Are single-head embroidery machines the same across the board?
Yes, they all have the capability of producing one piece at a time, but there’s more to it than just that. The structural design of the machine plays a significant role in capability, longevity, and overall performance. I’ve loosely classified these into three main types.
One single-head type available on the market today is a smaller, hobby-enthusiast machine. It’s more of a cross-over compact embroidery machine where home equipment meets industrial. This type can range from one to 10 needles with the ability to stitch on finished garments (tubular). It has a small footprint and a lighter weight style (e.g., plastic housing and parts, lighter duty motors). I do not classify it as a home machine since it can embroider in flat, tubular, and cap modes with multiple needles, nor do I classify it as an industrial machine as it does not have the industrial-type jump structure. Also, this is a small arm-style build that looks like a conventional sewing machine from the side and has an obstruction point behind the pantograph assembly. This type of machine has a lot of capability but can be limited. So, it’s only fair to compare it to other similarly built equipment.
Then there is the compact industrial embroidery machine. This style is space-conscious by offering a smaller footprint and seems to be the most popular model for entry-level embroiderers. Most compact style machines feature a medium arm-style frame, which allows for a larger stitch area than the cross-over machine but still has that obstruction point in the back of the pantograph. Aside from the arm-style, compact bridge-style models are available that feature an open back (no obstruction behind the pantograph). The bridge structure provides a more stable framework for the machine. Multi-head embroidery machines are also built in this fashion.
The full-size single-head typically has the most significant field size of the offerings available. Most manufacturers produce both large arm-style frames or bridge-style frames. This type of equipment has a larger footprint and is heavier duty than the compact single-head embroidery machine.