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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
A few months ago, I really knew nothing about heat press brands and what things you would want to look for when buying a heat press.

Here are some of the things I've learned and how I learned them :)

1. Size does matter.

When selecting a heat press, go for the largest press size that your budget will allow. A minimum of 15x15" is often recommended.

Some benefits of a larger press:

  • Pressing oversized t-shirt designs
  • Pressing names and numbers on jerseys
  • Easier alignment of larger t-shirt sizes
  • When pressing mousepads, you can press multiple items at once
You'll also want to consider whether your press will be mostly stationary or whether you'll want to take it on the road. The 16x20 size presses are great if your press will always be stationary (they are very heavy), but a 15x15 press will be easier to take on the road to shows, events, and fairs.

Reference threads:
Whats the purpose of a 16 x 20 heat press??
Does size matter? Is bigger really better? Why?
Good professional heat press?
Need one more tip: which heat press?

2. Clamshell vs swing away

The two most popular types of heat press are the clamshell and the swinger.


The clamshell has a stationary bottom; the top opens up at an angle. The swinger has a stationary bottom also, however the top opens slightly up and swings to the left or right of the work area.

Choosing between a clamshell design or a swing away design seems to be a decision you would make based on space constraints and preference.

The swing away press will need roughly twice the space as the clamshell; the clamshell will cost less. The swing away press won't heat up your arms as you're trying to align your next transfer, the clamshell is just a one or two step operation.

The swing away type seems to be better for printing a wider variety of items like mousepads, tiles, etc.

Reference threads:
Heat Press space issues? Potential dimensions
Clamshell vs Swing Away
Deciphering: Which style of heat press
Heat Press Comparison Chart

3. Which brand to buy? What's in a name.

The most important thing I've learned about selecting which heat press brand to buy is that you should always go with a major brand name. Going with a trusted brand name heat press will give ensure that your press will last for years and that it will be backed by a solid warranty.

Top brands of heat presses include:


  • Geo-Knight
  • Hix
  • (Stahls) Hotronix
  • (Stahls) Mighty Press
  • Phoenix Phire (manufactured by Stahls Hotronix)
  • Power Pro
The overall quality differences between the major brands seem to be slight. Each offers a few different features and options. A brand name heat press should last you for several years, and should the need arise, it should also offer you a stronger resale value.

For professional results, it's best to forget the idea of pressing transfers with an iron. A home iron generally will not give you enough pressure, consistency, or a hot enough temperature to provide quality results that a retail or wholesale customer would demand. For hobby usage and personal projects, a home iron might suffice with some transfers.

Reference threads:
Need a vote or everyone's opinion: which heat press should I buy?
Stahls, Mighty Press, Hix, Geo Knight...which to choose?
Heat Transfer FAQ - What is the purpose of a heat press

4. More questions to ask before purchasing

Other things you may want to look for in a heat press include:


  • A timer (digital? manual? auto-opening? what type of sound?)
  • A temperature gauge (digital? analog? how accurate?)
  • A pressure adjustment (digital? how even?)
  • A solid warranty (does it cover parts and labor? electronics?)
  • Voltage (110v? 220v? does it plug into a regular household outlet?)
  • How much the press weigh (can you take it on the road?)
If you're a newbie like me and you have the chance, it can be beneficial to visit an industry tradeshow to see exactly how the different types of heat presses operate and how much space they take up. You can also get a chance to see the quality of the final printed product.

Reference:
The Questions
Heat Press Comparison Chart
Good Professional Press - DAGuide post of tradeshows and places to view products
Printwear Tradeshow
ISS Sportswear Tradeshow

5. Where do you buy a heat press?

A common question is where to buy a heat press from. While we all want the best deal possible, an important factor to consider is the before and after sale support provided by the vendor.

Quality vendors (some with special offers) that our members have had positive dealings with are included on this page of our site. Here's a quick list of the places I considered:
When considering a vendor, be sure to check out the package deals that may be available to see if they include equipment that you may be purchasing down the line anyway.

Things like a vinyl cutter, a quality printer, teflon sheets and other accessories can sometimes be included in a heat press vendors starter kit or business package.

You'll also want to compare shipping rates (heat presses are heavy! try to get free shipping if possible), taxes, in stock availability, and the "out the door" final cost of your supplies.

As a member of T-ShirtForums.com, you also qualify for the special members only discounts from many of the top heat transfer equipment vendors listed above. So special I can't even mention many of them here...you have to be logged in to view the special discount pages :)
(contact a n exclusive forum member only 5% discount coupon for Coast Business can be found here)

Keeping it Real

Realistically speaking, not everyone has the budget for a brand new press and equipment.

There are entry level presses from the major manufacturers and vendors listed above that run from $300-$500. Another way to get an affordable press would be to check eBay listings, craigslist postings, our T-Shirt Classifieds or the classifeds at screenprinters.net. You can even call around to local screen printers in your area to see if they have any used presses for sales. Several great deals on used heat presses have been reported to be found using the above methods.

Reference threads:
I Need a 16 x 20


Which heat press did I go with?

After all my research, I decided to go with the 16 x 20 PhoenixPhire Heat Press from Imprintables Warehouse.

Since I knew I would also be getting into vinyl transfers as part of my journey into the heat transfer world, I opted for the Imprintables Ultimate Heat Printing Package (with an upgrade to the larger press).

When I get involved with something, I like to do it "right" from the start. That way I will know I'm working with the best possible starting point which usually translates to increased chances for a successful outcome.

Footnote: My buying decision was also helped that Josh from Imprintables gave me a really nice price for the equipment. He's offered to extend the same pricing on the package I got (with the upgraded 16x20 press) for "T-Shirt Crossover" readers. Contact Josh for the special pricing ($3750 for the bundle...almost a $1000 savings :))

Read this related article about choosing a heat press: http://www.t-shirtforums.com/t-shirt-articles/t27945.html

Next step, "why a vinyl cutter" and getting the equipment delivered!


 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Rodney I see you did not metion the INSTA brand presses, did you consider any of there products?
Hi Bob, I didn't see the INSTA brand press at any of the vendors above. I don't think I remember hearing/reading about it either.

Is that the brand press you use? Is it a brand you'd recommend?
 

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Rodney, Good evening I have used this press for the past year and love it. (INSTA 228 Swinger Digital) I have done around 2500 pieces 750 of which were done in 4 days. Very happy with it. I was just curious if you had looked at them. As you stated in your list the swinger does take up more room but is worth it being able to work without the platen in your way.
 

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This feels like a literary version of a TV series, reading to the last post and thinking, "Awww, gotta wait till the next update!" :)

I admire your courage and leadership in your heat press adventure, Rodney. Your work will prove invaluable to many down the road as a reference for education and success.

Have you any thoughts on the Geo Knight DK20S swing press? From what I've read, it's a promising piece of machinery as well. I'm divided between that and the Phoenix Phire you purchased.
 

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Hi guys,

has anyone heard of SEAL heat presses? I'm looking at one on ebay and it's called SEAL Dry Mounting Laminating Heat Press. This descprition - "Dry Mounting Laminating" is throwing me off a little (how does laminating fit in here....?) but it does look like an ordinary press to me. Let me know, thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
This feels like a literary version of a TV series, reading to the last post and thinking, "Awww, gotta wait till the next update!"
My goal is to make them at least weekly, although I have a feeling they will be more often as I start testing all the different materials. Now that the holidays are over, they'll definitely be more updates :)

Have you any thoughts on the Geo Knight DK20S swing press? From what I've read, it's a promising piece of machinery as well. I'm divided between that and the Phoenix Phire you purchased.
I never got to see a swing press in action. I know that some people here love them and swear by them, but when I went to the trade show last year, I only saw clam shell presses (except for this one neat automatic press from IDEK)

But the Geo Knight is a good brand, and some people definitely prefer the swinger. If you can, I would try to see them both in action.
 

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thanks Rodney! I've worked with an old Stahl's Hotronix for awhile now, a swinging one, and it's been great, but I'm looking to buy one for myself when I move out of the area...it's great to have all of this info in one place, and I didn't even know about the dang discounts...thanks!
 

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Annushka-

I went to E-bay to assure I was thinking correctly,

Seal manufactures heat presses / sealers and laminators for the printing industry

They make some variations that can be used for apparel imaging, but that isn't their claim to fame.

This press isn't designed for such use

Hope this helps

Jae'
 

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What does it mean when it says that the press has Floatational Heat Platen? Also can Floatational only be upper or bottom or both?

The platen self levels to adjust for substrates that are not truly flat. say one end of the substrate is 5/8th in thickness on one end and the other end is 7/8th; the press will adjust for this variation.

Jae'
 

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The platen self levels to adjust for substrates that are not truly flat. say one end of the substrate is 5/8th in thickness on one end and the other end is 7/8th; the press will adjust for this variation.

Jae'
If I can elaborate...the presses with floating top platens are able to lock down evenly on thicker items. The press' top platen will level off prior to making contact with the substrate loaded. This platen feature eliminates the pinching effect that has plagued clamshells for years. The floating lower platen also eventually levels off but the back portion of the top platen will meet the substrate first, then it levels off. Not that this is a huge deal on most applications, but on some thicker items it can have that pinch effect.
 

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Thanks, R.

Like you said in an earlier post, the major brands all sell quality. Preference I suppose. The clamshell seems better for grilled cheese sandwiches...There, I decided. :)
Actually, a clamshell might squish the cheese out unevenly because of the way it closes. I prefer my swing away for grilled cheese ;)

Oh, and a "Hello" and apology for this late post in here, I just found out Rodney had gotten into heat press so I'm catching up on posts.

PS - No heat presses were harmed in the making of this post (I don't actually make grilled cheese sandwiches with either of my presses).
 

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No, I can't afford anything bigger :) Thank u
In that case I'd pick option 3) Wait until you can afford something bigger.

If you can't afford the purchase, all the more reason not to throw away the money you do have on something you're sure to outgrow.

In the meanwhile you could sell through CP, or outsource a run of shirts to a DTG printer / Screen printer / Heat press printer, etc.
 

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Lewis, you are killing me here...lol
sigh....ok, well what if I told you that I just want one for at home testing. Right now I'm just trying to sample some of the techniques at home such as screenprinting and heat transfers, want to test different brands and kinds of ink, different shirts as well. The purpose of the testing for me is not so much for market reasearch (i.e. to see if it sells or not, thus I'm not interested in CP) but to see the product quality, textures, looks etc. Once the testing stage is completed, will I want to do my own work or outsource it - I don't know. Most likely I will outsource large orders. But before I send anything to DTG printer / Screen printer / Heat press printer, I have to see and do it myself first. (Yes, I'm one of those "have to have total control of everything" freaks lol)
I don't know guys, honestly, I'm not trying to be thickheaded :). I just don't think I need a 15x15 heavy duty press. I'd LOVE one at a bargain price, but haven't been able to find one yet. And the $200 price difference could be spent on more blanks and inks and other supplies. In the meantime I can't really consider any testing really relevant if I'm doing it with an iron. Unfortunately I'm not finding many posts re: smaller light use presses. And yes that right there speaks for itself. But then I think that the structure of everyone's operation is different and others did need bigger presses.
Please feel free to argue folks, every opinion is appreciated :) Thank you.

P.S. What do you think about - Mighty Press® 11" x 15" Lite Clam Press? Can I consider it? Thanks again
 

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Annushka,

If you just want a press for testing (and I can understand why you don't want to use an iron), why not outsource the testing to someone else? I am sure there are many members here who would be able to create some sample shirts for you, to your specifications.

If you still want to buy a press, I think it's still better to just shell out the extra dough for a 15x15. If you decide that it's not going to work out, it will probably be easier to resell a 15x15 rather than one of the smaller presses.

Another option is to look for a used press, you might try Craigslist if you haven't already.
 
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