Odette De Pasquali, MD of Lotus Transfer Press Solutions, explains why you should choose your next heat press based on value rather than price
Maybe you’re launching a new garment decoration business, or branching out into vinyl and heat transfer printing or DTG, or perhaps you’re expanding your existing production facilities or replacing worn out kit. Whatever the reason, you’re in the market for a new heat press. A quick web search reveals countless imported presses on eBay, which seem to offer an attractive, low-cost solution, especially for start-ups and those on a tight budget. For a few hundred pounds (or even less) you could be up and running and profiting from your business.
Before you click that ‘buy’ button, however, you might want to pause a moment. “With heat presses, like most things in life, ‘you get what you pay for’,” advises Odette De Pasquali, managing director of Italian heat transfer manufacturer, Lotus Heat Transfer Solutions. She points out that there is a world of difference between price and value and nowhere is this more so than with heat press equipment.
We asked Odette to outline the key differences between low-price and high-value presses and why buying the former could turn out to be a false economy.
Construction, reliability and support
Let’s start with the press’s construction. Odette explains that low-price presses are constructed to, well, a low price; this can limit the quality of the materials used, which tend to be lighter weight and less durable. By contrast, “A high-value press uses heavy gauge metals and welds for the construction of the main body. This is to ensure that it won’t flex (in any direction) irrespective of the amount of pressure it’s exerting or how hard it’s worked. Just 0.5mm of flex across the platens is sufficient to affect the quality and/or longevity of a transfer print.
“A well-made press, precisely constructed from heavy duty materials to tight tolerances is likely to last longer – some Lotus presses are still operating perfectly after 30 years of regular commercial use. You may pay more upfront, but that cost will be off set by the profit from the many more successfully printed items over the press’s lifetime.”
Perhaps even more importantly, according to Odette, the higher quality materials and construction make high-value presses more reliable and less prone to breaking down. “Downtime leads to missed orders, unhappy customers and can compromise your business’s image,” she points out. “Plus, you’re only ever making money while you’re printing, so an unreliable press can significantly impact your business’s revenues.”
That leads onto the question of support and back-up. “What happens if something does go wrong with your press; what support will you receive? Does the budget supplier provide local support in the UK, do they hold a stock of spare parts? Can you speak to the factory that made the press for additional technical support? Lotus and its UK distributor, Dae Ha UK, offer total customer back-up, support and advice.”
Heat, pressure and print quality
Perhaps the most critical part of any press is the heating element (or elements in the case of Lotus presses). Odette advises that budget versions tend to use a coil that snakes around the platen (see figure 1), providing relatively uneven heat distribution, especially towards the edges and corners of the platen. High value presses use a more sophisticated heating system (Lotus uses state-of-the-art Mikanit heating technology for its presses). “These rods span the entire area of the platen and deliver an even distribution of heat right up to the edges,” she explains. “They warm-up faster, are more durable, and should they fail they can be replaced individually and at very low cost by the press operator so they’re up and running again with next to no delay. This plug and play approach extends to all of our electrical components, which can be quickly and simply replaced in-situ.”
Precise and reliable temperature and pressure control is another important requirement. “High-value presses allow the temperature and pressure settings to be easily controlled to suit your chosen media. An inaccurate dial or display can lead to sub-standard prints or even ruined garments. This could incur a cost to the business or a ruined relationship with a customer. Bear in mind that if your press doesn’t reach and maintain the correct temperature, even the best transfer material won’t adhere to your fabrics.”
Odette adds that some budget presses also have a lower maximum temperature, which can hamper your ability to use certain applications – sublimation printing is an obvious example – whereas a high-value press will allow you to tackle any type of decoration.
Accessories, ergonomics and safety
A low-price press can also restrict the range of products you are able to print. “Does that low-priced press allow you to print on to caps, jackets, bags, shoes and lanyards… A high-value press will offer interchangeable support plates so you can meet all your customers’ demands. The last thing you want to have to do is tell a customer you can’t print something and watch as they take all of their business to a printer who can,” points out Odette, adding that Lotus presses offer a full range of interchangeable plates that can be swapped out without the use of tools for printing onto everything from sleeves and trouser legs to breast pockets and even umbrellas.
As with many things, when it comes to choosing a heat press the devil is to be found in the details, Odette suggests. “For example does that low-price press include a protective heat-resistant Nomex cover to protect the bottom plate from discolouration and keep it smooth to ensure garments or textiles can be slid across the support plate effortlessly?” she asks. “In the case of Lotus presses, these covers are machine-washable and easy to position. Does it have a Teflon cover to protect the heating plate from dirt and adhesives? In addition to these covers, Lotus presses have a heat-resistant and dimensionally stable silicone rubber mat: seams, buttons, zips and so on are pressed into this mat ensuring that the transfer surface remains flat for best quality printed results.”
Then there is ease of use. “Many budget presses are table-top designs, which can restrict the loading of garments,” says Odette. “High-value presses tend to use a freestanding design: the support plate on Lotus presses is designed to allow you to mount textiles easily, in a single layer, with only the area of fabric to be printed resting on the support plate. In this way, prints previously applied to the textile remain unaffected; there is no possibility of creases caused by dual layers; and the lower platen is accessible from every angle, for faster, easier loading and maximum productivity.”
Odette adds that high-value presses are ergonomically designed to make printing as quick and effortless as possible. “How easy is to operate the press? Do you need to lean your weight on the handle or is a light pressure all that’s needed: Lotus presses are geared to allow you to apply the correct pressure with minimal effort – something that you will appreciate as your business grows and you start printing multiple, even hundreds, of prints everyday. An ergonomically designed press will reduce fatigue and the risk of repetitive strain injury.”
Speaking of injuries, Odette stresses that it is vital to check that any press you are considering purchasing conforms to EU safety regulations: “If not, you are putting your wellbeing, your staff’s wellbeing and your business’s reputation on the line.”
In a perfect world every garment decoration business would prefer to use a premium quality heat press; being able to afford such a press is another matter.
While a premium high-value heat press might last for decades and pay for itself countless times over, the higher price will be a sticking point for some businesses, Odette concedes. However, there is a solution: Dae Ha UK has just announced a new finance option, which makes Lotus presses affordable for even the newest start-up. Reducing the initial outlay brings Lotus presses within the budget of even a new start-up. Odette comments: “Printers can now benefit from all the advantages of a premium Lotus press and start profiting from it immediately. They can go ahead safe in the knowledge that they’re buying a well constructed, safe, reliable, high production professional machine that could still be profiting their business in 2048!”
For more information on Lotus heat presses, visit the new Dae Ha UK website.
Made in Milan
Lotus is a family-run business that was founded 1972 in the fashion capitol of Milan, Italy. The company claims to “supply textile printing professionals with the highest and most solid quality of heat presses.” In addition, Lotus offers a full customisation service for its heat presses to meet customers’ specific requirements. The company’s product range stretches from single-platen manual presses through dual-platen presses, presses with top and bottom heating plates, semi-automatic and pneumatic presses, to large format presses with transfer areas of up to 160 x 100cm. The presses are complemented by a range of compressors and a comprehensive collection of accessories.