The EnduraPRESS SD20 is the top-of-the-line model in our EnduraPRESS family of heat presses. The SD20 presents lots of new and exciting opportunities for heat transfer businesses. T-shirt vinyl, graphic Tees, sublimated shirts and blanks, print and cut shirt decals, and laser transfers can all be applied with professional quality using an EnduraPRESS SD20. Despite its advanced features, the SD20 is fairly simple as far as garment decoration equipment is concerned. Let's get started on some helpful heat transfer tips.

It's easy to get started using it and making all kinds of cool stuff. But if this is your first heat-press, you may find it a bit daunting. There are a few common questions we've received from first-time heat press users, so we've decided to publish this EnduraPRESS SD20 heat transfer tips article. Read on to find all the helpful hints you need to get the most out of your new heat press.

Time, Temp, and Pressure

A heat press works by applying pressure to certain kinds of films and papers. The pressure and heat either fuse a film to a garment or transfer color to fabric and other items. Whether you're using simple T-shirt vinyl or self-weeding laser transfer paper, the three key elements are time, temperature, and pressure. These are managed using the LCD Control panel and the Pressure knob.

Setting the time and temperature on your new EnduraPRESS SD20 is pretty easy thanks to the advanced touch-screen LCD control panel (Fig 1). Just touch the Set button to start the menu cycle. Each time you touch it, you advance to the next screen. There are five screens on the menu. These adjust the temperature, time, temperature metric, temperature calibration, and pre-alarm. Let's take a quick stroll through the menu.

  • Temperature: Press Set to access the temperature control screen. This is page one in the menu, so P - 1 will be displayed at the top of the panel. Touch the up or down arrow to increase or decrease the desired temperature. Easy peasy.
  • Time: Press Set again to access Page 2. With P - 2 displayed, touching the up or down arrows increases or decreases the set time, which is displayed in seconds.
  • Fahrenheit or Celsius: On previous models, changing from Celsius to Fahrenheit required digging deep into the job control menu. Now it's right upfront with the other job controls and can be changed in seconds. The P - 3 screen will show either a C for Celsius or an F for Fahrenheit. Just touch the up or down arrow to change it.
  • Temperature Calibration: Press set again to enter the temperature calibration menu (Fig 2). This is another important feature that has been simplified greatly. This step requires that you know the actual temperature of the heat platen. You'll need to measure it (more on this later) and see if it's the same as the indicated temperature on the LCD menu. If it is, you can skip this step. If not, here's where you adjust the display so that it's the same as the actual platen temperature. For example, if the PV value on the home screen of the LCD panel says 320, but the actual platen temperature is 335, you need to raise the displayed temperature by 15 degrees. Just touch the up arrow to indicate +15. Done.
  • Pre-Alarm: This is a nifty feature that you won't always need, but it's good to have. If, for example, you're doing laser transfers with two-step paper that must be peeled warm, you might set a five-second pre-alarm to give you time to put on a pair of cotton gloves before the end of the press cycle. To do this, just use the up arrow in the P - 5 pre-alarm screen to add an alarm five seconds before the end-of-cycle alarm begins.
Each time you change a setting on the control panel, you will have to press the Set button to cycle through these five screens. But if all you're doing is changing the time and temperature setting, you can cycle through them in just a few seconds.

Adjusting Pressure

Most new users of heat presses focus on adjusting time and temperature and forget about the critical third element. The amount of pressure applied can make the difference between success or failure. For most heat transfer applications, there should be a definite amount of resistance when you close the press. If you can close the press completely with no effort at all, your T-shirt transfers are probably not going to stick. The SD20 has a unique pressure knob in the back of the press. Turn the large black knob clockwise to increase the pressure and counter-clockwise to decrease it. Consult the instructions for your heat transfer materials to see what level of pressure is recommended. If the instructions indicate firm pressure, it should be somewhat difficult to close the press. Obviously what's difficult for Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Heidi Klum are two very different metrics, so this is somewhat subjective. Test with your materials and fine-tune them to get the desired result.

Fig 3: When pressing a threaded shirt, the press is completely closed.

One thing to remember here is that the amount of effort required to close the press depends not only on the amount of force you dial in but on the thickness of the material in the press. To understand this more fully, you might want to step sideways and check out this YouTube video about how levers work. A heat press is a second-class lever and the base or table of the press and the pressure knob serve as the fulcrum. Adding a thin cotton T-shirt (Fig 3) on top of the base doesn't

Fig 4: When pressing thick items like this, reduce the pressure setting first. change the fulcrum enough to affect the force applied.

But if you add a mouse pad, ceramic tile, or sweatshirt, you are essentially raising the fulcrum on your lever. In simpler terms, adding a thick item to your heat press table multiplies the force applied when you close the press. So if you're going from a thin item like a polyester shirt to a ceramic tile or mouse pad, reduce the pressure first (Fig 4). Set the press for minimum pressure, then place your thick item on the base and do a test press to see how much force is actually being applied to the item. Likewise, when going from a thick item to a thin one, you'll need to increase the pressure setting to account for the change in material thickness.

Leveling the Bed

Speaking of pressure, the EnduraPRESS SD20 is designed with another level of adjustment that allows you to ensure the pressure is evenly applied across the table. This is not essential for most heat transfer applications. T-shirt vinyl products like Hotmark and EasyWeed are pretty forgiving. But self-weeding laser transfer papers require specific amounts of pressure to transfer the adhesive coating from one sheet of paper to another. If the bed or table of the press isn't perfectly level, you may get inconsistent transfers. This is why clamshell presses aren't recommended for laser transfers. They tend to apply more force at the back of the table than at the front, which produces an inconsistent adhesive coating. Swing away presses close in a straight vertical motion which applies pressure consistently front-to-back and side-to-side. This benefit is reduced if the bed isn't level. So, If you find your transfers are producing consistently blotchy coatings, you may need to level the bed of the press. This is pretty easy to do and requires the use of four sheets of standard copy paper, a 9 mm Allen wrench, and a 14 mm wrench or an adjustable wrench.

Fig 5: Adjust the corner bolts gradually.

Reduce the pressure to a low setting, open the press and place one sheet of paper on each corner. Then close the press. You should have just enough pressure to keep each sheet of paper in place. By pulling the sheets, you can judge whether the corners all have equal pressure. If some can be removed more easily than the others, level the bed. On the bottom of the bed, there are four adjusting corner bolts with a locking nut at the top of each bolt. Use the 14 mm wrench to loosen the nut, then use the Allen wrench to raise or lower the adjusting bolt to raise or lower that corner of the bed. Turn the wrench clockwise to raise the bed, and counter-clockwise to lower it. Start with minor adjustments, one-quarter turn of the wrench at a time. This will make it easier to balance all four corners. After your adjustment, tighten the nut again and test with the four sheets of paper. Adjust as needed.

Extending the Base

Because the top swings away at a wide angle, there is a possibility that, when opened to 180°, it may become top-heavy and begin to tilt. On the newest EnduraPRESS SD20 presses, we've provided brackets that extend the base. With the base extension feature, if you want to swing it that widely, you can have a bigger footprint and a more stable platform. These are easily attached. Please see page 6 of the user manual for instructions on installing and using the base extension brackets.

Verifying and Calibrating Temperature

As noted above, most heat transfer applications have a pretty wide range of effective temperatures. This is true for heat transfer film (aka T-shirt vinyl), and dye sublimation paper. Self-weeding laser transfer papers are more particular. Just as they require consistent pressure across the bed, they also need specific temperatures. If your paper requires 305° F to transfer toner, and your press is only producing 290°, you've got a problem. So if you're using laser transfer paper and following all the directions, but your transfers aren't working, you may need to check the platen temperature.
Fig 6: Use a contact thermometer to verify platen temperature

Fortunately, the EnduraPRESS heat presses are very consistent and accurate. Your platen temperature will usually be within 5 to 8 degrees of the temperature displayed on the control panel. But, if you're getting blotchy transfers, you need to verify the actual temperature of the heat platen. Point-and-click IR thermometers don't work reliably on aluminum heating elements. Get yourself a Type K contact thermometer or pyrometer (Fig 6). This device has a probe that produces an accurate surface temperature reading when placed against the heating element. If you find that there's too big a difference between the platen temperature and the displayed temperature, adjust it on Page 4 of the LCD control panel using the steps listed above.

Power and Regular Maintenance

Full-size, industrial-strength heat presses like the EnduraPRESS SD20 draw more electricity than most household items like irons and toasters. The SD20 uses 60Hz and 15.5 amps of power. This is perfectly safe for use on household current. But if you have the press plugged into an outlet that also powers several other devices, you may have a workflow issue. The press has a built-in breaker that will shut the press down if it draws too much power. This is a great safety feature, but it will be a production problem if you can't do your shirts because the press keeps shutting off. If this occurs, move the press to a separate 120 volt, 20 amp circuit so that there will be sufficient power to keep it running and productive. There are two points on the SD20 that should be lubricated regularly to maintain good performance. Use a standard lubricant such as WD40 or 3-in-1 oil on the four columns above the heating cover and on the swing-arm column.

Using an EnduraPRESS SD20 is fairly easy once you understand the basic operation. Keep in mind that in addition to adjusting time and temperature, pressure is a key factor. When adjusting the pressure, remember that thick items change the fulcrum requiring you to start with lower pressure than you otherwise would. When you close the press, the thickness of the material will amplify the applied force. Make sure the bed or table is level to get the maximum benefit from the swing-away design. Extend the base for maximum stability. If you're having transfer trouble, check and calibrate the platen temperature. And for uninterrupted press production, use a dedicated 20 amp outlet and perform regular maintenance. Here is a link to the SD-20 Manual in PDF format.