Plastic cards have a slew of applications in our day-to-day activities. Owing to their durability, portability, and standard size, they are perfect for use as payment cards, membership cards, driver’s licenses, employee identification badges, and others.
How are these cards produced? Before the early 1990s, the major technology for producing ID cards was the film-based or composite method. In the technique, a persons’ photo would be captured, cut out and laminated to a card-sized piece of paper, which holds the individual’s name, ID number, along with other personal info.
Card printers are devices used for printing personalized, secure, and affordable on-demand cards. Card printing can be done in color or monochrome, and they can be encoded using several features, such as RFID or magnetic stripes, for extending their use from highly secure staff identity cards to gift cards.
In printing images onto plastic cards, card printers make use of dye-sublimation technology. This process utilizes 3 panels (YMC) for color and 1 panel (K) for black. YMC (Yellow, Magenta, and Cyan) are ideal for color picture and K for black text. An overlay panel helps in protecting color picture and text from wear as well as tear. Let’s now take an in-depth look into 7 technologies for printing cards:
This technique involves the use of a single color, like white, black, blue, silver, red, gold, and so on. Of all the technologies for card printing we will examine in this article, it is the most cost-effective, particularly when it comes to personalizing with pre-printed cards. Monochrome printing is the best solution for printing cards which don’t need color picture. Monochrome is frequently utilized for printing barcodes.
Color printing applies a color ribbon that contains the YMC panel. During plastic card printing, it is passed through a thermal print head in the company of the color panels. Then, the color from this panel is transferred onto the card by using the heat, which is released from the print head. It is worthy to note that the standard performance for card printing remains 300 dots per inch (dpi) that is equivalent to 11.8 dots per millimeter. This technique helps in optimizing the quality of printed images as well as logos.
UV Security Panel
UV or Ultra-Violetsecuritypanel is an advanced kind of security panel, which brings forth a fluorescence image on exposure to UV light. This method is a cost-effective and stress-free technique for protecting against fraud and counterfeit cards. It allows you to design a logo or trademark of your choice in a card without the need to make any additional payment. UV security panel is the best solution for firms and businesses that need to issue an assortment of low cost, low volume, and mid-range security ID cards.
This is one of the essential processes required for producing ID cards using printers. ID cards are given for visual identification and equally for storing vital information. Sensitive pieces of information are stored in such cards, particularly those that are used for financial purposes. 3 major encoding methods are used in card printing and include magnetic stripe, contactless IC, and contact IC.
Rewritable Printing Technology
Here, the card isn’t personalized with the aid of a ribbon. It has to do with the activation of a thermal sensitive foil that covers the plastic card surface. Such cards can be erased and rewritten repeatedly for the purpose of customization. Rewritable printing technology is commonly used for bonus point cards, temporary visitor’s card, and others. One of the major benefits of rewritable cards is that they can be erased, as well as rewritten, for as much as 500 times. You also have the option of incorporating different encoding features like a magnetic stripe, contactless IC, etc.
Direct-to-Card Printing Technology
In the conventional direct-to-card technology, your image gets printed onto the surface of the PVC card directly. This is the major difference between the Direct-To-Card printing and the Re-Transfer badge printing, which we have explained below. Though the former does not last long like the latter, an overlaminate could be employed for stronger card protection.
How does the process in question work? In the direct-to-card printing technique, a blank card gets fed into the printer, where it will be made to pass beneath a ribbon with a bevy of thermal elements. These elements become heated by the print head, after which they are passed to the card hard surface for creating the image.
Direct-to-card printers are typically expensive and come with a delicate, print head that touches every part of your card directly. This feature can affect work quality because any imperfections or dirt on the card is liable to damage the head. This could make a head replacement necessary. Though the printers don’t have the capability of producing the level of ID card ReTransfer printers produce, they are still the most widely used printers because they demand lower up-front cost and can usually take care of the ID card needs of various industries.
BothHDP (High-Definition Printing or ReTransfer badge printing) and direct-to-card printing technologies use two methods for printing onto cards. The first one is dye –sublimation— the process certain printers use for printing smooth, continuous-tone images, which have a real photographic look. The technique applies a dye-based ribbon roll, partitioned by a series of consecutive color panels. These panels are categorized in a repeating series of the 3 process colors, YMC, along this ribbon’s entire length.
Resin thermal transfer, the second process, involves printing sharp black text as well as crisp barcodes that are readable by infrared barcode scanners and the visible-light type. Also, this process is used for printing ultra-fast, one-color identity cards. Like dye-sublimation, it also employs the same thermal print head for transferring color from the ribbon roll to the PVC card. But the difference lies in the fact that solid dots of color are transferred as a resin-based ink that gets attached to the card surface under the application of heat. This technique yields single-color images that are extremely durable.
ReTransfer ID Card Printing Technology
ReTransfer printersare also called Reverse Thermal Image Transfer, Over-The-Edge, or HDP. They are equipped with features for printing over the whole surface of the card. Besides, these printers make the ribbon (both data and image) get adhered to a separate film. This is, in turn, becomes adhered to the card surface. Thus, with this technology, the printer’s head can never make any direct contact with the ID card.
The benefits of a Reverse Thermal Transfer image printer are, it generates a more beautiful card, can add on additional modules (if necessary), and offers a lifetime warranty on the costly print head. Printers with HDP technology are most suited for high-quality, high-volume enterprise use and are commonly used in universities, airports, and government agencies.
In a Nutshell
Explained above are the 7 card printing technologies you should know about. You can read further on these card printers and a widerange of smart cards you can get for personal and professional purpose.