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Applying Laminating Films to Thick Substrates

Although the primary focus of the following procedure is the application of dry-film photopolymers to substrates thicker than 0.100" (2.5 mm), the techniques employed can be used when laminating any film.

The main challenge when using a roll laminator to coat thick substrates is the potential for damage to the rollers as they try to climb up the leading edge of the panel. Often, this edge is quite sharp and can cut the elastomer roller coating. Do this enough times and the accumulation of damage will render one or both rollers useless.

To laminate thick substrates:
  1. Find a piece of scrap material that is as thick as, or slightly thinner than the panel that you will be laminating (target substrate or target panel). Corrugated cardboard (fiberboard) works very well, since the leading edge tends to collapse, forming a wedge that slowly forces the rollers apart.

    This scrap is commonly referred to as a feed board or leader board. Do not use a leader that is thicker than the target substrate because the height mismatch may cause the film to delaminate from the leading edge of the target panel.

    Note: If necessay, use emery cloth or a file to remove all sharp edges from the leader board.

  2. With the laminator at operating temperature and the drive motor on, unload the rollers by disengaging the clutch and feed the leader board between the front rollers. If your laminator is not equipped with a clutch or unloading lever that separates the rollers, you may have to manually push the feed board between the first set of rollers. Or, of course, you could run out and buy a Model 1200, 2200, or 3200 Dry-Film Laminator from Think & Tinker (pretty cheesy commercialism, eh?).
  3. Just as the leader board starts to disappear from view between the front rollers, feed in the target substrate.
  4. Trim off the excess dry-film from the edges of the target substrate and set the leader board aside for future use.
  5. Your substrate is now ready for further processing.

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