When shopping for a heat press, the first important decision that you are going to need to make is what style of heat press will work best for you. Right now, there are three basic styles of heat presses for garments from which you can select. You can choose a clam style, or upward opening machine, a swinger style, where the upper platen swings completely away, to the left or the right, or a drawer style, where you pull the lower platen out towards you, like a drawer. There are certain advantages and disadvantages to each style:
Operation, Clam vs. Swinger/Draw:
The clamshell heat press is a one or two step operation (depending on the press). You close the press down and when it has finished it’s cycle you open the press. The swinger and draw actually have a four step operation. You swing the heating area over your garment or in the draw’s case push your drawer under the heating area, then lock the press down, open it when its finished, then swing the heating area away or draw your print area away from the heat. So generally speaking, the clamshell style heat press leaves the user less fatigued.
Work Area, Clam vs. Swinger/Draw:
Swinger and Draw heat presses offer a heat free work area. This is ideal if your applications are going to require extensive layout. With the clamshell style, you do have enough room to do layout, however the heating platen is directly above your workspace. The clamshell and draw heat presses take up less space than the swinger. The swinger needs enough table space to be able to swing away from the work area.
Even Pressure, Clam vs. Swinger/Draw:
Generally speaking, the swinger and draw style heat presses can accommodate thicker items. The manner in which the heat press locks down from directly over the center allows the press to have an even pressure from the center out. The clamshell style of press has been long tagged with the ‘pinch effect” meaning, that when the press is locked down in the clam style motion, it pinches thicker substrates or locks down unevenly by hitting in the back first. This “pinch effect” and uneven pressure is only the case with certain styles of presses. Some major manufacturers have corrected this issue by developing presses with an over the center pressure adjustment as well as a floating top platen (heating area), that levels off before it hits your substrate. If you plan to do thicker items, such as mouse pads and hooded sweatshirts, be sure to find a clamshell press that negates the “pinch effect”.