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“Our Lamination Industry” – an Open Letter from Karl Singer

Back in the sixties the laminating industry used a solvent- based adhesive laminate. The solvent glue was applied to the film, then dried in an oven and nipped to the print. One of the largest laminating companies was in Chicago. It was such a large polluter you cold smell it all over town.

In the early 70’s the EPA issued a ban on using solvents for lamination. The industry switched to a new process using a water-based adhesive. The glue was similar to “Elmer’s Glue.” The prints were laminated, rolled up on rewinds, and allowed to dry overnight. They were then separated by hand the next day. Needless to say, this new technology was a bomb.

In the late 70’s the thermal technology was introduced. The process was an immediate success and the entire market stood in line to get the new technology. All the printing back then was lithographic and silk screen. The thermal films easily adhered to these types of printing. This new laminating process opened the door to a vast array of new applications in many new markets.

By 1990 the growth started to peak. New ideas were needed to jumpstart the industry. Just in time, the new invention was the digital printer. These print machines created a need for specialized films to stick to each company’s ink set. The printer manufacturers realized early on that lamination was a necessary adoption to sell their printers. They looked to us for special films and special adhesives to help secure printer sales.

Realizing how important this new print technology was to the laminating film industry, everyone jumped in with new R&D to secure their share of the market. Today the printers are more sophisticated – running faster, wider, and able to print on many new surfaces. They are determined to grow their market. Their potential is unlimited. We need to secure our position in their market with our products.

There are only three companies in the USA that manufacture thermal laminating films for this market. It is up to us to provide the R&D necessary to keep pace with this fast-growing print market.

I wonder if we are a thermal film industry or just a supplier to the digital print industry. The problem is our industry is not important enough. We rise and fall with the seasons, and have been battered every few years with events such as 9/11, the housing crisis, COVID, and now an impending recession. It’s time we get important as an industry.

The larger and stronger we are, the better we can battle these ups and downs. Think about how dependent we are to the printer manufacturers. Where would they be without us? Where would we be without them? Let’s do our part to grow this market and become more important.

Where do you spend your money? Is some of it being spent to improve our market or is it going into someone’s pocket, or worse – going to another country?

Our industry isn’t important enough and strong enough.


Karl Singer
D&K Group, Inc.

Comments? Reply to karl.singer@dkgroup.net