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GROWING YOUR BUSINESS – PERPETUAL PLAQUE PLANS

March 10th, 2011

Steve Conde

In years gone by, there were any number of companies that offered businesses a program to provide them with individual recognition plaques plus a master perpetual plaque for a single annual fee. Here’s how it worked:

A company signs up with you to provide them with 12 monthly “Top Salesperson” plaques (they can say anything the customer wants) plus a single master plaque or perpetual plaque that has the company logo or sales slogan and year on it. Each month, the company fills out a post card, sends an email or a text message giving you the name of that month’s winner. In turn, you make a plaque with the name and month on it plus whatever other design they want and send it to the company. You also send an individual plate with that person’s name on it for the perpetual plaque.

If the company gives two awards, each month, they just purchase two packages, etc. Each monthly plaque is identical except for the person’s name, the month and, if they so desire, a sales figure, units sold, etc. This makes it easy to produce and requires only one design.

Various packages can be offered to customers that include four quarterly plaques, twelve monthly plaques or whatever other combination the customer desires. Condé even offers a version of the perpetual plaque with a clock, this could be for the recipient of the award. The perpetual plaque is made up and sent with the first monthly plaque with screw holes and screws already in place for the other monthly plates. All the customer has to do is add each plate as it comes. Sizes can also vary with a perpetual plaque that is 9”x 12” and each monthly plaque a 6″ x 8” Unisub® plaque or larger plaques can be used, priced accordingly. All payment is done up front so there is no waiting for your money and only one check, which is good for you and also, good for your client.

Although most of the companies that offered these programs have gone by the wayside, new companies are beginning to show up, mostly on the Internet.

Lots of companies use this type of service: teachers, car sales, real estate brokers, almost anyone with a sales force, non-profit solicitors, telemarketers and a host of others.

If you don’t know about the wide variety of sublimation plaques offered by Condé, contact your sales rep for more information. To learn how to print these plaques, check out CondeTV.


SELLING TO FIRE DEPARTMENTS

March 8th, 2011

Steve Conde

One of the easiest markets to sell to is your local Volunteer Fire Department. The men and women, who give their time to protect their community from fire and all the related tragedies in their community, do it out of a deep passion, a love for the job, the adrenaline rush and the camaraderie.

Regardless of their motive however, one thing is sure, they love what they do. It is far more than a hobby; it is a calling and with it comes a deep love and appreciation for anything related to fire fighting. If you go into their homes, they will have pictures of fires or fire fighting equipment on the walls, plaques, old fire hose nozzles, and the like treasured and displayed throughout their homes. I once bronzed a section of fire hose for one fireman – I never did understand what significance it had but he was willing to pay several hundred dollars for it. That was enough for me.

To sell to fire departments of their sister units such as EMTs, water rescue units, and the like, you must understand one thing: They don’t give a hang about a picture of some generic fire truck, no matter how pretty it is. They want to have things with a picture of their fire truck, ambulance, rescue boat, etc., on it. And that’s good because that is exactly what sublimation is best at – creating products with the customer’s photo and personalized with the customer’s name – nothing generic here.

It usually won’t take more than a phone call for the crew to roll out their fire engine in front of the ‘ol fire house for a photo shoot. Take your trusty little digital camera and take a few shots of the two together. With any luck, you might even catch them on a day when everyone is there for training or a meeting and be able to get them all standing in front of that favorite fire truck – what a gold mine!

Vapor Shirts, UNISUB picture frames, plaques, name badges, key fobs, luggage tags, ceramic tiles – you name it and they will probably buy it – not because it has a picture of a fire truck on it but because it has a picture of their fire truck and their name to boot. Just flip through the Condé catalog and pick out dozens of items you can offer.

Best of all, fire companies are very competitive. Once you sell to one fire station, others will probably be calling as well.

Don’t forget to contribute something to their annual fund raising – maybe a plaque for the person who brings in the most money.


GROWING YOUR BUSINESS: PRIDE

February 23rd, 2011

By Steve Conde

New in business? Just thinking about starting a business? It is a big undertaking that can be either the most rewarding or most devastating experience of your life. There is one principle however that most be adopted if you are to be successful: Pride.

When we grew up, our parents probably taught us not to be too prideful. “Don’t brag on yourself”, or “Don’t think too highly of yourself”, “Don’t get the big head” is what some say. Whatever you chose to call it, it means not to think too highly of yourself.

Well, that may be good advice for life but not for business. First, if you can do a better job of whatever you are doing than your competition, you probably should be in business. And if you can do a better job and don’t tell anyone, who do you think will tell people?

Expect “word of mouth” to carry your message? It won’t. Even when word of mouth has helped build businesses, it has taken years, even decades to do it. Coke Cola doesn’t depend on word of mouth to sell their product, neither does Wal-Mart. Why do you think it will work for little ol’ you? It won’t.

Networking is when people get together to sell each other on how good they are. The Chamber of Commerce, business clubs of all kinds and trade shows are all built around networking in one form or another. Some work, some don’t but they all take a lot of time and cost a lot of money. Here is one that you can do that won’t take any time nor cost you any money: “Brag on yourself”. Every chance you get, everywhere you go. Don’t be shy. Don’t hold back. When you go to your dentist, doctor, mechanic, neighbor, or other potential customer, take pride in what you do. And if you are excited and proud about what you do, you should tell people.

Buying a candy bar from a local gas station? Say, “You a xxx fan? Last week we made a bunch of full-color shirts for a family reunion. Half were xxx fans and half xxy fans. Can you image what that reunion is going to be like?”

Through the years, I have made awards and gifts for the heads of state for all the NATO countries, plaques in Chinese, Russian and German, awards for the President of the United States and several Governors, Senators and Congresspeople. I’m not bragging, I’m just stating facts. Would the Chamber of Commerce or the United Nations or the United States Navy choose me to make these if I wasn’t the best? You don’t have to actually say it, they will get the message.

Now maybe you haven’t gotten to do those kinds of things yet but I’m sure you have done some really nice work. Don’t be bashful, tell people how proud you are that you were chosen to do….


Resolution: A Layman’s Definition

February 21st, 2011

By Steve Conde

In sublimation, there is a great deal of confusion about the term “resolution”, sometimes referred to as DPI (dots per inch). Here is an attempt to muddy the water a little more:

When printers print on a sheet of paper, they do it by shooting out very tiny dots of ink – it isn’t a constant stream, even though it may look like it on the finished page. The number of times those ink-jets shoot a droplet of ink per inch, determines the resolution being printed.

Some printers brag on having resolutions of 4800 or even 6200 dpi but that refers only to the capability of the printer, not what is actually being printed. What is actually being printed is determined by the graphic, more than by the printer. For instance, if you have a photograph that was scanned at 300 dpi, the printer is going to print it at 300 dpi, not 4800 dpi. If you have a photo imported from the web at 72 dpi and tell CorelDRAW to change it to 300 dpi and then print it, guess what? It will still result in an image quality of 72 dpi. Why? Because CorelDRAW, nor your printer is capable of adding information to the picture that isn’t already there. Granted, there are programs that can actually do this pretty well, such as Genuine Fractals, that is another discussion. For now, we just want to keep this as simple as possible.

One way to increase the quality (resolution) of an image is to scan it at a higher resolution. Like printers, scanners boast of gigantic resolution capabilities so why not just scan everything at the highest possible resolution? Because the file size will be enormous and the final quality will probably be worse rather than better. Most images should be scanned so the final resolution being sent to the printer is about 300 dpi. This may not sound like much compared to the 4800 dpi capability of most scanners but trust me, it’s enough and will result in smaller files, faster printing and excellent quality. For help understanding what resolution you should scan an image at when the size is being increased, see “What Resolution Do I Scan At?”.

Resolution refers to the number of those ink-droplets that are printed per inch. 300 dpi means there are 300 droplets per inch (white spaces count too!). 600 dpi means there are 600 droplets per inch, etc. and although it is generally true that the higher the resolution, the better the image, there has to be a tradeoff for the higher the resolution, the slower the image will print, the larger the file size and the more difficulty the computer will have processing the image. For those using PowerDriver for sublimation transfers, large files can be a disaster as PowerDriver will often lock up when a file is too large.

Resolution refers to many things: monitors, drawings, printers, photographs, bitmaps, scanners and more. This makes it all even more confusing since scanned images don’t have print heads shooting ink droplets, they have pixels of light and dark which, to add to the confusion are not dots at all, but squares. Resolution in monitors has to do with light not ink, and is referred to as pixels as are scanners. Because of the differences between light and ink, an image that looks great on a monitor can look terrible on paper.
Long story short, think 300 when thinking about resolution of anything you are creating. If you scan your images so they will be 300 dpi, they should do well. As for your printer, most sublimation printers are set to print at 720 dpi and that is quite adequate. Some sublimation printers are capable of printing at 1440 dpi and that’s fine too. You probably won’t be able to see much difference between the two settings but there are some advantages to the 1440 capability.


Vector vs Raster Printing

February 16th, 2011

By Steve Conde

I get asked a lot about the difference in vector vs. raster printing. They are terms that seem a bit foreign for sublimators but are common to most engravers, engineers, and mechanical designers. Actually, the terms apply to both printing a drawing in graphics programs like CorelDRAW or in engineering CAD (computer assisted drawing) programs.

Everyone is familiar with how modern ink-jet printers work. They run back and forth printing a few lines at a time until a graphic or text begins to appear. That is raster printing. Back and forth from one side of the page to the other and back again, over and over until the image appears.

Vector drawing is a little harder to describe. Most people have seen plotters print. They work just like vinyl cutting machines. The print head doesn’t go back and forth like a typical ink-jet printer. Instead, it runs from one point to another printing a single line. These are commonly used to print engineering drawings, blue prints, wiring schematics, or line art. That’s vector printing – from one point (vector) to another (vector) to another. This may be done with plotters where the print head moves or in some cases, the table holding the paper moves over a fixed print head.

When working in a drawing program such as CorelDRAW or Illustrator, you also have two types of graphic: vector and raster. Understanding the difference however is a bit more complicated. Anything you create in CorelDRAW that you can manage, change or easily alter is usually a vector. A raster graphic usually refers to something that has been scanned and comes in as a bitmap. Photographs are always raster and although photographs can be altered, it is a much more complex procedure than altering a vector drawing.

The advantage of vector artwork is that you can easily modify it, change the colors and even change the size of the drawing without changing the quality of the image (usually referred to as resolution or DPI).

Bitmaps, photographs and scanned images may look like vector drawings but are combined in such a way they cannot be broken apart the way a vector drawing can be. A change of color, even size is usually difficult and changing the size always affects the quality by changing the resolution of the image. Increasing the size too much will actually allow the individual pixels to be seen. See blog entry “Resolution of bitmap images” for more explanation.

Both vector and raster (bitmap) images sublimate equally well. The biggest difference is usually in the quality of the raster image, especially if the quality of the original wasn’t so great. Because vector images, like those created in Corel, are pure images, they can be enlarged or reduced at will, the colors altered as desired, text can be added or deleted and the design can be skewed or superimposed over or behind another without difficulty. Unlike scanned images or imported bitmaps, there is no background around a vector image (referred to as a bounding box).


Color Charts For Sublimation From CorelDRAW

February 10th, 2011

By Steve Conde

Did you know you could make your own color charts from CorelDRAW quickly and easily? You can and it is imperative that you have an accurate color chart for all your “spot color” work. Don’t know what spot color really means? It means the color you add to anything you create such as text, graphics, designs, backgrounds, logos – just about anything. Anything except things you import or scan – those are usually bitmaps and you can’t easily change the colors in those. Spot colors however, can be changed easily with just a left click of the mouse. Draw a box and select a fill color with a left mouse click – that’s a spot color.

Quick note: If you are using a PC, as most of us are, it is important you always use the RGB color chart when working with sublimation. Others, such as Pantone may sound enticing but they WON’T do what you think they will so stick with RGB!

OK, here’s how you do it in Corel X3, X4 & X5:
Click on “Tools”, then “Visual Basic” then “Play.” This brings up the “CorelDRAW Visual Basic for Applications Macros” dialog box.
Toward the bottom of the box, in the drop down menu, select “GlobalMacros” .
Choose “CorelMacros: CreateColorSwatch” from the macros list.
Click “Run”.
Select “Default RGB palette”. (If not listed, add the palette to your working screen and it should appear in the dropdown menu).

By default, the color charts have a setting of 20, which uses four pages. To reduce this, change the number on the last screen to lower number (try 1 or 5). These swatches are typical Corel elements and can be moved, changes, deleted at will. If you want your chart on a single page, change the page to “Legal” size, move the swatches on Page Two to Page One, and delete Page Two.

You can now print this page the same as you would any CorelDRAW page for sublimation. If you are using the Conde ICC Profile (highly recommended), you will need to mirror the page and send it to the printer. If you are using PowerDriver from Sawgrass Technologies, you will need to print a separate transfer for each setting you use: i.e., Realistic, Intense, Saturate and ColorSure since each of these settings result in drastically different colors.

Once you have printed the necessary transfers, sublimate them on whatever substrates you use. Now you can look at the chart and see exactly how a particular color will look when sublimated on that same substrate.


THE CHEAP WAY TO CHECK THE TEMPERATURE OF A HEAT PRESS

February 8th, 2011

Steve Conde

For years, we have talked about this method of checking the accuracy of a heat press temp gauge. The problem is, the device we recommend is darn near impossible to find. Well, here’s a source and how to use it.

The device is usually referred to as a simple candy thermometer with a metal stem. The problem is, I have looked in kitchen/cooking stores for years and have NEVER seen one. I knew they were out there but where do you find one? Well, you can find it at www.amazon.com . Who would have thought? The gadget isn’t called a candy thermometer however, it is a Taylor 9842 Commercial Waterproof Digital Thermometer and costs $11.32 plus shipping. It can be found here.

As you probably know, most thermometers don’t go high enough to work with a heat press but this one goes to 450° F (most products need 400° F for sublimation). To be sure, this $12 device isn’t going to be as accurate as the Contact Digital Thermometer we talked about in our previous blog: “HEAT PRESS MAINTAINANCE: WHEN IS 400° REALLY 400°?” but it is probably much more accurate than an infrared thermometer, especially if you take several readings around your heating platen (2 on each side is ideal).

To use this little wonder, just place it in the heat press as far as you can with the digital readout sticking out the side and close the press. Let it stay in place until it stops increasing in temperature and write down what it says. Repeat this process, taking at least one reading in each corner (two per side is even better) of the press and writing down the results. If the results are all close (they should be), just average them for a final reading and adjust your temperature gauge accordingly. If you find one reading more than say 30 or 40 degrees different than the others, take the reading again to be sure of accuracy. If you get the same reading, it may indicate a hot or cold spot in the heating element. This is unusual in newer presses (past 10 years or so) but can happen. If you bought a Geo Knight press from Condé, the heating element has a lifetime warranty. Call technical support at Condé for assistance in making sure this is really the problem and for a solution.

Remember, this is a $12 test instrument and not the $85 Pyrometer instrument talked about in my previous blog and won’t give the same kind of accuracy. For just a quick check however, it should get the job done just fine.

One other note: Should you find a cold reading in one or more corners of your press, check the pad on the lower platen or “stage” of the heat press. This pad should be spongy and resilient. If it is hard, cracked or has depressions in it, the pad needs to be replaced (call Condé Technical Support for assistance).

Remember, although sublimation is really fairly flexible about variations in temperature, the more accurate your heat press, the better the results and the more consistent your products will be.


HEAT PRESS MAINTAINENCE: WHEN IS 400° REALLY 400°?

February 8th, 2011

Take a look at your heat press? What do you see? If it’s turned on, you probably see a readout on the top of your heat press that says “400°”? You depend on that device to always tell the truth but does it?

When most heat presses come from the factory, they are set so the readout is accurate no matter what temperature you set it at but don’t assume that is always accurate. The truth is, that temperature readout device is tested and set by a person and people sometimes make mistakes. Even more so, presses can, over time, change. These are, after all, just machines and like all machines, they occasionally need their vitals taken, a shot of oil here and there and an all-round check-up.

Perhaps the most important item that is given the least amount of attention is the temperature readout. When your heat press reads 400, how hot is it really? I have seen presses drift as much as 100 degrees up or down from what the readout says it is. Now a few degrees, even 10 or 15 degrees will make little difference in most products but wider variations will make a huge difference in the quality and consistency of your work.

Over the years, I have tried a dozen of ways to get an accurate reading from a 400° press and it ain’t as easy as it sounds. For years, my best method was to use an infrared digital thermometer but I knew that wasn’t giving accurate readings – I still don’t understand why not but it was clear that that method wasn’t good enough to get the accurate readings I wanted.

Another method was to use a heating/air-conditioning thermometer, you know, the ones made like candy thermometers with a metal tube with a dial on top. If I placed that on the stage of the press with the dial sticking out, and closed the press, I could get a fairly accurate reading but even then, I would have to take several readings and average them together. I wanted something better and so did everyone else.

After all, if your press isn’t heating to the same temperature every time you set it or if your readout is saying one thing and the press is actually something else, you are going to have problems. I once had a guy in Canada tell me he could make a perfect FRP name badge in 20 seconds while it took me a full minute to do the same job. His press was so “fast”, in fact, he had trouble controlling it. Items that normally required only 20-30 seconds were just burning up. I suggested his press was too hot but he assured me the temperature was accurate and his press was just faster than anyone elses.

Now, I never got to take a reading on that press but there is no question in my mind; his press was 100 or so degrees too hot. Sure, the readout said 400 but it wasn’t calibrated accurately. READOUTS MUST BE CALIBRATED BEFORE THEY WILL BE ACCURATE. Now, if the factory does this and does it correctly, you’re set to go and we usually assume that to be the case but….
In my own case, I have one press that when tested accurately, was 35° too hot. It isn’t a huge amount but it made my times vary from one press to another (I have two presses in my shop). What worked on one press didn’t work on the other. Isn’t 400° the same on both sides of the room? Apparently not.

When I discovered an accurate way to read the temperature of a flatbed heat press, that all changed. Now, I can do the same job on either press and it looks the same, takes the same amount of time and is always consistent no matter which press I use or how long a period of time passes between jobs.

The bad news? This isn’t going to be free. The good news? An accurate measuring device costs less than $85 and is available from Condé or George Knight, a heat press manufacturer. The device is referred to as a digital contact thermometer or pyrometer. It comes with a special surface probe (called a thermo-couple) that is pressed against the surface of a heat platen to obtain a more accurate reading. By adjusting the temperature being called for by the heat press until you get a consistent 400° reading at the center of the heating platen, you can then re-calibrate the readout on your press. Instructions on how to do that on Geo Knight presses are included in the instructions.

THERE IS NO WAY anyone can produce quality-sublimated products with any consistency if they don’t have an accurate readout on their heat press. Over the years, I have helped solve many a sublimation problem by adjusting the temperature of a heat press up or down 10, 20, 30 or more degrees. For years, it was just a guessing game when a press went out of calibration. Now, presses can not only be fixed but maintained to reflect highly accurate temperatures and boy, am I glad. Best $85 bucks I ever spent.

Have questions? Contact your Condé representative. They will be happy to help you and if they can’t, they will refer you to the person who can.


Pricing Name Badges

February 1st, 2011

Steve Conde

The great tips for sublimator’s series of videos by our own David Gross contains a video where David talks about “getting involved” with name badges, Click here to see Tip #74. He offers great advice and I wanted to add my 2¢

I used to be in the electronics business, sound systems, intercoms and all that. Pricing in those days was easy – just add 40%. There was no internet and wholesalers wouldn’t sell to anyone but licensed dealers. There were a few discount outlets but they weren’t very good. Things have really changed in the electronics business.

Everyone can buy wholesale or below, and there are no secrets as to what things cost. I’m glad I don’t do that anymore – it would be really hard to make money.

This is not so in our business. Even if someone can get hold of the blank material, without a lot of knowledge, skill and equipment, the blanks don’t do them any good. That’s the good news. The bad news is we have become so conditioned to buying cheap, we tend to cheat ourselves when we set prices – especially on things that don’t cost much to make – like name badges.

The actual cost of making a UNISUB Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic name badge like those Conde sells, is usually less than $1. That includes the badge, sublimation ink, transfer paper and the fasting that goes on the back. Too many dealers will see that and say, “Gee, I can sell name badges for just a few dollars each. Wow! People will beat a path to my door!”. And they would be wrong! The physiology of people will usually cause them to think they are paying too much, no matter what you sell the badge for. Secondly, most dealers tell customers the prices of their products with an apologetic voice which immediately tells the customer he is paying too much.

But the biggest reason you shouldn’t sell sublimated name badges for $2 or $3 dollars is because you can get a lot more and you deserve it. True a finished badge may cost only $1 in materials, but remember those other elements that keep people from making their own: Equipment, skill and knowledge. Those are worth a lot and that is what we will charge for, not just a piece of blank FRP.

Not all sublimated products are capable of bringing in the high profit percentage name badges can but when you have a product like badges that cost little to make, yet have a high perceived value, take advantage of it! I have seen people sell a single name badge for just less than $20 and why not?

Granted, large orders of badges are not going to sell for those high numbers. Quantity discounts will take care of that but never (never, never, never, never) should anyone sell a name badge for only $3.

I sell engraved name badges for $7.50 or two identical badges for $10. That is a two-color, engraved badge. No picture, no logo, just two lines of text on a plastic badge with a pin on the back. Now, if I sell that basic badge for 2/$10, why would I sell a full-color badge for the same or less?

Now, I’m not telling anyone what to sell their product for but I am saying, “Don’t undervalue your product, your time or your ability”. The perceived value of a full-color badge has to be much higher than a boring old engraved one. Now, not everyone will be willing to pay the difference and that’s their choice but most people will see the value of a sublimated badge, a color logo, photograph, color background, etc. and will understand why those cost more.

Some people charge for every element on a badge: If it has a color background, that’s extra, a photograph is extra, more than 3 lines of text is extra, etc. , and that’s perfectly fine. I don’t. Unless the job is going to require more than about five minutes to set up and print, I use a flat price. If the customer buys more than 10 of the same design, I cut the price a little (10%). 50 badges and I cut it a little more and so on. I always try to sell two badges, not one since everyone needs an extra and it doesn’t take me a bit longer to sublimate two than one (or 10 or that matter).

Unlike the guy who went to horse shows and sold badges for $20, you may never get that much (I haven’t) but you probably can get a lot more than you are asking for. I start my pricing at $10 each, you may want to go higher, especially if you live in an area with a high cost of living but whatever you do, please, please don’t give them away for just a few dollars. You won’t grow your business that way and you just convey to your customer how little you think your products are worth.


WHAT HEAT PRESS SHOULD I BUY? SWING-A-WAY OR CLAMSHELL?

January 26th, 2011

By: Steve Conde

One of the most common questions from someone just going into the sublimation business is always, “Which heat press should I buy?” And surprisingly, the answer almost always ends up the same.

Most people who enter the sublimation business want to do so on a shoestring, so they look at all the presses on the market and they hear every salesperson’s opinion who promises that theirs is the best for one reason or another and they just end up confused. Truth is, those who are real-life experience in the industry will almost always recommend the same model. But why?

There are two types of presses on the market: Swing-a-way and Clamshell. The argument for a clamshell press is that it is much cheaper and a good press to get started with and that 400 degrees is 400 degrees so what difference does it make?

Well, 400 degrees is 400 degrees but that’s where the similarities end. Clamshell presses were fine when there wasn’t anything to make but shirts and a few metal products but in today’s market, there are thousands of products to offer customers and almost all of them are easier and more profitable than shirts! Why would you want to limit yourself?

For those who don’t know, the mechanical differences between the two presses are obvious. A clamshell press opens like a clam with the heating element rising to 45-90 degrees so a product can be placed on the “stage” of the press. A swing-a-away differs in that the heating element lifts up parallel with the stage and swings completely out of the way. This greatly reduces the danger of burned knuckles but that is the least of the advantages of a swing-a-way over a clamshell. In fact, the swing-a-way is far superior in every way except for weight and price. Clamshells are about half the weight and half the cost and it is the cost that becomes so alluring to first time buyers.

First, let’s talk about cost: Sure a clamshell is half the price, maybe less but is that a good investment? Absolutely not! There are a host of products a clamshell CANNOT make, regardless of what some salespeople might tell you. They are a light duty press made for shirts, not the stuff that makes real money for a sublimation business. Some argue that one should start with a clam and upgrade later – bad idea. Heat presses last for 20 years or more. That means the investment difference between the two presses is about 10 cents per day. If you buy a clam and then upgrade you have just wasted the cost of the clamshell because believe me, once you use a swing-a-way, you will never use the clamshell again.

I have two swing-a-ways, the same ones Conde sells. One is a 16×20” George Knight KD20S and the other is a Geo Knight DK-14 Combo press, I use for making hats, plates and as a back-up press should by DK20 ever bite the dust (so far, the only time it was down was when a fuse blew and it took a couple of days to get a replacement. I have used my press at least weekly for almost 10 years now and it is just like a new one.)

The biggest advantage of a swing-a-way is the fact you can imprint products up to about 1” thickness. Clamshell presses can print very thin materials up to UNISUB Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP) which is 3/32” thick if you are careful but they’re not made to do plaques, tiles and a host of other products because they can’t close down on a thick product in such a way that the heating platen is perfectly flat against the surface of the product. This will result in an image that looks good on one end but fades to nothing on the other. Even if you are just making shirts, you can do a much better job if you use a sublimation pillow – something you can only do with a swing-a-way press.

What all this boils down to is that a clamshell for a sublimation shop that is going to make anything but shirts is a bad choice and false economy. In the end the shop will end up with two presses and one will probably become little more than a doorstop.

The key to opening a business on a shoestring isn’t buying the cheapest equipment possible, it is buying the right equipment the first time out – especially when that equipment is going to serve for 20 years or more.

In later blogs, I will discuss how to test and adjust the temperature of your press, what you should remember about heat press warranties, how to care for your heat press, and accessories.