There are plenty of laminators with different sizes, capabilities, and prices. Regardless, you want an appliance that suits your laminating needs. If you’re looking for the best laminator options for your classroom or office, be sure to read our rundown on the top laminators on the market today.

Types of Laminating Machines

Hot Laminators vs. Cold Laminators

Hot laminators apply heat to the adhesive on a laminating pouch or film. The glue melts, holding both sides of the film or pouch together, producing a more durable laminate than cold lamination.

A cold laminator uses rollers to exert pressure that secures a document between two plastic sheets. The force also reduces the chances of bubbles forming between the films.

Roll vs. Pouch Laminators

Also known as film laminators, roll laminators work by feeding your document between two rolls of laminating film and applying heat or pressure to produce a durable seal. They laminate a high volume of documents with varying sizes and shapes.

Pouch laminators are typically smaller, more portable, cheaper, and easier to use than roll laminators. They’re appropriate for small documents, including ID cards, business cards, work tags, and small posters.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Laminating Machine

Sheets or Pouches?

A laminating sheet is a single adhesive-backed vinyl/plastic sheet ideal for single-sided laminations. Most sheets are self-sealing, eliminating the need to use a machine or heat. Unlike laminating pouches, they don’t offer all-around protection.

For complete protection for your documents, you’ll want to consider laminating pouches. They are transparent, plastic pockets with a pre-sealed side.

Ideal for two-sided lamination, pouches produce more stable and rigid laminates that can withstand regular use. You can purchase cold or thermal poaches.

Number of Rollers

A laminator with more rollers distributes heat better and exerts more pressure. This results in a firmer bond with fewer bubbles and wrinkles. For school or office lamination, get a laminator with at least six rollers.

Heating Time

Hot laminators need to warm up for best performance. But not every model heats up at the same rate. Look for an appliance that heats up quickly and has indicator lights to show when it’s ready to laminate.

Laminating Speed

If you laminate occasionally, you can save time and money by purchasing a laminator that laminates 12 inches per minute. But if you plan to laminate multiple documents regularly, invest in a faster machine (at least 15 inches/minute).

The Best Laminator Options in 2021

It can be difficult to objectively compare the varying features, qualities, sizes, and prices of different laminators. But the decision process doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Below is a selection of some of the best lamination options across the board.

GBC Foton 30 Automated Pouch-Free Laminator

The GBC Foton 30 has a fully automated system that enables unattended operation. It loads, laminates, and trims with minimal human intervention.

You only need to place your documents in the tray, choose your settings, and press run. Auto-threading technology enables hassle-free loading.

The GBC Foton 30’s automatic feeder and integrated deskew unit enable the perfect positioning of your documents.

The device can handle 30 standard-size documents at once. This makes it perfect for bulk tasks and busy offices. An inbuilt sensor determines film thickness to correct temperature and ensures consistent results. The shut-off timer saves energy and prevents overheating.

Scotch LS960VAD 8 1/2 Heat-Free Laminator

With the Scotch LS960VAD Laminator, you can protect important documents and add a professional touch to your presentations.

It can laminate documents up to 9.2 mils thick and has an adjustable tray to accommodate different document sizes. An easy-loading cartridge ensures smooth operation.

This machine doesn’t need heat to laminate, eliminating the risk of burns or scorching your documents.

With no warm-up time required, you can laminate documents in a few minutes.

GBC Ultima 65 Thermal Roll Laminator

The GBC Ultima 65 Thermal Roll Laminator has EZload technology that makes loading foolproof. A pivoting feed table and AutoGrip shafts allow for easy film replacement.

GBC Ultima 65 has a rapid warm-up of fewer than 10 minutes. An indicator light confirms when you can begin lamination. Thanks to its forward and reverse functions, you no longer have to worry about wasting time fixing jams.

The laminator comes with a built-in trimmer, so there are no more scissors to track. One-touch AutoSpeed automatically adjusts the laminating speed, ensuring you get consistent results.

GBC’s Ultima 65 switches to standby mode after two hours of inactivity and shuts off after three hours of nonuse. This helps conserve energy and prevent overheating.

Fellowes Cosmic 2 125 Laminator

The Fellowes Cosmic 2 125 Laminator lets you enjoy the benefits of laminating without the cost and space requirements of an expensive commercial unit.

Fit for occasional laminations, this machine delivers quick, high-quality results at a speed of 12 inches per minute.

Advanced temperature control maintains consistent heat levels, giving you superior results. Plus, the machine heats up in five minutes and laminates in one minute, allowing you to get back to work fast.

The machine’s generous entry width accommodates various document sizes. Its versatility also manifests in its ability to handle hot lamination and cold lamination pouches.

With HeatGuard Technology, the laminator keeps the temperature inside, protecting you from burns.

Fellowes Callisto 95 Laminator

The Fellowes Callisto 95 Laminator is a next-generation laminator that uses both 3-mil and 5-mil pouches. Its InstaHeat technology warms up the unit in less than five minutes.

Its laminating speed of 19 inches per minute helps maximize productivity in busy offices or classrooms. AutoHotSwap Technology allows you to easily change between the different pouch and document sizes.

This thermal laminator has four temperature settings, accepting a range of film thicknesses. It has a 9.5-inch entry width that accommodates large documents.

The reverse mode allows you to disengage your document for easy positioning or removal. Auto shut-off feature prevents overheating during inactivity and allows for greater energy savings.

Our Favorite Laminator Brands

With the above list of laminators in mind, you now know that there are good options out there. Should you not find your ideal choice in the above list, consider these top laminator brands:

Fellowes

Harry Fellowes established Fellowes as a banker’s box supplier to help Chicago bankers address a nagging issue: disorganized office records. Today, Fellowes is a global leader of innovative office solutions, including laminating pouches and jam-free pouch lamination machines. Popular Fellowes laminator options include:

  • Callisto 125
  • Callisto 95
  • M5-95

GBC

Hailed as the pioneers of the electric, mechanical binding punch and the desktop laminator, GBC (General Binding Corporation) merged with ACCO Brands in 2005 to become a world-renowned office products supplier.

The brand supplies roll and pouch laminators. Some of its most popular products are the Ultima 35 EZload and the GBC Foton 30.

Scotch Laminators

Scotch has several historic milestones behind them besides being a leader in laminating products, including self-seal laminating pouches, thermal laminators, and heat-free thermal laminating cartridges.

Some Scotch laminator models you might consider include:

  • Scotch LS960VAD
  • Scotch LS1000VAD

Common Questions About Laminators

How Do I Choose a Laminator?

Several considerations will determine the best laminator for your needs. They include:

  • Document size: For small or medium-sized documents such as A4 and A6, pick a laminator with a smaller entry width. Larger documents (like A3) require a laminator with a larger entry width.
  • Laminate thickness: Thicker laminates are ideal for regularly handled documents.
  • Frequency of use: A pouch laminator is more suitable for occasional lamination. A roll laminator is ideal for laminating many larger documents.
  • The number of users: For a small or medium-sized office with fewer users, pick a pouch laminator. A roll laminator is a perfect choice for a larger organization with several users.

Can I Laminate Without a Machine?

Yes. You can use the following materials:

  • Self-sealing pouches
  • Synthetic paper
  • Clear packing tape

What Does MIC Mean on a Laminator?

MIC stands for micron, the standard measure of the thickness of a laminating pouch.

Which is Better: A Hot or Cold Laminator?

A cold laminator has zero risks of burns. It’s the best choice for heat-sensitive documents, such as photos. However, the machine uses pricier supplies.

In comparison, a hot laminator provides more durable results, but you’ll need to be more careful with the machine’s heating element.

Some newer laminators have a setting that allows you to switch between hot modes and cold modes.

What’s the Difference Between 3 Mil and 5 Mil on a Laminator?

Often confused with a millimeter, “mil” denotes the thickness of a lamination film.

1 mil = 0.001 inches

A 3-mil film, while it offers enough protection, is thin and flexible, allowing you to fold the laminated documents easily. It’s a good choice for wall posters, restaurant menus, and pages of a manual book.

A 5-mil film provides more strength and is a good fit for flat documents subjected to frequent use. You might fold a 5-mil laminate but the thickness often yields a “spring-open” effect.

Which Is the Best Thickness of Laminating Pouches?

Micron (1/1000 of a millimeter) is the standard unit for a laminating pouch’s thickness. Pouch thickness varies substantially, and the ideal choice will depend on the type of documents you intend to protect.

For posters and signs on office walls, business cards, badges, and ID cards, choose 200- to 300-micron pouches.

A 500-micron pouch offers long-term protection, making it a good choice for laminating health and safety notices and teaching materials.