Basic ID Card Printer Buying Guide

ID card

Installing the right ID card printer is extremely important, and traversing the identification buyer’s territory can be difficult. This ID Card Printer Buying Guide incorporates understandable and authentic information for anyone who is going to purchase an ID card printer, especially if this is the first time. 

Direct-To-Card Printers

Direct-to-card printers use a process called dye sublimation (full-color image production) and resin thermal transfer (sharp black barcodes and text production). Direct-to-card refers to the printing process because the printer-head comes into direct contact with the card surface. A direct-to-card printer produces plastic cards with photographic-quality images containing 16.7 million colors with continuous tones and a smooth finish. Direct-to-card printers leave a thin borderline or demarcation on the edges of the card due to the direct-to-card printing mechanism.

The total printing dimensions in the middle of the card are known as the “edge-to-edge” surface coverage of the card. This sympatry occurs because the printer-head would be damaged if it comes into contact with the edges of the card. Additionally, it is important to maintain the direct-to-card printer free from debris, dust, oil, and frequent touching so as not to damage the printer-head. Limited period manufacturer warranties are only available on the printer-head and this is why buying a new direct-to-card printer has a more affordable price.

Retransfer Printers

A reverse transfer is a two-stage printing process used by a retransfer printer. The two steps include printing on the reverse side of a clear plastic film and then thermally infusing the plastic film onto the surface of the card. Retransfer printers offer higher quality print cards with consistency and more durable credentials in comparison to direct-to-card printers, but they may have slightly slower printing speeds because of the two-step printing process. The final cards are more vibrant with photo-realistic images due to the two-step printing process. 

“Full bleed card surface coverage” or “over-the-edge” card printing is possible since the printhead of a retransfer printer thermally infuses the plastic film on the surface of the card. This is why retransfer printers are used to print smart cards, advanced security cards, and plastic cards with embedded security technology. The final card has secure photo-realistic images and it is much more durable to weather conditions. A retransfer printer comes with an extended warranty for the printhead with the options for a lifetime warranty so this will be more expensive than a direct-to-card printer.

Other ID Card Printer Buying Considerations

Printer Dimensions:

Some ID card printers take up large spaces without offering any special features such as lamination or dual-sided printing. Always inquire about the physical dimensions of the ID card printer. Some ID card printers have same-side input and output card hoppers to accommodate confined spaces.

Print Volume:

An ID card printer with a dual-input hopper or a dual-output hopper will be much more productive for high print volume demands. Also, inquire about per-card printing speed if you have large volumes of cards to be printed regularly.

Final Resolution

ID card printer manufacturers offer warranties varying between 1 to 3 years. A warranty is critical when purchasing a direct-to-card printer because negligent use can lead to a warranty claim to cover the damages. Retransfer printers often come with a longer warranty & service period, based on the manufacturer.


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