Making custom designs for t-shirts is fun, and it can be a nice way to make a profit. You can even start your own small business with your heat press, as you can then design unique graphics and witty sayings for shirts which you can sell online. But this will require an upgrade in your hobbyist-grade heat press. You need to switch to the best heat press machine for small business you can find. This is important since you will have customers to please and strict deadlines to follow.
Factors to Consider
When you were just trying out making custom designs for shirts, it made sense for you to look for a heat press that was affordable and easy to use. After all, you were doing things in your own time.
But with a small business, you have orders to fulfill. You need to be timely in completing these orders to satisfy your customers. Your results have to be of high quality, and not just merely tolerable. It’s a more serious endeavor, and thus you’ll need a more serious machine.
So while it would be nice if the heat press you can get is also affordable and easy to use, other factors must be considered:
- Bigger. A beginner’s heat press is smaller and is much more limited in what it can do. In comparison, a commercial-grade heat press machine is much bigger so it can work with much bigger designs. A compromise would be to get something mid-range. That is, a unit that is much more than a starter heat press, but also not as expensive as industrial ones.
- Speed. The features available must allow you to work as quickly as possible so that you’re able to meet your deadlines. The processes involved shouldn’t take a lot of time. It’s helpful if you can have presets to choose from.
- Precision. Speed isn’t enough—the work must be of high-quality too. The machine should help minimize the possibility of errors that can waste your time and effort, and cause delays.
- Durability. Unlike hobby level machines that you may use every now and then, a commercial-grade machine may be required to work more often, and even daily. So it should be able to handle this amount of workload without breaking down and suffering from too much wear and tear.
Of course, it would be nice if you can get these things cheap. In fact, we also included budget options in our list of recommended small business heat presses. This is for those who want something a bit better than the newbie models so that they can produce results that they can actually sell.
So what models should you look at first?
You can save yourself some time by checking out our list of recommended heat presses for small business. We’ve included both full-fledged professional units that cost well into the 4-digit price range, as well as budget options in the sub-$300 range.
Our Top 8 Picks for the Best Heat Press Machine for Small Business:
1. Stahls Hotronix Auto-Open Clam 16×20 inch Heat Press
The price certainly indicates its professional-grade status. But you get your money’s worth. This unit comes with a boatload of features that allow you work more quickly while minimizing mistakes. It is long-lasting, with the heating element designed to last a lifetime.
It has lots of different timer features making it easy to work with. Of course, you will need to pore over the manual and the instructional videos to figure out how to use it. But then this isn’t for hobbyists after all.
It’s also great that with this you can change the lower platen with less time and effort. Usually, you’ll need a bunch of wrenches for this task and you’ll have to spend 15 minutes. Now they have the “Exclusive Lightning Latch” that lets you do this without tools, and it’ll take you about 15 seconds.
The ¾-inch thick upper platen is coated with Teflon while the silicone on the lower platen is ⅜ of an inch thick. You do need to buy some Teflon cover on that pad. At least you don’t have to worry about cold spots since there’s a heating element in every 2 inches.
2. Geo Knight DK20S 16×20 inch Digital Swinger Heat Press
With this, you get a heat press with components rated for very long use. With the solid steel welded framework, you’re assured of its durability. It’s a bit on the heavy side though, so it’s probably going to stay put wherever you decide to store it.
The digital controls are easy to use and they’re quite accurate. The temperature readout is accurate to within 2 degrees F. It even records the number of pressing cycles you’ve done. There’s a digital timer and also a gauge for the pressure and the height. What’s really going to excite you is that this comes with 70 programmable presets, so you can easily choose the settings you need for your materials.
As for the materials, you’re not just limited to working on regular shirts. This can work on garments that are up to 2 inches thick, so you can put your designs on sweaters as well. The design also allows you to set the upper platen to apply heat on only one side of the shirt. This can help protect the graphics on the other side in which you’re not applying your heat transfers.
3. USCutter Microtec Transfers 15”x15” Clamshell Heat Press
This doesn’t seem like a heat press for a business since it’s so affordable. Yet it is quite capable. It comes in a clamshell design that’s more convenient than your standard swing-arm heat press. It doesn’t take as much room, and it’s generally easier to manage.
Starter heat presses can work on designs that are quite small, and some can only accommodate designs that are 8 inches wide. This, on the other hand, offers a platen size that measures 15 inches on each side.
Its temperature range is also great for commercial use. In general, you need a professional machine that can reach 400 degrees F with no problem. This one can go up to 437 degrees F, making it versatile.
The lower platen doesn’t have a Teflon cover, though. But you can just buy one, seeing that you do save a lot of money with this purchase in the first place.
4. DG Heat Press Digital Heat Press
This one is a true budget option. It’s even more affordable than the USCutter heat press we’ve listed above. Its price doesn’t necessarily mean its only good for newbies though, as its features make it a great option for your side business.
First off, you do get 15″ x 15″ heat press with industrial-grade quality. It offers improvements from previous versions that now make it more viable for business. It comes with a coated sheet and it also has a coated heat platen. The silicon pad on the lower platen isn’t glued to it, so you can adjust it as needed. There’s even a free Teflon sheet.
It’s quite easy to use the digital controls as well. It comes with clear instructions. You don’t even need to burn it off at a high temperature outside your home to get rid of the strong smell. This practice is usually recommended when you use a heat press for the first time. It can also heat up rather quick, as it only need 5 to 10 minutes. It’s powerful, though, and it uses 1800 watts of power.
5. Hotronix Fusion 16”x20” Heat Press
If you need something much bigger and more serious, you’re going to need this one. If you can afford it, get this unit as your output will be much better. As your business takes, this model will eventually pay for itself.
business is successful then this model pays for itself.
It’s really large, as the heat platen measures 16 by 20 inches. Its various components are rated for extended periods of use, and that’s especially true of the heating element. It uses a special cast aluminum frame so it’s tough but not too heavy. The platen design even removes the need for pads and pillows. Just make sure you have the space for this, as its footprint measures about 17 inches wide by 29 inches deep.
This also comes with its unique touch screen technology. It offers real-time readouts for your time settings, temperature, and pressure. You also have lots of preset timer options that make it easy to use. But it’s designed mainly for shirts as it can accept items that are up to ⅝ of an inch thick.
If durability and speed are your priorities (and they should be for your business), then this will give you what you need. As it’s easy to use, you’ll have no trouble operating it. You can also find plenty of manufacturer videos that show you how you can use it efficiently.
6. Hix SwingMan 20E 16×20 inch Swing-Away Heat Press
Here’s another commercial-grade machine with the price to match. It’s not as expensive as some of the other machines on this list, though, which makes it a great option. Its design lets you lay out your items away from the heat platen. Then you can just apply the pressure straight down to apply the transfer evenly.
With this, you can create lots of custom shirts, as well as mouse pads too. It allows you to work on bigger designs, as the heat platen measures 16 by 20 inches. You can use this for many different types of transfers, including foils, plastisol, inkjet, and sublimation. You can transfer items that are 1.75 inches thick.
This is a solid product, though it is a bit heavy. It also uses 1750 watts. It does have a light that indicates when it’s generating heat. If you want a machine that can provide even heat and pressure consistently, this is it. You can use this for several hours each day and it won’t let you down.
7. Hotronix Maxx Digital Clam Heat Press
The first thing you’ll notice here (aside from its fully functional design) is that the opening is 65 degrees wide. That’s about 10% wider than your normal clam-style press. The advantage of this wider opening is that it lets you safely position the garment on the lower platen. It also makes it easier for you to lay out your design, letters and numbers on your heat transfers.
With a temperature range of 200 to 400 degrees, you’re ready to make easy and quick heat transfers. You won’t have to suffer cold spots either, as the heating elements are placed every 2 inches.
The heat platen comes with non-stick coating, and it features over the center pressure adjustment. The powder coat finish is also scratch-resistant. If you want, you can also get optional platens. These will allow you to work on shirt sleeves, trouser legs, and even bags, making it a heck of a multifunction machine.
The set up can be a bit intimidating, though. But you will find it helpful to go online for some demonstration videos. You can also call the Stahl’s customer support for technical assistance. Once the assembly is done, it’s actually easy to use.
It works for a home-based business, and it’s not too heavy at 87 pounds. It is a bit large if you’re getting the 16 by 20-inch model, as it will require a space measuring at least 17 by 29 inches.
8. Vevor 12×15 inch 8-in-1 Multifunction Heat Press
Finally, here’s the last of the budget models. This is actually a package, as it comes with a hat press and 4 mug presses too. This means that you’ll be able to work on more than just shirts. You can also use this for mugs of various sizes, caps, ceramic tiles and plates, and mouse pads. In fact, you can make jigsaw puzzles too.
The heat platen comes with all the features you’d expect in a heat press for a business. While it does measure just 12 by 15 inches, it’s still bigger than your typical hobbyist machine. It’s also coated with Teflon, and the range of heating coils allow for even heat distribution. The temperature range can even get up to 480 degrees F.
At last, you won’t need as much space, as the machine measures just 15.25 by 15 inches. The heat press power is 900 watts. If you’re using heat transfer vinyl, it’s just about ideal for your business. You’ll also know when it’s working, because it beeps constantly. That can be a bit annoying after a while, but at least you’ll know it is working.
Remember, if you’re going to sell your custom shirts, you can’t just go with “good enough” results. You need high quality for your products, and only commercial-grade models can ensure that. You can keep your newbie heat press as a backup or for your own personal projects. But you need the best heat press machine for small business you can afford if you’re serious about making a profit.