What are the types of heat press machines available now

Angie Renner
Published by 
Angie Renner
Last updated: 
January 31, 2024

Like most of the machinery out there, a heat press machine exists in different models. Each model is designed with its unique list of features and to carry a specified task. Other than this, these machines might look almost similar in appearance.

This might prove to be a bit hard for people which have never laid an eye on this kid of machine before to distinguish between the different models.

Before you set out to purchase a heat press machine, therefore, you are highly advised to learn the different types of heat press machines available on the market.

This will help you identify the one that will meet your needs and expectations (based on its features and specialty).

Below, we’ll look at the main types of heat transfer machines that you’ll find on the market today:

If you are wondering, where to get the best heat press machine reviews, we've got you covered. We've a dedicated article for that. We emphasized on on quality of prints, endurance, performance, user friendliness, price and all other important factors while selecting the right on.

Types of Heat Press Machines

1. Clamshell Heat Press Machine

Opening our list of the main models of heat transfer machines is the clamshell heat transfer machine. This is probably the main heat transfer machine that most people are familiar with.

So, what’s a Clamshell machine?

It is simply a heat transfer machine that has been designed such that it can perform its intended job (i.e., the heat transfer process) on a multitude of surfaces.

In simpler terms, you can sue this machine to do heat transfer of your artwork(s) on an extensive range of items such as mugs, boxes, sweatshirts, and almost any other item you throw at it.

The fact that it opens like a clam- say like an oyster shell- explains the origin of its name. Their design also varies a little compared to the other models. They feature a hinge in between the lower and upper platens which enables t open or close like- you guessed it right- clamshell.

Because of how pressure is applied in this particular model of heat press machines, these machines don’t really do a good job when used to print on thicker garments or mouse pads.

The clamshell heat transfer machine can further be classified into the manual and automatic heat transfer machines. As for the manual version, you’ll have to manually open and close the press.

If you’ve a limited space, you’d like to consider buying this type of machine because it has a smaller size. This means it will occupy a smaller space- it can actually fit at the corner of your room without any issues.

It’s also important to note that this model is highly affordable.

2. Swing Away Heat Press Machine

For this type of machine, some actual swinging takes place. That is, the upper platen (the heating element) will swing away from the lower platen (the part where you lay your garments).

And since the heating element/upper platen will be swinging away, you’ll be able to freely manipulate and move the garments laying on the lower platen without fear of obtaining burns.

One of the main differences between the swinger and the clamshell model above is that this one can work on a wider category of items. So, if you wish to print on different items-including those with various substrates or thicknesses- this is your go to heat press machine.

In fact, these machines are famous for their five and one functionality. Meaning that, instead of purchasing additional accessories separately- e.g. the mug press and hat press- you’ll be able to perform everything with this machine.

For this particular reason, these machines enjoy wide usage in both homes and commercial fields.

The swinger models are also known for another benefit over the clamshell- the operator comfort. That is, when running the clamshell, the upper platen will be directly aimed at your arms and hands when the platen is up.

As for the swinger model, this problem has been solved as heat platen is designed to swing out of your way.

This machine occupies more space and can take much thicker items than the clamshell.

3. Draw Heat Press

Regarding the draw heat press, it’s similar to the swinger model we’ve just discussed above. Only that the lower platen here will be pulling towards you… It enables you to lay out garments without necessarily reaching under the upper heat platen.

This particular model features a movable work surface, which means you need to take great care when running it to prevent your designs from shifting out of place before the transfer has taken place.

4. Sublimation T-shirt Heat Press

Then, of course, we have the sublimation heat press machine. This particular model is becoming a hot cake in the heat transfer industry given that everyone is looking for the best ways to transfer top-quality digital images onto their t-shirts.

One special thing about this type of heat press machine lies in how it executes is intended task. It works such that the dye used in the transfer paper will not bleed onto your garment whenever the surfaces of your heat press machine presses down.

Note that this is a major design flow associated with the almost all the machines that are not sublimation heat transfer machines.

Another advantage of the sublimation heat press models is that they are designed with a pretty big surface.

As you know, the larger the heat press machine surface is, the easier it will become for you to do your heat transfers on larger garment items such as sweat pants, sweatshirts, and even the bigger signs.

Overall, this model behaves more like a multi-use transfer machine.

Final Verdict

Clamshell, swinger, draw, and sublimation are the four main types of heat press machines you’ll find on the market today. Each of these machines comes with its list of unique features and capabilities.

The fact that they’ve been designed differently means they’ll handle different tasks. So, before >buying any heat press machine, be sure to understand all the above types, their features and what they can do.

This is the only way to ensure you buy the right machine for your business or needs.