5 Things to Consider When Buying a Heat Press

Buying a heat press is a big investment,  and the decision about which type of press to buy should be made carefully to ensure that you get the type of press you need and one that will provide the most utility for your shop. Since a heat press is one of the more costly items that people who create sublimated goods will need, it pays to do the research and the math before purchasing a press. When making your buying decision, here are five things you should consider.

#1 Is Cheaper Better – A heat press is a big investment and, especially if a business is just starting out with sublimation,  the impulse might be to go with a no-name Chinese press from eBay or to start with a smaller press that is less costly.   There are,  however,  a couple of problems with this approach.   One is that no-name presses often don’t have service or technical support which leaves you with few to no options if your press breaks.   Buying a smaller, less expensive press can also be problematic as the size of the press will place limits on what can be sublimated.   The rule of thumb is to assess your needs and take into account technical support and repair options and then buy the biggest press you can afford.

#2 Consider your physical abilities – No, running a heat press isn’t as physically taxing as mining coal or being a mover,  but it does take a toll on the body.   Smaller people may have more issue with opening a manual press.  Standing all day can have an impact on the knees and feet.   There are options like auto release pop-up which can make a press easier to operate.   Don’t assume that everyone will be able to operate a press with the same level of ease.   Take into account the physicality of running a press for hours at a time and do what’s necessary to make that physical toll a little less.

#3 What type of goods will you be sublimating? – One of the biggest questions that needs to be answered before any heat press purchase is the type of goods your shop will be selling.   If the goal is to just do garments,  a flat press,  most likely a swing-away press,  would be a useful option.   If you want to do hats or mugs or something that won’t work well in a flat press,   your best bet would either be a specialty press or a combo press.  For those shops doing a variety of items,  a combo press may be best,  as it combines a flat press with the specialty press options.

#4 Where’s the best place to buy a heat press? –  The temptation to buy a heat press on eBay or Amazon,  where the prices seem cheaper may be overwhelming,  but that’s not always the best place to buy a press.   In our opinion,  the best option for purchasing a heat press is from a company that knows and uses heat presses.   If you can purchase directly from the manufacturer that’s great.   When that’s not possible,  the next best option is purchasing from a supplier who uses the presses they sell and knows them well.   Keep in mind the place that sells you the press may also be the place that provides technical and repair support.   The better they know the press,  the more able they will be to assist you when you have an issue.

#5 Can you add other disciplines to maximize the utility of your press? –  Yes,  sublimation is one decoration discipline that requires a heat press,  but it is not the only one.   If you’re buying a press,  you might also want to consider what you already do,  or could add to your shop which could make a heat press that much more useful.   Rhinestones,  screen print transfers,  adding patches to hats or bags,  there are a variety of options for how a heat press can be used.   Spreading the utility out over a variety of disciplines may help your press pay for itself faster,  and help you justify the expense of a bigger and better press.

It’s About You, Not Us

iStock_000006951680LargeEarlier today I got a call from a customer who had a question about buying a mug press.   We sold this customer her sublimation system,  the blanks she uses, and got her started using an oven and mug wraps.   She’s doing a nice business selling her original artwork which she puts on the mugs,  and was very happy with this method of sublimation until the oven she was using broke.   She purchased a replacement oven,  but it didn’t seem to work as well,  and she called us asking about purchasing a mug press.

Now we sell a high end mug press from Geo. Knight,  and it’s a press I’d recommend to anyone.   Our parent company has used Geo. Knight presses for years,  and we know they’re well made,  and well supported.   I have no problem advising a customer that a Geo. Knight press is a great buy,  except when I can tell  from what the customer is saying to me  that the Knight press,  while a great purchase, isn’t really what the customer wants and needs.

In this case,  the customer wasn’t sure she wanted a press at all,  and certainly wasn’t sure she wanted to spend what it would cost to buy the Knight.   I explained why the Knight press was worth the price,  but she was still hesitant,  so I recommended a few other places,  friendly competitors of ours,  where she might find presses that were less expensive.   I told her if we couldn’t have the sale,  I’d rather that it went to a company I knew would treat her right.

She was still unsure,  so we talked a bit more.   As it turned out,  she liked working with an oven,  had the process down pat,  and found the results were great.   The only reason she was considering a mug press was because her current oven wasn’t giving her the results she wanted,   her previous,  more expensive oven that had worked beautifully had died,  and she was under the gun to finish orders.   As we talked,  she realized she really didn’t want a mug press at all,  that she was just stressed about making her order deadlines and grasping for solutions.   By the time we’d hung up,  she had decided to go out and get another higher end oven and proceed with the sublimation method that she liked and knew to be successful.

If there is a moral to my little story,  and I think there is,  it is this:  our interactions aren’t about us,  they’re about you.    At EnMart,  we believe that our job is to listen to what you need and help you find the best way to meet those needs.   If meeting your needs involves selling you products we carry,  that’s great,  we are a business after all.  If meeting your needs means directing you elsewhere and recommending a solution that may not put any money in our pockets at all,  we’ll do that.   Our goal is always, if we can,  to create a happy customer and one who comes back to shop with us again and again.

Mug Wrap vs. Mug Press

When it comes to sublimation and selling sublimated goods, one of the best selling sublimated  items would most likely be  mugs.   Sublimated mugs can be a significant source of revenue,  but there are some things you need to decide in order to start successfully sublimating mugs.  One of the first choices you will need to make is regarding your method of sublimation.   When it comes to mugs you have two options.  Option one would be a press specifically designed for mugs which is,  aptly enough,  called a mug press.  Option two would be to purchase some mug wraps and sublimate your mugs using an oven.   Today, in order to help you make a more informed decision, I wanted to examine some of the pros and cons of each of these options .

Option 1:  The Mug Press

When you purchase a mug press,  you can buy a stand alone version or you can purchase a mug press as part of an all in one press.   A mug press is designed to sublimate only mugs, and cannot be used for sublimating any other item.   Many mug presses are adjustable,  which will allow you to do different sizes and shapes of mugs,  from your standard 11 oz. coffee mug to a taller, more slender latte mug to a stein.    Mugs presses allow the sublimation of one mug at a time, so you will need multiple presses if you intend to do a large quantity of mugs.    A mug press is generally a more substantial investment, so if you are just starting out,  you may want to take that into account.

Option 2:  The Mug Wrap

A mug wrap is a rubbery strap which hooks on the end which is designed to wrap around your mug and hold the transfer in place while the mug is sublimated.    The mug wrap is used in conjunction with a common oven, which provides the heat source which causes sublimation to occur.   The oven can be your conventional kitchen oven (although it is not recommended that you sublimate with the same oven in which you cook food) or something smaller like a toaster oven.  The only requirement for the oven is that it can be heated up to 400 degrees and that it can hold a consistent temperature.    Mug wraps are a good option if you plan to do a lot of mugs.  Provided your oven is large enough, and heats evenly,  you can do 20 or 30 mugs at a time.    One thing to keep in mind is that conventional ovens do tend to use more electricity than a heat press, so make sure to factor that in when pricing your mugs.

Whichever option you choose,  it is also a good idea to make sure you have a digital pyrometer on hand.   One of the common problems with sublimating any item,  including mugs,  is hot or cool spots in your press or oven.   A digital pyrometer can help you find those problem areas,  and thus avoid having your mugs come out less than perfect.