A Heat Press Primer

Anyone who works in garment decoration will probably acknowledge that a heat press is generally a vital piece of equipment in any garment decoration or ad specialty shop.   Heat presses can be used for sublimation,  direct to garment printing,  inkjet transfers,  screenprint transfers and, in a pinch, simply for getting the wrinkles out of a garment, or the moisture out of transfer paper.   A good heat press, which is the right size and type for your shop, can be a huge asset.  A heat press, on the other hand,  that is the wrong size and type, or which doesn’t function properly can be anything but an asset.   If you’re just starting your business, or are looking to purchase a new heat press,  here are some basic tips to help you make the right decision for your business.

One of the first things to decide is the type of heat press you need.   EnMart sells two types of heat presses – clamshell and swinger or swingaway.    A clamshell heat press is a hinged press where the top platen lifts straight up.  These presses generally require a bit less space,  but they also are a bit more limiting.    If you are going to be doing thicker garments or want to sublimate items other than garments,  this type of press may not be for you.

A swinger or swingaway heat press, by contrast, is one where the top platen lifts up and then swings to the side.   This sort of press requires more space,  as the platen needs to be free to swing.   It also is a bit more forgiving when it comes to the thickness of the items you will be pressing.   Swingaway presses also move the top platen completely out of the way, which allows for easier loading and unloading of your press.

Another thing to consider when looking at presses is the size of the items that you will be pressing.  A 9″ x 12″ heat press may seem like a great way to start because it doesn’t take up much space and it’s less expensive, and for some people it will be the ideal press.    If you are looking at doing a wide variety of garment sizes,  however,  this press may be too small and too limiting for your needs. When choosing the size of heat press you think will work for your business, always take into account the size of the largest thing you think you could ever possibly press and buy a press that will accommodate that size.

You should also take into account your physical abilities when considering the press you will purchase.  You can find heat press which are air operated,  heat presses with auto pop-up functions,  and presses that will need to opened and closed with good old muscle power.   If you believe your press will be used quite frequently, or if you’re a smaller person,  you may want to consider a press which opens more easily and doesn’t rely on brute force.

Finally, when you purchase your press,  you may also want to consider purchasing a digital pyrometer and surface probe kit.  The temperature gauge on your heat press may not always accurately reflect the true temperature of the press.   A digital pyrometer will allow you to spot the differences between the temperature reading on the gauge and the actual temperature of the press.

Why We Use (and Sell) Geo. Knight Heat Presses

Anyone who does sublimation or ChromaBlast will need a heat press, that’s a given.  The problem is that there are a lot of heat presses out there from which to choose.   From the cheap models sold by unknown companies on eBay,  to the name brands sold by a variety of well known companies,  it is sometimes hard to know which model of heat press to buy, and what type of heat press will work best for your needs.

EnMart’s parent company, Ensign Emblem,  has used Geo. Knight heat presses in all of our locations for a number of years.  After testing a variety of presses,  we settled on Geo. Knight presses because they are durable and consistent.  We’ve used them for heat sealing emblems, for sublimating patches and for other jobs.  The presses have worked well and provided years of good service.  We’re so confident in these presses it only made sense we would become a distributor when EnMart was formed.

Since we know the presses, we feel qualified to recommend them, and give advice on what sort of press might be useful to our various customers.  One of the main things to consider is the type of goods which you will be pressing.   If you intend to press only flat goods,  like t-shirts or license plates,  a clamshell press may suit your needs admirably.    The Knight clamshell heat presses that EnMart offers are designed with heavy steel welded structures,  but still offer low – weight portability.  The press opens widely and lifts up far away from the rear of the pad, so your hands are safe from the heat.    The smooth gas shock lift makes it easy to operate.   You can also add an auto pop-up feature which opens the press automatically at the end of the heat cycle.

If you are interested in pressing a wider variety of goods, or if your heat press is constantly in use,  a swingaway press may be a better option for you.   The Knight Digital Swinger presses can accommodate material of larger sizes and thicknesses than the clamshell presses, and can be less tiring to operate than a manual heat press.    The Geo. Knight Swinger presses use SuperCoil-Microwinding heater technology,  which provides fast heat up times,  even heating and fast recovery.    If your shop is a busy one,  a Knight Digital Swinger press is a good investment.

Another thing worth considering if you do sublimation is the Knight DC series presses.   These presses come available with attachments which are perfect for sublimation.   If you want to sublimate caps, mugs or plates this press may well be the perfect option for you.   There is also a Twin Shuttle Attachment available for the DC series presses,  which would be perfect for quicker pressing of flat goods.

When you purchase your heat press,  you should also remember to add a digital pyrometer and surface probe to your order.   This tool provides a way to determine the exact temperature of your heat press, based on contact with the heat press, not on infared readings.    If you’ve been having issues with hot or cool spots,  or if your heat press has been producing uneven results,  a digital pyrometer can help you diagnose the cause and find a solution.