In an earlier post, What Equipment Do I Need for SHR™?, we looked at everything that is needed to produce high-quality digital photographs, from digital presses and thermal laminators to cutting and sorting machines. In this post, we will look specifically at how digital photo printers can select the thermal laminating system that best suits their needs.  

As more photo printers move away from conventional photofinishing methods in favor of digital alternatives, it is important that they conduct thorough research to understand which thermal laminators will best meet their operation’s daily requirements, including volume, sheet size, equipment footprint, and many other factors. Thermal laminators are a significant financial investment, so printers should do their best to make sure they choose the machine that will yield the most return for their money.  

Short for silver halide replacement, SHR is an innovative new way to produce high-quality photographs that maintain the look, weight, and feel of silver halide photos without the many drawbacks of the more traditional method. With SHR, photo printers upload and print photographs using the software on a digital press, laminate the photographs with a clear laminate to protect the ink and provide thickness and weight, and then process the photos using any cutting or sorting equipment that is needed. We will discuss a few key benefits of SHR here; for a more in-depth look at the SHR process, read our post, Silver Halide Replacement: The Future of Photofinishing

Compared to conventional silver halide photo printing, SHR is… 

  • More cost effective with less expensive materials and quicker turnaround. 
  • Less harmful to the environment and water systems as it does not require processing chemicals. 
  • More accurate for any prints that include text and other fine details. 
  • More resistant to many types of damage, including moisture and fading. 
  • More flexible in its applications, allowing printers to produce photo books, custom calendars, and many other photo-based products. 

While any thermal laminating system could be used to produce digital photographs, there are a few qualities that make some units much more suitable for this application than others. A defining feature of an SHR thermal laminator is the inclusion of a specialized embossing roller. When combined with an appropriate laminate (such as PlatinumSHR™ Gloss Laminate, which is highly receptive to embossing), this roller produces laminated photos with an embossed pattern that near perfectly matches the look and feel of photopaper. A standard laminator can provide photos with a protective layer, but the final product will lack the classic look and feel of silver halide photos. 

Photo printers looking to make the swap to digital processes will still need to meet the expectations of their customers, and most expectations regarding how photos look are based on a customer’s familiarity with conventional silver halide. For instance, parents who have ordered several prints from their child’s school photo shoot may not notice any difference between silver halide and digital prints, but they will likely be unpleasantly surprised if the photos lack the distinctive stippled look of conventional photographs. Purchasing a thermal laminator specifically designed for SHR helps ensure the transition from silver halide to digital is a positive experience for both the printer and their customers. 


Even though all SHR thermal laminating systems include a specialized embossing roller, they can vary greatly in terms of their other qualities. Fortunately, the Nobelus equipment portfolio includes many different SHR systems to ensure photofinishing operations of any size can find a unit that meets their needs. We will take a look at three of our most popular units and what makes each a good match for different customers. For a more comprehensive look at our equipment selection, please get in touch with one of our sales representatives. Each one has a thorough understanding of our equipment portfolio, including our SHR units, and can help you find the machine that will fit in best with your average demand, workflow, and future goals. 

Komfi is well known in the general commercial printing space for their reliable equipment and advanced software capabilities. One of the newer additions to the Komfi line, the Amiga 52 Emboss is ideal for SHR photo production with its chilled, laser-etched embossing roller and many quality-assurance features. Its centralized control panel is highly accessible for operator convenience, and it can be programmed to remember specific parameters, which can then be selected as needed to facilitate similar print jobs.  

Volume: 25 m | 82 ft per minute 

Maximum Sheet Size: 560 W x 800 L (mm) | 22.05 W x 31.50 L (in) 

Unit Footprint: 1,130 W x 3,070 L x 1,470 H (mm) | 45 W x 121 L x 58 H (in) 

Price Range: $145,000 – $185,000 

The GMP PODMaster is a thermal laminating system specifically designed to perform SHR photo lamination. It features a unique cantilevered design that provides operators with unhindered access to the film roll, which enables greater control over the web and speeds up loading and unloading. It also has an integrated deep-pile feeder, which means operators can leave large stacks of photo prints in the feeder and leave the laminator to process each sheet automatically. The PODMaster comes in several versions, including models that enable in-line double-sided lamination. 

Volume: 19 m | 65 ft per minute 

Maximum Sheet Size: 540 W x 780 L (mm) | 21.25 W x 30.70 L (in) 

Unit Footprint: 2,075 L x 914 W x 1,310 H (mm) | 82 L x 36 W x 52 H (in) 

Price Range: $154,000 – $179,000 (dependent on optional features)  

Also manufactured by GMP, the LamiMaster has the distinction of being the only roll-to-roll laminator in the Nobelus equipment portfolio. Due to this design, the LamiMaster is the ultimate choice for high-volume, high-speed SHR digital photo lamination. While the base machine includes only laminating capabilities, photo printers can purchase several additional units that can be configured to turn the LamiMaster into a completely automatic photofinishing system that caters to each operation’s needs, including an unwinder, a rewinder, a smart cutter, and a photo collector.  

Volume: 32 m | 105 ft per minute 

Maximum Sheet Size: 340 W (mm) | 13.30 W (in) 

Unit Footprint: 2,690 L x 1,092 W x 1,726 H (mm) | 106 L x 43 W x 68 H (in) 

Price Range: $212,000 – $487,000 (dependent on optional features) 


If you want to learn more about any of the laminators discussed here or would like to explore other SHR options in the Nobelus equipment portfolio, please do not hesitate to contact us. Our sales representatives are always eager to help new and existing customers find the machine that will work best for their unique operational needs. They have all the information you need regarding specifications and capabilities of different units. We also have an in-house service team that is always on call to help make sure your SHR thermal laminator stays up and running so you can keep your own customers happy.