Anti-skid floor laminates from Grafityp are suited to areas of high foot traffic like airports and shopping malls

Like many other aspects of finishing, developments in lamination and foiling are being driven by the strengths and demands of digital print. Michael Walker gets stuck in.

Lamination, like most aspects of finishing, started out with a largely practical role – protection of the print, from handling, from the environment it was to be used in. Then it started to get a bit more glamorous, adding tactile and visual attributes that went beyond simple longevity and edged into user appeal and added value, previously the preserve of foiling, which was always flashy but in a way that expressed understated quality. Then digital print technologies brought the two together in a range of novel combinations that can produce aggregated effects that would have been difficult and expensive to achieve by conventional means even for long runs, let alone the low numbers or even one-offs that dominate in the digital print environment.

Looking for hot stamping foil applications, Foilco is focusing on the foil-over-toner opportunity that digital presses have brought, though managing director Paul Hornby points out that the idea was first tried 32 years ago by Omnicrom, subsequently bought and dropped by Esselte Letraset. ‘Then, it was desktop laminators, now we put rewind units onto sheet-fed laminators. For jobs of up to 500 sheets, you wouldn’t use hot stamping because the need for a die and machine set-up wouldn’t be cost-effective; but foil that sticks to toner means no die and no registration issues,’ he says.

He also explains that because the heat and pressure applied by the laminator can partially melt the toner, this yields a smoother surface for the foil to stick to which can result in a flatter, shinier foiled result. Foilco offers gold, silver, holographic and other foils for toner-based use, manufactured in the US to its specifications and converted and quality controlled in the UK. Mr Hornby is also working with adhesive formulations to add foil to spot-coated and textured effects produced by Duplo’s DuSense UV digital coater and expects to have saleable results within a couple of months. ‘There’s a big gap between the £20-£30,000 machines and the MGI and Scodix at half a million or more. This is an opportunity to fill that gap,’ he says.

Getting a wax

Foil, including holographics, or “spot” gloss laminate over toner is the name of the game at GMP too, where jobs printed on coated paper or treated with a silk finish laminate can be run back through digital presses once or more to provide a black toner template for foil adhesion via devices such as the QTopic laminator. GMP sells the foils, laminates and machines as it knows they work together.

Complex multi-layered results can be built up using foil-over-toner from Foilco

‘We test in-house first. The digital technology is changing at such a rate and some toners are waxier than others,’ explains GMP’s Will Duggins, adding, ‘It does work on HP Indigo too.’

There’s some variability in toner behaviours too, reports Mr Duggins, particularly where white toner is involved: ‘All presses put different amounts down; some do less but the foiling process works better with more. On an uncoated substrate you can find the toner only sticks to raised areas, giving “craters”, which is why we recommend using a silk or soft touch laminate first to get the adhesion,’ he says. GMP also offers “spot” gloss laminates that work in the same way but can be applied to any colour or combination of toners, providing an alternative to dedicated spot gloss printers.

Graphic Image Films also offers toner-receptive foils but laminates are its main business. Sales and marketing manager Sandro Mosquera reports that materials for use with digital print applications represent 25-30% of the business and this share is increasing. These products include matt, gloss, soft touch and anti-scuff laminates in a range of colours as well as clear. A forthcoming addition is an anti-smudge soft touch laminate that resists fingerprints and other oils acquired during handling, making it suitable for top-quality brochures and other high perceived value printed items.

As with the other suppliers, Graphic Image Films has found that digital print characteristics vary. QA and technical manager Jamie Beale explains, ‘Xerox machines such as iGens have fuser oil, for example. Our films aren’t tailored to individual presses, we try to get them to work with all, but operators still matter.’ The range of supported presses includes HP Indigos and the Fujifilm JetPress B2 inkjet. Mr Mosquera adds, ‘We have a lot of knowledge gained with the manufacturers, we like to know what we’re selling.’

Vivid is also a player in the foil-over-toner sector with its Matrix range of laminators and supporting films that offer spot UV as well as foiling options, in addition to supplying a range of more conventional laminates for small and large format applications. These include single-sided OPP laminating film, encapsulating films and the Aqua Aura special effects films and foils that include coloured, spot UV and glitter effect versions.

Grafityp manufactures a range of cast laminating films for large format applications that are manufactured in Europe. As well as the standard matt, satin and gloss finishes, the company offers anti-slip laminates for floor graphics and a seven-year type for graphics installed in public places that can have marker pen and other graffiti removed with isopropyl alcohol.

PVC-free applications are supported with the Colibri range, which is compliant with 2018 EU emissions regulation for interior use and B1 fire rated. The GrafiPrint anti-skid floor laminates also meet BS regulations and offer durability for areas of high foot traffic such as shops, airports and exhibition displays.

Bonded and sold

Cosmo Films supplies both commodity and speciality products for applications that include packaging, labelling and industrial applications as well as commercial print lamination. It offers a range of digital print lamination films designed to bond strongly to digitally printed surfaces, particularly where fuser oil is present. It’s available in gloss and matte versions.

Premium Velvet lamination films from Cosmo add a luxurious touch to packaging

The company also offers conventional wet lamination films, thermal lamination films, and a premium range that includes Velvet lamination films suited to high value packaging applications and high-end magazines, brochures and books; there are Black and Metalized Velvet variants too, plus scuff-resistant films.

KDX, which makes a wide range of polymer materials, says it has seen a big increase in use of its AllStick digital laminating film range. These BOPP films are available in gloss, matt and new silky matt and anti-scuff varieties that offer a “luxurious feel” as well as scuff resistance. All have been engineered for better adhesion on digital print from all the main toner press vendors including HP, and especially those that use fuser oil.

Michel Diruy, general manager at KDX Europe, explains, ‘Compared to ordinary BOPP thermal film, the peel strength is far superior, and it has a better grasping ink effect. AllStick adhesive is manufactured to create a chemical bond that enables lamination within one hour after printing, reducing down-time, and increasing customer confidence.’

He also claims that the product surpasses some of the best known digital products on the UK market for quality, with “excellent” transparency, resistance to tear and elongation.

The AllStick range is available in 27 and 35 micron weights.

Chicago-based D&K International manufactures a range of OPP, polyester and vinyl films for lamination and encapsulation. Like the other manufacturers, it’s run into the issue of adhesion to digital print. Its solution is SuperStick resin which is available on all its base films for digital print applications, with surface coating options such as its Diamond Hard Velvet Matt offered to enhance the visual effect.

The company has recently begun supplying foils for digital applications, initially in gold, silver, red and blue plus a spot UV effect, available in 100, 315 and 440mm widths to suit the increasing number of laminating machines that support these applications. It says that both its base film and coatings are thicker than average which should help prevent or reduce heat shrinkage during the lamination process.

German self-adhesive specialist Aslan offers a series of protective films developed for print made with UV-curable inks. UV-PrintProtect is said to provide protection from mechanical wear, scratching and other environmental factors such as UV rays and weathering and creates an even uniform surface for the finished product or further treatments. It’s available in 50m rolls of 1.35m width with a choice of matt or gloss finishes.

Whether you need your finished digital print to be tough, pretty or both, there’s a growing range of laminates and foils designed to do it, opening up new ways to differentiate print from digital media, add value and develop your business. Stick around, it’s getting interesting.