Our plastic bucket heat transfer machine has played an instrumental role in the garment embellishment industry since the early 1960s, and are still a vital part of the industry. Many people ask; “Why would I screen print my design onto a piece of paper, and then transfer this image to a garment, when I can screen print the design directly onto the garment and skip the heat transfer step altogether?” It’s a logical question, but as you research the flexibility heat transfers can provide, you will understand. True if you have a firm order for 1,000 printed garments, direct screen printing is your best option. But if you are a retailer, heat transfers provide better inventory flexibility by allowing you to transfer a given design onto any garment size, color or style without stocking hundreds of pre-prints. Plus, you don’t run the risk of having a slow moving design that may tie up your garment inventory. Most major retail chains favor heat transfers for the aforementioned reasons plus the fact that today’s screen-printed transfers are far superior to the heat transfers of the past!
New digital transfer technologies have added a new dimension in heat transfer decoration. They allow you to take orders for short-run jobs from one garment to 20, which you would have never considered undertaking with the screen print process. And with the current advancements in digital sublimation transfers, a whole new market has opened up for decorating mouse pads, mugs, tees, ceramic tiles, glass and a large variety of rigid flat and 3-D substrates.
Clamshell Versus Swinger — The term “clamshell” means the upper heat element in the heat transfer machine opens like a clamshell. It’s a popular machine style for garment printers for several reasons:
The clamshell press is compact in design, saving counter space.
It provides a simple solution to heat transferring on a variety of products.
The clamshell machine generally is smaller in size compared with swing-away machines.
Motion study experts have found a couple of seconds are saved with a clamshell machine by not having to swing the heat platen away from the garment and back again for the next transfer cycle.
Swing-away machines feature a heat platen that swings away from the lower platen for easy access when placing transfers or lettering on a garment or substrate. Swing-away machines are popular for applying athletic numbers as well as applying transfers to 3-D items, such as wooden plaques and ceramic tiles. Choosing between a clamshell and swing-away model is a combination of personal preference and functionality. For shops transferring designs on T-shirts, awards and 3-D substrates, a swing-away machine usually is the best choice. The swing-away design also can reduce the amount of heat and steam rising in the operator’s face after he opens the press to apply heat transfers. Additionally, the risk of the operator burning his hands is reduced.
There are two types of controls available on a heat transfer press: digital or analog. The analog timer or heat controller is best described as a knob that you set to a desired position on a numbered grid. The analog controller has been popular for decades on heat presses and is still widely used today. However, digital heat controllers have gained sales momentum in recent years. Both systems work quite well, but analog controls are less expensive than digital controllers. The price gap between the two technologies is expected to narrow as digital controllers become more mainstream. On the flip side, digital controllers are perceived to be more accurate than analog controllers.
The Heating Element
There seems to be a lot of confusion for first time heat-press buyers as to how the heat element is constructed. Most heat press manufactures use an aluminum upper-heating element with either a heat rod (cal-rod) cast into the aluminum or a heating wire attached to the heating element’s backside. Both construction types work quite well in terms of providing the correct wattage to heat up the aluminum platen. Since aluminum is an excellent heat conductor, providing the right watt density to the aluminum mass is the key, whether you use a “micro-winding” wire attached to the back of the aluminum or a “cast-in” cal rod. A cast in call rod construction provides great heat penetration and minimal heat loss from the aluminum backside since the element is embedded in the heat platen. The construction also is better since the heating rods are not able to touch together because of a heat expansion and contraction, creating a dead short in the electrical system.
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