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ICTCS Embroidery Clamping System Review
 
     
 
Product Review
Product: Embroidery Machine Interchangeable Clamp System
Manufacturer: EMS HoopTech
Review Date: February 1, 2005

Introduction

If you think like I do, you’re always looking for ways to increase productivity and make your work easier. When I first discovered the clamping system I envisioned ways it could save us both time and money. I did as much research as I could on the system, but I really couldn't find any reviews or opinions on the web. I didn't know anyone that had first hand knowledge of this system. Most of the time the answer to my question was: “What’s the clamp system?” My curiosity finally got the best of me. I had to try it. I ordered the system online and had it in my hands a few days later. The morning after it arrived I mounted it on our machine and began putting it through its paces. The paragraphs that follow are the results of my testing.

For clarification purposes, I have no affiliation with the manufacturer or any of their authorized dealers. The opinions expressed here are my own and are based solely on personal experiences using this system.

Brief Overview

The Interchangeable Clamp System is a product from by EMS HoopTech designed for use on most commercial embroidery machines. The system consists of a base unit and various size windows. The term “window” refers to interchangeable clamps consisting of a fixed lower jaw and a moveable upper jaw. Windows are mounted on the base unit, which is attached directly to your embroidery machine.

This system uses the clamp for securing your fabric rather than the traditional tubular system of inner and outer rings. It is easy to attach, and allows you to quickly clamp your fabric in place prior to sewing out your designs. The clamp system is available in two sizes, the icTCS1 and the icTCS2. The icTCS1 base unit currently supports six window sizes: 2” x 3.5” – 3” x 3.5” - 4.5” x 4.5” - Back of Cap - Left Side of Cap - Right Side of Cap. The larger icTCS2 base unit supports six additional window sizes: 5” x 5” – 6” x 6” - 7.5” x 6” - 7.5” x 3” - 4.5” x 6” and 5.5" round which can be used for the back of caps.

EMS HoopTech has recently developed a clamp system specifically for the PR600/EMP6 Professional Embroidery Machines. The system has a lesser range of window sizes, and only one base unit is currently offered. The four window sizes are: 3” x 5” – 4” x 4” – 6” x 5” – 5” round. This particular unit is the one we have purchased, and it will be covered in this review. The units for the larger machines work exactly the same way.

How does it work?

To attach the HoopTech system to the PR600/EMP6 embroidery machine, you must first remove the adjustable hoop arm by unscrewing the two thumb screws that hold it in place. The clamp system base unit is then attached to the machine using the same two thumb screws you just removed. There are guide holes in the base unit that align with the pins on the machine, so it’s virtually impossible to mount it improperly. Once you have tightened the thumb screws, that unit is ready to go. (See photos)

Each window mounts just as easy. They have guides, or tabs, that assist you in aligning the window with the base unit as you slide it in place. It is held securely to the base unit by a single thumb screw. Changing windows only takes a few seconds if you require various sizes in your project, and it can be done without removing the base unit from the machine.

Once you have the base unit mounted, and your window in place, you are ready to embroider. On the right hand side facing the machine, there is a lever that locks and unlocks the clamp. To insert your fabric, raise the lever to the upper position. This will separate the moveable and fixed jaws of the clamp. Slide in your fabric, along with any backing you are using, align as necessary, and lower the lever to clamp your fabric in place. That’s all there is to it. It couldn't be any easier. The fixed lower jaw has a non-slip surface that helps to hold your fabric in place tightly. The upper movable jaw is curved downward on the inner edges to aid in pulling the fabric taught. Once your fabric is in place, you are ready to begin sewing out your design.

What’s good about the system?

For us, it’s a big time saver and it’s actually saving us money. Since we bought the HoopTech clamp system, not only can we hoop projects faster, but our temporary spray adhesive usage has dropped to almost zero. If you've ever purchased a can of any well known brand of temporary spray adhesive you know how expensive it is. A major portion of the work we do required the use of a temporary spray adhesive. I would estimate we were using 1 or 2 cans per week. Now that we have the clamp system we no longer need the adhesive. At $10 to $12 per can, that’s a big savings. We’re also saving money on backing. Many of the fabrics we use do not need backing, and since we no longer need to hoop stabilizer to adhere the fabric to we are saving even more money. If you often have projects that require the use of sticky backing this system could also reduce the need for that as well. It’s the clamp itself that firmly holds the fabric and the stabilizer together. Nothing else is required.

As I said, we save time too. This system can dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to hoop many items. I also find it works exceptionally well with those items where hoop marks, or hoop burns are a concern. Those issues are virtually eliminated with the clamping system. Where the system really shines is for things like monogramming towels, or odd shaped items such as bags, purses, CD cases, and other similar items. It’s also a tremendous aid if you do a lot of test sewing. As quick as you can release the clamp and remove the completed design, you can slide in another piece of fabric and be ready to go again in a matter of seconds. The small, 3" x 5" window would work well for doing pockets, sleeves, and other narrow items.

What’s not so good about the system?

I really haven’t found any negatives except for the fact that the window sizes are somewhat limited with our system. The clamp system that HoopTech developed for the PR600/EMP6 machines has fewer window sizes. As I mentioned earlier, the largest window size is 6” x 5”. That’s considerably smaller that the largest window size in the icTCS2 system, which is 7.5” x 6”. I would be much happier if I had at least a true 5” x 7” window in which to work. It has not been a major problem, however, as I simply resize my designs as required. If you own a commercial embroidery machine that could utilize the larger base unit, you'll most likely find the system even more useful.

How much does it cost?

The HoopTech Interchangeable Clamp System is a fairly large investment. The icTCS1 base unit retails for around $150.00. The larger icTCS2 retails for $259.95. The interchangeable windows range from $59.95 to $129.95 depending on size. The good news is each base unit and window frame is sold separately. There is no need to purchase base units, or windows, that you don’t feel you'll need. Additional base units or windows may be added to your system as required. If you do order this system, be sure to specify your machine when ordering.

Are there any special considerations?

The only thing I should mention here is the danger of the needle hitting the window frame itself. The machine does not recognize the clamp system at all. As far as the machine is concerned, you are using either the large or x-large hoop. You must be careful that your design will sew within the window without hitting the metal upper jaw. There is nothing to stop the needle from traveling too far and attempting to sew through the metal. You and I both know that won’t work. Before you know it you'll have pieces of shattered needle flying all around your work shop, not to mention the damage it could cause to your machine. I recommend you faithfully do a trace of each design prior to hitting your start button. It’s an extremely good habit to get into. If you see that the design is too close to one particular edge, you can easily move it in the opposite direction to alleviate the problem.

Conclusion

I highly recommend this system. It is well made, sturdy, and extremely simple to mount and use. We have found it very useful in our business and I anticipate it will pay for itself in no time at all. For us, it was a good investment. On a “5 Star” scale, I would rate the system “4 ½ Stars.” I would give it “5 Stars” if it had larger windows to offer for the PR600/EMP6. The systems for the larger commercial machines would undoubtedly earn a “5 Star” rating if our shop could use them.

One other thing that is important to note. Just like other after market hoop systems, the HoopTech clamping system is not going to totally replace the tubular hoop system that came with your machine. It’s just not going to happen. There will be times when your regular hoops are the best way to go. This system is simply an additional tool that can be added to your arsenal. If you want a system that has the potential to save you both time and money, then consider the HoopTech Interchangeable Clamping System.

Addendum:
Added 2/11/05

Since this review was written, I have received questions regarding the "Peel & Stick UHMW Wear Strip" that is included with the system. It is mentioned in the included instructions, but it's placement and purpose are unclear. The strip is actually just a friction strip that prevents the clamp from rubbing directly against the hook arm. It also acts as a spacer that allows you to complete the initial setup. It should be placed right along the top of the arm starting just behind the needle plate.

Once you have fastened the strip to your hook arm, you are ready to mount the base unit and complete the setup. It is not necessary to remove the strip after setup is complete. It's actually best to leave it in place. As its name implies, the strip prevents wear by insuring no direct contact between the clamp and the hook arm. It will not interfere with the operation of the machine when your regular tubular hoops are being used.

Ron Bynum
R & M Crafts
rmcrafts@cigarcityarts.com
www.cigarcityarts.com

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