As Good As Brand Name?

Weigh advantage of saving time or money.

By Kevin RR Williams

PRODUCT Have you ever been met with the promise that a lower price option is just as good when attempting to reorder a tried-and-true alternative? Switching brands may not make a big difference for something as inconsequential as instant Ramen noodles but it can have a catastrophic effect in a business production environment. All the new operating system pomp and stance is often accompanied with the sacrifice of broken printer drivers and application updates.

Large-format printers must be calibrated for each paper type. Even after doing so, paper coating formulations determine ink absorption, print longevity, resistance to scuffs and moisture. Even when a vendor guarantees a roll, it takes time to test results and this interferes with production. Like any business, ClinicalPosters.com is open to considering new products but hesitates to fix something that isn’t broken.

Sometimes, however, what isn’t broken might soar in price — like the EpiPen. ClinicalPosters.com recently went through a film lamination debacle. Lamination is important for posters used within a medical environment since paper posters cannot be sanitized. Customers selecting unlaminated posters are therefore given opportunities during checkout to upgrade. Lamination also allows physicians to make annotations with dry-erase markers. Hopefully, our issues will help you appreciate the value of laminated posters available from Store.ClincialPosters.com and give you pause before making a similar mistake with other products.

Not Really As Good As Brand Name

After trying several brands of laminating film, one was identified that has all the properties required. The satin finish reduces glare and includes UV protection to prevent fading while brightening colors as much as 15 percent. It applies with low-temperature heat at a moderate roller speed corresponding to poster reloads. The film is nearly twice as thick as competitors. The only downside is that it costs twice as much as the bargain brand. We were willing to pay extra — until the expense was compounded by a new wrinkle; the minimum order quantity jumped threefold.

Value of ClinicalPosters.com

We should be charging more for our premium laminate instead of less than the inferior-laminate MSRP. But it is an expense that the average consumer can’t see or appreciate. To most people, lamination migt have different thicknesses but is essentially the same. This is where the smooth-talking vendor inserted the pitch: “We have a generic brand that is just as good for a half of the price without no minimum purchase requirement. The only difference is the absence of UV protection,” she said. Under the circumstances, we opted to try out a couple of rolls. Unfortunately, the two brands were more unalike than similar.

Lamination Comparison
Feature Standard Brand Bargain Brand
UV Protection Yes No
Finish /1 Matte
Bonding Temperature 210°F 250°F
Roller Speed Medium Slow
Adhesive Side Top Bottom
Minimum Purchase 7 rolls 2 rolls

Rather than brightening colors 15 percent, the matte finish dulls colors about 10 percent. Typically, the heat-activated adhesive side is matte. Because the surface finish is also matte, this causes confusion — not helped by the fact that adhesive is on the opposite side as the standard roll. A roll was improperly inserted twice. This resulted in the adhesive bonding onto the rollers, halting production.

Not Really As Good As Brand Name

The machine must be shut down to cool and the arduous task of carefully cleaning rollers begins. They cannot just be wiped clean; the process involves spraying with a special loosener (that doesn’t really penetrate well) combined with vigorous rubbing, using a nylon-mesh covered sponge to get dried adhesive edges to lift. Then, like a bad sunburn, the adhesive is peeled away bit by bit. This can take three or more hours. Compare this to the normal 5 minutes it takes to change out a roll. It would have helped to have a comparison table like the one above that highlights differences rather than being led to believe the products are virtually identical.

The higher bonding temperature and slower roller speed means the machine is more expensive to operate. Taking twice as long to feed, production is cut in half. Based on such a real-world comparison, it is clear that the bargain brand is no bargain. We opted to stock more of the standard brand. This may be the page new customers are referred to when they ask for discounts beyond our standard low prices.

Not Really As Good As Brand Name

While competitors generally ship posters with encapsulated 1.5 mil film, anatomy posters from Store.ClinicalPosters.com are generally laminated with 1.7 mil on one side and 3 mil on the other. That means our finishes are over three times thicker and include UV protection. Below is a list of common mil thicknesses of laminate film and examples of their common uses:

  • 1.5 mil Laminate Film - Usually used in educational applications. Provides an economical solution as it is a large amount of film at a lower price point.
  • 1.7 mil Laminate Film - Offered in a professional grade film. Used on projects that need to remain highly flexible, such as folding maps.
  • 3 mil Laminate Film - An extremely popular option as this provides protection for flexible objects that are infrequently handled, such as classroom posters.
  • 5 mil Laminate Film - This thickness of laminate film provides a sturdy base for printed material, yet can still be folded and scored for moderate use items such as menus and business cards.
  • 7 mil Laminate Film - Provides more rigidity and strength then 5 mil laminates. Perfect for documents that are letter sized or smaller such as post cards.
  • 10 mil Laminate Film - Documents laminated with 10 mil film are extremely durable and can be handled frequently. Similar to the thickness of credit cards, it is perfect for luggage tags and identification cards.

Laminated paper is not waterproof unless the sheet is fully encapsulated, meaning the bonded film extends beyond the edge. Flush-cut laminated paper has surface water resistance but it is possible for moisture to seep into edges.

What about you? Can you recall when a low-price purchase did not meet your expectations? Has your production workflow ever been affected by the introduction of a new product?

Tags: equipment, inventory, products