A laminator is one of those essential pieces of equipment for a teacher – almost as essential as a printer or computer. It’a tool for you to create durable, long-lasting paper resources that you can use year after year. But without it, you end up with a piece of paper that gets crinkled, smudged and wasted within just one lesson.
I’ve outlined previously some of my favorite ways to use a laminator, including:
- dry erase handwriting cards
- Laminated certificates (so they make them home in one piece!)
- Packs of math and literacy cards
- Sight cards
But here, I’d like to outline some of my main considerations when looking for a laminator. This post is a buyers guide that complements my full review of the best laminators for teachers.
What Makes a Good Laminator?
The key factors that you need to look at when buying a laminator are:
1. Input Size
Most home laminators are designed to laminate A4 size paper. Honestly, I do wish I had an A3 size laminator, and they exist out there. But they’re just a little bit expensive and the lamination sheets are expensive, too, so it’s an ongoing cost. If I had to get a new laminator today, I’d probably get one that can take both A4 and A3 size sheets. I’d mainly do A4 size laminating, but I’d like the option to do an A3 size laminated poster if I want. One laminator on Amazon that I’ve really got my eye on for my next purchase is the Jieze A3/A4/A6, Laminating Machine with Two Roller System.
2. Warm up and Preheat Speeds
When you turn on your laminator, you need to give it a while for the rollers to warm up. Usually, this isn’t a big deal. You’ve got plenty of stuff to do. You just need to remember to turn the laminator on about 5 minutes before you need to use it. That’s because the industry standard for a laminator warm up time is about 5 minutes. But some newer models have gotten that warm up speed down to 1 minute.
3. Lamination Speed
Laminators are slow. You slowly feed the sheets through the laminator and it cautiously draws the sheets in to prevent creasing and cause that nice slow, smooth lamination. So, it’s hard to speed up the lamination too much. But to be honest, a slow laminator is really annoying.
So here’s the industry standard, Most laminators move at 12 inches per minute (300mm per minute). This is just about what you’d expect. You can get a fast lamination speed that is 15 inches per minute, but really that’s not much quicker. So if you’re really keen on a quick laminator, aim for one that runs for 15 inches per minute. Otherwise, you’ll have to settler with 12 inches. I wouldn’t go slower than that.
4. Heat and Run Time
When they’re running, laminators are very hot. So they can’t run for too long until they need to turn themselves off and cool down again. Most laminators recommend that you run them for a maximum of 20-30 minutes before turning them off. But overall, I’d strongly recommend keeping a very close eye on the laminator and make sure it doesn’t overheat. Be conservative and cautious. For one thing, make sure it’s not being used on a bed or long carpet – place it on a non-flammable surface.
5. Brand Name
This one’s a no-brainer. The biggest brand in the lamination space is Scotch. Other brands are great and good enough, but if you really want a great brand name, then Scotch is the brand you need to go for.
6. Sheets vs Pouches
You can get a laminator the operates using lamination sheets, or lamination pouches. The larger the laminator, the more likely it will be sheets that you’re using and not pouches. All commercial sized laminators are sheet style, because you can buy sheets for much cheaper and in bulk.
But it’s unlikely you’ll find a home or classroom laminator that takes laminating sheets. So chances are you’ll be using lamination pouches.
With pouch lamination, you buy a pack of pouches and slip sheets into the pouches then feed the pouches through the laminator. This is easier and the stock standard for home laminators. But, pouches are more expensive unfortunately.
7. Quick Jam Release
Laminating pouches jam all the time! And it’s such a pain trying to rip the jammed pouch out of the laminator. It’s also a pretty big fire hazard. So I’d always recommend looking for a laminator that has quick jam release. This is usually a lever on the side of the machine that you can flick that separates out the rollers in order to allow you to pull out jammed pouch and paper from the laminator quickly so you can start again.
8. Weight and Carry Handles
Weight is a big issue if you’re going to be carrying this laminator to and from your classroom. Some laminators are designed to be lightweight and even come with carry handles specifically for these needs. But also be aware to avoid super heavy laminators, and there are definitely some heavy ones out there.
Before buying a laminator, make sure you pay attention to some of these key considerations. It’ll mean you’ll be able to buy a better, faster and more suitable laminator for your own circumstances.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.