A second benefit is the versatility and production ease. Modern pressure-sensitive adhesive technology affords strong bonding with numerous inks and substrates without fear of bubbling or lifting. Pressure-sensitive films will bond with most aqueous, solvent, eco-solvent, and dye-sublimation inks. Pressure-sensitive laminating materials can also be used to create many of today's most popular finished graphics applications, including the most popular rigid signs and displays.
Third, there's a full range of adhesive-backed media available today that allows printing directly to materials that can be mounted to a substrate without the additional production step of applying an adhesive. This is a time- and cost-saving factor that contributes to a higher profit margin for many finished applications. Pressure-sensitive image finishing has a low cost of entry and a solid return on investment.
"Once a finishing department is up and running smoothly, the opportunity for new revenue grows," says Mohni. She suggests that laminating opens up a world of new business opportunities, such as outdoor signs and banners; trade show displays; retail merchandising signs and P.O.P. displays; backlit and floor graphics; and more.
Making a Case for the Pro Lab
Karl Weisenhorn, Midwest sales manager at Quality Media & Laminating Solutions, still sees the pro lab as the ideal provider of mounting and laminating services. "The value of laminating and finishing is a service that is not easily implemented by home imagers or cottage printers, thus providing pro labs the distinction of another tier of product offerings," he says. "The real point here is that pro labs need to continue to develop unique and premium services that will entice the serious imager to rely on their services. Laminating is a perfect fit for this need."
"Lamination and finishing has been a specific service for decades and has even stronger appeal in today's marketplace," he continues. "The benefits for lamination are obvious. The media industry continues to respond to demand for products with improved color, saturation and brilliance, and promised archival life. Obviously, these are characteristics in high demand. Professional labs may be the very best providers of this service. Lamination can improve the look and life of images. The added benefits of reduced glare, various textures, and added thicknesses and rigidity are all image enhancements for professional markets. Note that while laminated images can last lifetimes and be stunning in their presentation, improper application of laminates or the wrong laminates can degrade the look and actually shorten the life of the image. This is great news for serious imaging facilities. The knowledge and dedication that made pro labs successful will also distinguish them as they become educated and dedicated in the finishing processes.
"The coordination of premium finishing products, knowledgeable support, and product availability can and should provide the professional photo lab with a profit center. More importantly, this is a service that will identify the lab as a unique and professional resource for its clients...that will not only broaden product offerings, but also broaden its appeal to potential clients."
Opportunities in Framing
"Now, more than ever, retailers are turning over every stone looking for ways to increase revenues," says Ric Brady, president/CEO, ProEDGE Systems. "The irony is that they don't have to look very far. Mounting, laminating, and framing services can literally double or triple their margins, with a minimum amount of effort and very little investment.
"When you compare the perceived value of a photographic image printed on a piece of paper alone, to that of the same image mounted, laminated, and framed, the finished image commands a tremendously higher profit margin," he continues. "As the manufacturer of the ProEDGE FastFRAMER system, we help outfit photo retailers every day to implement their finishing services: mounting, laminating, and framing. Our customers have repeatedly advised us that these services are an integral part of a photo retailer's 'survival kit.'"
One retailer that has been successful with the ProEDGE System is St. Louis, MO–based seven-store Creve Coeur Camera. Creve Coeur Camera prides itself on not just offering the best in digital photo options, but on being a full-service retailer.
"We were in the custom framing business a few years back and we were having trouble making any money in that space," recalls Pete Steuart, COO. "We needed to find a more economical alternative that would offset our mounting and laminating business. We saw the FastFRAMER system at PMA about four years ago. We initially purchased the system to help us frame graphics and retail signage that we were using in our stores. Once we got the graphics up in the stores, customers started asking about them and how they could get that done, and the service took off from there."
Steuart reports the mounting, laminating, and framing services go hand in hand with their wide-format printing business. "We produce quite a bit of wide-format graphics for our customers," he says. "And a good majority of their prints we output either get mounted, laminated, framed, or all three. The key to the success of this service is just showing people what we can do. We cater to semi-pros, and when we see a good print, we recommend the possibility of mounting and framing to them. We plan to focus more on these services in the future."
"Image finishing plays an important and profitable role in digital graphics production and application," concludes Neschen's Mohni. "Mounting and laminating adds value to the finished print. It creates more durable and versatile graphics applications, offers real profit potential for digital graphics producers, and generates greater levels of satisfaction for graphics customers."