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How will the cards be used?

The first thing you need to determine is how the cards will be used. Will they be used for building access and visual identification, or to make payments? Once you answer these questions you can determine what information you need and what type of card you need to design. You will also need to determine if you will be printing just ID cards or will it be used for temporary cards, event cards, or other types of cards.

What is your budget?

It’s important to know what your budget is as you evaluate which ID card printer to purchase. You can spend anywhere from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars on an ID card printer, depending on the features and functionality needed. Also, when pricing out solutions be sure to also consider cost of supplies, software, and support.

Do you need a single-sided or dual-sided printer?

Not all ID card printers print on both sides of the card. Some are single-sided, which means you would have to print the card and then manually feed it back into the printer to print on the back side of the card. The advantage to a dual-sided printer is that they automatically flip the card and print on the back side of the card. So, it’s important to know when purchasing an ID card printer if you will be printing on one side or both sides of the ID card.

How many ID cards will you be printing on an annual basis?

It is also helpful to know how many ID cards you’ll be printing each year. Will you be printing 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, or 20,000+ ID cards annually? Organizations with a medium to high volume annual printing requirements may want to purchase a more expensive printer up front to save on supply and labor costs.

What is the best printing method for your ID card program?

The two primary printing methods for desktop printers are direct-to-card and retransfer.

Direct-to-Card: Most ID card programs use direct-to-card printing. The printhead applies the ribbon directly to the card to put the design and info on the card, hence the term direct-to-card. Please note that if a pre-printed card is not used there will be a tiny white border around the card edge. Advantages of direct-to-card printing include:

  • More economical
  • Average quality
  • Faster print speeds
  • Thin white border (if not using pre-printed cards)
  • Average durability

Retransfer: Retransfer printing produces high-definition cards that print over the edge (aka no white border). The card image is first applied to transfer film and then the film is applied to the entire surface of the card. Since the printhead never touches the card, it is ideal for printing on technology cards. Advantages of retransfer printing include:

  • Higher quality
  • No need to manage pre-printed card stock
  • No white border
  • Higher durability

What type of security features do you need?

This will depend on your organization and how the cards are used but there are multiple ways to address security. This includes adding features to the card design like a signature, logos, employee picture, uv fluorescent or luster panel ribbons, and holographic laminates. Additionally, by using smart cards instead of prox or magnetic stripe you are adding an additional level of security to your ID card printing solution.

What type of connection do you prefer?

One thing to consider is whether you need to connect to a single computer (via USB) or to a network (via ethernet connection) so multiple computers can connect and print to it. Wi-Fi connection is also an option on select printers and enables your organization to remotely send print jobs to printers. As ethernet and Wi-Fi connections are not standard features with all printers, be sure to check the printer specs if your organization requires either of those features.

How long do your cards need to last?

This will depend on your organization and how the cards will be used. Are they short-terms cards that will be used for a few days or a few weeks (like lodging keys, guest passes, and event passes)? Are they long-term cards that will need to last multiple years (like student IDs at a university, a national ID, or a driver’s license)? There are many factors that can impact the durability of the cards, so we recommend talking to an expert to assist you with selecting an ID Card Printer for your organization.