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USTech / Best DGI Pro S Laminator Review

Discussion in 'Laminators' started by SightLine, Sep 29, 2014.

  1. SightLine

    SightLine Very Active Member

    We have been in the market for a new laminator for quite some time now. Looking at the options out there I decided we will give the USTech a go and see how it stacks up. As much as I wanted to get a Kala Mistral, AGL, Seal, GBC, etc or some other higher end name brand unit, after doing quite a bit of research and pricing comparisons, reading many positive comments about the USTech laminators I had to go with what my budget could bear and my gut instinct. So I contacted Dave at USTech and placed the order for a Pro 65-S. This is their "Pro" series which is their more modern upright style (much like the Kala Mistral) and comes in several variants. Coming from a 10+ year old GBC Artic Titan 165 I was wanting some more modern features like a motorized take-up for roll to roll, a larger nip opening for mounting onto substrates thicker than 3/8", larger diameter rollers, and heat assist and/or hot capabilities. Our old GBC has served us very well but it has always been a bit of a struggle to get it to track well. Regardless I will be coming from a well-known and respected name brand to this new USTech unit. I plan to really give you all a good thorough and full review of it. We work a laminator hard running many full 54" and 60" rolls a month frequently running an entire full printed roll at once. I plan on being pretty thorough in this review which will take some time. I will be taking plenty of photos from the crate, uncrating, installing any parts that might need installing, setting up, and running the machine. Due to this I will be updating this as I go. I’m still going to need to run a new power circuit as well since this is a cold/hot laminator and our current laminator is just a basic cold one so that will also add some time before any actual impressions of running the unit come. I’m not going to sugar coat this review, if I hate the machine I’m going to say that, if I think its poorly made junk, I’m going to say that….

    Ordering was pretty painless. I did not call them. I simply composed an email to them. Dave responded within a couple of hours. We went back and forth on a few things over the next day. He was fairly quick to respond and we made a deal. He emailed a jpg invoice and gave me payment options. Credit card, check, bank wire. I opted for a credit card payment via PayPal which he quickly acknowledged and promised the unit would ship the following day.

    As I mentioned, this model from USTech comes in several variants so this review will hopefully be helpful to anyone considering any of the variants of the Pro series. The primary difference between the models are the heaters. There is also a version that has a manual crank handle to lift the main roller, this model has a motorized lift. I'll also point out that there is zero documentation available online for the USTech laminators other than specs and a brochure. There is no PDF of the owner’s manual, parts list or anything else. They do have several videos on YouTube demonstrating some basic operation. You can buy the USTech laminators from their website, by calling them, or on eBay where they also list them for sale. The laminators will all ship out of Florida. The only real problem I have seen mentioned online with their laminators is failure of the speed control rendering the machine unusable but replacement parts were quickly made available and sent out for the owner to replace the failed part. My actual review will start and progress later. I ordered the machine on 09/25/2014 and the next day Dave emailed me a tracking number for the freight carrier. Keep in mind, in the crate this is a fairly large and heavy piece of equipment. We have a forklift and loading dock so no worries here but if you do not have these available you might want to be sure that lift gate service is being provided for the shipping although the truck driver will still probably only get it off the truck and on the ground for you.

    Because their website leaves quite a bit to be desired as far as navigation and functionality I'll list some details as best as I can determine for the "Pro" series models. There are some assorted discrepancies on the website between some of the pages in regards to some of the specifications. So if you want to be 100% sure you should probably contact them to verify what is correct.

    All of the Pro series model boast a few common features which are
    Motorized take-up for roll to roll operation.
    5" diameter silicone rollers.
    1.5" nip opening.
    0 to 20 ft per minute variable speed.
    Foot pedal.
    Motorized liner windup.
    Stand.
    55" models have a max lam width of 54"
    65" models have a max lam width of 64".
    5 or 6 (not 100% sure) removable auto-gripping media shafts, the shafts are not swing out though.
    Common chassis size (other than the overall width).
    Weight seems to vary some by model with the 44" D showing as 510lbs, the 65" D 890lbs, the 65" S as 755lbs, the 65" C as 640lbs being some examples. You will need a solid floor.....
    3 year parts warranty.

    Cold Pro C models. Cold only and shows 44”, 55”, and 65” models however only 55” and 65” versions are available to purchase on the site. Looking at their website it would appear that the 55" one has the manual crank to raise and lower the main roller while the 65" has the motorized lift. The C version only needs a 120V 10A power circuit (a regular plug outlet will work fine for one).
    WORF-PRO55-C 55" http://www.bestdgi.com/html/pro55c-u1.html
    WORF-PRO65-C 65" http://www.bestdgi.com/html/pro65c-u.html

    Cold / Heat assist WORF TX models. Heat assist version and can be bought in a 65" size only although their main page also shows a 55" version. Motorized lift and there is a slight discrepancy on their site. The main page for this version shows 0 to 16 ft per minute speed while the details page shows 0 to 20 ft per minute speed. Hard to say for certain what the correct speed is, my guess is up to 16 ft/min when heated and up to 20 cold. This model has a heated upper roller. Digital heat control which goes up to 100f (200c). This version shows that it needs 120v 32A power. NOT a regular plug outlet. By NEMA standards this would have to be some sort of a twist lock connector as a regular plug outlet is only rated for either 15 or 20 amps (20 amp outlets have a sideways notch on one side and will accept regular power cords or 20 amp power cords which have one blade turned on its side). Regardless by the listed specs you will probably need to run a dedicated circuit. I've also read others state that on the heated models USTech ships the heating parts not installed, you will have to install the heating element into the main roller yourself.
    WORF-TX-600H 65" http://www.bestdgi.com/html/tx600.html

    Cold / Hot Pro S and Pro D models. Full hot models. The Pro D version is a new addition to the site (at least I had not seen it on there in the past) and has dual heated rollers while the S version is a heated top roller. Both the S and D show 44”, 55”, and 65” models however only 55” and 65” versions are available to purchase on the site. I bought the 65” Pro S version which is what I will be reviewing. Discrepancies on the website for these are both on the power requirements and the D version pictures show it as having the motorized lift while the pdf brochure shows it as having the crank handle lift, the product page for the S version also shows 120v 32a power which the main page shows 220v. I guess I’ll figure out what sort of power circuit I need to run once it gets here. I’m not going to go into the specs on the D version. Check their website for the brochure. The D version brochure does show 220v 30a power requirements, a slower 16.25 ft/min speed, and a smaller max 1” nip opening though. On the S version it shows that it has digital heat control which goes up to 305f (150c).
    WORF-PRO55-S 55" http://www.bestdgi.com/html/pro55s_m.html
    WORF-PRO65-S 65" http://www.bestdgi.com/html/pro65s_m.html
    WORD-PROxx-D Models http://www.bestdgi.com/xpdf/worf_pro_d.pdf

    The laminator should arrive at our shop today. The shipment tracking shows that it is here in town today 09/29/2014 and weighs 895lbs. Stay tuned…..
     
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  2. rjssigns

    rjssigns Major Contributor

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    Looking forward to your findings. Seems other folks are quite happy with their USTech laminators. Hope you have the same experience.
     
  3. Ditchmiester

    Ditchmiester Active Member

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    I'm really looking forward to this. As that is the exact model I plan on ordering at the end of the month. Thanks for taking the time to do this.
     
  4. bigben

    bigben Moderator

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    Good! I will follow this review since I plan to purchase one. :popcorn:
     
  5. hapycmpr

    hapycmpr Member

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    US Tech

    My 2 cents
    From the recommendation of "FAT CAT" I purchased a US Tech model Pro 65C in January. At first I was scared that I made a mistake as when I put pressure on the print going into it, the rollers would "Skip" or jump up and down. I could never get a reply from them to send me a tech manual, so I took the cover off and found the chain was loose. Tightened chain, made sure the space was same on left and right end of roller just before they touch, viola runs great now. The info sheet that comes with the machine does say that because of shipping, parts may loosen and to make adjustments after it is set up.
    My son whose sign shop uses the Seal brand has told me that he likes the US Tech one better. I am glad I bought it.
     
  6. DKgrafix

    DKgrafix Very Active Member

    Apart from being very bad with manuals and instructions, the laminator works great.
    I had the same issue with my MVT500 laminator.
    This is my first laminator I worked with and I do not have any issues at all. Runs great, tracks well and seems like a great deal for the money.
    When it came in, the left/right sides of the top roller were off by a 1/2". They have sent me instructions on how to fix it and since then it is fine.

    So far, the longest print I laminated was 10 feet with no issues.
     
  7. TDFcustomSL

    TDFcustomSL Member

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    Mine was also slightly "damaged" in shipping but was an easy fix. A screw on the top roller adjustment on the left side of the machine had gotten bent so I was unable to adjust the roller on that side (mine has the separate knobs on each side). After cutting the screw off at the bent part the problem was fixed. It works great but I have had issues with the speed control unit a couple of times. Quick to send a replacement but the last time I had a problem it was with the motor. It took longer to get it fixed because of troubleshooting all the smaller items. They sent me a replacement motor and the problem was fixed and (knock on wood) the speed controller hasn't gone bad since then. I'm sure you will be happy if you purchase this machine. Even with the problems I wouldn't hesitate to purchase another machine from Dave and UStech. Very well built machine for the money and some of the best customer service I've dealt with. If anyone reading this has any questions feel free to PM me and ill help answer your questions.
     
  8. SightLine

    SightLine Very Active Member

    Got the laminator in and uncrated. First impressions (which are important) are very good. The crate was well constructed and the laminator was firmly bolted down to the bottom of the crate. Everything was well wrapped, and made a good presentation of the manufacturer caring that it makes it to its destination in good shape. On cutting the straps, lifting the top box and styrofoam off you are presented with the laminator itself bolted down to the wood pallet custom made specifically for this machine. Inside the machine is bagged and wrapped again to make sure it stays clean. As it ships the front and rear tables, heater, and a box of accessories are strapped in as well. They include a few nice extras as well. These include a spare heating element, spare heater sensor, a few spare rubber strips and caps for the media shafts, some small metal clips that I've not yet determined their pupose, spare measure strips for the tables and quite nicely the proper plug outlet for the plug that they pre-attach to the cord.

    Removing the laminator from the pallet is pretty simple. There are 4 long bolts through an extra set of holes on the base plates by each wheel. As I mentioned they includes wrenches - two of these are metric 17mm on one end, 19mm on the other end. The 17mm end fits the leveling legs, I have only sort of needed the 19mm end of the wrenches. See, the leveling legs as well as the 4 long bolts that attach the machine to the pallet all have some black nuts on them. Those black nuts are 18mm. However the 19mm end of the wrenches suffice to break them loose. At this point you want to break the nuts loose on the bolts that anchor it to the pallet. Do them one at a time. Once you have the anchor bolt unscrewed then lower that leveling leg down so that it is firmly against the pallet (not raising the machine up but firmly down). On the back two I thought the bolts looked somewhat hard to get at, there are large sections of wood there sort of close by on top of the pallet. I pushed against this wood and to my surprise it moved. I then quickly realized another very thoughtful and nice thing they did. That bulk of wood between the legs on top of the pallet is actually 2 pieces that you should remove. They are ramps!! :thumb: They actually give you a pair of somewhat sturdy ramps that fit perfectly on the end of the wood pallet so you can roll the machine off nice and easy. With those you can get the machine off the pallet by yourself although I'd recommend having a helper, the machine is very heavy and the wheels roll very easily and you don't want the machine rolling out of control down the ramps. Move on to the other 3 bolts detaching them from the base of the machine and you will then have the machine sitting there but the wheels are in the air. Now tighten each of the 4 leveling legs down using the provided wrench to raise the machine up even higher. Under each end of its base are 2 large blocks of wood, raise it up enough with its leveling legs to remove those and remove them. Then make sure the brakes are set on the 2 front wheels and lower the machine back down until it is on its wheels. Then you can remove the brakes and roll it on off the pallet using the provided ramps.

    The plug they attach is a twist lock L5-30P and they include a L5-30R receptacle in the kit for you which is a very nice touch. This is for a 110 to 120 volt 30 Amp circuit.

    They include 2 heater elements. One is clearly noted as a spare in case one happens to break. The heating element is a quartz (glass) type tube element and the end has 2880 watts marked on it. Each of the elements is packed in an oversized long metal tube which is very good and ideal since the glass tube is quite delicate. Each end has a single terminal with a couple of nuts for attaching a wire and also has a ceramic insulator and cap. Installing the heating element will require a bit of your time. It is not particularly hard but getting the one end through the far end of the tub can be pretty fiddly and unnerving since your only choice is to lever the far end up by putting pressure on the last few inches of the glass tube of the end you are working from. I was able to get it onto a small ledge inside the upper roller then reach in with an extended pair of needle nose pliers and grab it by the metal connector to pull it the rest of the way through.

    You will have to remove both side covers to install the heating element as well. They are attached by about 6 screws on each end. The screws are not captive and barely fit through the outer holes in the side covers. Just let them fall inside, they will be easy to find once you remove the cover. Once all screws are removed lift the side cover straight up about a half and inch and remove it. To reinstall the cover - make sure you have a magnetic tip on your Phillips screwdriver so the side covers screws do not fall back down when you are reattaching the side covers.

    With the side covers removed I took a very close look at the innards. Everything was tidy and looks well constructed. The electronics looked for the most part to be off the shelf industrial control system components with DIN rail mounts and even raceways for the wiring for the main control board. Very nice. The machine has one motor which drives a single long chain. This motor drives the main lower roller and 3 of the media shafts. There are 6 media shafts in total that come with the machine, 2 up top and 4 down below the tables (2 in front and 2 in the rear). Of these the upper front shaft (rewind for the laminate backing), bottom front (not 100% sure why this one is driven yet), and middle rear (roll to roll media windup) shafts are driven by the motor. All shafts have what is essentially a small brake pad that acts as a tensioner when the side handles are tightened, including the driven shafts. On the driven media shafts the sprockets are not fixed to the shaft so it also acts as a clutch then the tension is increased. That being said, apply too much tension on a driven shaft and you will put a large amount of strain on the drive motor.

    I did run into a couple of issues though. One of which I consider serious. Start with the minor - the chain was very loose with nearly 3 inches of play in a long open area. This was easy enough to determine how to adjust though. On the side there are 3 sprockets that are not part of any of the rollers, of these the lower sprocket is the chain tension adjuster. Loosen its bolt and you can slide it in its slot to remove the slack from the chain. You do not want it tight though as that will just wear out the bearings and chain. You just want it so the chain is not flopping around loose, I adjusted it so there was about 1 inch of easy back and forth in the longest open span of chain. Not at all tight or even snug. Just enough so that it is not loose and floppy, as it arrive I could just about remove the chain. I'm assuming it just shifted some in its long journey, really not a big deal but there are no included instructions for tensioning the chain. The serious issue - on the electronics side there is a DIN rail style circuit breaker (the main on off switch on the back of the machine where the power cord comes out). The power cord goes into this circuit breaker. The screws that hold the wires in the breaker were not properly torqued. One of the wires had slipped out, unfortunately it was the hot wire and not the neutral. Being right next to the ground lug and metal chassis one would have gotten quite a nasty loud POP had it been plugged in and that wire hit the ground or chassis. Hopefully your main power panel breaker would immediately trip but it the loud pop when it shorted would startle the heck out of you. Anyways I saw the problem well ahead of time so no problem. You do have to remove the breaker to access the screws, on doing so the other wire (neutral) simply slipped out as well. Even if the wires had stayed in, a 30 amp power connection that is not very tight and secure has the potential to get extremely hot due to the high resistance from the weak connection.

    Anyways I took care of that easily myself but other who are not as technically aware or inclined as I am might not have even noticed this. For now I have to get some work done.... I've taken many photos and will resize and upload them as soon as I get a chance. Again, overall I am very pleased with the quality of everything so far but it is not perfect or without faults.
     
  9. SightLine

    SightLine Very Active Member

    I do promise to update this soon. I took a bunch of photos uncrating it and all as well. We have been running it for a couple of weeks now and overall are very pleased.
     
  10. naples1

    naples1 New Member

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    fast and easy

    Although I read this forum often, I just joined. I read about these USTech laminators here. I talked to them yesterday and ordered online shortly after.

    I was shocked when a truck pulled up about 3 hours ago and unloaded a big wooden box. This thing arrived in less than 24 hours! Now, it went from Florida to Florida, about 4.5 hours away, but still, wow. I will keep you posted on how well it works. Very impressed so far.

    Sales people from some of the other companies I was considering haven't even returned my call yet.

    Todd
     
  11. SightLine

    SightLine Very Active Member

    A small quick update on this..... I also promise to post a bunch of photos of the uncrating, etc very soon.

    This quick update is regarding the front takeup on this model laminator. Aside from that, now that we have really had time to get used to the machine and have been running it daily for a couple of months I have to say that we are overall very pleased with the machine.

    On the front takeup on the machine, one of my complaints on is that it winds the material face in. It is almost never a good idea to wind materials face in (might not be as much of an issue with reverse-wound rolls of material). It can cause numerous issues when the material has always been wound face out though. On close inspection of the way the machine works and figured I could maybe re-engineer things a bit to make the takeup run the other direction so that it would wind the material face out. Well I did it.... yes, I drilled 2 new holes in our brand new laminator and relocated 2 gears. In its original configuration the chain went around the outside of the front takeup gear. I needed it to wrap around the inside of that gear which means I needed the chain to be relocated some to make this happen. Now - ideally an additional static gear and an additional bit of chain would be used as adding an additional static gear in the spot marked with a green dot would allow the chain to have more contact (wrap further around) with the takeup gear. As I have it though it does work just fine and the modifications are actually very simple.

    The attached photo shows what I have done to achieve this. The upper left gear is a static gear, its original location is circled in red. I moved it approximately 2.75 inches down and 1.25" to the left. The lower left gear is not a static gear, this one is in a slotted hole and is your chain tensioning gear. This ones original location is also circled in red. This one I moved about 5 inches to the left and maybe a half an inch up from its original location. This one I also drilled two holes for and then opened the metal up between them to make a slotted hole since you still need to be able to adjust the tension on the chain.

    So - with the gears in their new location the chain can now go on the other side of the takeup gear which makes it now turn the right way. :smile:

    I did try to see if there was some way I could move the upper gear lower down and closer to the takeup gear which would wrap it further around the takeups gear (giving it more contact on the gear). Moving the upper gear much further down though has 2 problems - one is the chain would then come into contact with the upper roller, and two it would also end up behind the emergency shutoff switch which would be an inconvenient spot. As I saw it what I did was about the best way to go about it.

    Edit to add - one thing I should point out. Since I have publicly documented this I have likely voided the warranty on our brand new laminator and that anyone attempting to modify their machines does so at their own risk. I'm hoping my warranty is not voided due to this though. The modification is an improvement to the design and my hope is that US Tech will implement this in their future machines. There is zero cost to the change and structurally affects the machine in no way. In fact the only non-reversible part of this modification is the 2 holes that get drilled. The only change in the operation of the machine is the direction in which the front takeup runs.
     

    Attached Files:

  12. rcook99

    rcook99 Very Active Member

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    Sightline, can you update us on how your laminator is working? I am considering buying a laminator and reading the reviews on all. My interest is peaked on the USTECH.
     
  13. SightLine

    SightLine Very Active Member

    Sure thing! Now that it has been quite some time I'm happy to report that we are still 100% happy with the purchase. For the price this machine is a tremendous value. Is it the same quality and ease of use a new AGL, of course not.... but you are not paying anything remotely close to what an AGL with a comparable feature set would cost. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to have a nice new AGL but I just cannot afford that sort of cost, at least not right now. We would need a nice large contract in place that would support the cost to go that route.

    We run this US Tech literally every day and it runs with pretty much no problems at all. Nowadays I personally do the production work much less so my shop guys do run it much more than I do. However a couple of weeks ago I had a guy out sick and needed to laminate nearly a full 54" x 50 yard roll so I loaded it up myself and had no problems and I have personally only run this machine maybe a dozen times. I ran that entire roll (it was all but about 15 feet of it printed) in roll to roll and has less than a quarter inch of drift.

    One thing I really wish it had - the bars at the out edges of the front and rear tables are static. In other words they do not spin or roll with the material. I'd much prefer that those had bearings in them and would roll with the material moving over them. I think that is probably my biggest complaint and I'm more than likely going to mod it in some manner with some bearings to make those bars able to roll.

    Again though, I am 100% happy with the purchase. It is an excellent value and my shop guys have also loved having it here. Compared to the old GBC Artic Titan 165 we had it is a dream. While the old GBC is a solid and good machine it just lacked many of the features like takeup that we wanted and it was just getting worn out.
     
  14. rcook99

    rcook99 Very Active Member

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    Sightline,

    Thanks for your feedback. I placed my order for the new VT 9600 with takeup reel but no power up/down for the roll. I felt the screw drive was fail safe when compared to the power motor and no take up reel which was my other choice the MVT 600. For $200 more to have a takeup reel I felt would be the better choice. Looking forward to putting my big squeegee away even though it served me well.
     
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