Using a Heat Press- Health and Safety Tips

Heat press machine is one of the most popular devices in the textile industry for heat printing on various products. It’s preferred by both professionals and as well as hobbyists.  Using a heat press machine can be fun, especially if you are a hobbyist. But in case you are a novice, when trying to learn to use any kind of machine, it’s necessary to put extra emphasis on safely using the machine right.

It’s particularly important when using a heat press machine because people can seriously get hurt if they aren’t paying attention when dealing with one.  It’s not only necessary to know how to operate the device correctly, but you must also be very careful not to hurt yourself or anyone around in the process.

Important Safety Tips That One Must Follow

Listed below are some of the most basic safety tips that you must follow when dealing with your heat press machine:

  • You must always operate the heat press machine on a smooth solid surface. You don’t want to place a device that scalding hot on an uneven or wobbly surface, which may result in someone getting injured.
  • While using your heat press machine, make sure that it’s at about waist level. If your heat press is placed too high, then there is always the risk that you may actually pull the device towards you when you are pulling down its lever. It would be terrible and hazardous if you accidentally pull a 500°F machine onto you.
  • If possible plug your heat press machine into an outlet that has been particularly installed for the purpose. A heat press machine generally draws a lot of power. Even a low-end model is going to draw over 1000 watts for the process. Remember that the machine will take some time to heat up and then it’s obviously going to exert a huge amount of energy while doing the actual transfer. This can actually cause a complete drain on any kind of power outlet, particularly if you live in an older home.
  • Keep the heat press out of the reach of your children. Be it a hot stove or a hot heat press, children must be always kept away from any kind of hot surface. You don’t want to put your children at any risk. They simply don’t know the dangers and want to touch and play with everything. Also, heat press generally weighs several pounds and it can cause serious injuries or may be fatal in worst cases if the machine accidentally knocks over your child. Never let your kid play around at your working area.
  • Place your machine at an area where you can have clear access to it in at least on three of the sides. It’s not necessarily important to have access to the backside of the machine. However, you must definitely have access to the on/off switch and its lever. Make sure that the area around your machine is clear and spacious for you to work comfortably with your device.
  • Your workplace must be well ventilated. A lot of steam is going to be generated by the heat press machine, especially when the machine is in the process of doing an actual heat transfer. It’ll be best if the gas can immediately travel outside. If it doesn’t, then it can cause some damages to nearby surroundings like your wall or wall paintings. Steam created from some inks can also be harmful to your health and at times you may find difficult to breathe in the steam. You would rather want to be safe than sorry.

Dangers of Heat Press

Here are some of the dangers that you are vulnerable to when using a heat press machine:

Fire Hazard

Like any other machine running at a high temperature, a heat press machine can also start a fire in some extreme cases or circumstances. The fire will not only damage the device, but there is a possibility of turning the whole place into ashes if not aided on time.

Safety Tips

  • Never leave the heat press machine on unattended.
  • Turn off the machine as soon as your work is done.
  • Don’t apply excessive heat to your garments.
  • Don’t keep any flammable products near your machine.
  • Always keep a fire extinguisher near your work area that can be easily accessed when needed.

Burns

Heat press machines will be heating to as high as 500°F. you may burn yourself if you are not careful or if you touch the heat platen with bare hands.

Safety Tips

  • Always use the handles to lift up the platen if your unit is not automatic.
  • Never touch the top platen when the machine is on.
  • Wear flexible heat-proof gloves while working, if possible.
  • After the press, allow the substrate to cool before handling it.

Body Parts and Items Trapped

You may accidentally get your hands trapped between the platens, which could be very painful as the platen can be quite heavy. Also, other small items may fall and get stuck within the machine that could cause the device to malfunction.

Safety Tips

  • Never put your fingers or limbs between the platens.
  • Ensure that no liquids and metal objects get into the system of the heat press.
  • Never open the housing of the equipment or attempt to modify the device yourself.

Electric Shock

As heat press machines run on electricity, the operator is always highly vulnerable to the hazards of electric shocks and short circuits.

Safety Tips

  • Make sure that the power outlet used is properly grounded.
  • Remember that it’s only admissible to run a heat press machine from a  power outlet protected by a special ground fault protection switch.
  • Conduct annual PAT test.
  • Carry out a routine visual check and check the PAT test date before using any heat press that you are new to.

Injury from the Lid

The lid of the automatic heat press generally springs up when the press cycle is complete. This can seriously hurt the user or any person too close to the machine.

Safety Tips

  • Always stay clear of the heat press machine during automatic operation.
  • Don’t place any object on the lid. It can fly up and hurt the person nearby.
  • If you aren’t the only user of the machine, attach a warning to the top of the top platen.

Mistakes While Using a Heat Press machine

If you are running a printing business with your heat press machine, you would want to produce prints of the best quality; one that attracts everyone. There isn’t any better way to keep the customers from coming back and also getting loads of referrals.

Unfortunately, most printing business owners aren’t able to achieve this. Or no matter which method they use, they fail to deliver a high-quality result in many of their projects. They end up doing one mistake or the other, hence resulting in a not so satisfactory print. You must not only know how to use your heat press but must also try to produce the best. Here are some common mistakes that you should avoid while using a heat press machine.

No Maintenance

Lack of maintenance is one common reason why most heat press machines lose their ability to deliver high-quality prints. Users get too busy with their projects that they forget that their machine needs some pampering too. No matter whatever type of heat press model you own, your machine needs proper and routine maintenance in every six months.

Tips

  • Clean your machine regularly.
  • Lubricate the pivot joints of your machine once in a while to avoid stress.
  • For automatic models, keep the air system clean.

Transfer Mistake

At times, users ignore the instructions provided with a particular transfer and end up applying the wrong temperature, pressure and time. Also sometimes they peel off the transfer either too soon or too late, which affects the quality and durability of the print.

Tips

  • Each type of transfer is different. Strictly follow instructions that are recommended for that particular transfer, especially if you are using a screen printed transfer.
  • If a specific transfer is not recommended for a particular fabric, use a different transfer which is designed for that material.

Not Using Necessary Accessories or Vice-versa

Sometimes it’s necessary to use some accessories during heat printing. For instance, while heat transferring using vinyl transfers, Teflon sheets are used to protect your apparel from extreme heat. If you don’t use the cover, your garment may be damaged. 

However, using unnecessary accessories during the process can also actually cause some of your heat application mistakes. For instance, thick Teflon covers may be great for vinyl transfers, but if you use it for screen printed transfer, the print may not be transferred properly to the garment due to insufficient heat. Some of the thicker sheets can minimize the heat by as much as 20 to 25 degrees. Temperature is a basic ingredient to a successful transfer, so if you minimize the temperature by 20 to 25 degrees, you will not get a proper transfer.

Wrong Temperature

Sometimes you may set the wrong temperature for a particular fabric, which can cause the fabric to melt and scorch. Different types of materials come with different melting points, where the fabric will start to melt when the melting point of the particular fabric is reached when heat pressing.

Some types of fabrics need a lower temperature. Nylon and polypropylene, for instance, have lower melting temperatures. For example, a 100% polyester fabric is extremely heat-sensitive and will scorch, which means sheen will appear in the area of the fabric that was pressed under high temperature.

Tips

  • Make sure that the temperature of your heat press is below the melting point of the substrate.
  • Use a transfer that has been designed to be used with the particular fabric. If you aren’t sure about the fabric type, it’s best to test it prior to printing an entire lot of garments.
  • Some apparel is made of several types of materials. In this case, know which portion you are heat printing, and avoid other areas whenever possible

Uneven Pressure due to Obstructions

If some solid parts of your garment such as buttons or zippers stick up above the transfer, your heat press platen, when locked down, will be unable to apply the necessary pressure evenly to your transfer. These obstructions will be blocking the pressure applied between the platens from reaching your transfer. Due to this, the print may not stick to your garment.

Tips

  • Stick a mouse pad or print pad beneath the printing area. This will raise it above the buttons, zippers, and seams and avoid these obstructions so that they can’t affect the pressure by coming between the platens.
  • Use the accessories depending on the type of transfers.
  • Use a cover only if it’s specifically instructed on your transfer sheet.

Too much Moisture

Sometimes moisture is trapped in the fabrics; especially those made of 100% cotton may hold lots of extra moisture. If moisture is trapped under a transfer during the process, it can create quality issues. Even if you may not see it right away, moisture can make the transfer to crack only after a few washes. It can affect the print durability.

Tips

  • Always Pre-press your garments for 3 to 5 seconds before the transfer. Pre-pressing the apparel will eliminate the moisture.
  • If steam is visible even after pre-pressing, repeat until the steam is gone.

Transfer Misplaced

At times mistakes occur because the transfer was not placed at the right place on the garment before pressing. Common misprints happen because of transfers placed upside down, not lined up, crooked or too low or too high.

Tips

  • Knowing the best way to align the transfer will help minimize these heat printing mistakes.
  • People use different techniques for aligning the transfers, such as the 3 or 4 finger rule to place the transfer below the collar.
  • The best way to align your design is by finding the center point.
  • Always make sure that you have weeded the design properly before placing the vinyl transfer to your garment.

Features you may need in your Heat Press

If you are planning to set up a long term printing business, first you must own a good quality and high-precision heat press machine. All heat press machines may work on the same mechanism but different models have different features and functions designed for better performance and endurance. The higher the cost, the more features will the heat press have.

It’s always recommended to choose a device best for your task. However, here are some of the most useful features that you may want your machine to be featured with.

Threadability

Threadability is the newest innovation in heat press devices. This function allows you to load your apparel on to the device and decorate the back, front or side of the garment without actually removing it from the platen. This feature can save a lot of time and can increase productivity up to 40%.

Interchangeable Platen

Some high-end professional heat press models come with an interchangeable lower platen. this feature allows you to switch the lower platen according to the task. It can be very useful if you want to avoid pressing certain parts of the garment such as buttons or zippers.

Multi-functionality

As you may know, that heat press machines are available in three styles; clamshell, swinger, and draw. There are also some heat press models that come with dual functionality. For instance, some heat press machines can be used as both swinger and draw. A heat press with dual functionality is more versatile and allows you to work according to your work space and flexibility.

Digital and Touch Screen Technology

Almost all the modern heat press machines are featured with digital temperature and time controls. These help in setting the most accurate time and temperature values according to the type material you are working on.

If you don’t want to risk burning your project due to overexposure, you may want to consider this feature. With touch screen technology, it becomes easier for the user to access the controls and operate their machine.

Automatic Design

Heat presses with an automatic design is a common trend today, especially among the clamshell models. With the automatic function, the locked platen automatically opens as soon as the press cycle is completed. With this feature, you won’t have to do any guess work and also there is no risk of over cooking the transfer.

Preset Functions

Preset feature allows the user to program an infinite number of settings that are remembered by the system of the machine and sets the same setting when similar materials are used. With this function, the device will automatically turn on and off according to the settings that you have saved earlier. This will save a lot of time on settings.

Heavy Duty and Durable

You would want a heavy duty heat press machine if you are going to heat print huge projects. The machine must be of professional quality and must be able to print for prolonged periods without being exhausted. Also, as you are going to invest a big amount on your heat press unit, make sure that you are choosing a model with rugged construction and long lasting system for maximum durability.

Scratch Resistant

Scratches may occur on your heat platen with use, which will affect the quality of the print. Many heat press units come with scratch resistant and easy to clean coating. This coating not only protects the heat platen but also helps in better performance. You would like to consider this option if you want a high-precision long lasting print.  

Adjustable Pressure Knob

If you are planning to buy a clamshell style heat press machine, you would want the device to have a pressure knob that can be effortlessly adjusted so that you can control the amount of pressure you need to apply on your garment. Some heat press models come with knobs that are poorly situated, and if you keep on applying too much pressure, it may give you backaches. And if too little force is applied, the print won’t be transferred properly to the garment.

Appropriate Size

The heat press that you choose must be of an appropriate size. if you are going to print on larger garments, it must be able to accommodate the size for 16 x 20 inches or even more. However, if you’ll be printing on smaller products, then a medium or small size heat press will do.

Wide Range of Temperature and Time

If a heat press machine has a very wide range of temperature and time selection, you can work on different types of materials. This function is ideal for those who work on several varieties of fabrics and transfers. Most importantly a good heat press machine is able to heat up quickly in a matter of seconds.

Good Warranty and Customer Support

A good heat press machine always comes with a reasonable warranty policy. As you are going to invest on a particular machine, your money must be well assured. Most reputed manufacturers offer a warranty time of 3 to 5 years with their product for customer satisfaction.  Also, a good customer support is liable as you may face some problems while operating the machine. Customer support system can be very helpful in these situations.

Conclusion

When you are trying a new technology such as heat printing, problems or simple mistakes are obvious to arise, but with the proper knowledge, you can master the easiest ways to prevent or fix these mistakes. Before anything else, you must make sure that the machine you are using is best for your work. A good heat press machine must be reliable as well as durable in the long run. Apart from all these, safety always comes first, so be extra careful while you operate your heat press machine.

Edward
 

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