I need a machine recommendation. SWF, Ricoma or Tajima?

expresssign

New Member
We are considering adding embroidery to our shop and are looking for a 2 head machine, and know NOTHING about embroidery, so newbie for sure.

Which manufacturer would you consider the most reliable and have the best equipment or anything else I might need to know. I have watched a ton of youtube videos, and Ricoma has a few nice ones comparing itself to the other two.

Any suggestions or things to look out for?
 

WildWestDesigns

New Member
Stick with your name brands. Not based so much on which one is cheaper. If it's really too good to be true compared to others, it probably is.

I'm partial to Barudan's myself, but they aren't going to be the cheapest (even used), but from your list, the next one would be Tajima and then SWF. Stick with name brand as they would typically have a good service record for when you need them. As far as close by, most techs will work on different brands of machines. I have a very good tech for when I need him out of Muscle Shoals, but I don't know if he would go into GA or not.

Now, this isn't related to machines, but don't feel compelled to get the software that they try to bundle with the machine. Some are decent, some aren't as good as others.

For a commercial digitizing product, your looking at a min of $3k. Anything sub $1k will be mainly auto converting and if one isn't up and how things should look, or how to tweak things, getting home versions will get you in a bind in various ways. May be able to make a $1500 program work, also would depend on what features you have on your machine as well. I have a sequin dispenser, so that automatically either puts me at $3k at minimum or one particular open source project (which has a step learning curve if unfamiliar with manual/semi-manual digitizing).

One thing that I would highly suggest, although it's hard to do if starting out from scratch, is to take files that you have and have them embroider those files on the machine, not ones that they supply and have had a lot of time to perfect for demo'ing. You for sure want to sample machine on hats and if they would allow it also with 2mm foam (anything thicker and you are probably looking at changing upper and maybe even lower tensions, so they may not go for much thicker if they go for it at all). For puff, it's going to need to be setup for puff specifically. If it's puff on say a shirt or fabric swatch, it'll have to have applique in it as well.
 

expresssign

New Member
Stick with your name brands. Not based so much on which one is cheaper. If it's really too good to be true compared to others, it probably is.

I'm partial to Barudan's myself, but they aren't going to be the cheapest (even used), but from your list, the next one would be Tajima and then SWF. Stick with name brand as they would typically have a good service record for when you need them. As far as close by, most techs will work on different brands of machines. I have a very good tech for when I need him out of Muscle Shoals, but I don't know if he would go into GA or not.

Now, this isn't related to machines, but don't feel compelled to get the software that they try to bundle with the machine. Some are decent, some aren't as good as others.

For a commercial digitizing product, your looking at a min of $3k. Anything sub $1k will be mainly auto converting and if one isn't up and how things should look, or how to tweak things, getting home versions will get you in a bind in various ways. May be able to make a $1500 program work, also would depend on what features you have on your machine as well. I have a sequin dispenser, so that automatically either puts me at $3k at minimum or one particular open source project (which has a step learning curve if unfamiliar with manual/semi-manual digitizing).

One thing that I would highly suggest, although it's hard to do if starting out from scratch, is to take files that you have and have them embroider those files on the machine, not ones that they supply and have had a lot of time to perfect for demo'ing. You for sure want to sample machine on hats and if they would allow it also with 2mm foam (anything thicker and you are probably looking at changing upper and maybe even lower tensions, so they may not go for much thicker if they go for it at all). For puff, it's going to need to be setup for puff specifically. If it's puff on say a shirt or fabric swatch, it'll have to have applique in it as well.


Thanks for your reply. On equipment, cost is not as much of an issue as quality, features, support, etc. so I agree with you 100%. I know you get what you pay for. Im trying to figure out which company is the largest, best quality and basically the luxury or top of the line manufacturer that the others are trying to be. Also, which software do you recommend for digitizing?
 

WildWestDesigns

New Member
For machine brand, in my opinion, Barudan. It has some features that with the right software you can hardcode into the .u?? file format or do at the machine (control machine speed at certain parts of the design so you don't have to babysit the machine is one big one in my mind).

As far as software goes, Wilcom Embroidery Studio. You may be able to get away with Wilcom Hatch, but it doesn't have all of the features that I'm thinking of, but depending on what you are needing to do with the software, it may be enough. Bare in mind, that while Hatch and EmbroideryStudio have the same EMB file extension on the master proprietary file format, they aren't quite as interchangeable. At least, last time I checked. So keep that in mind just in case.
 

TomNJ

New Member
First off, take a hard look at what's involved in the embroidery business. You stated you know nothing about the business. It's easy to get sucked in by listening to the sales reps at the trade shows. Who is your target market? With a 2 head, you're not going to be doing production contract work. You simply can't get enough throughput on 1 machine to make it worth while. At least in my opinion. One off work sucks. You'll only get about $12 to put a name on a polo and after all is said and done, you have spent 45 minutes on the entire process. Sales, design & production. You'll spend a lot of time explaining to customers that come into your shop with a crappy jpeg and want you to embroider a hat. You'll have to tell them that you need a special file to embroider the logo and it will have to be digitized. You'll then have to explain what digitizing is and how much it's going to cost. After you then tell them that one hat is going to be $60 with the digitizing, hat and labor, you've just wasted 30 minutes of your time. Then at Xmas when people come into your shop and want a name embroidered on a stocking. You tell the $25 and they think you're insane, storm out of your shop and bad mouth you on Yelp. Take a hard look before you take the plunge. Unless you have a niche market, embroidery is a low margin business. If you do decide to take the plunge, Tajima will not disappoint. Also, instead of spending $55k on a 2 head, why not start out with a single head for less than 1/2 the cost? When that machine is running all day and you can't keep up, it's easy to make the decision to buy a 4 head. You'll need a single head anyway.
 

WildWestDesigns

New Member
First off, take a hard look at what's involved in the embroidery business. You stated you know nothing about the business. It's easy to get sucked in by listening to the sales reps at the trade shows.

I would actually expect this more with a single head then a multi-head. Single heads are where you get the more "business in a box" type of mentality and far easier to get sucked into that. At least in my experience.

With a 2 head, you're not going to be doing production contract work. You simply can't get enough throughput on 1 machine to make it worth while. At least in my opinion.

Hmmm, that's strange. Now, granted any multi-head that is bigger then a 2 head will do better, one can get production contract work with a 2 head. How big those runs are is the question. More heads you have, the bigger the run, but even with a single head, can get production contract work. How many items and lead times are what people have to learn to handle (and how many hrs one is willing to work over in case that figuring is wrong(I've been here many a time when I started out in this work)).
One off work sucks. You'll only get about $12 to put a name on a polo and after all is said and done, you have spent 45 minutes on the entire process. Sales, design & production. You'll spend a lot of time explaining to customers that come into your shop with a crappy jpeg and want you to embroider a hat. You'll have to tell them that you need a special file to embroider the logo and it will have to be digitized. You'll then have to explain what digitizing is and how much it's going to cost. After you then tell them that one hat is going to be $60 with the digitizing, hat and labor, you've just wasted 30 minutes of your time.

I agree with you there, one offs do suck, but if done right, one will actually make more for that run then a production run. Just not as consistent as a production run. And with a single head, will be doing a lot more of them more often then not.

If you are doing one offs that just about anyone can do, even those with a single needle home machine, then those one offs are really painful.

As to the rest of that quote, I hate to break it to everyone, but that is a conversation one has regardless if it's a production client or a one off client. I have that conversation on a regular basis, even with people that are in other trades that have to deal with the exact same thing with whatever they do (oh the irony).

As to the 45 minutes, I've spent 4 hrs on just digitizing alone for a hat design (realistic animal embroidery, lots of one stitch at a time digitizing, old school) that was a one off. There are going to be some jobs that digitizing alone can take all day (full backs especially) just on the digitizing alone. Depending on the design and the production worthiness of the digitizing, stitch out can take that long for just 1 (if single head).

45 minutes for the entire process can be a breeze at times.

But that situation of interaction between you and the customer above happens a lot. Some listen, some don't.


Unless you have a niche market, embroidery is a low margin business.

It is definitely heading that way and oh so quickly. Between software vendors selling POS auto conversion techniques in their software, to people not knowing what good embroidery should look like. Or because they buy that cheap software that is mainly (or exclusively) auto converting can't fix the work to make it look better. Then of course, there is the traditional low ballers that either price things too cheaply (or not at all).

Don't necessarily have to be in a niche market to get better margins, just have to market and deliver better then what others do. For some customers that won't matter, but like in any trade after so long, it becomes easy to identify those. Of course, having better economy of scale helps with those margins as well.

But have to be honest with oneself and do a proper C/B and business plan to figure out what machine is the best fit. What market to go after and how long does one have to where should be showing a profit or it's time to get rid of the equipment and bow out.
 
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E Coloney

New Member
-suggest you establish a relationship with a current embroidery shop to get wholesale pricing and from there see how much is involved from a sales/customer satisfaction (and customer demand) point of view. There is WAY MORE to learn about the ins/outs/process limitations of embroidery than merely buying a machine and being in business the next day. The folks that come in off the street will know next to nothing of what goes into it along with yourself (until you learn. Learning takes experience. Experience means making mistakes. Mistakes cost you money.). If you work with an experienced and interested embroidery shop, you don't have the expense for a machine and inevitable errors along the way,... right out of the gate.
 
We bought a 2 head SWF machine 2 years ago. I almost instantly regretted going with only 2 heads for the reasons stated above. I don't have the room for anything bigger so I have to keep reminding myself of this. If you have the space and money, go with 4 head or more. Embroidery isn't the main part of our business but I'm glad to not have to deal with outsourcing to third parties unless we have a really good size job.
 

Craig Keller

New Member
We are considering adding embroidery to our shop and are looking for a 2 head machine, and know NOTHING about embroidery, so newbie for sure.

Which manufacturer would you consider the most reliable and have the best equipment or anything else I might need to know. I have watched a ton of youtube videos, and Ricoma has a few nice ones comparing itself to the other two.

Any suggestions or things to look out for?
Call me 254-459-2009
 

47CP

New Member
I have had Tajima, Barudan and SWF in my shop. We still have the Tajima single head and it just keeps going and going. The Barudan were all the old turret head ones and although limited in colors and hard to operate (these are one step above tape fed machines to load designed) they sew the best out of any machine I have used.

I had a SWF and it was a disaster. Crap machine sold by a sketchy distributor (who may now be the importer of SWF) and it was junk.

I think Ricoma is a chinese copy of SWF (which seem like copies of later-ish models of Barudan). Also sketchy distributors.

I wouldn't touch Ricoma for any amount of money. I might consider a SWF for an extremely cheap price, but I mean like $5k for a 3 year old 4 head price. No hesitation on Tajima nor on Barudan.

Make sure to be realistic with your business plan on embroidery. It is not set and forget and takes a lot of learning and extra "stuff". Short of doing short run or personalization that you can charge handsomely for, you will never be able to compete with a large outsource shop for big orders.

DaveW
 

WildWestDesigns

New Member
No hesitation on Tajima nor on Barudan.
One thing that I have always liked Barudan over the Tajima is slow/fast commands. Being able to tell the machine at this specific stitch count to slow down (or speed up, depending on the situation). That is something that to my knowledge is still only supported in the Barudan file format (U??). Now some software if directly connected to the machine (I think Melco can do this), can get that ability, but must have their own software to be able to do that. The Barudan way, I can set that in a CSV file, export to a U?? file and it will be read by the machine. Don't need specific software.
Make sure to be realistic with your business plan on embroidery. It is not set and forget and takes a lot of learning and extra "stuff". Short of doing short run or personalization that you can charge handsomely for, you will never be able to compete with a large outsource shop for big orders.
For a 2 head, I can certainly agree with this, however, if having a decent size operation (multi machine can actually help versus multi head on a single bridge style machine).

Typically what will get the much large operations is that very rarely would they be able to handle a short hot run of a particular part of an order. For instance, one has a very large hat order, but it is broken up to regular embroidery only, 2mm puff foam, and 6mm puff foam (and yes, I have had hat orders like that). Depending on the breakdown of those individual hat orders, they may not even touch it or they charge astronomically more. They would have (and I would as well) dedicated multi-head bridge style machines for each of those types of embroidery (and you are also looking at different file digitizing for all of those, unless want to take a gamble (for regular and 2mm puff, may get away with it, but not with the 6mm)), but if there are a lot of heads turned off, because the individual types of embroidery don't take up all their heads, they tend to charge more as well. Big operations don't like down time like that. So it really does all depend.

It certainly isn't a set it up and forget it type of thing though. Anything can happen and even if it happens on one head, it shuts off all the heads of that particular machine.
 
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