Why a laminator is superior over the use of a house-hold iron.
To get a toner printed image to transfer to a metal surface (PCB copper laminate or other metals for "chemical milling") we have 3 variables to control. They are:
Assuming the laser printer or photo-copier has been set to deliver a high-level of toner (see START HERE > Printer Info) the actual transferring of toner is accomplished by manipulating the variables of time, pressure and heat. Too much heat AND too much pressure will most certainly cause distorted transfers, the same as too huch heat and not enough pressure! It's a balancing act for sure. Using an iron for example, you don't just crank the heat up and "iron" over the image - you want just the opposite... maximum pressure (eg. all of your body weight over the iron) with just enough temperature to effect re-fusing. This is where most users in the past have completely missed the boat on how to manipulate toner to make a perfect transfer. Of the 3 variables, we want to make two of them fixed. The easiest to "fix" is Time & Pressure, leaving Temperature as the adjustable variable enabling the toner image to be within the window for proper toner fusing.
The bottom line to making perfect toner transfers is to deliver high pressure levels with sufficient heat to prevent image distortionand deliver a perfect transfer. Of the 3 "variables" mentioned above, a regular house-hold iron CAN be made to work (but only after it has been calibrated with our technique explained here). Using an iron is actually harder than it sounds as you have to put your entire body weight over the iron's handle and hold it for 30 seconds. That's not easy to do! Many years ago, we discovered the technique of using a laminator because it's very easy to go from using an iron with just a few PSI being delivered (yes, even from your entire body weight) to hundreds of PSI generated by two spring-loaded pinch rollers - extrapolated out over a 1 inch distance. So this is the preferred method for getting absolutely perfect transfers of toner images without ANY effort and get exact repeatability.
Not All Laminators Are Created Equal!
There are two types of laminators... "pouch" and "hot roll". Pouch-type laminators are normally inexpensive in the $100 ~ $150 range, however, their capabilities can range from A to Z. The latter is the expensive type of internally heated rollers (very similar to the fuser roller in all laser printers). These units are priced from $1,000 on up.
The term "Pouch laminator" just means a "closed looking" device with an opening slot to accept meterial up to about a 12" wide. Normally, you would insert a document into a pre-made "pouch" of meltable plastic material the laminator passes it through and seals it all up.
The other type of laminator, the Hot Roll laminator uses wide rolls of plastic as shown here on the right. They're generally big, bulky, use expensive rolls of plastic and basically very expensive units.
Over the years, there have been several laminators that have worked very well with our process but for one reason or another, we've had to change our recommendation for the 'best' unit to use. Sometimes the manufacturer stopped making a particular unit, or the pricing on the unit became unacceptable or they made changes to the unit that made it not work as before. Well, in late 2014, it happened again and we had to located another unit that gives the best "bang for the buck". After testing several new units, we found the ideal laminator to get. It's called the SM-330 by Tamerica.
For more information on this laminator and how to obtain it, click on PRODUCTS > Applicator.
Throughout our site we refer to the pouch-type laminator as a TONER IMAGE APPLICATOR (or TIA).
Because we're not actually laminating anything, it can be confusing to call it a laminator since we're just using it as a device to deliver high HEAT and PRESSURE at the same time at a specific speed to achieve perfect transfers.