Clamshell vs. Swing-Away Heat Press Differences

Clamshell and Swing-away heat pressClamshell and Swing-away heat press

Clamshell vs. Swing-Away Heat Press Differences

When comparing clamshell and swing-away, the primary distinction is in the design of the top platen (the component of the press that provides pressure and temperature to the item being transferred). A heat press machine is a great investment if you are making items to sell. It provides a professional finish, unlike a regular iron, and the heat transfers remain on the product longer.

Many heat presses are available to suit the needs of businesses and hobbyists. The two most common heat press designs are clamshell and swing-away. How do you decide which one will address your needs? The two machines differ in design, but this doesn't necessarily mean one is better. Before picking any style, you need to consider several factors like available space, production speed, type of job, and the materials you will use.

In this blog, I will take you through the differences to help you decide the right heat press to suit your needs.

  • Clamshell-style heat presses
  • Swing-away style heat presses
  • Benefits
  • Cons

Clamshell Heat Press Features

A "clamshell heat press" has a top and bottom plate that move up and down like jaws or a clam shell. Because they are built to lift upwards rather than outwards, clamshell heat presses take up the least amount of space possible. These lightweight heat press machines are a great option for production that needs to be done on the go. Even if you've positioned your clamshell heat press machine in a location, like a table, where there isn't a single extra inch of room either to the left or to the right, you'll still be able to operate it effortlessly because you'll only need to lift.

In addition to being one of the most widely used styles of heat presses, the clamshell heat press is also the most budget-friendly and suitable for beginners. With fewer moving parts, set-up is quick and easy.

However, the clamshell heat press's upper plate only extends to an angle between 50 and 70 degrees. As a result, seeing the entire lower plate is challenging, and you risk burning yourself on the hot upper plate.

The clamshell heat press machine's single hinge on one side prevents you from applying equal pressure to all areas of the T-shirt. Another significant drawback is the top of the T-shirt, near the hinges, typically receives the most pressure, while the bottom gets less. While this is perfectly fine if you're creating some shirts for a one-time event or use, this isn't ideal if you were to have 100s sold at a time.

So, let's recap the Clamshell Heat Press:

Great for small spaces and most common for beginnersDon't have a lot of working area, and your hands are directly under the top plate when setting up your project
Inexpensive due to its small sizeBest for thinner base materials like t-shirts
More portability for on-the-go functionsDoesn't apply even pressure to the entire shirt
Fewer moving parts to deal with 


What is a Swing-Away Heat Press?

Swing-away heat presses allow the heat plate to swing to the side of the machine. The advantages of a swing-away heat press are the freedom it will give you to work and the lower risk of getting burnt. You will have complete control of laying your products out and lining up the transfer because the heating element will be to the side instead of directly above your hands.

The swing-away heat press can press thicker materials or objects like plaques or picture tiles more effectively since the higher plate exerts pressure down. This is made possible by the heating elements' vertical, "floating" form. These heating components adapt to the transfer substrates upon pressing, enabling even and continuous pressure delivery.

Swing-away heat presses are bulky and difficult to transport. The setup is more involved and makes them more suited for advanced users. Another drawback of the swing-away heat press is that it takes up more room in your workspace to operate.

You have full access to the work area for transferring materials  Require more space 
Can press thicker materialsTends to cost a little more 
Able to apply more pressure evenly across the transferNot ideal for portability, and it needs a dedicated work area. 


Choosing the Best Heat Press

When it comes down to it, the best heat press for you will depend on your working space, if you need portability, and the materials you'll be working with. For beginner and simple designs, a clamshell heat press machine is enough, but for a more skilled user that presses more than t-shirts, you should use a swing-away heat press machine.

Shop the Clamshell Heat Presses or Swing-away Heat Presses.