Today there are not so many people who have never encountered original and bright prints made on T-shirts, caps and cups. All these images are made using special equipment – a thermal press, which is a device equipped with a heating element and a control unit (mechanical or electronic).
The principle of operation of the heat press is quite simple. The transfer of the image to the product, in other words, thermal transfer, occurs as a result of heating of special paper for sublimation printing – under the influence of high temperature, a picture or photo applied to it is “transferred” to the workpiece. In other words, an image is selected to be transferred to a cup, T-shirt or other item, and printed on a conventional printer using special sublimation paper and ink. After that, the resulting workpiece is fixed on the product with thermal tape, placed in a heated thermopress and pressed by the heating element for a certain time (depending on the material of the product). Under the influence of high temperature, sublimation transfer occurs – as a result of a chemical reaction, the ink passes from a solid to a gaseous state and is “reprinted”, fixing well on the product. Thus, using a heat press, you can apply bright, high-quality and durable images to almost any materials, both natural and artificial, – metal, glass, ceramics, plastic, textiles and others.
Types of heat presses – which one to choose?
Heat presses not only come in different shapes and sizes, they also differ in characteristics and purpose. For example, to apply an image on a T-shirt, you need a heat press with a flat thermoelement, and for cups with a cylindrical one. There are also universal devices that are sold complete with replaceable pads for different workpieces. Let’s consider each of them in more detail.
Flat (tablet). The most popular and widespread type. It can be used to thermally transfer photos, pictures and ornaments to, bonfires, ceramic tiles, also great for making your own Tshirt and promotional items and other products with a flat surface made of glass, metal, fabric and other materials suitable for sublimation printing.
Depending on the method of moving the heating element, flatbed heat presses are divided into two types:
- Thanks to the vertical folding design, they do not take up much space, are easy to use, and are suitable for large and small runs.
- They take up more space as they move the heating element to the side to provide access to the bed. More suitable for commercial (professional) use.
How to choose the right heat press – 6 main points
Most buyers are often lost, not knowing what parameters to choose a heat press in order to purchase really high-quality and reliable equipment that will fulfill all the tasks. Below are 5 main criteria to look out for when buying a device:
- Uniform heating of the heating element. The temperature at each point of the heating element must be the same. Otherwise, areas, where there was a lower temperature, will turn out to be lighter and duller during thermal transfer, and the thermal film may peel off.
- Exact adherence to temperature conditions. In order to obtain a high-quality image on the product, it is very important to observe the temperature regime of thermal transfer for sublimation. If you do not adhere to this rule, the result will be unpredictable. For example, the consequences of overheating can be a distortion of the color of the picture, lack of sharpness, or simply melted thermal film. If the heat is insufficient, the film will peel off or the image will be of poor quality.
- Uniform pressure distribution over the surface. Compared to folding presses, rotary heat presses distribute the pressure more evenly.
- Ease of use. If you need to make an effort during the opening and closing of the press, you should refrain from buying – over time, the discomfort while working with such a device will only increase. Choose heat presses with an easy-to-use mechanism or pay attention to automatic (semi-automatic) equipment.
- The method of placing the workpiece in the device. In rotary presses, the thermocouple is pushed to the side, providing free access to the workspace. The vertical mechanism is less comfortable to work with, and the likelihood of burns increases.
- The presence of a digital display. Heat presses equipped with electronic temperature and time control systems, shown on the display, are preferred. With them, product quality always remains under control.
In addition to the above criteria, one must also proceed from the tasks assigned to the equipment. If the equipment is purchased to create a small amount of advertising and souvenir products, the optimal solution is a universal heat press with replaceable nozzles. In the event that the volume of production is small, but narrow-profile, for example, printing only on cups, buy a mug press.