December 2, 2019
Every week we hear horror stories from companies who purchased a low-cost (i.e. cheap) heat press machine from an on-line retailer or marketplace. Within a few days or weeks of setting up their new, “out of the box” heat press machine, it is not usable. Either the electronics stop functioning OR there is wide temperature/pressure variation across the platen, causing transfers to not apply to the garment correctly. This creates frustration, lost production time and, on occasion, damaged garments.
Why would anyone purchase a cheap heat press machine vs a professional-grade heat press machine? The answer is the low purchase price. They may think, “Why spend the money on a more expensive machine when a cheap machine may do the job?” But the perceived savings from buying a cheap heat press machine are usually lost when other factors are considered. For example:
When a heat press machine stops working, then the work scheduled at that work station stops as well. How is this time recouped? Is the customer advised their delivery commitment will not be met? Is overtime required at another work station to make up for the lost production? A non-working heat press machine causes inefficiencies and can create far-reaching issues on the production floor. These potential issues are not always considered when buying a machine.
If pressure and/or temperature are not consistent across the upper platen, then graphics may not apply correctly to the garment. This may be evident when the carrier is removed from the transfer and part of the artwork does not apply to the garment, OR it may not be evident until the customer washes the garment a few times and the artwork lifts off the garment. In the first example, there will be transfer and garment waste, adding to the costs of the job. In the second example, your reputation with the customer will suffer as they become aware of artwork lifting off their garments after a few washes.
Low cost (i.e. cheap) heat press machines are inexpensive for a reason. They tend to use inferior parts and take short-cuts on their manufacturing floor to minimize production costs. The old saying “you get what you pay for” certainly applies. These machines end up being disposable. Professional-grade machines are the most reliable and durable machines on the market.
The majority of cheap heat press machines are produced and sold by offshore companies without domestic roots or facilities in the US. If a replacement or accessory part is needed OR if you require assistance from a service technician, there is nowhere to turn. Domestic manufacturers have an inventory of parts and service technicians available to assist via telephone or e-mail.
Consider, for a moment, the three crucial functions of the heat press:
All transfers need time under the heat press to allow the properties of the ink to adhere to the garment’s fabric. Depending on transfer ink type and ink re-melt characteristics, the time needed to apply for the transfer under the heat press will vary.
Please remember “the ink can’t think”. It the heat press machine’s temperature setting is not accurate to the temperature across the entire platen, then transfers will not properly apply to the garment.
The amount of pressure applied to the garment by the upper platen plays a crucial role in the performance of the transfer. Too little, too much, or not consistent pressure and the transfer will not apply correctly to the garment.
Purchasing a cheap heat press machine to save on the initial investment will not prove to be a sound strategy in the long run. When you experience repeated garment and transfer waste, lost production time, missed delivery commitments and you earn a reputation for delivering poor quality, you will find it makes more sense to invest in a heat press machine that delivers repeated positive results time and time again.
Christopher Pluck, business development director for Insta Graphic Systems, has been in the imprinted textile industry for more than 30 years. He has a background in screen printing and offset lithography technologies, and was instrumental in establishing inventive heat-fusible printing products and print-application methods. For more information, visit instagraph.com.
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