The DecalPro process requires the use of a pouch laminator. We're not laminating anything per-se, rather, we're using the laminator as an ideal heat and pressure source to create dry-transfer images. We refer to the laminator throughout this site as a "Toner Image Applicator" or TIA for short.
There are two high performance, low cost "10mil" laminators shown below. These are the most popular and lowest cost units on the market and half the price of big 'brand-name' laminators like Fellows®, GBC® or Swingline® with the same 10mil capability. But even these two units have important differences you need to know about to help you make the right choice. (NOTE: For Canadian and European customers see below).
Laminators range from the very low-cost to expensive brand-name units. All pouch laminators fall into one of three types, or performance rating groups. These are the 3~5mil, 7mil or 10mil types. These three ratings refer to the temperature range and pouch thickness they can handle, and does not indicate the thickness of what can be passed through these units (which is normally between .060 ~ .080". For reference, a credit card is .030" thick). Inexpensive units seen online and at office supply stores (generally in the $100 price range) are the low performing "3~5mil" type units and do not work well (or barely at best) with our DecalPro process.
You may be wondering why you can't use a household iron with our process? The reason for a laminator is the very high pressure needed to transfer foils and bonding the image together during the process steps. The 10mil type laminators provide hundreds of PSI (pounds per square inch) which you just can't do with an iron... even if you could stand on it!
Comparing the Top Two, Low Cost 10mil-type (110v) Laminators
TAMERICA SM-330 & Apache AL-13P
We've used both of these two units, giving them a good workout, inside and out. Both work well but there are several reasons we promote and highly recommend the Tamerica SM-330 over the Apache AL-13p. The SM-330 model has superior workmanship and mechanical design, overheat protection and other great features. The Tamerica unit is about $40 more than the Apache... but for very good reason!
Tamerica SM-330 Features:
• No modifications needed
• Advanced self-regulating roller pressure design
• Significantly higher quality manufacturing
• Heavy duty/reversible motor
• Over-temp safety shut-down
• IR Heating rods (upper/lower)
• South Korean designed
• Company owned importer in the USA (Rancho Cucamonga, CA)
• Available direct from us and other laminator retailers
• Tech Support direct from us as we know this unit inside and out
• Replacement parts available by Tamerica importer
Differences of the APACHE AL-13P:
• Simplistic pressure/roller assembly
• Similar heavy duty/reversible motor
• Similar heating rods (upper/lower)
• Generic Chinese design, private labeled for several importers
• Unknown importers
• Availability from other vendors (we don't carry this unit)
• No Tech Support
• Roller pull-down "J" pressure clips can be overstressed and fail
• No Over-Temp shutdown
• No replacement parts available
.... but it is lower cost over the Tamerica
• APACHE 'AL13P' - street price $90 ~ $120
• TAMERICA 'SM-330' - our price $139.95
"TAMERICA SM-330" INSTRUCTIONS
The operational instruction sheet included with this laminator is for use with conventional plastic ‘pouches’ to seal documents and photos as its designed purpose. For use with our products, disregard this sheet and don’t use any cardboard “Carrier” envelope, rather, follow our instructions included with our products. Finally, disregard the "temperatures" placard above the Ready-light as it doesn’t apply when using our products.
Rotate the temperature control fully clock-wise. Whenever the unit is turned on, allow the unit to fully ‘heat-soak’ the rollers for a minimum of 20 minutes even though the “Ready” LED may be lit. The neoprene-coated rollers need to absorb maximum heat for proper performance with our products.
After you are done using the unit don’t just turn it off! First rotate the temperature control fully counter-clockwise and allow the unit to cool down for at least 15 minutes before turning the unit off. This prevents the rollers from developing a ‘flat-spot’ due to the rollers are not turning while it cools down!
Always leave this switch in the forward (run) position. We recommend NOT using the REVerse position except when necessary in the event of a jammed condition. The switch is spring-loaded to the middle
“motor off” position. If the motor isn’t turning the rollers it could develop roller bubbles as the heaters stay on!
This laminator is classified as a “10mil” laminator. This does not mean the total thickness that can be passed through the unit, rather it means how heavy of a plastic pouch it can melt to seal a document. (Pouches come in 3, 5, 7 and 10mil.) The maximum thickness that can be passed through this unit is .080”. (For PCB users, that would be an .064” board with two sheets of transfer paper to make a double-sided board.)
This unit has ‘overheat protection’ that will shut down the heaters if a malfunction occurs.
IMPORTANT! Regardless of make/model laminator you use, never leave any laminator running unattended! Because these units run very quietly, it's easy to forget you have it running and leave the room.
All laminators run very hot upwards of 270ºF to 350ºF. Some pouch laminator manufacturers have 'auto-shutoff' or overheat sensors to shut down the unit if there is a malfunction. (The Tamerica SM-330 has this overheat sensor). Here are our two suggestions for good safety when using any hot laminator.
We recommend picking up one of these very inexpensive battery-operated Smoke Detectors from your local hardware store. Place it above the area where you use this laminator.
Power Plug Timer:
For peace of mind, we strongly suggest using an automatic shutoff device because you might forget and leave your room. A unit that we like is the Belkin brand "Conserve Energy Saving Outlet" ($14~$19 on Amazon). Both of these are cheap insurance in the event there was a malfunction that could result in a fire.
Finding a 220 volt laminator outside North America There are several units we've seen in UK, AU and Mainland Europe that have a common design to look for.
Here's the trick to finding a good 10mil laminator. Go to "www.google.com/images" then enter the search term, "220 volt pouch laminator". This will present you with pages of laminator images. Look for a unit that resembles the beige unit here. When you find a unit's photo, click on the "Visit Page" link to take you to the vendor's website page for more info (respective country, cost, etc).
This unit is the most common generic "no-name" Chinese designs. Normally they will have a name on them from the reseller. Make sure the selected unit is wired for 220 volt. We're sure there are a lot of other units that look different so this is where you'll have to do some research on the specs. Some units are 6 roller and that's fine but a bit overkill. Two rollers are acceptable, but most are 4 roller. Unit should have dual roller heaters. Note: Some "square" box looking units are of the old "heater plate" design that do not heat the rollers - you do NOT want that type because you want heat and pressure at the same time, so only "heated roller" designs will work. (There are very few of this "heater plate" design type on the market.)