While there are plenty of makers who love to make things only for themselves and their friends, the growing movement of crafty people eager to make enough to sell more than a couple things at a time can’t be ignored. And if you look at Cricut’s products from the last year, it’s clear the company’s overall goal is to make products with features specifically aimed at folks who want to sell what they make. Cricut’s Smart Materials allow anyone to make multiples at speed without the need for mats of various sizes and organizers of any kind.
The Cricut Easy Press line was also updated, supporting hats and larger format projects, but if the goal is to make more faster there are plenty of shirt presses designed to make that easy. In typical Cricut fashion, the company has made its own large format press for making a lot of different things all at once. Also in typical Cricut fashion, it’s pricey unless you plan to run a small business from your house.
- Best in class safety and accessibility features
- Nearly perfect heat application
- Safety-focused design
- Extremely expensive
- Bulky and heavy
- Control system feels like a step backward
Straight out of the box, the Cricut Autopress is big. At nearly 17 inches wide and 26 inches deep when in use, it weighs a hefty 53 pounds. This is considerably larger than many competing presses, but not in a way that is useful. Many shirt press plates support designs up to 15×15, whereas Cricut supports only 15×12. This is noticeably larger than the 12×10 found in the largest Cricut Easy Press and offers the same promise to evenly distribute heat across the entire plate. While it’s true you can disconnect the power and controller to stand this Autopress up when not in use for better storage, it’s a huge piece of equipment that requires a lot of space to function in your craft room.
The Autopress is curiously smart in some ways and not as smart as it should be in others. Where many shirt presses ask you to crank an awkward handle to apply pressure to a design for maximum application of vinyl or ink, all you need to do with the Autopress is gently press down on the handle and listen for the machine to do the rest. The sound of a locking mechanism means considerable force has been applied to the project, and when the timer you have set expires the pressure is released and the mechanism lifts. Similarly, if you apply any upward pressure to the handle it will immediately release the lid as a safety feature.
Considering you could be applying 400 degrees Fahrenheit of heat to fabric or wood, it’s great to see such consideration. It’s also nice to know that once this bulky machine is set up, anybody can use it with ease.
The Autopress controller is fairly simple. There are a pair of dials, one for temperature and another for time, and four buttons where you can store presets. That’s it. The controller exists as the brain of this big machine and anything else you want it to do needs to be manual. There’s no Bluetooth phone connection for saved projects like the Cricut Easy Press 3; in fact, you need to connect the USB port to a computer and use Cricut’s desktop app for software updates.
If you have a modern Mac, you’ll need an adapter because the Autopress uses USB-A, not USB-C. Considering how many people have grown accustomed to exclusively using phones or tablets to control other Cricut products, thanks to the Cricut team’s hard work, the Autopress feels surprisingly manual in this respect.
I’ve been using the Autopress for two weeks now, and wow do I get the appeal. I was able to make three shirts in minutes and quickly assemble almost 20 feet of gold trim on a set of Jedi robes with so much less work than even the Easy Press would’ve afforded me. The ability to quickly lower this lid and know an even amount of pressure was being applied, allowing you to move on to the next part of a project, is incredible. It’s not hard at all to imagine a makerspace with multiple heat pads so you could quickly switch out designs and make a couple dozen things to sell in an hour. Cricut says the goal of the Autopress is to make it easier to produce things at scale. In my opinion, it accomplishes that goal handily.
At the same time, there’s no denying this thing is big and expensive. There are a ton of other shirt presses out there for half the price, and when comparing them it’s not always immediately clear what makes Cricut’s machine worth the $1,000 price tag. It’s undeniable this is the safest press I have tested: The plastic rim around the heat plate to keep you from accidentally brushing against it and the auto-pressure system are features you’re unlikely to find elsewhere. Even distribution of heat is also a significant concern with a lot of less expensive presses, especially at the edges of heat plates you can see in many consumer reviews of other models.
But is all of that worth an approximately $500 price increase? For a lot of home makers, the answer is probably no. But for those who love Cricut products and need that extra bit of assistance to turn their creativity into something they can sell, this is a great addition to your space.