When most people are looking into heat presses they’re looking at warranties of the heating elements, power requirements, auto-open vs manual, clamshell or swing-away. The bottom platen is often overlooked as it’s a standard size. The thought process is usually “Is there a bottom platen? Yes? Ok, moving on”.
But, who doesn’t love platen options for their equipment? Swapping out different platens for specific items will make your set-up even more efficient and give your shop more options to tackle more specific jobs. More options equals more money. More money equals greater growth. Growth equals SUCCESS! Let’s go through a bunch of different sizes and discuss what garment options are available for these platens.
A 16” x 20” platen is pretty standard for most equipment. 16 x 20 is the perfect size for most shirts and sweaters, even threading through the garment onto the platen is simple. Since it is the largest platen on this list it has the most uses for bulkier items.
“But Steven,” I hear you mention, “what about smaller garments?” Well, an 11" x 15" (or even a 15” x 15”) platen can easily be utilized to decorate youth and women’s size garments. These smaller sized shirts cannot be threaded onto a 16 x 20 platen, so without a platen that’s specifically made to fit these sizes they would have to rest the smaller garment on the lower platen. This, of course, increases the difficulty of keeping a perfectly aligned print and will decrease efficiency. Remember, better efficiency equals SUCCESS!
With an 8" x 10" platen you can press and print onto totes and polypropylene shopping bags. You can slide a bag onto the platen for efficient heat pressing on both sides. This would be difficult to do on a standard 16 x 20 platen, having to use clamps or tape to hold the bag in place in order to keep the alignment correct.
6" x 10" platens can be used for creating custom chest logos without damaging seams, buttons, or zippers. This is great for jackets, zip-up hoodies, or button-up shirts. We all know how much of a pain zippers can be without an additional thicker PTFE pad as a buffer. All they do is get in the way and it is so easy to damage a print. A smaller localized platen can remove the zipper and PTFE pillow right out of the equation, leaving you with a great print.
What can we say about a 6" x 20" platen? It’s long and skinny specifically designed for sleeves, pant legs, and youth size garments so you can press them with ease. With long sleeve shirts or pants there is usually no way to keep the entire garment on the standard platen (well, without great difficulty, I should say). A leg/sleeve platen will help you out greatly.
Last but not least, the tiny 4" x 4" seems like it may be useless. What could you use such a little platen for? Well, it’s perfect for precision placement on small items, youth apparel, and garments that have buttons, zippers, and seams in close proximity. A precision platen is also great for doing prints for the tag on shirts. Tag printing is great for branding and recognition to increase noticeability (every decision is a business decision).
In conclusion: yes, you could use a standard platen for everything, but that is more work and more time spent inefficiently. Using the tools you have available to you will help make you successful. The beautiful thing about success is that it compounds. GREATER EFFICIENCY EQUALS GREAT SUCCESS. So go out there and make some money with your toolbox full of useful platens.