When you are buying an embroidery machine, you are making an investment; whether that machine is intended for business use or personal use. Besides your budget, there are a number of things to consider before leaping into the world of computerized machine embroidery.
Business or Personal
The intended use of the machine will guide you in selecting a machine. If you are planning to start a business or expand your business into embroidery, then you need to purchase a commercial or industrial embroidery machine. If you plan to embellish items for personal use and perhaps as gifts, then a consumer grade machine is likely sufficient; however there are some great cross-over machines that work well in both arenas.
Consumer grade embroidery machines may be a small dedicated embroidery machine or a combination sewing machine with embroidery capabilities. Typically these are single needle, flat-bed machines that are relatively inexpensive, but often have small embroidery areas and lack an automatic thread trimmer.
Lighter in durability than industrial machines, but better than consumer embroidery machines are the commercial, or cross-over, embroidery machines. These machines are usually multi-needle and may be flatbed or free arm.
The most expensive, big and heavy embroidery machines are for industrial use. These machines are usually multi-head, multi-needle and like commercial machines are either flatbed or free arm.
Lower-end consumer and commercial embroidery machines only have one needle. These are the least expensive, but most time consuming machines. With each change of color in a design, the machine will stop so that the operator can remove the current color thread and then feed the machine with the next color thread. Even the most proficient operator loses time with this process – and the machine is doing nothing while it waits.
A Multi-needle machine allows the thread colors to be preloaded with the design colors. The embroidery machine will stitch out the design automatically changing between each needle as appropriate for the design colors. The machine requires less operator time and resumes stitching quickly after changing color needles.
Higher-end single needle machines will have an automatic thread cutter to reduce operator efforts. Provided the machine automatically cuts them, the thread cutter eliminates the need to trim jump stitches in designs.
Multi-needle machines will have an automatic thread cutter – without it serious mechanical issues will occur due to thread tangling and interference.
Most modern embroidery machines have color or black-and-white touch-screen user interfaces that make operating the machine substantially easier. These machines can usually have designs loaded via USB cable or “thumb drive”. Machines that use proprietary design/memory cards are not common today, but they were very common in the early era of consumer embroidery.
There are still some machines on the market that require a computer (typically Microsoft Windows based PC) to run them, while a few others have a simple words and numbers only digital interface. These machines tend to require a Serial connection or USB connection to the computer. In some cases the computer can not be used during the stitch-out routine – a very important point in considering when buying an embroidery machine.