Exhibitions give manufacturers an opportunity to set out their wares to be judged by both their competitors and potential customers.

Which is why BMM Weston, the British flatwork ironer manufacturer based at Faversham, Kent, took its new 850mm roll gas-heated ironer to last year’s Texcare exhibition in Frankfurt.

“To be quite honest, the machine was a prototype and not fully developed” says Dick Fenner BMM Weston’s sales and marketing director.

“However, by taking it to the biggest exhibition in Europe we found the ideal method to gauge the market’s reaction and we were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm that the exhibition visitors showed for the model.

“It seems that laundry managers, from all around the world, have been waiting for a gas ironer of this size and specification to become available.”

Heating up

The BMM Weston gas-fired flatwork ironer comes in 500mm and 850mm roll versions. Both have a gas-to-oil heating system using a highly efficient, multi-pass heat-exchanger. A specially designed burner generates a gas temperature of 1880C, while the temperature of the oil used to heat the movable chest is 1850C, just a three degree drop across the heat exchanger.

Although some ironer manufacturers employ a similar system, they use the oil to heat the rollers. This, BMM Weston’s engineers claim, gives a much shorter drying time than does a heated chest and adversely affects the finish quality of the flatwork.

The manufacturing quality, as with all BMM Weston machines, is high and meets all international safety standards. Conforming with international standards is important to the company as more than 60% of its business is outside the United Kingdom. It has ironers installed in hotels and laundries from China to the Middle East, from Singapore to the United States. The company has a well-established range of steam and gas flatwork ironers. It starts with the small return feed 500mm roll model, which is also available in steam and electric version, and extends to the large 4.0m four-roll steam ironers.

“The largest one we have shipped out this year has been a 3.6m ironer for Mauritius” say Dick Fenner. Within the range of straight-through ironers, the company additionally offers 600, 850, 1050 and 1300mm machines. “We now have a comprehensive ironer portfolio with the customer getting a complete choice of roll numbers, widths and energy sources. The 500 return feed model has an electric heating option in case the customer has a local legislation problem with gas or emissions. We think we have most contingencies covered.”

The market for the smaller gas-heated 500 return feed ironer has grown rapidly. The demand has come from the smaller laundries and drycleaners which have been expanding into linen rental.

“We are finding that many of our customers have a distinct preference for gas as a heating source” says Mr Fenner. “Some may already have gas dryers so are already knowledgeable about the technology and economics of the fuel, or perhaps the smaller establishments have steam-raising plant that is already at full stretch so that the imposition of extra steam consumption would mean the installation of a new boiler, extra pipework and steam traps. The purchase of a gas-to-oil flatwork ironer seems to be the answer to their prayers.”

The ironer’s heating system, comprising gas burner, heat-exchanger, oil pump and pipework, is self-contained within the body of the ironer. The rest of the machine design is similar to a conventional BMM Weston product with an inverter-driven a.c. motor and a notched-belt pulley drive to a low-friction gearbox. The heated chest comes up to meet the rolls, which is standard on all BMM Weston’s machines and enables the company to use the same size springing throughout the range of ironers.

The designers have focussed the main development work on the machine’s heating system. The gas burners are designed by an Italian specialist company and the heat-exchanger is sized to give optimum flows. The 850 contains 120 litres of oil, the 500 has 48 litres. The inverter-controlled motor allows the larger machines to be matched up to almost any of the major manufacturers’ feeder-folders. The exhaust systems are particularly efficient with an exhaust fan sized to give a perfect balance from the suction and throughput of the system. All machines meet the latest European safety standards.

Return feed ironer

Demand for the return feed ironer has been surprising. Tony Dickens, BMM Weston’s national sales manager, says that sales are on the increase.

“The 500 gas-fired model seems to have found a growing niche in the market. It is a convenient size, fitting into basements and small back-rooms. In the case of a drycleaner trying to expand the business, space will always be at a premium.”

A growing number of drycleaners have seen an opportunity to supply restaurants, perhaps owned by a friend or a member of the family with linen rental, and then branched out to supplying local hotels and institutions.

“We have recently completed two installations of return feed ironers for drycleaners in the London area” says Tony Dickens.

“The volume of business has to be sufficient to justify the capital expenditure, but in both cases they had grown the business to a stage where a flatwork ironer was essential.”

For the return feed 500, the widths available are 1.7 to 3.0m. The beds are stress relieved and highly polished to give a consistent finish to the same quality standards as the larger industrial ironers.

The machines are designed to fit against a wall but still be accessible for maintenance. The waxing and cleaning regime is exactly the same as with the larger machines.


Shirt laundering is another burgeoning market that is keeping BMM Weston busy. With more and more single people and working couples, leisure time has become valuable.

“Cash rich, time poor” is the phrase used by marketing managers in many diverse industries to describe the growing customer-base. Many busy people want to avoid the task of laundering and ironing shirts and with modern technology bringing the price of this service down, they can afford to do so.

BMM Weston sells around 25 shirt presses a year. These are not the starter kit models that some drycleaners have but the large all-in-one cabinet units that provide the operator with quality shirt-finishing at high rates of throughput.

“Drycleaners are seeing the demand for shirt laundering as a way to increase their overall business turnover. Once you can get people to bring their shirts into the shop it is not difficult to convert them into using the drycleaning facilities” says Tony Dickens.

The company does not yet offer a starter kit, the small and much cheaper body press that allows retailers with a low-volume shirt business to get semi-automated.

“It would be nice to offer such a product” says Tony Dickens “as once the business increases and volumes have improved we would have a potential customer for one of our double-buck shirt body presses. We are considering putting a starter kit in the product range.”

The BMM Weston shirt body press provides the same production capacity as a conventional three-piece, double-buck machine by eliminating the need for a separate sleeve press. Just two operations are needed to finish a shirt, so there is less handling and an improved work rate, giving a “piece per operator hour” statistic that ensures both a degree of profitability and an acceptable quality finish.

The rotary shirt press has the minimum of moving parts making maintenance and reliability key features. It has a formed vacuum back, a contoured chest, nonporous air bags, steam injection for the sleeves and a slotted buck cap. “There are different approaches to the location of the shirt press” says Tony Dickens.

“Our model takes up about 2sq m of floor space. Some people like to hide the shirt press at the back of the shop, while some of our customers have been making a feature out of the working process by putting the machine in the window or at the front of the shop. Customers are fascinated by the automatic shirt finishing machine.

“When you think of it, there isn’t an awful lot to see in a drycleaners, except racks of finished clothes. It’s just something that makes one drycleaning unit stand out from the rest. Anyone doing 500 shirts a week should consider replacing the iron and board with one of these.”

Another show

Having had such a success at the Frankfurt exhibition it is no surprise that BMM Weston will be at Clean UK, the show sponsored by the trade association, the Society of Laundry Engineers and Allied Trades (SLEAT) which is being held in have two working shirt presses and a 1300 flatwork ironer. It may also let the laundry industry have a closer look at the gas-fired 850 ironer.