Paschke Online

Designs Ink Publishing Article Archive and Reference Library

Articles by Chris A. Paschke, CPF GCF



"Roller-Laminators 2013" 

   December 2013


Current trends in digital graphics, wide format inkjet in advertising and exterior fine art is rapidly expanding the marketing potential for custom framers beyond wall décor. Many businesses are already offering on-site image repair, modification and enlargements through digital printing and with many digital images being heat-sensitive, making rollers a logical addition. Many years ago I began stating the next equipment investment for every progressive framer would be the roller laminator (RL), and though it hasn't happened overnight, the time has come. Substrates have changed to accommodate larger, longer, wide format images and exterior display banners and billboards are far more commonplace, making traditional dry mount presses too limited for many mounting requirements.


Rollers are available as manual or automatic; for production or single mounting; with substrate thickness presets or variable thickness adjustments; as cold rollers for pressure-sensitive films; or with temperature controls for heat activated films. Whether a 44" cold or 80" hot/cold laminator, there are many decisions to be made prior to final selection and purchase.


Do Your Homework

Three basic considerations when purchasing an RL are 1) know your competition, 2) review all marketing potential, and 3) create a five year plan. Research who is offering large scale roller services in town, what types of images they handle, what substrates are they offering and pay attention to how they are marketing their services.  Also try to determine who your big future clients might be, remembering that permanent bonding of an image to a rigid substrate is only one service. Your new RL should be full service so both mounting and laminating projects will be required to grow your business. Laminating applies polyester film—available smooth and textured--to the surface of an image for durability and are particularly useful for exterior signage. Encapsulation--two sided permanent lamination--coats both sides with film and could be applied to much smaller projects including menus, maps, bookmarks and such.


Finally, are you considering in-house wide format printing within the next five years?  How large?  Are these images to be commercial or fine art? Commercial printing will enhance the RL use while fine art printing only might limit the bonding and laminating needs for in-house production. Also consider the possibility of creating in-house pressure-sensitive mount boards for your own use as well as for other framers allowing to upgrade or change the color and preservation quality of the substrate. Being a subcontractor for other framers is always a potential market.


Cold vs. Hot

Heat activate (HA) rollers are available with nip openings adjustable from 3/8" to 2" wide using either manual or pneumatic adjustments. Cold rollers may adjust to paper thickness without a substrate for premounting of adhesive allowing for mounting flexibility and montage placement. Beginners prefer presets for speed and temperature, while experienced operators generally prefer the flexibility of adjustable pressure as well as nip presets. There are pros and cons to all systems so selecting the right one for you will depend on your future plans, service and budget.


The two things that make cold RLs the most valuable to framers is their potential for facemounting images to the back side of PMMA (acrylic sheeting) and mounting images to nonporous aluminum composite—DiBond--using high tack P-S film. If your five year plan does not include commercial applications of exterior signage and only a few images cold mounted weekly, a small tabletop Daige Solo 25", Drytac JetMounter™ JM26 (photo 1), GBC Arctic® 1040WFc, or Coda Cold-Mount® CML26 might be fine. Routine daily mountings would indicate the need for a larger roller perhaps the D&K 55Cold WF (photo 2) AMS Kool 55, JetMounter™ JM44SHA, Arctic 1064WFc, Seal® 44 Ultra Plus, Seal® 54EL, or Cold-Mount® CML44 (photo 3), which are all good entry level cold RLs. Coda's CML series are sold as pressure-sensitive cold laminators but are adaptable to heat-assist or thermal upgrades. Their CMP-MS models are motorized cold mount only units available up to 54" wide beginning at $1850 (photo 4).











       Drytac JetMounter JM26                                D&K 55 Cold WF                                                    CLM 44                                        CMP Feed Takeup   



"The most popular wide format laminator for framers is our EXP 42+ model.  This is an entry-level to mid-range unit that seems to be a good fit for framers, both for size and price point. This lists for $5915 and can be used to mount and laminate prints up to 41” wide with either cold/pressure-sensitive or heated/thermal laminates,"  says Brian Biegel, Marketing Communications Specialist, D&K Group, Inc. Look for features of easy load, safety, reset, speed, and pressure controls. Also consider routine maintenance and service after the sale.















   D&K EXP 42 Plus                                         AMS 63WF wide-format




Thermal RLs have been used for decades in the sign and photo markets, but are less likely to fit a framer's needs. Size could be mandatory, but heat may not be. That said, if you are targeting large scale hot/cold roller applications then D&K EXP42 Plus (photo 5) or EXP62 Plus, AMS 63WF wide-format (photo 6), Drytac JetMounter™ JM63Pro (photo 7), Neschen Seal® 62Pro, or GBC® Titan1264WF machines might be logical choices. Hot/cold RLs will mount and laminate all temps, all types of materials, but they also have limitations. Cold RLs are a more economical investment than heated machines, but the films are higher in price. Cold machines cannot encapsulate for exterior use, while hot rollers cannot facemount.















     Drytac JetMounter™ JM63Pro                              Drytac ML25



Drytac, Coda and Daige also offer low production, hand operated, tabletop models that are perfect for students, hobbyists, copy shops or an occasional pressure-sensitive mount here and there, but are really not wide enough for most framer needs. The Drytac ML25 (photo 8), Xyron Pro XM2500 25", CL-27 Cold Press with list prices beginning around $500, but these are  limited in both width and overall function. Coda's economy hand operated CMP-HS models are available up to 34" and begin at $1050. As with the motorized laminators, these machines usually have adjustments for material thickness and roller pressure, which assists in the control of orange peel and application of P-S overlaminate films.


Pros and Cons

There are pros and cons to all systems—aside from price--so selecting the right one for you will depend on your future plans as well as immediate needs. Depending on who you opt to purchase from a basic motorized tabletop 25" cold laminator can run from $1,000 to $3,000. Cold or heat-assist models 42"-44" run $3,500 to $8,000, with thermal hot/cold machines 55"-65" machines running $5,200 to $20,000. Even larger models with more bells and whistles are available up to 80" wide, see manufacturers for details.


Cold Roller Laminators


s    P-S mounts and laminates heat-sensitive images safely

s    Mounts to mat, foam, Gatorfoam®, Sintra®, acrylic, glass, Dibond® composite, metal, MDF…

s    P-S facemounts to back of PMMA--poly(methyl methylacetate)

s    Available up to 80" wide to accommodate any wide format digital

s    Manual or motorized for hands-free operation


s    Cannot encapsulate thermal polyester film

s    Mounting limited to width of rollers and films

s    Requires very clean area, exposed films are sensitive to contamination

s    Fewer creative applications available than with vinyl films


Hot/Cold Roller Laminators


s    Encapsulates with thermal polyester films

s    Mounts to mat, foam, Gatorfoam®, Sintra®, acrylic, glass, Dibond® composite, metal, MDF…

s    Available up to 80" wide to accommodate any wide format digital

s    Manual or motorized for hands-free operation

s    Wider range of adhesives and graphics possibilities for growth


s    Cannot facemount to acrylic PMMA--poly(methyl methylacetate)

s    Mounting limited to width of rollers and films

s    Requires very clean area, exposed films are sensitive to contamination

s    Higher electrical usage for heated RL, requires 220 volt, three-wire hookup


Determining Selection

Whether selecting a 44" cold or 80" hot/cold laminator, all production considerations must be made prior to purchase. There are dozens of laminators on the market as well and a variety of manufacturers. Laminators may be purchased through your framing distributor, online laminator company and sometimes direct from the manufacturer. It is important to take service-after-the-sale into consideration when purchasing motorized wide-format models. A simple hand crank press will not need service nor training, but a 62" hot/cold RL will no doubt intimidate you as much as your first hot vacuum press did.


To begin the selection process is good to ask yourself a series of questions to help narrow down the choices. This will determine why you want a roll laminator in the first place.

            Do you need one, or just want one?

            Do you currently offer wide-format printing services?

            Are you considering in-house wide format printing?

            Are you routinely at a loss for how to mount a digital when you have no idea its origin?

            Are your mountings too wide or long to fit in your vacuum press?

            Are you wanting to expand your services to attract new customers?                                                                      

            What services do you want to offer…mounting, laminating AND encapsulating?


Mounting--permanently bonding--images to rigid substrates, both porous and nonporous, is the basic application. Laminating applies a surface coating of polyester film over images as a glass substitute. P-S and/or heat-set laminates are available in a variety of finishes and textures so you must consider all the options. Encapsulating is only available with heat-set films and a hot laminator.


To help determine the size of the RL best for you,

            How much 40x60" or 48x96" board do you purchase monthly?

            Are you constantly searching out alternative substrates longer than 60"?  Than 96"?

            How wide are the largest wide-format images being mounted?

            Is there RL competition in the immediate area?

            Is there the possibility of subcontracting RL mounting and laminating to other framers?

            Is cold mounting being turned away because of only having heat options?


To determine cold or hot/cold RL,

            What type of digital images are being mounted and laminated?

            What commercial end products are being produced?

            Do you wish to produce POP displays, floor graphics, backlit displays, facemounting?

            What are your anticipated volume and production demands?

            Is total identification of every printing technique always possible?


To determine production machine or occasional use roller,

            How many digital images over 60" are mounted monthly? Weekly?  Daily?

            What is an average photo, digital, image width? Length?

            Are you purchasing or producing wide-format images?

            How many desktop photos and wide format digitals are framed weekly?

            Is mounting routinely subcontracted to a wide format RL?

            What does the local competition offer as RL substrates?

            Is there a market for growing commercial mounting and laminating in your area?

            Do you have an operator designated solely to mounting and laminating?


When finalizing any equipment purchase consider initial equipment purchase, shipping, set-up, service after the sale for on-going maintenance, education/training opportunities, and technical/customer support. Deciding whether or not it's time to buy an RL is only the tip of the iceberg, then you must determine what width, hot or cold, table or free-standing, and what you want to achieve with this new baby. In any event it must never turn into just another impressive paperweight…it must always earn its keep.


Copyright © 2013 Chris A Paschke



Resources                                                                               Items                                                                       JetMounter Roll Laminators 18"-63"                                                                    Expression 42" to 63" Laminators; Wide format; Pouch                                                                        Seal 62"-80"; D&K 42"-65"; Daige; GBC 25"-80"                                                               Coda Cold-Mount 14"-54"; Hot/Cold 26"-64"                                                              Seal 44"-80" Ultra, EL, Base and Pro series                                                    AMS 42" and AMS 63" hot (D&K EXP);

                                                                                                AMS Kool 25"-65" (Daige Solo)                                                                GBC Arctic, Titan…                                                                   Xyron; Drytac, Daige




For more articles on design or mounting search your desired topic under Articles by Subject.

If you know your specific title check Articles by Title.


Additional information on shipping boxes is found in my book

Creative Mounting, Wrapping, And Laminating, 2000 

The two most recent mounting books are

The Mounting and Laminating Handbook, Second Edition, 2002,  and

The Mounting And Laminating Handbook, Third Edition, 2008.


All books are available on this website.


Chris A Paschke, CPF GCF

Designs Ink

Designs Ink Publishing

785 Tucker Road, Suite G-183

Tehachapi, CA  93561