A laminator can be a great piece of equipment to have in an office, home or school environment. We've all seen student ID or work ID cards that are laminated with our photos. You'll often see restaurants use laminated menus to protect them from wear and tear. For years the DMV used lamination machines to make driver's licenses so that they would last and not fade from use. Lamination is the process of sealing a document or fabric between 2 layers of plastic film. Heat or thermal activated laminating films are made with a polyester base film (one layer) and adhesive resin (other layer) and the 2 layers are bonded together Once the adhesive layer hardens (after cooling), you get a permanent seal between the film and document. The laminating process is fairly easy once the laminating machine is set up. Just fed the document through the laminator and the film adhesive is then pressed or rolled into the document. What type of laminator should you buy? We have some general buying guides below to help with your dilemma.
Will you be using the laminator for mounting? If so, consider a dry mount laminator or a pouch laminator with spring rollers since they are better at handling wood and foam boards that require thicker lamination. How big will the items be that you want to laminate? 4 x 6 pictures, credit card size, poster size? Pouch laminators are great for ID cards and smaller items while a wide format roll laminator is best for poster size or larger items. How much use will your laminator get? Look into a heavy-duty laminator if you plan on doing a lot of daily laminating. Find a lamination machine that features steel gears, metal casing and 4 rollers so that it's durable. If you are going to be using your laminator sparingly, go with a pouch laminator. The 3 types of hot lamination machines are pouch, roll, and dry mount. A roll laminator is perfect for wide format documents (often up to 60 inches wide) that are about 1 inch thick. Some industrial roll laminators have variable speed functions, pressure adjustment, slitters and cooling fans, reverse roll, and temperature control adjustment. Roll laminators have a feed tray where you put in the document and the film adhesive is pressed onto the document. Expect to spend a minimum of $1000 on a roll laminator with some closer to $5000. A less expensive option is the pouch laminator that is designed to handle documents up to 20 inches wide. They are compact and can fit on tables or desks with no problem and are perfect for protecting pictures, sealing certificates, or making ID badges. They come in 2, 4, or 6 roller options - more rollers means better production and quality. A cheap pouch laminator will cost your a little under $100 with some heavy-duty pouch laminators priced up to $500. Dry mount laminators don't use rollers like the others, instead the documents are placed in the press and a "tissue adhesive" is used to get the document and substrate together. Dry mount press laminating machines have heat and pressure settings along with timers that make them easy to use if they are setup properly. The added features mean a higher price tag and they range from $1500 to $6000. Cold lamination is done with "sticky" tape (tape lamination) where pressure is the key to getting your document laminated. Manufacturing plants, photo-finishing labs, sign shops, etc. use tape laminators since they are both efficient and quite easy to use. We have tried to find the best laminators in each category after reading reviews and visiting laminator websites that list the best and most popular laminating machines. We researched models on Amazon.com, Staples.com, Laminatorstore.com, and Laminators.com. The top laminator brands are GBC, Brother, 3M, Fellowes, Banner American, and Xyron. Go here to browse all the top selling laminating machines.
RECOMMENDED - For office use, the Fellowes Saturn SL 125 is a quality 12 1/2 inch laminator with HeatGuard technology, anti-jamming release lever, and advance temperature control for the best quality lamination in the office. Fellowes has a reputable name in the office supplies industry and the Saturn SL125 is a user friendly laminator. It will heat up 5 minutes and laminates a letter size document in about 1 minutes time. The machine will sound a "beep" when it's ready to laminate or you can just look for the easy to see green light which indicates it's ready. See all the Fellowes office laminators online.
Best Dry Mount Press Laminating Machine:
As we mentioned above a dry mount laminator is ideal for laminating thick paper, fabric or wood. The best machines on the market are the Seal/Bienfang 550 Masterpiece Dry Mount Press ($3455) or the Hunt Corp 2180 - VacuSeal Vacuum Press Laminator ($5300). The Bienfang dry mount laminator is perfect for laminating items up to 51" with even heat and uniform pressure. The digital display had a touch pad and the preset programs are great for Biefang adhesives and laminates. The VacuSeal 2180 vacuum press dry mount laminator has a capacity of 36" x 48" for mounting, laminating or framing photos and posters. The versatility of the Vacuseal is seen with its ability to cold mount heat sensitive materials. The unit comes with a quality instructional video and a users guide that will help answer any operational questions related to the dry mount laminator.
Top Rated Roll Laminator:
The GBC HeatSeal Ultima 65 Laminating System ($1700) is a top selling roll laminator and GBC is a well recognized name in the industry. The GBC laminator is meant to be a high volume, extra-wide roll laminator that is easy to use and provides glossy, bubble free finishes. Great for protecting or even enhancing photos, phone lists, certificates, etc. You can laminate up to 27" wide and the infrared heat gets rid of cold spots. Comes with a protective shield and a built-in trimmer. There is a 1 touch keypad with an LCD readout and adjustable speed and temperature with an auto shut-off. The GBC HeatSeal uses 3 mil roll film. The Banner American BA-EZ27 - 27 Inch Easy-Lam Roll Laminator ($1300) is another top choice amongst businesses that do a higher volume of laminating work. It has a 27" width capacity, adjustable heat knob, a reverse switch that will quickly clear any "wrap arounds", 2 inch silicone rubber rollers with adjustable roll tension, and there is lots of hand clearance which eliminates burnt knuckles. The pressure, roll tension, and heat are all preconfigured so the laminator is ready to go right away. You can browse all the GBC laminators here.
The GBC - HeatSeal H210 Personal Laminator ($110) is an excellent desktop pouch laminator that handles items up to 9.5 inches wide. The manufacturer recommends this produce for small offices or home use that do light to moderate lamination. Comes equipped with a speedy warm-up with ReadyGlo light (4 minutes) and an adjustable temperature control. H210 pouch laminator will give you precision lamination for 3 to 5 mil thick pouches. The 2 heated rollers guarantee bubble free, photo quality lamination. The Royal Full-Size Professional Laminator ($55) is another cheaper option that laminates papers and documents up to 12" wide. Users like this model (as rated on Amazon) since no carrier sheet is required and the preset temperature control makes using it simple. There is a jam release lever to eliminate bad feeds. Staples carries the Xyron EZ Laminator ($50) - this unit laminates without heat, electricity or batteries. The Xyron laminator is great for documents up to 8 1/2 inches wide and the machine is lightweight and portable. Although the EZ laminator is a popular laminator in retail stores, customer reviews we read rated the GBC and Royal laminators as more durable and higher quality.