Does anyone else remember the teaching assistant at school, who would sit there next to the printers laminating all day?
The smell of a warm print coated in plastic, the wrinkle-free sleek wipe-proof parchment; that had turned indestructible after printing.
Laminators are pretty incredible! Fun fact: they were an accidental invention (search for Morris. M. Blum – dentist).
In this article...
Finding The Best Wide Format Laminators
Whether you’re looking to laminate for marketing, private commissions, or to preserve a print or documents, wide format laminators can be essential for producing large projects.
Wide format laminators can save you money in the long term and save you a trip to the printers’.
I’ve done the work and reviewed 5 of my favorite wide format laminators to help you make the best decision if you are looking to invest.
You’ll be sure to find plenty of information here to guide you, and whether you have a little bit of money or much more to spend, you will find a wide format laminator that will fit your budget and print finishing needs.
The wide format appliance is built for a lifetime. It is definitely the greatest appliance for image and poster lamination and, ultimately, my top pick overall.
Reviewers utilize the thermal and cold setting, making it suitable for almost all prints.
Despite its smaller size, this device is my overall recommendation for its versatility and durability!
If you’re looking for a decent tool without breaking the bank, this is a good choice. Not only are customers delighted with the price – reviews state how moveable it is.
You can use this literally anywhere. It’s a great option to use for laminating signs and banners in print shops and schools.
Best Wide Format Thermal Laminator
Not only will the EXP Plus allow you to laminate your print seamlessly through calefaction, but it will also allow you to mount and encapsulate prints with an easy application.
This is an excellent choice if you have lots of jobs on your hands that need the same warm finish.
Best Wide Format Cold Laminator
Available from lots of printing and supply websites, I found one offering a discount on wide format laminators, so make sure to shop around.
Customers love how quickly it coats your print products, at a speedy 7.5ft per minute – faster than manually operated devices.
Best Wide Format for Business
Most businesses want to decrease manufacturing time without compromising high quality products.
The GFP 355th 55” is my choice for businesses as it coats documents at a whopping 20ft per minute.
Customers are pleased with the photoelectric eye, which offers a lower margin of error when coating. This would serve well in print shops.
Best Laminator for Posters
This device is multi-purpose, perfect for the variety of materials posters come in.
Although it’s not the largest, customers love the wide core diameter design gives an allowance for diversity in finished products after printing, perfect for different finishes on posters.
This product holds the title of Editor’s Choice for its diverse capabilities.
The Top Five Wide Format Laminators
No electricity is needed for these VEVOR 51 inch cold wide format laminators, making them an excellent choice to laminate all types of printing and mixed media.
The handwheel allows full control – although you’d have to be a fast turner for high print laminating production rates.
The wide format rolls are an easy setup and adjust well.
You can change the core diameter depending on the print project.
It will reach widths of 3”, making it a good choice for jobs such as small books or foam boards.
I like that this product has a lightweight-folding table, helpful for storage and mobility.
Rubber foot stands give these wide format laminators stability and make for easy repair access if required.
These are table standing laminators that offer more freedom in terms of location.
Your options are to attach the adhesive film to the mandrel to begin the lamination process, or attach the laminate with the adhesive on already, to the print media first and roll through for a sleek, bubble-free finish on print products.
Customers have used this when coating materials such as vehicle graphics.
You can apply the laminate to the print and then feed through the roll laminator.
- Maximum width: 51”
- Maximum core: 3”
- Roller diameter: 3.34”
- No electricity needed as it’s a manually controlled wide format laminator – suitable for mixed media, no need to worry about color shift on any print.
- Lightweight and comes with a folding table.
- Simple to use.
- Not suitable for fast production work.
- Can result in bubbles if not carefully used.
- Customers have said the wooden crate packaging can be challenging to dispose of.
Best Wide Format Cold Laminator
This company offers affordable wide format laminators, with more than 50 years in the print shop business.
With a heavy-duty motor, this electric model comes with automatic pressure control (a lever that controls the height and the pressure of the roll).
The non-stick silicone top and bottom nip rollers will make your life easier when it comes to changing the film.
An optional footswitch on these wide format laminators provides hands-free control, allowing you to help guide the print or document through at the output end.
It laminates at 7.5ft per minute – much faster than a manually operated roll machine! These machines are heavy and aren’t very portable.
This machine is brilliant for laminating photos, wide format prints, and signage, without worrying about color change.
This cold laminator can also be used for mounting prints to boards for public display fast and easy—a good choice for print shops who print and laminate diverse materials and print media.
It comes with a large print table, so you can rest assured your longer document will stay flat during the lamination process after printing.
The rugged steel and aluminum casing makes it durable and sturdy!
- Maximum width: 65”
- Maximum core: ½ inch
- Roller diameter: 5”
- Cheaper than many other similar models
- Available in four different sizes 25” – 65”
- Free shipping
- Heavy at 250 pounds
- 1/2 an inch thick core diameter (fairly small)
Best Wide Format for Business
While the GFP model attaches a cold overlay to print media using pressure only, it adds a heated top mandrel for better overall lamination.
Out of all the wide format laminators, this the fastest device I reviewed operating at 20ft per minute, making it ideal for quick print finishing jobs such as banners, signs, and other commercial assignments.
The large foldable table ensures that banners, documents, or a print that stays flat during the process.
Made with automatic rear-rewind and pressure-sensitive rolls, it offers easier adhesive applications to media.
The scrap rewind with an adjustable clutch takes up the release liner found on many pressure-sensitive films.
The thicker roll diameter of 6” aims for less frequent substrate changes that you may have to do with other similar models.
There is added support to prevent the rolls from collapsing during operation.
The core diameter is variable, making this a good and economical choice for vehicle graphics and vinyl.
There is a photoelectric eye for the safety and protection of your print and anything else that might get in the way.
This is useful if you are under pressure (we all know mistakes can happen!)
- Maximum width: 55”
- Maximum core: 1 inch
- Roller diameter: 6” 10mil thickness
- Easy roll loading
- Quick laminating – highly productive
- Customers like the quick print finishing.
- Heavy at 436lb
- More expensive to run.
The Phoenix 4400 – DHP will allow you to complete thermal and cold print laminating projects.
The dual-use part is a great feature: the thermal rolls being used for everyday media, print, and posters.
The cold adhesive gives flexibility in finishes and a smaller margin of error with color shift on the print.
This company claims to maintain heat consistency for thermal print projects, while the cooling fans add to the independent heat control during application.
An automatic pressure sensitive mandrel will laminate print media at a variety of thickness without making adjustments to the format.
Sleep mode will part activate after three hours of non-use, and after four hours, it will switch off completely.
A variable speed lets you play around with different print materials and laminate, but at maximum speed will provide an output of 8ft per minute – not bad!
Unfortunately, a foot pedal isn’t included in all wide format laminators – however, I recommend investing in this part for hands-free jobs.
The laminate thickness for this model ranges from 1.5 all the way to 10mil thickness.
- Maximum width: 44”
- Maximum core: 3”
- Roller diameter: 4.5”
- More for your money, will suit thermal and cold laminate printing.
- Larger core diameter – can laminate items up to 3”.
- Only a 90-day guarantee with the rollers
- This model only laminates up to 44” in width.
Best Wide Format Thermal Laminator
The EXP Plus 62” Roll Laminator is my favorite thermal wide format laminating device for seamless out-turn on your documents.
Built for multi-purpose, it offers mounting, encapsulating, and laminating your print with a pressure-sensitive application.
This has a wide core diameter of 3”, making it useful for the production of wipe boards, book covers, and thicker prints.
I love the light features on this, which tell you when to ‘wait’ and when it is ‘ready,’ guiding you that the thermal mandrel has reached the desired temperature.
It can be difficult to tell without, and you don’t want to spoil your print with color shift.
It’s useful if you are working in a busy shop (less work with one less thing to monitor).
The rolls have independent upper and lower heaters, which give you more control to prevent concern about color shift on your materials.
This, however, creates a longer heat-up time – up to 30 minutes. It can accommodate substrate up to 8” thick, and auto-grip shafts have been built to make it an easy load experience.
This model operates at 10ft per minute. An in-line slitter for cutting prints during lamination means less trouble during high production.
- Maximum width: 61”
- Maximum core: 3”
- Roller diameter: 5”
- Faster laminate time means higher print sheeting rates.
- Hottest temp at 300°f
- Longer heat up time of 30 mins.
- No safety shield.
So, What is a Wide Format Laminator?
The most familiar use of a wide format laminating device is to put a transparent film over prints to protect them (think giant world map at school).
Lamination can be used to attach a rigid back to a poster, print, banner or sign, (this is called mounting) or add adhesive to the back.
Printers or print finishers often use wide format heated roll laminators that are pressure sensitive to coat their print.
It laminates things such as paperback book covers, magazine covers, vehicle graphics, prints posters, cards, postcards and in-shop displays, and many more applications.
Roll laminators typically uses two rolls to complete the laminate application process on prints, with one roller being on the top and one roller being on the bottom.
These rolls slide onto metal cylinders named mandrels placed in the gadget and help to feed the print document through during lamination after printing.
The thermal film can have a pressure-sensitive adhesive and a release liner on its outer side; for example, a poster print with this material laminated on the back could easily be mounted without fasteners or tape removing the release liner to expose activated adhesive.
When done correctly, the lamination process prevents damage or wrinkles to the print materials.
When should you use one?
The most obvious difference between a laminator you may have lurking at home and one that is wide format is the size (wide format = Arnie of laminators).
A home machine can be used to protect small, essential documents and prints. A wide format device is used for more extensive and possibly commercial projects such as book covers and vehicle graphics.
They vary in size from 38” – 80”, thus making them the choice for wide commercial prints that will be visible to a larger audience.
With increased production rates and a larger variation in finishes to make handiwork stand out, wide format laminators can be crucial to marketing success.
Other end products include floor graphics used for seasonal marketing in stores – depending on the film.
They can withstand foot traffic for months!
Those window signs you see at your favorite restaurant tempting you to come inside have also been produced using wide format laminators.
We’ve all been to restaurants and have handled and used the menu.
The menu in most restaurants has fizzy drinks, and dipping sauce smeared all over them.
But, they last because they are laminated after printing.
After printing, Laminating makes a menu easy to clean, prevents liquid damage, and gives a menu the rigidity they need to keep from tearing.
There are a few ways to laminate a menu, either a roll laminator or a pouch laminate.
With the pouch method, you will insert the printing menu into the plastic pouch and run it through the heated rolls.
Once laminated, the menu can be creased or bound for use.
Here’s a short video about laminating pouches…
Often at times the menu won’t be folded or bound but left as a single sheet.
The slightly larger pouch will allow for a small overlapped border around the menu.
This can be removed if wished.
If you are using a wide roll device, you can laminate more than one menu simultaneously following printing.
Once laminated, the menu can be trimmed down using a rotary trimmer.
Frequently, restaurants will use a corner rounder to round the corners of the menu.
This makes it less dangerous with pointy corners – (ouch!) and will give the menu a better overall print.
Things to consider
Purchasing commercial equipment can be similar to buying a car – there are many different models of wide format laminators to choose from and lots of decisions to make!
Before investing, you need to consider what you need right now and what you will need in the future.
What is Thermal Lamination?
Thermal or heated wide format laminators employ heated rolls (up to 300°f) to melt the glue, which has been applied to the film.
In turn, this causes the film to adhere to a printed-paper surface.
Laminators that use warmth are generally faster than those that don’t because of the film’s heating before being applied to the output.
Here’s one with an autofeeder in action…
Most print shops will have dual laminators that offers both overlays to prints.
Because the coatings are non-adhesive until they are exposed to high temperatures, they are much easier to handle.
The maximum temperature of your device will impact the film you need for the print.
You can buy ‘low melt’ heat laminates with pressure-sensitive adhesives and can be applied at 185°f.
Wide Format Thermal Laminators
Thermal wide format laminators can be used for almost everything, apart from printed media with high color density.
The rolls’ heat can cause the color to change or blur on a print, so carefully consider this before buying.
What is Cold Lamination?
Check out the process of cold lamination on the video below..
Cold lamination doesn’t operate with heat to attach a laminate to a printed document. Instead, this process uses materials that are already coated with an adhesive and a glossy backing.
When this backing is removed, the glue is exposed and will stick to the print.
Prevent Heat Damage
Although cold rolls can be more expensive to buy, due to high production costs, this is the only way to professionally laminate items that would be damaged by heat.
They are a versatile option compared to thermal wide format laminators.
You can coat a print, make signs, stickers, labels, and even magnets with a cold press.
How Thick Does the Core Need to Be?
You should carefully consider the thickness of prints you will be laminating or mounting as core diameters can vary in size.
Many laminators come with automatic pressure sensitive rolls, so you won’t have to adjust each print’s diameter.
How often will I use it?
If the appliance is used for more frequent mass production, it could be worth investing in sturdier roll laminators.
Check for warranty, and see if the company or shop offers an annual service (most do on wide format laminators) as these can be costly.
Where will it be stored?
Whether it will be in a shop or an office, this equipment is hefty.
If it is moved often, look for a lighter model with wheels.
Most shops will keep their printing and laminating equipment in the same space to avoid damage in transition.
What kind of finish do I want on my print?
There are many categories for finishes on laminate.
Some are suitable for whiteboards and chalkboards (you can turn anything into a chalkboard!)
Anti-graffiti laminate is a popular choice if the print is being displayed in a school or outside.
There are magnetic films, low sheen films, and no glare films if the print will be placed in direct light – E.g., a shop window.
A film made from OPP is water-resistant and is often used in dual machines in print shops. This is long-lasting and can be great for shop floor and window display vinyl.
PET is our favorite type of material for thermal wide format laminators.
It’s durable and comes with adhesives, but not the best for coating a print for outdoor display as it can attract dust and erode quickly in the elements.
The laminate on a print, no matter what, will be related to the image of the product.
Even temporary graphics and prints deserve to look good without a huge investment.
It’s essential (especially with commercial laminating) that you consider the type of film you will use.
After a long printing process, it’s vital to ensure your print comes out as you desire it.
The synthetic substrate can be considered a finish for documents like menus, identification cards, and brochures.
In contrast, the paper-based substrate contains wood pulp and other natural fibers.
Synthetics are most commonly made of a polymer substance, like polyester or vinyl. The latter will call for the best vinyl cutting machine for t-shirts money can buy.
The result is of very high quality, so it can be difficult to distinguish a synthetic sheet from a real paper print.
They are known for incredible durability as synthetics are tear-, water-, grease- and alcohol resistant.
If you have sent media to be laminated at a printers’, you probably saw this material on the menu.
Synthetics are known for their exceptional versatility, coming in various colors, weight, and categories (pouches or roll).
They can be folded, die-cut, embossed, hole punched, and perforated and make a good coating for print media.
Some of these traits are not possible or would be very costly with other laminate products – for example, an alternative laminated print that is hole-punched may become susceptible to moisture penetration.
Laminate Price Range
You can expect to pay anywhere from $80 – $200 per roll. They come in a variety of sizes and finishes.
I love this site for good deals, and they also have an option for speedier delivery.
The rolls come in different depths, so it’s imperative to check the spec type before purchasing, as they aren’t cheap!
Make sure to shop around on rolls; you can check in with your favorite print shop, as well as online. Some print shops will offer member-discount if you register with them.
A rough guide to setting up a wide format laminator
- Insert the back or top bar into your new roll. Check the position – most bars have 1 inch spaced marks on them so you can align your rolls perfectly.
- Place the mandrel into the left side of the appliance first – then into the right side. The outside of the desired finish should drape over the back of the sheeter.
- Do the same thing for the bottom roll. Again, the shiny side should face away from the roll laminator.
- Pull the covering from the bottom roll, about 2 feet. You should be able to pull it away from you and up under another metal bar in front – toward the laminator.
- Similarly, with the top mandrel, pull it out about 2 feet again, but this time, pull it over the metal bar closest to the rolling mill. You should be able to see from the front that the two do not touch.
- Double check the rolls are aligned again. They may have moved slightly during the insertion.
- If you are using a thermal device, check the calefaction settings until the desired preset temperature has been reached.
- If a safety table has been removed, attach it again. Switch the mandrels on, and push a test print through the rollers until they grab it, though.
- Wait behind the apparatus to see the finished print product!
Top tips from the professionals:
Read the instructions
This might be obvious, but make sure to follow the wide format laminator’s instructions.
Check your roll laminators to ensure that the proper temperatures, tensions, and pressures are being used.
Wait for as long as possible to laminate.
The more time the ink on a print has to set, the better the laminate adhesion will be.
Your print must be dry before laminating.
If you don’t have a lot of time, IP- laminate is used for wet inks on print media – this can be useful if you are pressured with time from printing to lamination.
You can still have fast production turnover if there is heavy color on the print.
Wipe the print with a lint-free soft cotton cloth.
This helps remove materials in the inks, which migrate to the print’s surface, which inhibit good adhesion.
The longer you wait after printing, the more effective the wiping will be.
Look after the laminators.
The most valuable assets to the appliance are the rollers.
Always take care of them!
Do not cut them or make a mark when changing film; else, it will show up on documents during application for the rest of the machine’s life.
You don’t want a bubble in the same place on a print time again.
These can be the most expensive item when replacing parts.
Cut far away from them and your print when you remove them or packing it down for next use.
We advise keeping something between the coating, e.g., a scrap piece of vinyl or the end of the last print, to stop the film from getting stuck to the bottom roll.
When using new media, it is important to take the time to test the compatibility with your lamination set up.
Some adjustments to technique or laminate materials might be necessary for the best performance.
- Trim the print. Any slivering along the edges is a sign the laminate bonding is weak.
- Roll the print several times inside and out. Look for tunneling within the print. Polyester and pressure-sensitive laminates can be weak when rolled.
- Strike a trimmed edge on a table edge. The media or print and laminates should deform as a single piece.
- Test shipping conditions. If you commonly shop rolled prints in a tube, do this with a test print several days before the customer usage.
Open the rollers once you are finished lamination.
You can get more extended use from the machines with this trick 😉
Make sure all print, media, and working areas are clean and dust-free.
An unclean laminating environment is the worst enemy of any successful finishing job.
Stop and relax.
Make sure you’re aware of the emergency stop button on your laminator.
If a print gets jammed or the coating sticks, don’t panic.
Let the instrument run for a while until the print and wrinkles are out of the rolls, and the error has been rectified.
The more careful you are with your printing and lamination, the more money you will save long term.
There are typically two mandrels (or rollers) on wide format laminators, with one being at the top and the bottom.
These help feed through and attach the adhesive to your prints.
The film goes on the cylinders.
The wider the roll, the better, as it means less frequent replacing.
This part is the most expensive to replace.
The decorative overlay that coats prints and other media (think restaurant menu) is usually translucent, so you can see the print or image.
It comes in various laminate decorative textures, such as matte, glossy, or has a specially modified surface for foil stamping.
It comes in different materials and different thicknesses, i.e., the higher the number, the thicker the film.
Measurements are usually in mil – which is one-thousandth of an inch.
You can occasionally source this from print shops or an online shop (but check for delivery cost).
Manual laminators can be perfect for quick lamination on printing and materials that smudge easily (heavy color prints), or high temperatures could damage that.
They are hand-operated application laminators, which essentially give you more control with the print laminating application, as you can set your own pace.
These machines are simple yet effective to use, although they are not usually pressure-sensitive. These are not a common sight in print shops.
When laminate is applied to a printed document, the light can be amplified, changing the overall image.
This color shift on the image will differ depending on the print materials used, the type of laminate, the media, and the ink.
It will vary from a slight overall density increase to a relatively major color shift to the original print.
It’s essential to bear this in mind when choosing the suitable laminate for your media or image, especially for articles such as shop signs in the public eye.
OPP stands for ‘biaxially orientated polypropylene’. It has been stretched mechanically and manually using a cross-direction technique and is used in print packaging and labeling.
This laminate has everything covered!
It is environmentally friendly; lightweight; it’s resistant to ultraviolet rays, oil, and grease and can protect against wet weather, oh – and it’s got a beautiful glossy finish!
PET stands for ‘biaxially oriented polyethylene terephthalate.’ Unlike OPP, this laminate is used for its high mechanical strength (this material is partly used in space blankets!) It’s made by stretching a polyester film in its two primary directions.
No adhesive is required; this will adhere to print paper during the thermal roll laminator application.
This is a good type of material for those who want to use a pressure-sensitive adhesive application on their print.
Nylon is biaxially orientated nylon-6 (a human-made plastic).
Laminate on a print made from nylon is solid as it is an abrasion-resistant material.
Coupled with its temperature resistance, this laminate is often used in food packaging such as boil-in-the-bag delicacies.
Nylons tend to provide good resistance to water and chemicals against your print.
After doing some research and reading consumer reviews, I’ve come up with my best picks.
The Phoenix 4400 DHP is the overall best choice as it is the most versatile, great especially for posters but all kinds of prints as well.
For the best value pick, it’s the VEVOR 51” Cold.
This one won’t break the bank and will do a great job with your prints.
Each item on this list serves a great purpose for your specific needs.
So, purchase accordingly whether you run a business, are printing posters, or prefer a thermal/cold device!
Be wary; some wide format laminators will require training before use.
Check out the company website or supply shop and find a customer support email address.
Most have 24/7 customer support with heaps of information online about the printing and laminating process.
They can recommend the best lamination finishes based upon the desired print media and often be haggled down on delivery costs.
Shop around – you’ll be sure to find a perfect wide format laminator for all of your print finishing needs.
Good luck, and happy laminating!