Plastic card printers are specialized machines used to customize PVC cards. Card printers have grown exponentially in popularity in recent years and with that growth comes the inevitable confusion surrounding them.
Buying a card printer is not easy. There is a huge range of models each with their own unique features which make it suitable for printing a particular type of plastic card. At a fundamental level, all card printers perform the same basic function i.e. print cards, however, the variance in security, speed, quality, and cost can be huge between manufacturers and models
The good news, however, it that no matter what industry your in or what your needs may be – there is a card printer out there to suit your needs.
Card printers are used to print a variety of plastic cards such as:
- Loyalty cards
- Visitor badges
- Student and membership cards
- Employee badges
- Travel cards
- Payment cards
- National ID cards, etc.
The Key Points
Purchasing your first ID card printer can be a daunting task. The sheer range of models and technologies can be very confusing. To make things easier, we’re going to break down the key points to take into account when purchasing your first id card printer.
What type of cards do you need to print?
Your first step should always be to profile your card. – this is crucial. If you need to print bog-standard single-sided cards with no encoding or additional security, then you can largely ignore the more complicated machines that offer encoding features and additional security features such as holographic printing. One of the most basic considerations is single or dual-sided printing. If you’re printing small amounts of cards, you would be well advised to opt for a single-sided machine as they are much more cost-effective than their dual-sided counterparts.
How many cards do you need to print?
Most entry-level desktop printers simply do not have the robust engines required to print large volumes of cards. So, if you have a lot of cards to print on a budget, it may seem like a good idea to purchase the cheapest printer model on the market, but be warned that the printer will wear out very quickly and will likely need expensive repairs or a replacement. Most entry-level card printers are designed to print 1000-2000 cards per year.
Larger volume machines are more expensive but in the long-run, they will serve you well as they are specifically designed to print large volumes all day every day. These printers also come with large input and output hoppers so you can print large batches of cards at a time with minimal interaction with the machine.
Will you print in color or monochrome?
It’s significantly cheaper to print cards in a single color (monochrome) than it is to print in full color. However, this is not strictly a printer consideration but a consumable consideration. Most printers are capable of printing in monochrome and full-color, however, some printer models have very cost-effective printer ribbons with high-yields.
Will you print single or dual-sided cards?
Dual-sided printers are significantly more expensive than single-sided machines. Its typically recommended that you use a dual-sided printer if you frequently print in batches of 20 or more cards.
Its good to note, that single-sided card printers can also print dual-sided cards, it just requires you to remove the card manually and reinsert it to print on the other side. This method is fine for printing a small number of cards at a time but can be very tedious for large batches.
Do you need to encode your cards?
Technology cards have never been more popular. Most people have at least one loyalty or membership card in their wallet these days. This is another critical aspect to take into account when choosing your printer.
Many printer models offer encoders on their machines with the capability for encoding smart chips and magnetic stripes. If you need to encode your cards, then it’s very important to choose a machine with the correct encoder.
Do you require additional security?
Card printers have varying levels of security, ranging from none at all to highly complex. If you need cards for a security orientated environment then you may to consider a machine with enhanced security features like watermarking or holographic printing.
Card printers have limited connectivity options. Most machines come with a standard USB connection, however, some of the more premium models offer WIFI or ethernet connectivity.
There is a lot to digest when shopping for a plastic card printer but defining your needs carefully before shopping around will help make the right choice. The above points should give you enough information to make an informed decision on the best printer type for you.