Tag: heat press

Buying a Heat Press

dc16ap3A question that often comes up in forums and groups about sublimation is what kind of heat press is necessary.   Do you need specialized presses for mugs?  How big should the press be?   Is a cheap press made in China that you found on eBay going to work?  What brand of press do experienced sublimation experts recommend?   A heat press is a larger purchase,  so it’s easy to understand why there would be a lot of questions.   Since we’ve been sublimating and dealing with sublimation supplies (and heat presses) for a lot of years,  I thought I’d try to answer some of the questions I see most frequently.

Q1:  Do you need a specialized press for any good that isn’t flat?  For the most part,  yes.   Hats,  mugs,  plates,  anything that isn’t flat will most likely require a specialized press in order to take a sublimated print.    In some cases,  where a lot of different items will be sublimated,  a combo heat press might be the best option.  This type of press is usually a flat swingaway press that comes with attachments that will allow you to do mugs and other goods that aren’t flat.   A standalone cap press will have a curved platen that allows you to sublimate caps faster and more easily.    Mug presses are generally adjustable and are designed to handle different sizes and shapes of mugs.    If you’re planning to sublimate a lot of one particular item,  investing in a specialty press can be a wise move.

Q2:  How big should the press be?  What’s the biggest thing you’ll ever be likely to sublimate?   The answer to that question will help determine how big your press should be.   Keep in mind that smaller presses may have smaller price tags,  but they aren’t always suitable for a production environment.   When deciding on the size of your press,  you should also take into account how often it will be used,  and for how long each time.    Optional extras like air operated opening should also be considered.   They may add to the cost of the press,  but they’ll save a ton of wear and tear on the operator.

Q3:  Is a cheap press worth the money? There are a lot of off brand heat presses from China available on eBay,  with prices that can be very attractive when you’re on a budget.   Two things to consider before purchasing a press like this are 1) who will service it should it break down and 2)is cheap necessarily going to translate into reliable and accurate?   A press from an eBay seller that may have been made in a foreign country is not likely to have maintenance or tech support attached, and that matters.   Service for a malfunctioning machine can help extend its life and get you back to work faster.   Tech support can help you solve problems and teach you how to use your heat press more efficiently and profitably.     A cheap press may also come with a set of reliability and accuracy issues.   Temperature gauges may not accurately reflect temperatures.   The platens may not heat to the required levels.   There are good bargains to be had,  and there are people who have purchased off brand presses and had them work fine,  but it’s a calculated risk.

Q4:   What brand of press do experienced sublimation experts recommend?  To answer this question,  all I can do is tell you what we know,  from years of experience.    We sell George Knight heat presses,   and the reason we sell them is because we’ve used them.   Our parent company has six plants across the United States,  and all of them have heat presses.   George Knight presses have been in our shops,  working day in and day out for years.     The presses are reliable,  easy to use,  and George Knight has top notch technical support.   So,  when asked,  George Knight is what we recommend,  and not just because we sell them.   We’ve used them,  so we know how well made and reliable they are.   Yes,  they may cost a bit more,  but they’re worth every penny.

If you have a question about sublimation,  please feel free to leave a comment here or to contact us and ask.   We’ve been working with heat presses and sublimation for quite some time,  and we’re always happy to help.

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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.

Sublimation Tip Sheet 4/15/10

Over the years that we’ve been doing sublimation, we’ve learned a lot.  Some of what we’ve learned needs to be explained in detail, and is best suited to a longer blog post.  Other tips and tricks are just small bits of information that don’t necessarily merit their own post,  but could still be useful.   Because we still want to share these tips and tricks with all of you, I’ve created the Sublimation Tip Sheet.  These posts will appear whenever it seems necessary, and will include various sublimation and ChromaBlast tips and tricks which will help you get the most out of your printers, inks, papers and heat presses.

Tip 1:  Sublimation Paper Storage

Properly storing your sublimation paper is important, and can significantly affect the results you get when you print and press.  Most paper can absorb humidity, and depending on the coating, some absorb a lot more than others.  As a general rule, best practice is to store your sublimation paper sealed either in the original packaging or in a reclosable bag in a dark area in a climate controlled office or other area.  Moderate humidity in the 40% range and temperature around 70 degrees with low or no light, is usually considered ideal storage conditions.  Realistically however, these conditions may not be practical, so just try to get as close to that type of environment as you can reasonably achieve, and you should be good to go.

Tip 2:  Heat Press Temperature

A heat press with an even temperature is a vital part of sublimation success, but not all heat presses heat evenly.  To make sure that your heat press does not have hot spots or cold areas which could have an impact on the evenness of your sublimation print,  check your press frequently with a pyrometer.   Taking a few seconds to check the temperature of your press could save you a lot of frustration and wasted blanks.

Tip 3:  The items you sublimate should be Polyester or Poly Coated

This seems like a pretty elementary fact, but I see this question on forums all the time.   For best results, whatever you sublimate should be 100% polyester fabric or should have a poly coating.  If you sublimate a garment that is some percentage polyester and some percentage of another material, the sublimation ink will only bond with the polyester fibers.   This can lead to a patchy,  faded graphic.   Attempting to sublimate a mug or a mousepad that does not have a poly coating will most likely not work at all.

If you have a sublimation or ChromaBlast tip or trick that you’d like to share,  please leave it in the comments or e-mail me at kristine dot shreve at myenmart dot com.