There are items of kit that every print company needs.
A printer certainly comes in handy, a laminator, and perhaps a plotter for vinyl graphics.
One more item that has become more popular is the application table or flatbed applicator.
In this post I look at why you need to seriously think about putting one on your kit wish-list.
Make a 2 person task a one person walk in the park
Spending too much time on all those 2 person mounting jobs?
Feeding large boards through a laminator is difficult work especially at 8x4 and above. An application table allows you lay the board flat on the bed and you can let the machine do all the work.
But won’t halving the necessary personnel lead to just the same output but with only one person?
Workflow feedback shows that against the 4+ boards that one person can run through an upright laminator per hour, an application roller can up this to around 25 boards.
And that’s 25 sheets all without issues with the quality of the twenty-fifth exactly the same as the first.
Take that 2 handed job and make it 50% more efficient
Not only does an application roller need 50% less person power, it also needs half the involvement of that one bod.
No more two handed feeding through an upright laminator. No need to hold down and remove the backing sheets, and no more contorting to peel it all away.
Using a flatbed applicator really is as simple as pushing the roller along with one hand. Now and again you’ll have to switch hands so you don’t feel like you’re cheating!
Precise and accurate – every time
When you’re laying the work panels on the flatbed there is no movement through the process as there is with an upright laminator.
No need to feed through the rollers or manually reaching over to peel back and squeegee down.
Once half the backing sheet has been removed, roll over the roller and that’s the only part that moves.
If the work panel hasn’t been popped on the application table perfectly straight it doesn’t matter.
Try misaligning the feed into a standard laminator and see how that fares - creases and wrinkles ahoy.
Bubble free results - every panel
Once the roller is lowered it applies constant uniform pressure. Even if the roller stops midway, there will still be no indentation lines or bubbles.
Thick substrates? No problem
The nip rollers on your upright laminator can probably open up to around 25mm.
Fine for most media but what if you need something that can run a little extra.
These application rollers can comfortably take substrates up to 90mm - handy for exhibition or museum panels along with the thicker product options for shop-fitting and signage.
The only work table you’ll need
I know these machines take up a fair bit of floor space but it’s not all about just rolls rolling.
The bed is constructed from tempered glass to help smoothly slide the graphics. It’s also illuminated which helps when viewing backlit prints or for any display graphics that’ll end up under or in front of lights.
To top it off, the bed also includes a large self-healing cutting mat.
That one-trick-pony wooden table you had to build yourself to trim graphics on just found itself put out to pasture.
Flatbed applicator saves space?!
Seems like a contradiction doesn’t it?
A large scale flatbed applicator table actually taking up less space? Nonsense…
Except when you look around your workplace and see those two 2m+ work tables that need to go in-front of and behind the upright laminator it doesn’t seem quite so ridiculous does it?
One of these at half the size will give you up to six times the throughput.
Maybe not quite as ridiculous as once thought.
Simply apply application tape or premask
If you’re applying lengths of application tape through a laminator to your cut vinyl graphics, you know how difficult it can be to keep everything lined up.
Working in sections using the application table makes the job much simpler and way more efficient.
Laminating difficult or different substrates
Maybe you print on glass and need to laminate after. Or you apply clear printed films to glass?
It is difficult getting glass panels through an upright laminator and the same goes for thinner more flexible substrates.
How much easier is the job when you can lay it flat on the bed and move the roller to finish it rather than attempt to feed it through rollers that only turn and remain static.
A flatbed applicator works just as effectively with flexible media such as banners so if you’re struggling to feed through a standard laminator, the job may have just got a whole lot easier.
I know a flatbed applicator isn’t going to fit every print company’s requirements but I’m sure the 9 reasons above have set out a pretty strong case why you have to consider one.
We’ll have some more information on the latest flatbed applicators soon - the product page explaining technical info is here.
PS - if you're looking at options for new kit, this post about print and cut machines can help deciding whether to go for a combined machine or separate units.