How to Laminate Paper (With and Without a Laminator) – Our Complete Guide

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Believe it or not, the process of lamination was invented in the 1930s by a dentist. During that time before the advent of veneers, dentists used clear plastic resins to protect and add caps to teeth. Dr Morris M. Blum had noticed that black and white photographs would gradually deteriorate and fade. As an experiment, he applied a layer of dental laminate to a photograph of his wife, preserving and shielding it against the ravages of time.

However, it wasn’t until 1953 that the process was automated, courtesy of an inventor from Ohio by the name of Donald F Hannon. He invented the first roller laminating machine, which would later be adapted and evolved to create the office essentials that are part of our everyday lives.


21st Century laminating machines

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Today, there is a wide variety of laminating machines including those used to laminate fabric, glass, wood, metal, and even electronic components. However, the one we’re most familiar with is the type used for laminating paper in homes and offices across the world. Typically, laminating paper involves sandwiching it between two sheets of plastic, which were originally made from cellulose acetate. However, due to its flammable properties and high price-tag, this was later replaced with a film nitrate.

How do laminators work?

The laminator uses a combination of internal rolling mechanisms, pressure, and heat to seal the paper inside the plastic sheets or pouch. The plastic coating then protects the document or paperwork against frequent handling, moisture and other liquids, dust, dirt, grease, grime, fingerprints, and smudges. It can also add vibrancy to the print itself, making it more eye-catching and easier to see. Because the plastic is stiff, it also makes the finished product suitable for a range of purposes such as restaurant menus, presentation documents, and even educational accessories. It’s quick, it’s easy, and the results are well worth the effort. There are a few things to consider, though, so read on to find out more about laminating.


Choosing the right laminating machine

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Possibly the most important aspect of laminating paper is making sure you’ve got the right machine for the job. While most laminators are designed to deal with sheets of A4 paper, there are those that can be used to laminate larger sheets and those used to laminate smaller sizes such as for use as ID tags or business cards. There is a huge variety of laminating machines on the market but knowing the size of the documents or cards you want to protect should help you cross a few off the list.

Knowing the size of the paperwork you want to laminate will have a significant impact on the type of laminator you choose. Generally speaking, there are three types:

  • Also known as ‘wide format laminators,’ roll laminators are the ones that are most commonly found in homes and offices. There are different sizes of roll laminator, from those dealing with A4 sheets of paper to larger sizes such as A1 and 4A0 paper. Which one you choose will depend on what you need to be laminated. However, it’s worth knowing that when you’re laminating using a roller machine, you will have to trim and tidy up the finished product. Due to being on the larger size, these tend to be less portable and more suited office and home use, depending on the size.
  • Pouch laminators use sheets of plastic which are sealed along one edge, creating a transparent pouch into which the paper can then be inserted. Typically, the pouch’s interior is coated with a layer of thermo-reactive adhesive that bonds to the paper and seals the other sides. Again, there are assorted sizes, from those that will accept credit-card-sized sheets to those that will seal A4 paper.

Pouch laminators tend to be on the smaller size and are more portable than their larger, heavier cousins. In addition, the final product won’t need any trimming. You’ll also find that these types of laminator are slower than those with rollers, but still offer excellent results.

  • A recent addition to the laminator world, cold laminators utilise pressure rather than heat when laminating paper. These machines need less maintenance than those that employ heat to get the job done, and many are operated manually rather than electrically. While they’re cheaper than their electronic counterparts, the downside is that, because they require someone to operate them, they’re not suitable for dealing with large volumes of paperwork.


Warm-up times and laminating pouches


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There are some other considerations to take into account when you’re choosing the right laminator setup for your home or office. Many laminators use heat to bring their rollers up to the right temperature for operation. It can be a good idea to check out how long the warm-up time for your chosen model is. If you work in an environment where laminating paper needs to be done as quickly as possible, it might be better to look for those with a ‘fast warm up’ function. Standard laminators can take up to five minutes before they’re ready to roll, while the fast warm up versions can take as little as 60 seconds.

You need to make sure you’ve chosen the right laminating film. While a gloss finish tends to be on the cheaper side, matt finish laminating pouches or film can give a more professional edge. You’ll also need to know the thickness of the film or pouches you’re buying. The thicker the material, the stiffer the finished product will be. It’s also important to choose the right thickness to ensure that our chosen machine will deal with it.

The thickness of laminating film and pouches is measured in microns. As a rule of thumb, the higher the number of microns, the thicker, stiffer, and more protective the material will be. To save you having to make an educated guess, we display the microns value alongside each of the photos of the laminating pouches in our collection.


10 safety tips when laminating paper

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While these machines might be something that we all feel familiar with, knowing how to laminate paper safely can help to prevent unnecessary accidents and injuries. Machines that use heat when laminating paper can reach temperatures of up to 150°C, so personal safety is something to be taken very seriously. Here are our top tips on how to laminate paper without putting yourself at any risk:

  • Tie back long hair, don’t wear loose clothing, and remove any dangling jewellery. With the rollers capable of achieving high temperatures, take any precautions you can to prevent any part of your body being dragged towards them.
  • Store the laminator properly. If there are those in the workplace or home that don’t know how to laminate paper safely, then it’s better that they don’t have the opportunity to try without being properly supervised.
  • Ensure that nothing beyond the maximum size of paper specified is inserted into the laminator. This can cause paper jams and even damage its internal components.
  • If you’re trying to remove jammed paper, make sure the laminator is unplugged and has cooled down before attempting to clear the blockage.
  • Ensure there are no drinks or liquids that could be spilled within the vicinity of the machine, whichever type of laminator you’ve chosen.
  • Never leave a laminator unattended while it’s in the process of laminating paper.
  • Never try and put anything beyond paper and pouches into the input slot. While it might be tempting try and clear a jam using a pen or pencil, this can damage the machine and, in worse cases, result in burns or injury.
  • If your laminator comes with a cover that protects the user against moving parts, ensure that it used at all times when laminating paper.
  • If the laminator is producing an unusual smell or you can see smoke coming from the machine, immediately switch it off at its power source.
  • If you’re laminating at home, be sure to keep it out of the reach of children, and away from pets.



Can you laminate without a laminator?

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While automating the process makes laminating paper that much easier, you can learn how to laminate without a laminator. This can be useful to know if yours breaks down, there’s a power outage, or you simply don’t have the room for one. In addition, knowing how to laminate without a laminator can offer a budget-friendly alternative for those who don’t use one often enough to justify buying one. Here are some of the simplest ways to laminate paper without having to buy a full-blown laminating machine.


Laminating small documents without a laminator

If you need to laminate something as small as an ID tag or business card, you can do this using some basic household implements. You will need:

  • The item to be laminated
  • Thermo-reactive laminating pouches
  • Two sheets of A4 paper
  • A clipboard
  • An ironing board and iron

Begin by putting up your ironing board and allowing your iron to heat it up. It should be on a low to medium setting. Place your clipboard on the ironing board and use the clip-holder to secure one of the sheets of paper. Place the laminating pouch on the paper and inert the document to be laminated. Close the pouch and top it with the second sheet, which should also be held in place with the clip-holder. Using your iron, gently iron along the edges of the laminating paper that need to be sealed, before passing it over the entire document, to remove any air bubbles or wrinkles. Repeat the ironing process once more, to make sure that the document is completely enclosed and free from defects.


The sticky tape method

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If you don’t have access to laminator pouches but still want to protect something that’s the size of a credit card, transparent packing tape makes a reasonable alternative. Ensure that the tape is longer and wider than the paper or card being used. Tear off some of the tape and place it sticky side up on a hard, smooth surface. Place your document on the tape, so that there is plenty of room around each edge. Starting from one end, carefully place another strip of tape over the card, being sure to keep it taut at all times. Once your second layer of tape is in place, smooth it down, using the edge of something hard such as the back of a knife. Then use scissors to trim away the excess.

For larger pieces of paper or card, the sticky tape method can still be used. Assuming that the document is wider than the tape, you will have to apply the tape in adjacent strips on either side. The downside to this method is that you will be able to see the joins between the strips of tape, making it better suited to home use as opposed to trying to seal professional paperwork and documents.


Self-adhesive laminator pouches

For larger sheets, such as A4-sized pieces of paper, self-adhesive laminating pouches will do the trick. Primarily used with cold laminators, they are pouches or sheets which are coated with a layer of adhesive on the inner surface. Begin by placing your first sheet of film or laminating pouch on a table, sticky side up. Place your A4 sheet in the middle and then either add the second sheet, sticky side down, or close the pouch. Smooth out any air bubbles or creases and then trim it to your requirements.


Heat lamination for A4


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At a pinch, you can use the iron and clipboard method to laminate A4 sheets. You will, however, need something larger than a clipboard on which to affix your laminating sheets and documents and the paper that you place on top, and underneath of the whole arrangement will also need to be bigger. If you use this technique, it can be advisable to place a towel or piece of fabric over the second sheet of paper to ensure that the heat is spread evenly throughout the whole process.

While you can learn how to laminate without a laminator, the results are far less likely to be as professional-looking as those achieved by using a laminating machine.

As Europe’s leading supplier of office supplies and equipment, we can supply you with all your laminating needs, from pouches and machines to binders to keep your finished laminates safe and organised. Check out what’s on offer at Avansas today.

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