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Breaking into embroidery? Thinking of adding an additional embroidery machine to your shop? Should you buy a single head machine or a multi-head machine? Here are several things that you need to consider when buying an embroidery machine.

What do I plan on doing with an embroidery machine?

During my time working on embroidery machines I have seen a huge variety of clients that have been successful in this industry. The main things that makes an embroidery business successful is turning out quality  products, producing the items when you promise them, and finding your niche in the business.

 

Turning out quality products is important. You only have one chance to impress a customer, so I advise you to never let anything go out the door that you are not completely happy with. Too often I have clients that are new to the business and buy an embroidery machine. They are so excited and start taking orders from customers, sometimes even before they get the machine. Be aware that there is a learning curve that comes  with embroidery. We got our machine and it took us several weeks to turn out a consistent product. I do my own digitizing and it took me about 6 months to get consistent.

Delivering your product when you promise is tremendously important. Don’t promise something this afternoon if you not sure you can deliver. I would rather tell a customer that you won’t finish it until Friday and call them to tell them that you completed it early.

Finding your niche is important. There are all kinds of sources for customers, you need to identify your customer base. Some examples… sports, public safety, military, motorcycle clubs, schools, Greek organizations, churches, weddings, funerals, children, Christmas, fraternal organizations, monogramming, and the list goes on. You can focus on any one or combination as your customer base.

Single head or multi-head machines?

Do I need a single or a multi-head machine? This depends on what you are doing. if you are doing large quantities if the same design you probably need to look at a multi-head machine. If you are going to be doing names and monograms you need to look single head machines.

If someone gave me a blank check and told me to set up an embroidery shop, I would buy a couple of single head machines and then a couple of multi-head machines. The multi-head machines are for running product, and the single heads are for running test stitch outs, names, and monograms. I would rather have two 6 head machines than one 12 head because if one breaks down I am not out of business.

Should I buy a new or used machine?

If you are new to embroidery you may want to consider buying a new machine as your first. With your new machine you usually get technical support, training, technical support, warranties, technical support, and it is easier to get financial support. Oh, and did I mention that with a new machine you can get TECHNICAL SUPPORT?

You can save substantial money buying a used machine. The bottom line is this. You can get a good machine in your budget but there are a lot of pitfalls. Do your homework before you spring for a machine. You don’t want a $3000 boat anchor

Here are some things that you should consider when buying either an old or new machine…

  • Technical support – Is there someone I can call and talk to if I run into problems or have questions about my machine?
  • Service technicians – If my machine breaks, is there someone in my area that can service my machine without costing an arm and leg?
  • Training – Is there someone that can provide training on my machine?
  • Parts – Are parts available for my machine? Are parts expensive for my machine?

When you consider buying either a new or used machine you should realize that you are weighing price against quality. I like to compare embroidery machines to automobiles, do you need a Mercedes to drive to Walmart, and take the kids to soccer practice? You might want to look at something a little better than a Yugo, an Edsel or something that’s going to stay in the shop most of the time. You will pay more for a higher quality machine

Most Commercial Embroidery machines are sold in four different countries, and they go up in price and quality with each level. Chinese embroidery machines have two levels of quality.

  • Germany – ZSK
  • Japan – Barudan, Brother, Happy, Melco, Tajima, Toyota,
  • Korea – Inbro, SWF
  • China 1 – Avance’, Pantograms, Ricoma,
    • China 2 - Aemco, Butterfly, Consew, Dublin, Feiya, Highland, Mesa, Meistergram, Prodigi, and Yamata
  • Those brands in blue are from companies who are out of business or making these machines.

In China and in some other countries there are companies that build machines. You bring your blueprints and machine specs to the company and order 500 machines and they will build you an embroidery machine and put your name on it. Feiya cannot sell their machines in America so build machines and rebrand them. Some companies focus on quality and consistency while others focus on turning a dollar. I recommend the China 1 machines. Be careful when buying the China 2 machines. Beware of any Chinese embroidery machine older than about 2010.

Beware of buying machines directly from China. You can get them for a fraction of the cost, but I have seen and heard many horror stories. Stay away from Inbro, Prodogi, and Aemco. The companies are no longer in business and parts are difficult to get. The machines are still bouncing around in the market and you might see one for sale.

Barudan, Brother, Happy, Melco, SWF, Tajima, Toyota, and ZSK are great machines but any embroidery machine has a definite lifespan. Do your homework on anything over 10 years old, especially the Chinese machines.

. There are a few things you probably want to consider if you are looking for a machine this old.

  1. Parts - The companies that built these machines may or may not still make parts for these machines. You may want to call the company and ask if can still get parts. The PCB boards are becoming rare and you may end up having the boards repaired. You are looking at $600 to $1200 for a board replacement or repair. As an example, Toyota 850 and 860 have little or no new parts. You will end up getting parts for them from companies that are buying older machines and parting them out.
  2. Service - When you get the machine home and it breaks in a couple of weeks, will the company offer service on the machine and is there a repairman in your area that can fix the machine? Most of the companies that sell embroidery machines will not give you free support on used and older machines. You can find some help from them but unless you have a service contract they may not provide support over the phone. Look for a service technician in your area that can service the machine. A lot of technicians will not bother with older machines, and travel cost for a technician is a bear.
  3. Training - I don't know if you know anything about operating the machine and embroidery but there is a learning curve to getting it right. I have seen a lot of new embroidery machine owners that start taking orders before they get their machines. You need to get the machine, learn how to use it and then work into the sales. It is not as easy as buying a laser jet printer and plugging it in. You should be able to get training from the people you buy it from or you may be able to find a technician in your area to help you out.
  4. Check out the machine - If you do end up wanting to go with an older machine make sure that it works like it should and you can use it.
  • Check the X-Y controller and make sure that the frame move freely left and right and front to back.
  • On a multi-thread model make sure the head moves freely left and right through all of the needles.
  • Sew out at least two or three designs on the machine while you are looking at it. Use several needles and make sure you sew flat and caps on it.
  • Make sure that you can load a design on the machine. Depending on the machine there are a variety of ways to load a design into the machine. If the machine does not have an independent way to load a design such as a 3.5 inch floppy or USB you may have to connect to the machine with a computer. Some of these machines require proprietary cables and software on the machine to load a design.

I hope this helps, thanks, Dennis.