Magazine Article


The Finishing Touch

Most of the finishing is done with cold laminates, with General Formulations' scratch-proof cold laminates among his most popular finishes. The product provides the durability clients expect, and it helps reduce the wait that often goes with some thermal products.

"One of the things that is getting different about our business is that turnaround times seem to be getting shorter and shorter," Lamond observes. "More and more customers want us to crank out the print, take it to finishing and get it to them as quickly as possible, as if every job is a rush job."

The choice and reliability of current finishing products help make it easier to meet such challenges. "A few years ago it wasn't that easy, but with today's products we're pretty well covered."

Skip Allen of Photocolor Graphix in Palm Springs, CA has been using Coda ( finishing products since 1994. "Back then we were using their double release adhesives and mounting jobs by hand," says Allen. "A few years later we purchased a 54-inch cold laminator from Coda that made everything a lot easier. After that we added a Coda 64-inch unit. We like working with their adhesives because they are double coated, white and extremely aggressive. We go through a couple of cases of Gatorboard a week, a lot of Fomecor. We use them for all types of projects. We are currently doing work for two design studios in the area that are working with construction companies and architects. They bring us digital files from the construction sites as well as floor plans. We print them out and we mount them. One other area that seems to be a growing area for us is digital reproductions. We print out fine-art reproductions on real canvas using our two Encad printers and then we run it through our laminator."

This vehicle wrap utilized MACtac MACmark marking films, IMAGin digital media and Permacolor overlaminates.

Full Service Means Finishing

Although clients may not recognize its importance, the work that takes place in the finishing department can play a significant role in shaping opinions about a print provider. "Part of being a full-service provider today means providing these services," asserts David Rahe, national sales rep with PLI Photo Lab, Inc., in Cincinnati. "If the finishing is not done properly, no matter how good the print is, whether it's digital or analog, the customer won't be happy with the image."

He estimates as much as 40 percent of the lab's photo and digital work passes through the finishing department before the job is complete. The company uses a range of MACtac products ( almost exclusively. MACtac is a full line supplier of print media, inkjet media, cold and thermal laminates and mounting supplies.

"We've had a good working relationship with them for years," Rahe explains. "They give us good pricing and good products so we don't go shopping [for other brands of products] unless we have to."

Engineering Graphics' Mike Lamond reports the company does a lot of large-format work for murals, aerial photography composites, and trade shows.

By experimenting with some of the mounting and laminating products from MACtac, Rahe reports his company has been able to identify new imaging products to sell. "The capabilities of digital printing have allowed us to broaden our horizons with sales of niche solutions," he says.

Although he won't divulge most of the specifics, Rahe explains they have been experimenting with direct printing to some laminates with notable successes. He offers the case of printing directly to a luster film and then over-laminating it with a clear film as an example of an innovative solution the company found for meeting one customer's need for a backlit display graphic. "We're taking products traditionally used in photographic processing and using them in entirely new ways," he says.

Such innovative applications can make the finishing department a more important source of revenue in a highly competitive market. "It's a little profit center, but it's still a profit center," Rahe concludes.

Once Huge, Now Nice

"At one time the finishing department was a huge profit center," agrees Matt Simpkins, purchasing and materials manager with Andres Imaging in Chicago. "It's still a nice profit center, but overall, margins are getting tighter across the board."

The company specializes in large- and grand-format digital graphics and maintains a dedicated finishing department. Simpkins says meeting client expectations requires a thorough understanding of the range of laminates and finishing solutions now available, and knowing what works best for which applications. "It's very challenging from a purchasing and materials management point of view to keep up with all that's available and what's good for what," he notes.

With such a range of finishing products to choose from, he cherry-picks products from several vendors including Seal Graphics (, LexJet ( and other distributors. Seal Graphics offers a full line of laminating equipment, as well as liquid and adhesive-backed laminating supplies, films, adhesives and boards. LexJet is a manufacturer and distributor of solutions for inkjet printing, including equipment, media and finishing supplies, and PreLume technology for enhancing the brightness of color inkjet images.