What is transfer printing?
With the transfer printing process, individual and high-quality textile prints can be produced relatively cheaply. Many people are familiar with these, for example, from the areas of team sports or workwear. So-called transfer presses are the most important tool for this popular form of textile finishing, after all, they provide decisive benefits.
On the one hand, they activate the adhesive side of thermally transferable print transfers (e.g. for names, numbers, or company logos) with a working temperature of 120°C and above. Such transfers can be plotted or printed and contour-cut transfer foils or screen printing patches, just to name a few possibilities. On the other hand, the presses with their printing ensure that the liquefied adhesive of the transfer can penetrate deep into the textile fabric to be printed and solidly anchor itself during solidification (cooling). Temperature and pressure must therefore be right in order to ensure optimum adhesion of the transfer. Also in sublimation printing, a method of ink transfer without bonding of transfers, the right temperature and pressure determine the success.
A successful result, in this case, is a color brilliant and even print. In the following, we would like to give you an overview of some important transfer press equipment features.
What is a transfer press worth?
The perfect heat press should be chosen depending on the clients´ workload, budget, and desired running time. Also, important aspects such as quality, safety, support, and user comfort as well as replacement pieces are relevant when purchasing a press. Social and economic sustainability are becoming more and more important when investing in the durability of machines.
The more valued all those previously mentioned aspects are, the more expensive the desired press will be, but also the better workflow users can expect. Our most cost-efficient heat press models are the LTS 38 (printing area of 38×45 cm) for 1.330 euros, and our smallest heat press LTS 12 (printing area of 12×13 cm) for 1.040 euros.
Which transfer press is the right one?
The fact that high-quality textile printing results can be achieved very cheaply using the transfer printing process compared to screen printing and embroidery has led to this finishing process becoming very well established.
Transfer presses are the most important tool for the transfer of logos, graphics, images, and lettering onto textiles. In the following, we would like to give an overview of the most important questions regarding this.
Choosing between a clam and a swivel press
Basically, we distinguish between two different opening types of transfer presses: vertically opening (like the LTS 138) and horizontally pivoting (like the LTS 138 b) presses. Vertically opening presses offer the advantage that they allow faster operation due to the shorter functional path (folding instead of swivelling). In addition, the space required is less because no space is needed for lateral swivelling as with a swivel press. A disadvantage is that the textiles cannot be positioned on the printing plate as easily as with a swivel press, whose heating plate can be swivelled away beyond the printing surface. For beginners working with a swivel press (like LTS 138 b) is easier than with a folding press (like LTS 138). Furthermore, a swing press reduces the risk of accidentally touching the heating surface.
Difference between manual, semi-automatic and pneumatic transfer presses?
Manual Presses (Example LTS 138 b) - Manual presses are devices where the transfer process is initiated or terminated manually by lowering or opening the heating plate. The transfer duration is entered manually at the control panel beforehand and the time of unlocking is indicated by a visual or acoustic signal. Manual presses are particularly useful for beginners and thus for small to medium runs. They are less expensive to purchase and still allow professional work.
Semi-automatic presses (e.g. LTS 138 Slide) - Working with semi-automatic or semi-automatic presses is above all more comfortable. Although the heating plate must be lowered manually onto the printing surface, it then opens automatically (thanks to an electromagnet) and even swings to the side automatically on some models. The operator, therefore, needs less muscle power for opening and swiveling compared to a manual press. At the same time, with a semi-automatic solution, the operator does not need to purchase a compressor, as would be necessary with pneumatic devices. Such presses are also suitable for small to medium runs.
Pneumatic presses (for example LTS 750) - are even more comfortable and efficient. They achieve a very high contact pressure. The pressing process is started by pressing a button. After the timer has expired, the device opens automatically without the operator having to pay attention. Higher contact pressure is particularly important for large-area transfers or for certain sublimation pressures where the manual pressure force is no longer sufficient. Pneumatic presses are particularly useful for long runs where the use of manual presses would be too power-consuming. Pneumatic presses usually work with a pressure of 2.5 to 8 bar. A compressor is required for operation. With all the variants described, an increase in productivity can be achieved by purchasing a press with two work tables. While one textile is being printed, the operator can already mount the second one and prepare it for printing.
Why micanite heating technology for transfer presses?
An even, full-surface, constant working temperature is absolutely necessary for a good transfer. If the heating plate does not heat evenly, poor transfer results must be expected. The heating coil technology is very common on the market. Here, one-piece heating elements guided in curves are either built into a heating plate (consisting of aluminum, cast iron, or steel) or installed directly on the heating plates. The closer the heating coil curves are led past each other, the better the temperature distribution. In case of a defect, however, the entire heating coil or heating plate must be replaced. In contrast, Lotus uses Micanitesurface heating elements. These are mainly used where it is necessary to heat a surface quickly, effectively, and evenly. The Micaniteheating technology is characterized by short heating-up times and a long life span of the heating elements. Due to the close laying of the absolutely flat heating conductors, an even, area-wide, and optimal temperature distribution is thus guaranteed (see diagram heating coils versus Micanite). The optimal adjustment between the heating element and the heating plate additionally ensures a very long operating life. With Lotus, the heating elements can be replaced individually in case of a defect. Micanite technology saves costs and protects the environment. We recommend an annual check whether the heating temperature distribution of the transfer presses used is still uniform or whether it corresponds to the temperature shown in the display. The easiest way to do this is to use adhesive temperature measurement strips.
How large should the printing area of a transfer press be?
An important basic criterion when buying a press is the size of the printing area.
For exclusively small-format printing, such as for names and labels on breast pockets, smaller manual presses with a square printing area of approx. 12 x 13 cm (for example the LTS 12) are usually sufficient. If you also want to print T-shirts or jackets, for example, you should consider buying a larger press. Very popular are presses that have a slightly larger printing area than DIN-A3, e.g. 38 x 45 cm (LTS 138 b) or 40 x 50 cm (LTS 150 b). The latter is preferred by sports team outfitters.
For large-format printing on field hockey shirts or even flags, presses are built in even larger formats. Due to the larger printing areas, different construction methods are required here, the implementation of which is more expensive than with smaller formats. An advantage of presses with larger printing areas is that formats from small to large can be printed. From a certain printing format, for larger print runs, or for applications that require a higher contact pressure, the pneumatic models show their advantages (e.g. LTS 690). However, they also require more space than manual models and also a compressor for the supply of compressed air.
Change press yes or no?
If a constant motif size is used, such as a motif for breast pockets, a press with a permanently installed, small, square printing plate - for example 13 x 13 cm - is usually sufficient. If transfers of different sizes are to be printed on textiles of different sizes, it is recommended to choose a press with exchangeable printing plates. A basic principle in the transfer process is that the size of the printing plates should be adapted to the transfer size as best as possible. On the one hand, button plackets, zippers, and seams of the textiles to be printed can be protected from unnecessary transfer heat and unnecessary press pressure. On the other hand, this prevents overstretching of the textiles and transfers when the textiles are stretched.
Can I print with transfer presses only on textiles?
With the transfer technology, you can not only print on textiles like baseball caps, t-shirts, sleeves, pants, jackets, etc., but also on aluminum and magnetic boards, wood, chamois leather, special puzzles, mousepads, and many other materials.
How important is precise press measurement technology?
The more precise the measurement technology, the more reliably it can be transferred. Most reliable are devices with precise electronic control and digital display for transfer time and temperature. Devices that only provide periodic data are imprecise and therefore not recommended.
What should be observed for cap presses?
It is important to note that during transfer, the heating plate and the cap face on the printing plate really do sit perfectly on top of each other and the entire surface is supplied with the same heat. Due to the different heights of the front sides, depending on the type of cap, this can only be guaranteed if the pressure shoe on which the cap is mounted can be flexibly adjusted forwards and backward. This flexibility should also be taken into account for cap sets for exchangeable presses.
How important is a visual pressure display for pneumatic presses?
Pneumatic presses should always have a pressure indicator (see illustration). It facilitates exact settings that can be determined for different jobs. These can then be carried out more easily by different users.
What does CE marking mean for transfer presses?
The EU requires all European manufacturers and such companies that import transfer presses from outside Europe, for example, to comply with certain safety regulations. The corresponding conformity is documented by the companies with the CE marking. Buyers should bear in mind that the suppliers themselves prove the conformity of the equipment. This is therefore not an independent certificate as is the case with the TÜV, for example. In fact, not every device is equally safe. Prospective buyers should therefore form a picture of whether the desired press actually corresponds to the German safety standard and inquire with the dealer if uncertainties exist.