Ian Stone of GJS has produced an unbiased guide for first time users of heat presses or those wishing to upgrade
Each day GJS receives enquiries from customers wanting to invest in their first heat press or looking to upgrade an existing press. To help make this decision easier the company has created the below guide to choosing the correct heat press for your needs.
When selecting a heat press, first determine the size of the associated equipment you will be using with the press. Consider the size of your printeror vinyl cutter and its maximum print area. To get the most out of your printer’s capabilities you should be looking at a heat press that can press the entire full print size of your printer.
Then think about what substrates you are planning to press on the press, and the largest area you need to cover. Remember that you can press multiple smaller articles on the press at once as well! You may also want to consider the location in which the heat press will be used. If you will be mostly using the press in a fixed location or if you want or need to have it mobile along with your operation.
The larger sized presses can be heavy to relocate. The smaller presses being lighter, are easier to take on the road to stalls, shows, fairs or events.
Clamshell or swing-away?
The two most popular styles of desktop heat presses are clamshell and swing-away. Both styles have a fixed bottom platen with the difference being in the top element and how it closes onto the bottom platen.
The clamshell pivots vertically from a point behind the bottom platen, opening on an angle upwards away from the base and remaining directly above the platen. The swing-away lifts directly vertical away from the bottom platen and then pivots horizontally leaving a totally clear overhead view of the platen.
The main point of difference between the two styles is the items you can create on each press and the area that you will need to operate them. The clamshell, due to its angular opening and closing, is perfect for thin substrates like garments, fabric or a thin metal like ChromaLuxe dye sublimation metal. If you attempted to press a thicker substrate like 20mm wooden plaque, when closing the lid, the back of the press would touch the plaque first leaving a large gap at the front of the press.
A swing-away press can handle these thicker items due to its vertical lift action and is also good for the thinner substrates like your garments and fabrics as well making it more versatile but you will require more room to operate the press. As a guide, a swing-away press will require approximately double the area of a clamshell press.
Inclusions & options
Other things you may want to look for in a heat press include:
- - Sturdiness - how well the press is manufactured and how long it will last without wearing or failing
2. - The quality of the controls – some presses come with a simmerstat like an oven. Others with a digital controller. Look for one that has both the temperature control and timer built into the one handy control unit
3.- Element quality – most major brands don’t skimp on the amount or element used in their presses, therefore have a good coverage. Cheaper brands will cover less area, therefore creating cold spots and pressing faults
4.- Pressure adjustment – Look for a press that is easy to adjust pressure wise. Most will have a screw type adjustment with a large handle to turn. If pressure is imperative in your operation consider an air operated press. These can be adjusted measurably by the air regulator
5. - Power requirements – find out your electrical restrictions. Some of the larger presses will require a 3-phase electrical supply to support the use of them
6. - Replaceable platens – it is handy when pressing garments if the press has the option of smaller platens that can also be affixed to alleviate marks from seams and other garment elements
7. - Warranty – the best brands will offer a lifetime warranty on press elements
It is best to consider visiting a local supplier so you can get hands-on with the press before purchase. Or ask the supplier to do some samples for you so you can see the quality of the final product using the exact press you are interested in.
Buy a trusted brand
Purchasing a press from a trusted brand name will ensure that your press will last for years and that it will be backed by a reliable warranty. Whilst you may find cheaper heat presses available on eBay, Alibaba or other online stores, the quality of these products will most likely not compare to a reputable manufacturer. Purchasing a press from a big brand name will also deliver better resale value down the track if you do decide to move the press on.
Select the right supplier
Make sure you take time to evaluate the pre and after sales support provided by the supplier you choose. Don’t just purchase from 'box shifters.' If your supplier has a good website (such as this one!) you will be able to find out everything you need to know – press price, availability, shipping costs and transit times.
Choose a supplier that offers free freight as shipping heat presses can become very expensive due to their weight. Finally, most suppliers will also offer package deals combining everything you need into one handy bundle. These packages can include printers, cutters, accessories and consumables along with the heat press. Look out for a heat press and printer package deal to get the best value buy.