How to Choose the Right Heat Press Machine for Your Manufacturing Business

A heat press machine is useful for imprinting designs on different surfaces. These machines are responsible for the varying designs you see on mugs, T-shirts, bags, etc.

Knowing the ins and outs of heat press machines is ideal if you’re considering one for your manufacturing business. 

Consequently, this article will guide you through the different choices so you can select the perfect one for your business. It’ll outline the pros and cons of each option and the scenarios where the machine works best.

But first, here’s how these machines typically work.

How Do Heat Press Machines Work?

Heat press machines use a combination of heat and pressure to embed graphics onto materials.

Ideally, you first print your design on special heat transfer paper. You then place the paper onto the item you wish to print. The machine then applies high heat and pressure to transfer the design from the paper to the item.  

Although they’re not overly complicated, heat press machines may take some training to use effectively. With that in mind, ensure you know how each type works before employing it in your manufacturing business.

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Different Types

There are many different types of heat press machines, each with diverse roles. Some of them are: 

  • Clamshell Heat Press Machines

A clamshell heat press machine opens and closes like a clamshell. It’s by far the most common option. 

Depending on the operator’s efficiency, a clamshell press can print several hundred shirts daily. Besides printing on T-shirts, they can also imprint designs on lighter substrates like bags, banners, and masks. 


  • It’s great for beginners
  • It has a space-efficient design
  • It’s generally less expensive compared to other heat press machines


  • Uneven pressure distribution can occur, which may lead to inconsistent prints.
  • It may struggle with bulky items due to the limited opening angle. 

The clamshell heat press machine is ideal if you’re starting your entrepreneurship journey, as it can only handle printing on a small scale.

  • Swing-away Heat Press Machine

Swing-away heat press machines have a top surface that swings away from the lower surface. These machines can handle complex designs on substrates such as T-shirts, ceramic tiles, and mouse pads.

Depending on the model and usage, they can press a few hundred to a thousand items daily.


  • They have excellent pressure distribution
  • You can increase their workspace by swinging away the platen


  • They require more space to store and use
  • They may be challenging for beginners
  • Swing-away models are typically more expensive than clamshell ones.

These machines work best for mid-scale production, where precision is vital.

  • Draw Heat Press Machine

Draw heat press machines have a lower platen that pulls out like a drawer. They can press onto T-shirts, ID badges, ceramic tiles, and more. A moderately efficient operator can press several hundred items in a day. 


  • It has good pressure distribution
  • It has improved safety features like the pull-out lower platen, which minimizes the risk of accidental burns


  • Requires extra space for the drawer to extend
  • The design layout might shift when the press is closed.
  • Generally pricier than clamshell models

A draw heat press can be ideal if safety is a top priority, like in a school or community center with many users.

  • Sublimation Machine

Sublimation heat press machines work with substrates like polyester fabrics, ceramic mugs, aluminum sheets, and more.

Depending on the specific model and operator’s efficiency, they can produce hundreds to thousands of items daily.


  • They produce high-quality, vibrant prints
  • They allow for complex and detailed designs


  • They only work with specific substrates and special sublimation inks 
  • Typically more expensive and difficult to operate.

These presses will serve you best if your business prints high-resolution, vibrant images on items like photo gifts or promotional products.

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Factors to Consider When Choosing a Heat Press Machine

  1. Ensure you have enough space to house and operate your device. 
  2. Include operational, maintenance, and replacement costs in your calculations. 
  3. Ensure compatibility between the machine and printing materials. For instance, a sublimation press won’t work on cotton. 
  4. Consider your production volumes. High-volume businesses will benefit from automatic machines, whereas a manual heat press might suffice for lower volumes. 

It’s essential to understand your business needs before making a decision. Your choice of heat press machine should align with your production scale, product variety, and growth plans.

Best Practices

To ensure the best possible results and longevity of your heat press machine, follow these tips:

  1. Pre-press your substrate to remove moisture and wrinkles so the transfer adheres better.
  2. Ensure your pressure is not too light, as it could cause incomplete transfers. Too heavy pressure can also cause the design to spread.
  3. Use the right temperature and specific heat and timing settings.
  4. Position your design correctly, as misalignment can ruin your product.
  5. Ensure you regularly clean and inspect the machine to prevent damage and ensure consistent quality.
  6. Use heat-resistant accessories like heat gloves to protect you from burns and Teflon sheets to prevent ink from staining the press.
  7. Test your designs before starting mass production.

Adhering to these tips can ensure high-quality, consistent results in your heat-pressing projects.


Using a suitable heat press machine can significantly boost your productivity and profitability.  Therefore, it’s essential to understand your business needs to find a machine that aligns with those requirements.

The insights shared in this article can help you make an informed decision. Coupled with input from industry professionals, you’ll likely get the best heat press machine for your manufacturing business.