Buying Guide for T-shirt Heat Press Machine — Choose What’s Best for You!
Whether you are new to heat printing and looking for your first t-shirt heat press, replacing your existing press with a new model, or adding a t-shirt heat press machine to increase your business’s production, you need to know what to look for. From basic elements like press type, even pressure and temperature to innovations like custom platens, this guide will teach you about the functionality and features of the latest t-shirt heat press machines. You’ll also learn what questions to ask when shopping and ultimately decide which press is right for the unique needs and challenges of your heat printing business.
What T-Shirt Heat Press Machine is Right for You?
The t-shirt heat press machine style that’s right for you depends on what you’ll be printing with your heat press. While the basics of each t-shirt heat press type are the same, there are other features to consider when purchasing a t-shirt heat press machine. Looking at things like temperature accuracy, ease of use, available warranty coverage, and available tech support allow you to make the best purchase decision based on your needs.
Considerations for Purchasing T-Shirt Heat Press Machines Online
Once you have decided which type of t-shirt heat press is right for your business, you will need to consider the features of specific makes and models on the market. Here are some things to consider when evaluating the t-shirt heat press you’ll purchase.
Quality: A high quality t-shirt heat press will inevitably cost more than affordable, less durable counterparts. A t-shirt heat press needs to withstand constant movement and clamping so high quality parts will ultimately perform better.
- Is the heat press frame constructed from plastic or steel? Steel is ideal
- How many welds (if any) are present in the frame? Less is better
- What warranties are offered to protect your purchase over time? 5 years is industry standard
- Are there reviews?
Manufacturer: A broken t-shirt heat press doesn’t help your business, getting a broken press back up and running quickly is imperative to your business’ success. Knowing who you are buying from and what their business looks like will help you feel confident in your purchase.
- Does the company you are buying your t-shirt heat press from have reliable customer service and tech support?
- Do they provide troubleshooting resources online and over the phone?
- Are they quick to resolve issues for their customers?
- Is the t-shirt heat press made in the USA?
Time: Time is one of the key ingredients to a successful heat transfer application so an accurate timer is important. A timer on the t-shirt heat press machine will also save you many headaches in the long run.
- Are the time, temperature and pressure reading digital or analog? Digital is preferred for accuracy
- Does the timer rest automatically with each application?
- Does the press beep or open automatically when the time is up? A t-shirt heat press that automatically opens when the time is up allows you to multitask in a busy shop without leaving your garments on the press too long.
- Is the press programmable?
Temperature: Accurate temperature is the key to a durable heat transfer application.
- What kind of temperature gauge does the press have?
- Does the press use a bimetallic thermometer (5–10 degree temperature variance) or an RTD probe (+/- 2 degree variance)
- How the heating elements are spaced out insider the press? Elements that are spaced no more than 2 inches apart will ensure edge to edge heat without cold spots
- How thick is the t-shirt heat press platen? Thinner lighter platens will lose heat much more quickly than those that are ¾ inch thick
- How high does the temperature go? Some applications require heat up to 400 degree
- How long does the press take to heat up? 20 minutes is standard. An auto power feature will allow you to set the press to power on at a certain time, so it’s ready to start pressing when you are.
Pressure: Pressure is another key element to a properly applied heat transfer, it’s important to have the correct pressure, (light, medium, or heavy) for your substrate and material. You need to know pressure will be evenly applied at the right strength.
- Is the pressure read out digital or analog? If analog, how is it adjusted and measured? A digital pressure display gives you an accurate pressure reading without guess work
- Is the pressure adjustment over the center? Over the center pressure gives the most evenly applied pressure on your t-shirt heat press machine.
- Is there even pressure on every corner of the platen? Test for even pressure by putting four squares of paper on the press, one in each corner, and close the press. Try to pull out the papers. If one paper comes out easier than the others the platen is not providing even pressure across the lower platen.
Platens: A t-shirt heat press will come with a standard platen usually measuring between 15”X15” to 16”X20”. The larger platen will give you flexibility in the items you can decorate from XL t-shirts to oversized hoodies. Custom platens come in many different shapes and sizes for different uses like printing on shoes, duffel bags, hat bills, and more. These options create more sales opportunities for your business.
- What size is the standard platen on this machine? If you plan to print oversized items a larger platen is ideal, but if you are planning to print mostly kids t-shirts a smaller platen may work well.
- What custom platens are available for this machine?
- How easily can the lower platen be changed? Some machines require a tool and others have a quick change mechanism to quickly switch out the platen to print different items easily.
Load Ability: T-shirt heat presses vary greatly in their ability to be easily loaded. Loading speed is important but even more so lading accuracy. A t-shirt heat press that is 100% threadable will allow for both loading speed and accuracy to ensure a flat pressing surface onto your item. Getting an item flat for printing is critical to durability.
- Is the machine able to have a small shirt, bag and the like split over the lower platen for loading?
- Can I rotate my t-shirt or jersey while on the machine to print both front and back without wasting time in reloading?
A t-shirt heat press is the cornerstone of a successful heat printing business. Many decorators have been able to make thousands of dollars per year in a spare bedroom, garage, or even off a dining room table. Add this to the many retail brands, sporting goods shops and embroiders making much more a year with heat printing and you’ll see the t-shirt heat press is important. It’s an investment in your business that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Do not compromise quality for price in a haste to get started. An inaccurate t-shirt heat press is a fast track to ruined garments, lost customers, bad word of mouth and eventually business closure. The quality of what you create starts with your investment. Good luck!