Plastic Card Printers: Types, Features, and Benefits

A high-performing plastic card printer allows businesses to customize plastic ID cards and badges to meet various commercial needs. Some essential uses of plastic cards and badges include student IDs, employee badges, payment cards, loyalty cards, membership cards, plastic parking permits, fundraising cards, etc. 

Having plastic card printing machines at your business site will enable you to carry out bulk printing of ID cards and badges in a short time. Especially, if you are associated with institutional or agency-related work that requires frequent printing of ID cards, a plastic card printing machine can be of great use. 

However, choosing the ideal printing machine can be time-consuming and daunting due to the comprehensive list of features, types, and price ranges available in the market. Now, before proceeding further to know the must-have specifications of a good printer, let’s find out the different types of printing processes used for plastic cards.

Types of Plastic Card Printing Processes

  1. Direct-to-Card Printing

Also known as Dye Diffusion Thermal Transfer (D2T2), this printing technology combines monochrome thermal transfer processes and dye sublimation together. 

  • Monochrome Thermal Transfer: The process of applying a single layer of color from a monochrome ribbon on a flat and smooth surface of a plastic card is referred to as the monochrome thermal transfer process. This transfer of color is done when the print head heats up the areas to be printed on the colored layer of the ribbon before transferring it onto the plastic card. It’s followed by another step where the varnish is applied to the plastic card to maximize its durability. 
  • Dye Sublimation: Plastic card printing undergoes several stages when the ribbon to be used comprises different color panels such as yellow, cyan, magenta, and black. During such a printing procedure, the print head heats up each color panel one after another. The layered color panels then vaporize and solidify on the plastic card’s top layer. 
  1. Retransfer Printing

Also referred to as reverse transfer, this technology involves a two-step printing process.

  • The design on the card is printed on a transparent film in a reverse method. It’s a combined process of sublimation and thermal transfer in which the different layers of color are applied to the card through sublimation and the black panels are printed through thermal transfer.
  • The design crafted on the transparent film is then transferred onto the plastic card. It is then reversed once again to achieve the ideal orientation.

If you are planning to purchase a plastic card printer, you should list down the exact specifications you are looking for. It’s a crucial step to follow as you will never want to spend money on a printing machine that specializes in printing bar codes or adding SmartCard security options to the cards. Thus, let’s find out what should be the must-have features that you should look for in your plastic card printing machine.

Essential Features to Have in Plastic Card Printing Machine

  • Printing Capacity: You should consider your printing requirements before purchasing a plastic card printing machine. It would be better if you consider the projected printing needs for the years ahead too. 
  • Auto Interface: Choosing a printer that possesses intuitive features such as LED displays or screen prompts makes it easy for employees to operate the machine. 
  • Print Methods: You may choose a single-side or dual-side printer, depending upon your print requirements. Single side printers cost less than dual side printers. However, dual-side printers offer full-color plastic card printing on the face and black on the reverse.
  • Encoding: Several plastic card printing machines come with encoding options that include barcodes, holograms, smart cards, RFID, and magnetic stripe. So, if you are unsure about the requirement of encoding in the future, choose a printer that can be upgraded at a later date.
  • Lamination: Some of the high-performing plastic card printing machines offer laminating abilities. You should choose an ID card printer that offers the possibility to add single-sided or dual laminating at a later date.

Benefits of Using a Plastic Card Printer

  • Convenient: Having an in-house ID card printing machine helps businesses to print plastic cards quickly and easily to serve multiple purposes.
  • Cost-Effective: Although the initial investment in card printers may be higher than ordering new ID cards, there are huge cost savings in the long run. 
  • Safe & Secure: It’s the most important benefit, especially for large companies where all the employees are required to have an ID card on them. ID badges are the best way to prevent strangers and burglars from entering the company premise.
  • No Dependency: Printing badges in-house means that the company no longer needs to rely on a third-party printing provider. It can potentially save the ID badges from being copied or stolen while in transit between the printing provider and the business.

Bottom Line

So, now that you have read the entire blog, you know the types of printing processes, essential features to look for while purchasing a plastic card printer, and the powerful benefits of using an in-house card printing machine. However, please ensure to consider your budget before making the actual purchase as the printing machine should be a value-for-money investment. 

A high-performing plastic card printer allows businesses to customize plastic ID cards and badges to meet various commercial needs. Some essential uses of plastic cards and badges include student IDs, employee badges, payment cards, loyalty cards, membership cards, plastic parking permits, fundraising cards, etc. 

Having plastic card printing machines at your business site will enable you to carry out bulk printing of ID cards and badges in a short time. Especially, if you are associated with institutional or agency-related work that requires frequent printing of ID cards, a plastic card printing machine can be of great use. 

However, choosing the ideal printing machine can be time-consuming and daunting due to the comprehensive list of features, types, and price ranges available in the market. Now, before proceeding further to know the must-have specifications of a good printer, let’s find out the different types of printing processes used for plastic cards.

Types of Plastic Card Printing Processes

  1. Direct-to-Card Printing

Also known as Dye Diffusion Thermal Transfer (D2T2), this printing technology combines monochrome thermal transfer processes and dye sublimation together. 

  • Monochrome Thermal Transfer: The process of applying a single layer of color from a monochrome ribbon on a flat and smooth surface of a plastic card is referred to as the monochrome thermal transfer process. This transfer of color is done when the print head heats up the areas to be printed on the colored layer of the ribbon before transferring it onto the plastic card. It’s followed by another step where the varnish is applied to the plastic card to maximize its durability. 
  • Dye Sublimation: Plastic card printing undergoes several stages when the ribbon to be used comprises different color panels such as yellow, cyan, magenta, and black. During such a printing procedure, the print head heats up each color panel one after another. The layered color panels then vaporize and solidify on the plastic card’s top layer. 
  1. Retransfer Printing

Also referred to as reverse transfer, this technology involves a two-step printing process.

  • The design on the card is printed on a transparent film in a reverse method. It’s a combined process of sublimation and thermal transfer in which the different layers of color are applied to the card through sublimation and the black panels are printed through thermal transfer.
  • The design crafted on the transparent film is then transferred onto the plastic card. It is then reversed once again to achieve the ideal orientation.

If you are planning to purchase a plastic card printer, you should list down the exact specifications you are looking for. It’s a crucial step to follow as you will never want to spend money on a printing machine that specializes in printing bar codes or adding SmartCard security options to the cards. Thus, let’s find out what should be the must-have features that you should look for in your plastic card printing machine.

Essential Features to Have in Plastic Card Printing Machine

  • Printing Capacity: You should consider your printing requirements before purchasing a plastic card printing machine. It would be better if you consider the projected printing needs for the years ahead too. 
  • Auto Interface: Choosing a printer that possesses intuitive features such as LED displays or screen prompts makes it easy for employees to operate the machine. 
  • Print Methods: You may choose a single-side or dual-side printer, depending upon your print requirements. Single side printers cost less than dual side printers. However, dual-side printers offer full-color plastic card printing on the face and black on the reverse.
  • Encoding: Several plastic card printing machines come with encoding options that include barcodes, holograms, smart cards, RFID, and magnetic stripe. So, if you are unsure about the requirement of encoding in the future, choose a printer that can be upgraded at a later date.
  • Lamination: Some of the high-performing plastic card printing machines offer laminating abilities. You should choose an ID card printer that offers the possibility to add single-sided or dual laminating at a later date.

Benefits of Using a Plastic Card Printer

  • Convenient: Having an in-house ID card printing machine helps businesses to print plastic cards quickly and easily to serve multiple purposes.
  • Cost-Effective: Although the initial investment in card printers may be higher than ordering new ID cards, there are huge cost savings in the long run. 
  • Safe & Secure: It’s the most important benefit, especially for large companies where all the employees are required to have an ID card on them. ID badges are the best way to prevent strangers and burglars from entering the company premise.
  • No Dependency: Printing badges in-house means that the company no longer needs to rely on a third-party printing provider. It can potentially save the ID badges from being copied or stolen while in transit between the printing provider and the business.

Bottom Line

So, now that you have read the entire blog, you know the types of printing processes, essential features to look for while purchasing a plastic card printer, and the powerful benefits of using an in-house card printing machine. However, please ensure to consider your budget before making the actual purchase as the printing machine should be a value-for-money investment. 

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