Green Light For Green Button Laminators at the 2019 BindRite Conference
The new generation of automatic laminators features a model for most segments of the printing industry
Al Boese, Executive Director and longtime spirit guide of the BindRite Dealers Association, prefers the term "Green Button Technology" to automation.
"It tells a better story," explains Boese. Al likes stories and he is good at telling them. As a longtime player in the post print segment, Boese has enjoyed a front row seat as digital technology transformed finishing and laminating equipment.
"In my mind, GBT originated in photocopying in the early 1970's and by the 1980's we had tabletop fully featured copiers that did everything with control panels allowing the automation of; document feeding, collating, stapling, stacking, paper selection etc. The key element then and now is that the machines had to be smart enough that untrained operators could run them."
However, there was one technology that appeared to lag behind the ever improving folding, creasing and booklet making machines, and that was lamination. For years, lamination remained stubbornly analog, brutally wasteful and largely ignored. The introduction of pouches was about the only serious advancement in the past 20 years, and it's not clear that qualifies as automation.
Then, in 2007 FujiPla introduced the ALM 3220, which would automatically feed, laminate and trim digital prints virtually unattended. The ALM 3220 is fast and will laminate and cut about 200 8.5 x 11" sheets an hour. It was a game changer for sure, but also comparatively pricey.
But if the new offerings on this floor of last month's BindRite's Annual Convention are any indication, the Green Buttoning of lamination technology has suddenly achieved critical mass. No fewer than five automated laminators were demonstrated on the show floor, sporting a price range from $30,000 to under $1,000.
Pricewise, the most accessible of this crop of automatic laminators is the Acco/GBC Foton 30 Automated Laminator, the most innovative technology offered by GBC in some time. For under $1,000, it's hard to imagine a small print for pay or in-house shop that couldn't use this machine, which has a footprint about the size of a pouch laminator. But the good news is: the cartridge-fed Foton 30 is not a pouch laminator. It can load up to 30 letter sized sheets at a time, then processes and trims at about 2.33 fpm for 3mil and 2.16 fpm for 5mil film.
Boese says the Foton 30 is pretty much of a no-brainer operation and has potential as a means of growing a laminating business without a huge investment. It will be officially released June 1, 2019.
Also shown was a new model from DataBind: the Revo Lami Revo-T14 Automatic Laminator from Japanese manufacturer Lami Corp. This machine is a fully automatic, pouch free encapsulation laminator with a 12" web and 4mil film thickness. With a price tag somewhere under $14,000, the Revo T-14 looks good for smaller PSPs, copy shops and in-plants looking for a little more production (up to 63" per minute or up to 420 letter sheets per hour).
Not yet released to the market is the Phoenix 3500-ATS from Southwest Binding and Laminating. The first automatic laminator from Southwest, this model ups the ante with production speeds that can exceed 400 ft. / hour. The Phoenix 3500-ATS was designed to be operated by unskilled staff and offers a laminating width range from 6" to 13.5". But what differentiates the Phoenix 3500 from the other laminators mentioned here is that it does not require proprietary films. Southwest expects to roll out the new laminator toward the end of 2019 with an MSRP of $12,000.
Topping the list in terms of performance and of course, price is Graphic Whizard PT33LSC automatic laminator with speeds in some production modes up to 600 ft. / hour and a price of around $30,000. This fully automatic system is engineered for the digital short-run printer and is able to perform both encapsulation and single-sided lamination. It is priced at around $30,000.
"When I saw all of these automatic laminators on the floor of our show - fitting into a whole range of printing segments - I said to myself 'the Green Button Revolution has truly arrived,'" said Boese. "With labor accounting for the biggest chunk of business expense for printers and with skilled operators getting more and more difficult to find, automation is at this point no longer a choice."
Al Boese has a 60 year perspective on the printing industry in general and the post print sector in particular. Listen to Al.