rolls of single sided laminating film at one time. They then place their book covers, prints and materials back to back and laminate two pieces at one time. This is often an option that works well for people. Depending on your laminator and the materials that you are laminating this option can sometimes negate some of the anti curl properties of the single sided laminating films.
    • Some users choose to run a laminating roll that is a little bit more narrow than the documents that they are running through it. These individuals then overlap their documents slightly as they feed them into the laminator. Afterwards, they simply flush trim the documents or covers for their finished product.
  2. The second problem (and probably the worst) faced by individuals who are trying to do single sided lamination on a standard roll laminator is that they find that their finished products curl. Large single sided laminators are designed with special features that help to negate this curl. If you don’t have the option of a true single sided laminator, you need to make sure that you use a Lay Flat nylon laminating film that is designed for single sided applications. You still may end up with some curl but a single sided laminating film such as GBC Digital Lay Flat laminating film will help to eliminate some of this curl.
  3. The third problem faced by many individuals trying to do single sided lamination involves the adhesive used in many laminating films. Many laminating films, even lay flat nylon films are not designed to adhere to digital output. The high fuser oil content of may digital prints does not lend itself to lamination. When you flush trim a digital print that is laminated with many of these films the laminate will begin to peel off the print. As a solution to this problem, it is highly recommended that you consider running a Hi Tac laminating film that is specifically formulated for digital output. GBC’s Digital Lay Flat Laminating film is designed for this application.
  4. The fourth and final major problem faced by individuals who try to do single sided lamination with their existing roll laminator involves the availability of supplies. Currently GBC Digital Lay Flat laminating film is only available on either a 2.25” or 3” core. The rolls on a 3” core are 3000’ long and won’t fit on many laminators. This means that if you want to try GBC Digital Lay Flat Laminating film you will need to have a roll laminator with the ability to accept a 2.25” core. If you are looking for a large quantity, it may be possible to have this film produced on another core size or in other lengths but this usually requires an order of at least $2000.

Truthfully, doing single sided lamination on a traditional two sided laminator is not a recommended application. If you do choose to try and perfect the process and save the cost of buying an expensive laminator, hopefully these tips will help.