On the Edge: Laminated Piece Production

When lamination is chosen for print materials, the reason is usually to protect those materials from things that can shorten their life. Lamination prevents things like dirt and moisture and handling from causing stains, smudges and creasing. It can be applied with either a matte or gloss finish, and is made of clear plastic which can be placed on one or both sides of a piece. Typically, lamination is applied to both sides.

Among the other options for laminated printing are a wide variety of thicknesses, with the thinner film being applied to items such as information sheets, and thicker films being used to protect items such as first aid documentation.

But there is another way that laminated pieces can be protected, and that is via the type of edge. There are two edges that laminated pieces can be processed with: flush cut and sealed edge.

A Clean Line

The flush cut edge can be easily identified, as it is lamination which has been applied to a piece, and then trimmed even with its edge. This kind of edge offers many advantages to the look of a piece. However, as far as protection is concerned, the edge of the flush cut is not completely sealed. The edges are simply joined together without completely enclosing the edge in film.

The fact that the edge of a flush cut piece is unprotected makes it a poor choice for printed items that will frequently be handled, used in conditions of extreme dampness, or be frequently exposed to contaminants like dirt, which can enter into the seam and cause the lamination to separate.

The best candidates for flush cut lamination are those that use thinner paper, such as business cards, book pages and presentation folders.

A Protected Edge

The sealed edge variety of lamination sees the plastic film being applied to beyond the edges of the printed piece. This allows for the bonding of the laminated sheets to one another all the way around the piece. This complete encapsulation of the document in lamination offers a high degree of protection.

You may ask just how much protection the sealed edge provides. Typically, the sealed edge lamination process produces a lip that overhangs the piece. This overhang lip is usually between 1.8” and 1.2” from the edge of the document. This distance allows for the strong bonding of adhesives so that contaminants cannot enter.

Sealed edge lamination is most commonly seen on items like restaurant menus, ID inkjet labels and the like.

Which to Choose?

The edging you choose for your laminated piece will depend on several factors, not the least of which is the environment the printed item will be in for most of the time. Another consideration are the corners of your laminated pieces, because the thicker the laminate, the more likely it is that any corners will be sharp. Any rounded corners should only be made when the laminate is 5mm or thicker.

Cost may or may not be a factor, depending on your budget. However, when choosing edging for your printed pieces, it’s important to note that one edge is not less costly than another, as there are variables concerning the amount of bulk to be cut and how large a piece of laminate is needed.

Any of the 16 available types of laminate will intensify the colour printed on a piece, as well as enhance its professional look. But care should be taken to ensure that the proper thickness and edge of the laminate is being used for the application of the printed piece, as this will help to preserve its quality for as long as possible.


Laminate Thickness and your Printed Materials

Any printed piece which has added protection from moisture and stains with a bonded plastic film has been through the lamination process. There are many reasons to laminate something; sometimes, an item needs to be difficult to impossible to bend. Other times, it’s used to emphasise the clarity of an image or increase colour vibrancy.

Lamination Thickness Matters

Laminate for printed materials is available in thicknesses measured in mil. A mil is a unit of measurement that’s equal to 1/1000th of an inch. The thinnest common laminate is the 1.5mil, followed by three mils, five mils, and ten mils. The sturdier product you desire, the thicker the laminate you will choose. However, it’s important to know that different thicknesses are best for certain items. The rigidity of laminate will change with its thickness, and the price will change as well.

Folders, Business Cards and Manual Covers

The thinnest lamination available, 1.5 mils, is best for anything that will be printed on heavy paper, such as a flash card or book cover. As well, this thin and affordable laminate can be ideal for situations where a printed piece will only be used temporarily, such as a seasonal menu or map. Inkjet labels and decals are also perfect candidates for this label type.

Posters and Book Pages

A thickness of three mil laminate is the best choice where protection is required, but where an item will need to be folded easily, such as a bi or tri-fold menu for a restaurant. Maps can benefit from three mil laminate, as can manual pages.

Charts, Passes, Bookmarks

The five mil laminate offers a moderate degree of sturdiness to printed materials that are used frequently. These materials can be anything from diagrams to instruction and safety manuals. A five mil thickness is commonly seen on menus, and even on memo boards. The one caveat with using this thickness of laminate for folded materials is that its sturdiness can cause them to be difficult to keep closed.

Badges and Tags

Any items needing long-term protection and a lot of rigidity will benefit from laminate in a ten mil thickness. This laminate is a great choice for ID badges, tags and many other items that are not meant to be folded whatsoever. It is also the ideal laminate for any items which will ‘live’ in environments that are damp, greasy or dirty.

Saving on Lamination Cost

You can save on the cost of your laminated materials by choosing thicker paper to print them on. For example, a heavy paper like cardstock can be chosen, and then the item can be laminated with a thinner film. In order to ensure your chosen thickness will work with the stock you’re using, you can consult your printer as you keep in mind the following tips.

Mind the Corners

When a really durable piece is desired, the best combination can be a heavy paper and laminates of a higher thickness. However, as good as this can be for making a permanent and protected piece, it can also result in the corners being sharp. However, these can be rounded. Many of these print runs will deliver pieces as they were printed and laminated; with square corners. These corners can be left as is if the lamination is thinner. But another thing to consider is what the pieces will be used for. In the case of flash cards which will be handled by children, it’s best to round the corners so as to prevent injury.

Regardless of the materials you are printing, it’s a good idea to first consult with your printer to ensure that you’ve chosen the best laminate thickness for your needs. A printer will be able to tell you what thickness is best for the materials you are printing, as well as which printing method will suit your project best.