Commercial Embroidery Machines – A Buyer’s Guide
The commercial embroidery machine as the name suggests is built for use in the embroidery business. This business has varying levels of specialization from normal cloth adornment to cap adornment, shoe embroidery, and quilt embroidery.
The business niche that you choose would determine your embroidery needs, and these needs determine the machine you should look for.
Expectedly, you should choose a machine that suits your embroidery needs and budget. To do this, you need to consider the following:
Types of Embroidery Machine
Embroidery machines can be classified into two classes; free-motion machines and computerized machines. Either type of machine is run on electricity and comes with a foot pedal that serves to regulate the operation of the motor. Usually, the more your foot presses down on the pedal, the faster the stitching speed.
Commercial embroidery machines can be divided into 3 types of computer-controlled embroidery machines (CCEM) depending on the number of sewing heads and their functions:
- Single-head CCEM.
- Multi-head CCEM.
- Schiffli CCEM
Your embroidery needs will determine the best type of machine. The type of machine also determines its size and weight. You should choose a type that can fit in your worktable.
Usually, most commercial embroidery machines for small-scale and medium-sized businesses are single-head CCEM.
Type of Needle
The needle is what stitches the thread to the fabric, and sewing needles are not the same as embroidery needles. Also, a sewing needle can be used for embroidery, but it is not a substitute for an embroidery needle.
The most common needle used in embroidery is the crewel needle which has a larger eye (to accommodate thick threads) and sharper tip than the standard sewing needle. In some machines, a needle threader is used to thread this needle, sometimes automatically.
There are other types of embroidery needles, and they include:
It has a dull point, and for this reason, it is designated as a ball-pointed needle. It is suitable for counted-thread embroidery on Aida fabric.
It is shorter and wider than the crewel needle and features a longer eye. It is suitable for woolwork embroidery.
Ribbon embroidery needle
It is designed to be used with ribbon threads. It has a large eye to accommodate the ribbon.
It is a long and sharp needle with a round eye that is used for ribbon embroidery and hat embroidery.
It is longer than the crewel needle and has a small eye.
Huck embroidery needle
It is designed to be used in huck embroidery. It is longer than the crewel needle and features an angled tip or ball-pointed end.
Most of these needles are made of steel alloy or nickel. For people who are allergic to nickel, a gold-plated version of the needle can be used.
When choosing a machine, you should check how many types of needles it can work with. This will allow you to know if the needles suitable for your intended embroidery projects can be used by the machine.
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Number of Needles per Sewing Head
Most commercial embroidery machines for small-scale and medium-scale embroidery have a single sewing head. This sewing head can have one or more needles.
If your budget allows, you should choose a model that has multiple needles per head, as this allows for easy stitching of multicolored embroidery patterns in clothes.
Type of Embroidery Bed
The foundation fabric needs to be set on the bed of the machine so that it can be stitched. This bed is called the embroidery bed because it is in an embroidery machine, and this term serves to differentiate it nominally from a sewing machine bed.
Nonetheless, the sewing machine bed and the embroidery bed are more or less the same things, and there are 4 types of embroidery beds; flat-bed, raised-bed, cylinder-bed, and feed of the arm bed.
Each bed is suited for embroidering specific apparel and foundation materials. You should choose a bed that best suits the clothes and materials you are going to embroider.
Usually, the standard embroidery bed is the flatbed. Most commercial machines for small-scale and medium-scale embroidery businesses feature a flat embroidery bed or a raised embroidery bed.
Size of Embroidery Bed
The flat profile of the embroidery bed allows for the embroidery hoop to easily move on it. The size of this bed determines the size of the fabric that can be stitched under the sewing head before the loop is changed.
Relatedly, the bed size determines the maximum size of the embroidery pattern that can be sewn continuously before the needle is stopped, for instance, the maximum size of canvas work.
The standard embroidery bed is square and measures 4inches by 4inches, which gives it a size of 16 square inches (sq-in). If you need to work on large fabrics, then you can choose models that come with rectangular embroidery beds that measure 5inches by 7inches or larger sizes.
Embroidery Patterns and Designs
The types of embroidery stitches that the machine can make determines how many embroidery patterns that machine is capable of making.
These embroidery patterns also determine whether the machine is capable of surface embroidery, counted-thread embroidery, or both.
As expected, these embroidery patterns must be factored when creating an embroidery design in the computer, so as to ensure that the design created can be embroidered using available embroidery patterns.
Most commercial embroidery machines come with hard-coded embroidery designs, that is, their computers come loaded with embroidery designs that can be stitched at the press of the button.
Usually, it is recommended that you look for a machine that can stitch many embroidery patterns, and comes with many pre-programmed embroidery designs.
Normally, a machine that comes pre-loaded with 50 embroidery designs is suitable for a medium-scale business.
The commercial embroidery machine is designed for efficiency and a high performance-to-cost ratio. This machine must be able to stitch perfect embroidery patterns on clothes in the shortest time possible.
This means that it must work fast, and this work speed is determined by the number of stitches made per minute, the SPM, as well as the stitches made per inch of fabric, the SPI.
As expected, a machine with a high SPI and low SPM will be slower and more efficient as compared to a machine with an equivalent SPM but lower SPI.
This shows that SPI determines how accurately the design in the embroidery file is reproduced in the fabric. This can be explained by the fact that a high SPI allows for many stitches to be made which enables fine and detailed embroidery designs to be stitched to the material.
The working speed of an embroidery machine is rated as SPM and SPI, and you should look for a machine with a high SPI and high SPM.
Usually, most machines only have the SPM rating, and you should therefore choose a model that has a high SPM.
The standard working speed in terms of SPM is 650 SPM, so you should choose a machine with an SPM higher than this value.
The computerized embroidery machine can be connected to a PC so that the PC can be used to create and edit a design file and then export it as an embroidery file to the machine.
As expected, the PC needs to be able to transfer the data directly to the logic head of the machine, and this requires the logic head and PC to communicate with each other.
This communication is achieved by connecting the PC to the communication ports of the machine.
These communication ports in the embroidery machine can be the universal serial bus (USB) ports or Ethernet ports.
You should check which communication ports the machine has, as these ports determine how many ways the PC can be connected to the machine.
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Some machines do not support direct connection with the PC, and this requires you to transfer your embroidery files to the machine using a memory card or a flash drive (thumb drive).
The machine must, therefore, support reading from a memory card, and this requires a memory card slot. Also, if the machine has a Reader/Writer Box, then embroidery files can be saved in the memory card.
Other important features you should look for in the machine support for custom stitching, and availability of an LCD screen for previewing and editing the embroidery files, as well as read on-screen tutorials.
The commercial embroidery machine must be able to handle heavy workloads without breaking down. Quality machines are supported by warranties which show how much confidence the manufacturers have in their products.
You should check the warranty on the machine you intend to acquire as this can help you gauge your expectations of the machine. High-end models that are pricey can be supported by a warranty of 25 years or more.
Now that you know the 10 factors to consider, alongside your budget, when looking for a machine, you can now comfortably shop for an embroidery machine.
Also, these aforementioned 10 factors can be used to rate and grade different models of commercial embroidery machines in the market today, and thereby identify the best models. 5 of these top-rated models have been chosen for review.