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Get on a Roll with Your Heated Roll Laminator

If you read our previous post, you’re already familiar with how to get great results from your pouch laminator. In this post, we want to give you some tips for getting those same great results from your heated roll laminator.

Heated roll laminators are a bit more expensive at the outset, so they’re typically used by those who regularly laminate large items like posters or signs, or who regularly laminate a lot of items in the same run (think schools, corporate offices, and print shops). The higher initial cost is offset by both the time efficiencies of the heated roll laminator as well as the cost efficiencies of laminating in bulk.

Unlike pouch laminators, heated roll laminators use two large rolls of laminating film mounted on spindles (called mandrels), which are threaded through the laminating machine and over two heated rollers. The documents to be laminated are fed into the nip (the space between the two rolls of film) and over the heated rollers which activate the adhesive and cause the film to bond to the documents. Roll laminators feed finished items out in one continuous sheet, so finished items need to be manually cut apart using scissors, trimmers, or cutters.

Heated roll laminators are a bit more complex to set up and operate than pouch laminators due to the multiple steps involved and the many moving parts; however, if you follow the steps below, you can get great results every time from your machine.

Follow the Rules

(Or, rather, the instructions.) Read the user manual that came with your laminating machine carefully and follow the directions exactly when setting up your heated roll laminator or changing out your film. Your manual will give you precise instructions for threading your machine, adjusting heat and tension, and setting the speed so that you will get optimal results. If you get poor results, the first thing you should do is refer back to your user manual to make sure you’ve got everything set up properly.

Thread Like a Pro

As we stated above, your user manual will tell you exactly how to thread the laminating film through your machine. You want to follow those instructions carefully. Here are some common tips, though, to help you get things started:

1. Don’t let your top or bottom film rolls completely run out while the opposite roll is still running, as this will cause the heated roller to pick up adhesive from the remaining film roll.

2. Turn your machine off and wait for it to cool completely before changing out your film.

3. Load your film so the coarse (or dull) side is facing away from the heated rollers or heat shoes; the coarse side contains the adhesive, and you don’t want that coming in direct contact with your rollers.

4. After loading your film rolls onto the mandrels, make sure they are closed and locked. Also be sure to guide the film properly over the idler bars (again, refer to your user manual for the appropriate way to do this).

5. Use your threading card or a stiff piece of cardboard to guide the first few feet of your film into the nip. Again, refer to your user manual for specific instructions on how to do this. Once your film is completely threaded, you’re ready to heat up your machine and get started!

Don’t Let the Tension Get You

While your laminating machine’s tension is set at the factory and shouldn’t need frequent adjusting, if you’re getting wrinkles on the top or bottom film, stretching, or edge curls, this may indicate the need for tension adjustments. Curls will happen when your top and bottom tensions are uneven; typically, the film will curl in the direction of the tighter tension setting. So, if your film is curling downward, then your bottom tension is set too tight. If your film is curling upward, check your top tension. In general, film tension operates on a “less is more” principle—use just enough tension to keep the film taut, but not so much tension that the heated film stretches out. Again, your laminating machine’s user manual will give you information on how to set your tension correctly so you get consistently perfect results every time.

Turn the Temp Up (or Down)

Your items can get wrinkles or bubbles if the temperature settings aren’t correct for the type of film you’re using in your heated roll laminating machine. If the temperature is too low, you’ll get poor adhesion and the laminating film will separate from your documents; if the temperature is too high, you’ll get waves or ripples, called “heat wrinkles,” as well as possible wrinkles and bubbles. Also make sure your film is cooling properly as it comes off the back of the machine to help prevent heat wrinkles.

Trim Responsibly

When cutting apart and trimming down your laminated items, make sure to leave at least a 1/8” border around each edge—this will allow enough edge for the film to adhere both to itself and to your document, keeping your item clean from dirt, debris, and liquid. It will also help prevent the film from rolling back from and separating from your document, which can happen with an inadequate border. If you find yourself overwhelmed by all the cutting and trimming, consider purchasing a zippy cutter, or a trimmer to make the job faster and easier. You may also want to consider rounding the corners of your documents with a corner rounder, both to avoid pointy edges and also to prevent the corners from peeling apart with wear.

Keep It Clean

As you use your heated roll laminator, you may occasionally find that adhesive has built up on your rollers; this will cause the items you’re laminating to get unsightly bumps. To keep your rollers clean, we recommend regularly wiping them off with a mildly abrasive cleaning pad dipped in denatured alcohol or mild soapy water (let them cool completely first). Your can also purchase one of our laminator cleaning kits which has everything you’ll need to keep your rollers clean and clear. Of course, as always, you’ll want to refer to your laminating machine’s user manual for specific instructions related to cleaning your machine’s rollers.

We hope that these suggestions will help you get great results from your heated roll laminator! You can also find answers to frequently asked questions on our roll laminating FAQ page. We want to remind you, once again, to read your machine’s user manual thoroughly and always follow the information it provides—this is the best way to keep your machine operating in tip-top condition for years to come so you get the great results you’re looking for every time!

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