When I’m looking for a blog topic I often wander into our workshop to consult with Todd, our production coordinator, vehicle wrap installer, and designer extraordinaire. Todd has loads of industry experience and is good at providing detailed information about the technical side of designing and installing vehicle wraps, he’s basically the unsung hero of this blog. Today I went to the workshop to see if Todd thought there was enough on the subject of laminating vinyl to fill out a post and I found out that both Todd and Chris, another designer/installer (and recent very welcome addition to our team!), are very passionate about the subject. Why do they love vinyl over laminate for vehicle wraps? Read on…
Over lamination of vinyl is important because it greatly improves the vehicle wrap’s lifespan and quality. Laminating vinyl helps with durability, protecting against UV rays, scratches, and fading. Laminating also makes the material thicker by a few millimeters, which makes installation easier and prevents against tears while the vinyl is being stretched over awkwardly shaped parts of the vehicle.
During his lesson on over lamination Todd made sure to point out that there are different qualities of over laminate and they vary widely. The best way to choose an over laminate for your vinyl is to simply stick with the same manufacturer. Don’t go with a premium vinyl material like 3m and then try to cut costs with a cheap off-brand laminate - you’ll be asking for trouble. In our shop, we make sure that all of the vinyl and laminate matches, meaning it was created by the same manufacturer.
Is there ever a reason that Todd wouldn’t laminate something? The only time that we don’t laminate vinyl that comes out of our printer is when we’re mounting it to coroplast yard signs. Coroplast only has a lifespan of a couple of years, which is shorter than that of plain, un-laminated vinyl. Other than that, every piece of vinyl for a car wrap that comes out of our printer also goes through our lamination machine – after an out-gassing period of 24 - 48 hours, of course!
Our laminator works by “cold lamination,” which basically means that we laminate our vinyl at room temperature. Some machines laminate using heat, but that’s generally for the lamination of paper products like posters. The adhesive backed vinyl we work with doesn’t require that technology.
Phew! That’s a lot of information about over lamination! On my way out of the workshop I asked Chris, who had been listening in on my Over Laminate 101 crash course, if he had anything to add. He thought for a moment and offered a perfect final thought: “Always use over laminate!”