Swing away vs clamshell heat press

Swing away vs Clamshell heat press – A detailed comparison

If you work in the printing or heat pressing industry, you should be aware of your two options: clamshell and swing away. These two are the two most commonly preferred styles for creating masterpieces. Almost every other heat press is available in one of those styles. Both have their pros and cons.

The main difference between a clamshell and swing away heat press is that clamshell have an upper part that opens and closes like a jaw. The swing-away heat press machine has a pressing/heating element raised vertically, placed straight, right above the bottom heat platen, and is designed to rotate 360-degree.

What is a clamshell heat press machine?

As the name reflects, the clamshell tends to have an upper/top part that works just like a clamshell (opens and closes like a jaw) where you can either move the top up or move down.

The top and bottom parts are precisely similar in size. It has a pressing area that you can open at an estimated 70-degree angle.

The clamshell is your solution when it comes to print garments such as T-shirts and sweaters or flat substances such as keychains and photo panels. It is especially great for thin fabrics. Clamshell has a straightforward layout with no complicated mechanisms.

Clamshell is the ideal machine for the quick production of printed shirts in a bigger batch despite the simple operation.

Usually, it is compact and can fit any corner of your workplace. If you have limited space, you can buy this cheap heat press and enjoy printing.

A clamshell heat press machine
A clamshell heat press machine

Pros and cons of clamshell heat press

  • It covers a minimal physical space as it has a smaller structure as the top only opens upwards. You can even set it on the table.
  • The clamshell machine can help you create your starting projects with ease. They usually come with easy and understandable controls and manageable settings.
  • A clamshell heat press machine is cheaper and needs no timely maintenance as it is made with fewer moving parts.
  • In comparison to many other press machines, clamshell can actually help you finish your task faster.
  • These machines are lightweight and highly portable.
  • Even after removing the top part of the clamshell heat press, you will only be provided with a cramped little space to set the design and substrate.
  • You are prone to getting accidental burns as its layout is more exposed.
  • As it comes with a single hinge (on one side), you will not be able to put equally distributed pressure on all areas of the T-shirt.
  • It is only suitable for thin substrates, not thick.

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What is a swing-away heat press machine?

The swing-away heat press machine has a pressing/heating element raised vertically, placed straight, right above the bottom heat platen, and is designed to rotate 360-degree.

A few machines can swing either clockwise or anti-clockwise. But, most devices are capable of moving up to 360-degree.

As compared to a clamshell, it lets you move the top part totally out of the way, giving you more space.

It is suitable for thicker items, such as awards plaques and photo tiles. The real credit goes to vertical, “floating” design. It ensures that every area of the substrate gets even heat and pressure.

This machine is more versatile as it is made to accommodate a broader range of materials.

a swing away heat press machine
A swing-away heat press machine

Pros and cons of swing away heat press

  • Minimized to no risk of accidental burns as design keeps the heated area at a safer distance. It is a comparatively safer machine to use for heat printing,
  • Ample space for setting substrate and design efficiently.
  • It gives a complete view of the T-shirt placed on the bottom platen.
  • In terms of even pressure and heat, it excels the quality and promises to provide equal force throughout the t-shirt.
  • Suitable for thicker fabrics and materials.
  • It is a machine for experts.
  • It is expensive and might not fit the budget of a small-scale businessman.
  • You need plenty of space to keep your swing away machine.
  • It is not portable

Iron vs easypresss


How do I adjust the pressure on my clamshell heat press?

  1. Look for the pressure knob and turn it in a counterclockwise direction. It will lower the pressure.
  2. Take a piece of cloth or paper and place it on the platen’s bottom
  3. Lock the clamshell’s lid and start pulling the paper/cloth outside
  4. In case the paper or piece of fabric moves, it means you need to increase the pressure
  5. Turn the knob clockwise
  6. Once the pressure is increased, try pulling the cloth/paper again
  7. Keep on repeating until and unless the paper/cloth stops moving

How do you adjust the pressure on a swing away heat press?

  1. Always start from the lower pressure. So, turn the knob counterclockwise.
  2. Take a piece of fabric and cut it into small pieces. You can use paper, as well
  3. Settle the pieces on the platen’s bottom
  4. Once closed and locked, start pulling the piece outward
  5. As long as the cloth or paper keeps sliding out, keep turning the pressure knob clockwise and increase pressure
  6. When the time comes the cloth/paper stops moving out, your pressure is set

How do I adjust the temperature on my clamshell and Swing away heat press?

Mostly, heat press machines come with LCDs for precise temperature control. Every machine has a different pre-setting temperature, but it is generally done using the control panel screen. Go for the “Set” button. Choose temperature and start pressing the arrow up or down for increasing or decreasing the temperature, respectively.

How do I get medium pressure on my heat press?

Open the heat press, exposing the heat platens. Now, take papers or clothes and settle them, keeping half the edges hanging outside enough to hold them. Lock in the press lid and start pulling it gradually. If the paper moves, you need to increase the pressure.

Can you heat press with too much pressure?

If you try heat pressing with more than the required pressure, you will face the problem of over-application. It causes the adhesive to slip out of the HTV (heat transfer vinyl). Driving adhesive out means your final design will not have accurately adhered. Due to lack of adhesive, your final print quality will be ruined, making it fall off.


Finally, concluding this swing away vs clamshell heat press debate.

Which one is better: A clamshell or swing away?

Well, the answer depends on the type of project you are buying it for. Besides, multiple factors play a role in determining whether a clamshell is a more suitable or swing-away design. 

In short, Clamshell heat presses have their perks, such as a comparatively smaller footprint. They are equally efficient in their performance. As far as the use is concerned, such machines are highly suitable for thin garments and fabric of all types. They sit well with flat substrates, as well.

A clamshell heat press machine suits a beginner and especially if you require a portable device. It is recommended for starters because of its straightforward designs.

Swing away has the most significant advantage of providing clear and safe overhead accessibility right to the heating/pressing area. Besides, it is the best option if you have to heat-press the thicker materials.

All credit goes to its vertical pressure application. It might take more space because you will need enough space to let the lip swing to 360-degrees. It is nearly not portable. But it excels in terms of versatility. Besides T-shirts, you can use them for any material and substrate. It will complete even the complex designs.

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