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Alpha Supply Company, Inc., T-Shirts, Nashville, TN Location Get Directions to Alpha Supply Co
138 Space Park S. Nashville, TN 37211
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We know heat presses! ™

9 things you must know about presses, before spending your money.

Already know about heat presses? Check out Stahls’, HIX or Knight heat presses

What you must know-

Selecting the right heat press for your work is important. However, for many, selecting a heat press can be intimidating. The task will be easier if you keep this one simple thought in mind- All heat presses do the same thing: provide heat, under pressure, for a specified time.

This page may seem a little long but all of your imprinting work revolves around a heat press. The more you know, the better we can help you pick the right one for your needs.

Here are three important features that you should always consider:

  • Size: Think about the size of the work that you want to do and make sure that the press is large enough for want you want to do. There are 5 general groups of sizes and each group has its advantages, depending upon your needs. They are:

    • DK7Very Small: 4x6, 6x6 and 6x8 presses are perfect for small items like baby clothes, awkward items like tote bags with seams (they can be opened and pulled onto the press) and even very large items where heat is only needed in a small area. This class is usually referred to as “Label Presses”.

    • MP LiteSmall: 9x12, 11x15 and 12x14 presses are excellent for maximum portability (and very low price), 8½ x 11 heat transfers that you print, patches and other small items. Be aware that most preprinted heat transfers are larger than the heater block on small presses.

    • MPD15 Medium: 16x16, 15x15 and 14x16 presses are large enough to do the work for most decorators. They offer the advantage of much more power (wattage – important if you are doing a lot of repetitive pressings) than the small presses, a much cheaper price than a comparable 16x20 heat press and the ability to press the typical preprinted heat transfer.

    • Swingman 20 DLarge: Any type of 16x20 press is considered to be a “large” heat press and very few have a need for anything larger. This size of press easily does 11x17 transfers that you print on an inkjet printer, the largest preprinted transfers offered on the market, large names and numbers on garments and multiple small items. Salespeople in most companies automatically offer this size because it is a bigger commission for them but you need to carefully consider if you need something this large.

    • DK20SSVery Large: These monsters range in size from 18x20, 14x36 and 20x25, up to a gigantic 40x64. If you need a very large press, call us and we will direct you to one of our other sites for detailed information and a more efficient review.

  • Heat Press Type: Swing-away, Draw and Clamshell heat presses are the three major types of presses. Each type will have certain advantages (remember, thinking about what you need and want), depending upon how the manufacturer constructs the press.

    • Swing-away Presses: These presses lift straight up and then the top platen is swung to the right. When doing shirts, most will swing the top platen to a point slightly past the perpendicular (about 100°). Some of the swing-away presses will have a separate “swing-arm” to make platen movement easier (especially on the big 16x20 presses). Sizes of standard swingers range from 9x12 to 16x20, although we do offer much bigger for specialty needs.

    • Draw Press: The draw press is unique in its class. The only one that we offer is the 16x20 Hotronix® Draw. This innovative press combines the features that most like in a swinger, with the space saving advantage of a clamshell. The press lifts straight up (2”) like a swing-away. However, instead of swinging to the right, the lower table is pulled out on a precision ball bearing slide. For some, this ability makes it more desirable than even a swing-away.

    • Clamshell Presses: The top platens of all clamshell presses just lift straight up. They are offered in 11x15, 15x15, 12x14, 16x16 and 16x20 sizes. For many, the simple efficiency of this type of press is very desirable. However, upper and lower platen construction can affect your pressings, depending upon your type of work.

      • Rigid Upper & Lower Platens: Clamshells move with a “hinging” movement. If both platens are rigid, the back of the upper platen touches slightly before the front. This produces torque (uneven pressure) if the items are very thick. T-shirts, on up to soft mouse pads are fine with this type of press.

      • Rigid Upper & Tilting Lower Platens: The lower platen tilts on this type of press, as the upper platen touches it. This feature minimizes torque on thicker items like heavy jackets and rigid items like license plates and even a few ceramic tiles (the latter two are done with sublimation, not heat transfers – see our home page and the sublimation category on the right side).

      • Floating Upper Platen & Rigid Lower Platen: This type of clamshell eliminates torque. The upper platen floats free so it is always parallel to the lower platen, as the press closes. This type of clamshell is very useful if your work consists of a variety of thicknesses.

Swingman 15

Hotronix Draw pess
Stahls makes the Fusion which can be a Swing or Draw style at the flip of a switch
  • Safety: A cheap, poorly made (or worn out in the case of used) press may be no bargain. Be very cautious about used presses (they never have a warranty) or presses bought overseas (at least make sure that you buy them from a reputable dealer). While UL or ETL electrical certification is a comfort to many, no press should be left on and unattended.

You may be starting to suffer from information overload about right now, but hang in there with us. As my momma used to say, “the Devil is in the details” and there is a little bit more that you should learn-

Six other features that could be important to you:

  • Weight: Will you always be working in a fixed location or will you sometimes be doing mobile retail. If you need mobility, how much weight could you and a friend pick up? Because of manufacturing differences, the same size heat press can vary greatly in weight. Weight has nothing to do with sturdiness or heating efficiency. Examples:

16x20 Clamshell
90 lbs.

Swingman 20 D

16x20 Swing-away
125 lbs.

16x20 Swing-away
185 lbs.
  • Form and Function: Because of design or accessories, many presses can offer extra advantages (if you need those benefits). Here are some examples (there are more) of what we mean:

    • Smaller lower platens (including a 7” round) can be purchased for any Hotronix® press.

    • A cap attachment can be added to the Knight DC16 heat press, as well as smaller tables.

    • The same type of press can accept different thickness of items: for example, in the 16x20 swing line, the Hotronix® Swinger & Draw accepts up to 2”, the HIX Swingman 20 1½” and the Knight DK20S 1”. If this is important, make sure you find out about the press you want.

    • Two smaller tables are provided free, with the Knight DK8 label press, while the Hotronix® 6x6 label press auto opens.

    • The Hotronix® cap press (auto open and basic) has a choice of 5 additional lower plates, plus the one with the press (others only offer three).

    • In smaller presses, the power (wattage that powers the heating element) rating can be quite different.

  • Easy opening and closing: This is important to those who don’t have 100% use of their hands and shoulders and is also often desirable for those who will do a lot of pressings in one day. Presses range from Air Automatics that run on compressors to Auto-Opening manuals that require nothing to open and very minimal strength to close to swingers that are “finger-tip” light to open and close, because of CAM’s or progressive linkage to others that are relatively easy to open and close to others that actually require a bit of muscle to open and close. If this is an important benefit to you, be sure and mention it to us so that we can make sure that the press fits your physical requirements.

  • Elevated lower platen: Many heat presses have an elevated lower platen. This comes in very handy when you want to pull a shirt over the lower platen, press an image, reverse the shirt and then put an image on the other side. In your review of presses on the following pages, all Hotronix® and Mighty Press® Digital presses have this ability, as well, the HIX HT-400D, HT-600D, Presto 20 and the Knight DC16 (all of these presses are shown on your tour) have this ability. Note: for maximum ease of sliding a shirt on (or onto) the lower platen, you should get a Teflon slipcover for the bottom platen your press.

  • Digital time and temperature: Analog [using a dial] timers are often not quite as accurate as digital timers (and many only go up to sixty seconds) and analog temperatures are often read from a tiny gage that is often hard to judge correctly. In the real world, a totally digital press is not essential (i.e., it does not affect the ability of the press) it just makes you more efficient, with less to deal with.

  • Budget, of course, is always a consideration. While it is not necessary to get the “biggest and the baddest” (if you don’t need it) we do suggest that you get the best that you can afford. While you don’t need an 18-wheeler to go to the grocery store you also don’t want to buy a VW, when you need at least a pickup truck. Give yourself some room to grow.

It may well be that no one heat press (that fits into your budget) has every feature that you would like to have. In that case, pick what are the most important features that you need.

Study suggestion- You may want to print this page (click here- Printable Version), for reference, as you review all of our heat presses.

Revised: March 18, 2014

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