Heat transfers for non-garment items or laser transfers seem to be a growing part of our industry. New LED laser transfer printers, along with better hard-surface and no-weed transfer papers, continue to grow each year. These are used on items like awards and recognition plaques with transfers, specialty vinyl applications like shoes, and the A/B Sheet LED toner transfer papers. These techniques thrive and are more consistent with an air-operated press. These presses operate with the push of a button and typically apply more pressure than a standard heat press. They work well for people who do a high volume of heat pressing, as well as those doing laser transfer A/B sheets, as the more force you get, the better the transfer will be. You can set specific pressures, and the machine will adjust to the thickness of the item being pressed. This eliminates fiddling with a knob or crank when changing between types of garments or items. The other positive to an air-operated press is that it can be outfitted with special platens to handle things like shoes and other specialty items. While you can get the same platens for standard presses, air-operated units often apply more pressure, allowing for more consistent transfers on difficult-to-press items.
It should be noted that these units require an air compressor to operate. They can be loud and obtrusive if you do not invest in a higher-end air compressor. Make sure you invest in the correct compressor for your heat press, as the wrong one will not provide enough pressure.
—Aaron Montgomery, MontCo Consulting, 2 Regular Guys