A heat transfer press guide

A heat transfer press guide

Numerous heat transfer press machines are on the market, and it’s no wonder if one is somewhat overwhelmed at the thought of having to buy the right one. This blog post aims at illuminating the topic a bit and helping merchants and producers make better purchasing decisions.

Let’s first see what a heat transfer press actually is: A heat transfers press is a machine constructed to apply a design or motif to a wide range of products such as tote bags, hats, cups, embellishments, t-shirts, and much, much more. Application is achieved through the application of consistent heat and pressure over a set time period. Most heat transfers presses, including Jet Sport’s own JSV-001, indicate time and temperature on a digital gauge. The pressure is set with an adjustment knob on top of the machine. Some heat transfer press machines include an analog or digital gauge to indicate the set relative pressure, i.e. the pressure relative to the atmosphere.

The heat transfer press is the foundation of any embellishment business. Its type depends on the transfer materials and specific needs of the job at hand. Transfer types for which individual heat transfer presses can be used include: Digitally printed heat transfer paper, cut heat transfer vinyl, sublimation prints, rhinestone transfers, sublimations prints, embroidered patches, and plastisol transfers.

A bit wiser about the features and capabilities of the heat transfer press, we can now examine what to consider before purchasing your next machine. Your first thought should be on the size of the transfers you want to apply. In most cases you can apply motifs up to and equal to the size of the heating element, and conversely apply motifs as small as you are practically able to cut or print. A quick rundown of the heat transfer machine's different sizes could look as follows: The small label press, the slightly larger craft heat press, the standard size press, and the large craft heat press capable of printing motifs of several meters. Besides the different sizes, there are four different heat transfer press designs: Clamshell, slide-out drawer, swing-away, and multifunction.

Like a clamshell or alligator’s maw, a clamshell heat press machine opens at a 70-degree angle directly above the lower platen. This design works well with clothing such as t-shirts and sweaters or flat objects like photo panels and keychains. Its uncomplicated operation is ideal for quick production.

For thicker products such as sublimation photo tiles, this is the heat press machine to consider. The heating element on a swing-away doesn’t open at an angle like the clamshell, instead opening upward and sideways, away from the lower platen, and ensuring that pressure is applied evenly on thicker substrates. A swing-away heat press provides an open workspace with a healthy distance to the upper platen’s heat, making for an easier and safer transfer setup.

Slide-out drawer
This construction combines the advantages of the clamshell design’s quick movements with the swing-away design’s open workspace. A unique lower platen slides in and out of the heat press like a drawer when the machine is open.

This construction combines the functionality of the swing-away press with the ability to substitute different platens and attachments for overall capability-maximization. Certain heat transfer presses come with standard size heat platens but with attachments that convert the machine into a cap heat press, mug heat press etc. Many attachments can be customized to a variety of different sizes.

Heat transfer presses can broadly be said to fall into five different categories, whose illumination may provide clarity about which of them to purchase. Various factors determine into which categories each heat press falls. The biggest of these factors is the expected manufacture amount, i.e. how many units you expect to print daily or monthly. Better and more costly machines can generally handle larger batches.

When choosing a heat transfer press, you should consider to what degree you want to future-proof your business by purchasing a version that exceeds your current needs and will be able to meet your bigger, future ones. Conversely, you should not buy a machine unable to handle an expected production increase, since this will lead to additional wear and tear, more needed repairs, and diminished efficiency.

Home use
Heat transfer presses for home use are small, price-conscious machines ideal for hobbyists, craftsmen, and smaller home businesses. These heat presses are recommended for minimal production output — often defined as fewer than 25 daily units.

Small businesses
Advanced heat transfer presses for small businesses are designed for medium-sized outputs — often defined as between 50 and 100 daily units. Along with upgraded components and designs, automatic opening and slide-out drawers typically fall into this category. The often included and so-called SurePressure system, a kind of bookmarking of previously applied pressure levels, makes shifting back and forth between pressure levels a breeze.  

Production use
Production use heat transfer presses are designed for full-time businesses with busy work environments — often defined as about 250 daily units. These heat presses are constructed with professional, heavy-duty components capable of handling any production size and delivering the most even heat distribution possible.

Industrial use
Heat presses for industrial use are professional, heavy-duty machines designed and manufactured with features and in sizes that maximize daily production amounts — often defined as more than 250 daily units. This category includes pneumatic and dual-station heat presses, every one of whose components is designed to maximize production output and machine longevity.

Other features
Many medium-to-good heat transfer presses have temperature displays in both Celsius and Fahrenheit; a feature especially useful for goods imported from the US. Automatic opening helps automate the heat transfer process by automatically opening the machine after the set time has counted down. This reduces operator fatigue and aids production efficiency.

The multiple preset feature, which memorizes and resets saved application times, temperatures, and pressure levels, is found in some production use heat presses  and heat presses for industrial use. A pressure readout feature provides a digital or analog indication of the relative pressure applied. The interchangeable platen feature, which accompanies some heat presses, increases machine versatility during work with different-sized transfers and apparel. The pneumatic air-operated feature on some industrial machines provides fully automatic application pressure, allowing for automatic opening and closing of the heat press and the most precise and even pressure application possible.

In summation: Heat transfer presses are used for the permanent transfer of motifs onto clothing and other items. They are designed and constructed in different versions and sizes, and with different features. Knowing this is the first step toward making sound purchasing decisions.

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