Difference Between Pouch and Cartridge Laminating

January 29, 2020
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In this post, I am going to discuss two different ways to laminate, both involving tabletop machines: using a pouch laminator, and using a cartridge laminator. No matter what machine you have, the specific instructions will vary a bit, so we can only review basic concepts to help you gather an understanding of the process, which you can then apply to whatever laminator you have to work with.

Ok, so now that the disclaimer portion is out of the way, let's dive right in, shall we?

Pouch Laminating

Pouch laminators are great for offices, individuals, and businesses who would like to quickly create laminated prints in various smaller sizes, without needing a big machine. They sit on the tabletop and come in various widths, but most commonly will allow for letter size 8.5x11 paper, and often wider. Pouch laminating machines use lamination pouches to encapsulate your prints; they come in various sizes and mil thicknesses for different users. They are typically sold in a pack of 50 or 100 pouches, so depending on your usage volume, that can last you a bit. Pouch laminators require you to remain by the machine and feed in the pouches individually. Many of them offer features like adjustable speed and adjustable heat that makes them incredibly versatile.

What you Need:

In order to laminate with a pouch laminator, you will need a couple of things, beginning with a machine, as well as some supply items. Make sure the pouch and carrier widths (pre-sealed edge) do not exceed the maximum width of your machine. And if you will be using a carrier, be sure your machine can handle the additional thickness.

  1. Pouch Laminating Machine - Choose a machine with a laminating width and capacity that allows for your applications, as well as one that fits into your budget. Laminators with rollers (instead of heat plates) offer a better quality lamination. Other features, like adjustable heat and speed, are great for photos and special prints so you can really tailor it to your specific application.
  2. Lamination Pouches - Choose the size and thickness that will work with your laminator and your print. Pouches are usually about 1/4" larger than the print size, which allows it to properly seal on all edges.
  3. Pouch Carriers - These are a paperboard folder that go around your pouch before it is laminated. They are used to prevent any glue seepage from exiting the pouch, and getting on your machine rollers or heat plates. Pouch carrier are great to protect your machine, but not all machines can handle them. In order to accept a carrier, your machine must be compatible with at least a 10 mil pouch. Carriers also allow for the possibility of foiling with a pouch laminator... but that is a whole other topic that you can learn about here.
  4. Print to Laminate - There is no need to use thick or coated paper stocks for your print, since the laminate will cover it up and add thickness. Basic paper is more than acceptable, and will save you money.

How to Laminate with a Pouch Laminator:

Keep in mind that different models of machines will have different specific instructions, so you should always reference the user manual for exact directions. This will serve as a general across-the-board guide for pouch lamination.

  1. Warm up the Laminator - The first thing you need to do is plug in and turn on the laminator. Set the heat and speed according to the instruction manual. Some machines warm up in 5 minutes, some in 15...it will just depend.
  2. Prep your Pouches - As the machine is warming up, you can prep your pouches by placing your prints into them.
  3. Run the Pouch - If applicable, place the pouch (with your print) inside a carrier. Place the sealed-end first through the machine (never run the open side first).
  4. Inspect - Once your pouch comes out the other end, inspect it for qualit, and use the following troubleshooting tips if you are not satisfied.

Pouch Laminator Troubleshooting:

Each different laminator may have different capabilities, settings, and adjustments. These troubleshooting tips can help you with the most common issues users have. Refer to your machine manual for specific details on how to make the noted adjustments.

  1. Cloudy Pouch - If your pouch came out cloudy or milky looking, then it means it did not get enough heat. Adjust your temperature and speed settings and try again.
  2. Wrinkled Pouch - Wrinkling begins when exposed to extreme heat. Adjust the temperature down or the speed up and try again.
  3. Not Sealing - This could be for one of two reasons... that it is too cold, and you need to up the heat or slow down the speed, or that the print is too large for the pouch. Pouches should have a 1/4" approximate border around all sides of your print in order to properly seal.

Cartridge Laminating

Newer to the industry, and quite innovative, cartridge laminating may limit the applications a bit more, however, it has proven to be the easiest and most convenient way to laminate both high and lower volume runs. That being said, laminating machines that use a cartridge of film also means they are only compatible with their specific supplies, which can limit you to the kind of laminate, the thickness, the size, etc.

What you Need:

One benefit of cartridge laminating is that all you need are the machine itself and the compatible cartridge. No carriers or other special tools are needed.

  1. Cartridge Laminator (Such as the Foton 30)
  2. Compatible Cartridges
  3. A stack of your prints to laminate

How to Laminate with a Cartridge Laminator:

Keep in mind that different models of machines will have different specific instructions, so you should always reference the user manual for exact directions. This will serve as a general across-the-board guide for cartridge lamination, using the Foton 30 as a base.

  1. Load your cartridge into the machine and your pages into the feed.
  2. Press start, and walk away as it laminates.
  3. Trim your print, as desired.


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Mallory Morsa, Binding101 Product Expert About the Author • Mallory Morsa has been a part of Binding101 since 2008 and has experience in several departments within the company. She began in customer service and sales where she honed in her skills to provide the customer with professional, fast, and accurate information. Shortly after, she was promoted to sales supervisor and also took on the role of product expert, training the team on new products. Throughout this time, she also wrote content for the site, as well as contributed stock photography and videography. As the team grew, she moved to an official position as the content specialist and social media manager. Her skills in these variety of areas give her the unique expertise to not just create content for the web, but to create content for you, the customer. She has a Bachelor's degree in business management and marketing, was on the Dean's List each year, and graduated Summa Cum Laude. In her free time, Mallory's favorite things to do include volunteering at the animal shelter by bottle feeding neonatal kittens, reading at the park, cooking plant-based meals, playing board games, and binge streaming TV shows with her 3 furbabies and family beside her.


Posted in: Laminating 101