The Heat Press, Every Printer's Secret Tool
Every screen print shop needs a heat press.
Every. Single. One.
Why would you even need a heat press in a shop? Many reasons, like special orders, curing options, and smoothing techniques.
CONSISTENT, LOW-QUANTITY ORDERS
Sometimes, you'll get sporadic, random orders. A plumbing company comes in and asks you to put names on the front of their shirts, for example. Instead of embroidering them (expensive), you can transfer the names onto the shirts with a heat transfer press. Got people coming in asking for large numbers or names on the back of jerseys? The best bet to complete that order is using a heat press.
Say you have a customer who comes in every year, orders 75 shirts, and then proceeds to order four or five more shirts each month. Instead of having the screens stacked in the back of your shop, taking up space for the few prints you need to make each month, you can use a heat press. You will be able to store the transfers (way smaller footprint than a screen) and use them as the order comes in.
Does the market you're targeting need hats or mugs? Specific heat presses are designed to print on hats and mugs. If you're printing on caps, try the Hotronix Cap Heat Transfer Press. To prevent over-application, the press opens automatically. It holds the cap securely, so the cap will have a smooth surface when the press transfers the imagery. For mugs, check out the George Knight DK3 Digital Mug Heat Transfer Press. It'll wrap around the whole mug, and has digital controls to set the temperature and time.
Yes, you can use a heat press to cure. If you noticed that a shirt you printed was under-cured, you can turn on the heat press and it'll cure it (you have to do this before you wash it. Once you've washed it, you cannot attempt to re-cure it). Printing via DTG? Awesome, a heat press can cure and pretreat. Remember to run a test print first when starting a new project to ensure you have the right settings to achieve a fully cured print.
Are you live printing outside for an event? You can bring a flash cure, but what if it's windy? The wind will blow out the heat from a flash. The wind can't blow away the heat off a heat press.
Screen printing on a fibrous shirt? You can use a heat press to push the fibers in, charging the shirt. Or, if you notice the print is fuzzy, you can use the heat press to smooth it down.
Are your shirts wrinkly? The heat press works just like an iron: it'll smooth those wrinkles out in a jiffy.
The heat press is one of the most versatile tools you can have in your shop.
Okay, you're ready to get one for your shop. But which one? (We have a ton of options to choose from.) When getting a heat press, make sure the press emits stable heat, has a digital readout, and has simple display of the heat reading.
ALRIGHT, I AM READY TO GET A HEAT PRESS. WHAT'S A GOOD STARTER?
If you've never used a heat press before, look for heat transfer presses with a digital timer and pressure adjustment, as well as one that automatically pops once the transfer is complete. For size, aim for a 16x16in, it'll cover majority of your jobs. You do not need to blow your whole budget on a heat press, a George Knight DK16 Digital Clamshell Heat Transfer Press or a Stahls Hotronix Clam Heat Transfer Press are great ones to use.
Don't go too cheap though. Super cheap heat presses will have hot and cold spots, and elements burn out quicker. The cheap ones are not reliable. It's more worth your time and money to pitch in a little more for a consistent, dependable heat press.
WHAT'S THE BEST OF THE BEST?
Obviously, the more money you spend, the better product you'll get. High-end heat presses will heat up faster, have more options to change pressure, and be easier to use in general. A top-of-the-line heat press is the Stahls Hotronix Fusion Heat Transfer Press. The Hotronix Fusion has touch screen technology, dual function to swing or draw, unlimited preset programs – list goes on. It's a super fancy heat press, and it'll make your life so much easier if you have it in your shop, but it definitely costs a pretty penny.
Whether you're printing in a garage or running a large shop, the heat press is a necessity. It'll cure your prints; make printing the continuous, low-quantity orders easy and quick; and smooth your prints. The heat transfer press is a life-saver in almost every sticky situation.