When starting a garment / giftware production business, or setting up as an add-on to an existing business, buying a cheap heat press is very tempting.
When you can get hold of a heat press for a couple of hundred quid or even less – what reason is there to pay more?
Well first of all, there are a couple of hundred reasons you should think twice about investing in a cheap heat press, that being the couple of hundred quid that you may be losing if you end up having to cut your losses and invest in a better heat press.
The good old saying “buy right or buy twice” may be a cliche, but it’s a true one.
You may think that we’re biased as a business who supplies some of the most popular brands of heat press, but this isn’t bias, it is experience.
The repeated experience of regularly helping customers who are looking for a more reliable press after having had their fingers burned, so to speak – and also our own experience of importing similar kinds of heat presses.
A few years ago we saw the number of cheap heat presses that were selling on eBay and other websites, and we thought it would be a good idea for us to import lower cost non-branded presses. In theory since we would actually be stocking the presses here (unlike many of the sellers who may give the appearance that they’re UK stock but they’re actually having them sent directly from China when they’re ordered) and we would be stocking plenty of parts, it seemed like a good idea. We could stock budget press backed up with a decent service, it seemed like a great idea.
While a good idea in theory, in reality it was a nightmare, which is why we don’t do it any more.
The cheap presses are cheap for a reason. They’re made with cheap parts, cheap labour, cheap everything – and as a result they’re just not reliable. Not only this, but they don’t tend to travel well (we had quite a few that tested fine here and then didn’t work by the time they reached the customer, so had to be swapped out).
When taking into account the amount of time and effort we were having to put in to support these presses, it just wasn’t worth it, which is why we stopped selling “budget” heat presses and went back to only supplying high quality brands.
In comparison, when it comes to Stahls Hotronix, Stahls clam basic, Geo Knight and Transmatic heat presses, we just don’t have issues with them. They are sent out to the customers, and that’s that, we know there isn’t going to be an issue – and if there is any issue, these presses are covered by the manufacturer warranty, which means there is very little for us to do, so supplying decent brand heat presses makes our job much easier too.
OK, Stahls clam basic presses are cheap in comparison to their big brother Stahls Hotronix and their daddy the Fusion, but they are in a completely different league in terms of build quality and reliability than the cheap heat presses you would usually find on websites like eBay.
There are more reasons though on top of reliability that you should think twice about going for a cheap transfer press.
If the press is being imported directly to order (this is often the case even if it doesn’t appear to be), then you will be required to pay the courier for duty and VAT that will wipe out quite a bit of the money you were saving vs going for a decent brand of heat press.
There is a European supplier selling these presses into the UK without making it clear that they’re not UK stock, or that they don’t come with a UK warranty. It’s only a few days for delivery from this supplier, but you may end up paying VAT on top – after which it won’t seem like quite so good a deal.
Plus it’s a return to base warranty from Belgium with this particular supplier, and the customer is required to pay the shipping both ways too and from Belgium, which could prove costly if you did need a warranty repair.
We know from experience, that just because a heat press is displaying a CE mark, it doesn’t actually mean it has the paperwork to back it up.
We once asked for the paperwork from a manufacturer of heat transfer presses. What they sent us was nothing to do with the CE mark, it was an entirely different certificate to do with landfill of the equipment when no longer in use. There is machinery being sold into the UK which basically have fake CE marking, as there is no paperwork to back it up.
You should be very careful when it comes to CE marking, to ensure that the machine you are purchasing is actually tested and certified as being up to the required standards.
You are putting your safety, and the safety of anyone who uses or is in the same environment as the press, in the hands of the manufacturer of your heat press. Investing in a trusted brand gives you the peace of mind of knowing who built your press, and that it is a company who know what they’re doing and have a lot of experience. When you buy a generic unbranded heat press online, you really know nothing at all about who built it, how safe it is, whether it’s actually CE certified ect.
When you buy a branded press, the warranty is usually backed by the manufacturer. Even if the company who supplies you with the press goes out of business, if it’s a known brand you should be able to go directly to the manufacturer should you have an issue with your press within the warranty period or after.
With most of the cheap heat presses being sold online, even if they do come with a warranty, the warranty is provided by the seller, and isn’t usually manufacturer backed. So this means it comes down to being careful with who you buy from, as there are companies who just buy and sell heat presses and other equipment online as a commodity, who don’t actually have any knowledge or experience about the equipment they’re selling. Some of these suppliers never even touch a heat press, they just put buyer and seller together.
We’re not saying this is the case with all sellers, but its the case with some, so you do need to be very careful if you’re going to buy a cheap press, with regard to who you buy it from.
You may think that the above advice on warranty isn’t really valid as you can just source the parts yourself. The problem is that non-branded heat presses don’t have specific parts, so if the supplier can’t supply you with parts, you may well struggle to get hold of them.
We know this from the amount of enquires we have from people trying but failing to find parts for their heat press. We always suggest that they speak to the seller of the press as the first port of call, to which the reply usually is that they have already tried and can’t get any help. Either the seller isn’t helpful, or isn’t trading any more, or can’t supply parts or point them in the right direction for some other reason.
This point isn’t all that valid if you’re using dye sublimation, as its a very forgiving process. With dye sublimation you will probably find that there is little difference in the end result (as long as the press is still working and hasn’t developed any kind of fault) regardless of the quality of your heat press.
This isn’t the case with all processes though. Some heat transfer processes do require a perfectly even distribution of heat and pressure or you just can’t get the results. There are some processes such as laser transfer for which cheap imported heat presses usually won’t work for even if the press is working as intended.
Usually the more you invest in a press, the better features it is likely to have.
For example the Stahls Hotronix presses have the electro magnetic auto open feature, meaning that it doesn’t matter if you’re distracted for some reason, the press will open by itself at the end of the pressing cycle.
Also the pressure reading is a handy feature, as is the ability to set two different pressing times (a very handy feature if you’re using a transfer media which requires two presses with different timing).
If you’re looking for a feature packed heat press, with touch screen, password lock, auto on, auto off, unlimited number of pre-sets, dual operating swing and drawer, quick change lower tables and complete threadability for a wide range of garments – then have a look at the Stahls Fusion heat presses.
If you’re tight on budget, and there are no particular fancy features you need, then the Stahls clam basic start from £349.99 plus VAT. They’re a no frills heat press, but they’re a solid well built machine coming from a very well known and trusted heat press manufacturer, with a solid 12 month UK RTB warranty.
If your budget can stretch to the low – mid range, then the Transmatic TMH-28 or TMH-29 are great Italian made heat presses starting at £583 plus VAT. Stahls Hotronix presses start at £695 plus VAT, and Geo Knight Digital Knight presses start from £809 plus VAT.
Yes you can spend thousands on heat presses if you need the features and have the budget. The Geo Knight DK25S for example is £2,295 plus VAT, but if you need a 25×20″ swing away heat press and you have the funds for it, then it’s well worth considering.
The Transmatic TS-74M is another press at the higher end at just over £2,000 plus VAT, but at 74 x 50 cm (29.1 x 19.7 inch), it’s the perfect press for pressing full bleed tea towels for example if that’s what you need to do.
The Stahls Fusion plus all quick change tables package is nearly £2,500, but if a business can afford the price tag and requires the ability to press threaded garments and other items at a range of different sizes, and all of the other amazing features this press has, then again it’s a great investment.
Threaded, by the way, means dressed onto the platen so that any obstacles such as zips / seams etc., are under the lower table and not sandwiched between. For example if you had a sleeve that is a few inches wide, you wouldn’t be able to thread this onto a 40×50 cm bottom table, but with a press which has quick change lower tables including a sleeve table, you can just put the sleeve table on and thread the sleeve, the same being true with bags, kids garments and so on.
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