Clamshell vs Swing Away Heat Press: Which is Better?

If you are running a T-shirt printing business or any other kind of on-demand printing business, the main machine to focus on is a good heat press machine.

It is only with the help of the right heat press machine, you can fulfil all your clients’ demands and give them the quality products they are paying you for.

The first thing to do in one of these printing designs, therefore, is to invest in the right heat press machine

Different kinds of Heat Press Machines

There are many different kinds of heat press machines that you can choose from, each with their own features and designs.

While some are more suited for light printing and amateur loads, there are some models that can print up to 100 T-shirts in a day. The kind of heat press machine you need depends on your workload and the kind of business you run. 

Heat press machines can be manual or automatic; they can be small enough to fit on a table, or big enough to fit your entire garage. Besides, some heat press machines can only work on a single item at a time, while with some model, you can work on up to six T-shirts at the same time.

The type of machine you should buy depends on your business and your personal requirements, as there are many deciding factors here. 

Clamshell vs. Swing-Away Heat Press Machines 

There can be another differentiation in heat press machines that depends on the top plate, and how they are closed.

There are two main types of these machines based on this particular criterion: the clamshell heat press machine and the swing-away heat press machine. 

Clamshell Heat Press Machines

With a clamshell heat press machine, the top part of the machine opens and closes like a jaw or a clam shell; it only goes up and down, and no other way.

While using this kind of machine, you need to pull the top part upwards to work on your T-shirt or adjust it, and then pull it down when you need the top portion. 

The top part of the machine and the bottom part are exactly the same size, and they fit together perfectly. The top part simply goes upward when you need to adjust the T-shirt lying on the bottom part, and then comes back to press back into the bottom part. 

Advantages of Clamshell Machines 

One of the main advantages of clamshell heat press machines is that they take up very small space. If you have a problem with space and have decided on a smaller heat press machine that can be set up on a table, the ideal solution would be to get a clamshell machine.

This is because the top part of this machine opens upwards, which means that you won’t need any extra space around the machine. Even if you’ve placed your clamshell heat press machine somewhere without a single inch of extra space either on the left or the right, you can work on it easily as all you are going to need is space upwards. 

Besides, these kinds of heat press machines are easy for beginners to work on. They are easier to work on compared to other types of machines, as they are also easier to set up.

Clamshell heat press machines are also smaller and gives you enough space around for your tools, ingredients and supplies, even when you’ve set up the machine on a table top. 

At the same time, clamshell heat press machines are usually cheaper compared to swing-away or other types of machines. It has less moving parts and can actually make your work faster.

With these machines, you’ll only need to pull the top part up and down, compared to other machines, which makes the motion easier and faster. You can work on more T-shirts in a single day and finish more orders with a clamshell heat press machine, than with any other type of machine. 

Disadvantages of Clamshell Machines 

Of course, with some clamshell heat press machines, the top part goes up only a little space, without leaving much space in between to work.

If you need to move or adjust the T-shirt you are working on, or place a new one, you will have to do it in a very small space. 

With clamshell heat press machines, there is a bigger chance of your hands getting burned. When you’ll be working on your T-shirt lying on the bottom portion of the machine, there won’t be much gap between the top portion and the bottom portion.

This means that if you aren’t careful, your hands or other body parts can accidentally touch the top part - which is usually hot while the machine is working - and get burned. 

Another major disadvantage of the clamshell heat press machine is that since they have a single hinge on one side, you can’t put the equal amount of pressure on all parts of the T-shirt.

The pressure is usually the most on the top of the T-shirt, closest to the hinges, and gradually decreases at the bottom. This could sometimes ruin the design if you can’t put the same amount of pressure on all parts of the T-shirt. 

Swing-Away Heat Press Machines 

On the other hand, in swing-away heat press machines, the top part can be swing to be completely away from the bottom part, sometimes up to 360 degrees.

With these machines, the top part of the machine doesn’t just hang over the bottom part, but can be moved out of the way, in order to give you more space to work on. 

Some swing-away heat press machines can be moved clockwise or anti-clockwise, while others can be moved all the way to 360 degrees. 

Advantages of Swing-Away Heat Press Machines 

Swing-away machines are safer to use than clamshell machines, as the top part of the machine stays away from the bottom part when you are working.

The top portion of the heat press machine is the one which is usually extremely hot when the machine is turned on, and can hurt your hand, face, arm or fingers. 

However, in swing-away machines, the top part can be turned away completely from the bottom part, leaving you ample space to work on. 

As the top part of these kinds of machines can swing away from the bottom part, you get a complete view of your T-shirt on the bottom. With a clamshell machine, you might have an obstructed view of your T-shirt; you might be able to see the bottom part of the T-shirt properly, with a hindered view of the neckline and the sleeves.

With the swing-away machine, you can remove the top part of the machine away from your view and get an unobstructed view of your product. 

With a swing-away heat press machine, the pressure is even and the same on all parts of the T-shirt. The hinge may be on one side, but because of the design, the whole top platen comes down on the bottom platen at the same time, and gives the same pressure on the whole thing. 

If you are using a trickier garment, i.e. something other than a T-shirt, or if you are planning to print your design on another part of the T-shirt except the chest area, it’ll be easier to place the garment on the bottom platen of the machine.

As the top part of the machine can swing away completely from the bottom part, you have the bottom platen completely free to work on. You can use the free space to place any garment in any way you want to on the bottom platen. 

Disadvantages of Swing-Away Heat Press Machines 

There are usually more steps to using one of these machines. They are more suited to an experienced user than a beginner; you have to follow more steps to execute a swing-away heat press machine compared to a clamshell machine. 

One of the biggest disadvantages of a swing-away heat press machine is that they require more space to operate. While you can easily place a clamshell machine at a corner or a side, or on top of a small table, you need more space around the machine for a swing-away heat press machine.

Even if you place the machine on the top of a table, you need to make sure there’s enough space around the machine for you to accommodate the top portion of the machine.

You might even have to place the machine in the middle of the room instead of at a corner or a side if you have a particularly big machine. 

Swing-away heat press machines aren’t very portable. They are more suitable for experienced users than beginners, more complicated to set up and not as sturdy as the build of clamshell heat press machines.


Comparison Between Clamshell and Swing-Away Heat Press Machines 

Both the clamshell heat press machines and the swing-away heat press machines have their own advantages and disadvantages, and they are good (or bad) in their different ways.

A clamshell heat press machine is the right one for you:

  • If you are a beginner; 

  • If you don’t have too much space 

  • If you need a portable machine 

  • If your designs are simple

  • If you want a less complicated machine and 

  • If you are mainly planning to print on T-shirts

On the other hand, you should get a swing-away machine:

  • If you have enough space around the machine 
  • If you don’t need something that’s portable 
  • If you want to work with other kinds of garments besides T-shirts 
  • If you want to work with thicker materials 
  • If your designs are complicated 
  • If you plan to print of a large portion of the garment or all over the garment 
  • If you want the pressure to be equal and simultaneous on all parts of the garment 

In short, it is evident that a swing-away heat press is what you need if you want your work to be more professional and of a better quality.

For a beginner and for simple designs, a clamshell machine might be enough, but for a more professional approach to printing, you need to use a swing-away heat press machine. 

Alex John
 

This is Alex, I have been in tshirt business for the last eight years. This is my blog where I share my work and guidelines for fellows. Keep reading resources from here and I am open to any question.

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