Do you have questions about ID card printers? Here are some printer resources from our Learning Center:
- How to Choose an ID Card Printer
- The Benefits of Purchasing an ID Card Printer
- Card Printer Features and Options to Consider
- Retransfer vs Direct-to-Card Printers
What should I look for in a plastic card printer?
Choosing the correct printing method for your needs is the most important factor to consider when choosing a printer. Printers utilize two different methods:
- Direct to Card: Information is printed directly on a card. There is no bleed, meaning that there will be a slight border around the edge of the card.
- Retransfer: Information is printed on a thin plastic film allowing images to be printed flush to the edges of the card for a bleeding effect, which is then transferred to the card.
The printing method you choose impacts the image quality of a card. If you need to match your card’s colors with the PMS colors of your corporate logo, you will need a retransfer printer. If your designs contain gradients or need to be extremely sharp, you will need a retransfer printer. Retransfer printers produce a better looking card also because they can print “over-the-edge”. Direct to card printers are only capable of printing edge-to-edge. Retransfer printers are also able to better reproduce more vibrant and saturated colors than direct to card printers.
One area where some card printers really distinguish themselves is in how quickly they produce full color cards. Some printers can print a full color card in 12 seconds. Others can take 36 seconds to produce the same card. Speed matters when large numbers of full color cards are produced at one time. Even the lowest priced printer is able to print 900 monochrome cards at a time.
Cost per Card
On average, printing a full color card costs around $0.38. However, the lowest cost per card belongs to the two Javelin printers, the J200i and J230i. These printers print color cards at a cost of $0.24 per card with no loss of print quality.
Data Management and Simplicity
Before choosing a printer, it’s important to consider how complex your printing needs are. If you need a basic informational card with simple text and photos, a single-sided, entry level printer may suit your needs. If you require elaborate images, data storage or security features, however, a higher end model may be a better option.
Size, Printer Footprint and Portability
Some models are very small which makes them ideal for keeping at the front desk or taking to events or multiple locations. These basic printers work well for companies that need small quantities of cards printed from time to time or that regularly attend functions away from the office. Even if a printer is small, it’s important to treat it with care when moving it from one location to another.
Encoding and Security
All printers can be purchased with various encoders as options. If you require cards that store data and do not want to use barcodes (which can be photocopied), you will need a printer that encodes and reads magnetic stripes, RFID tags, and/or smart chips. Some printers offer some of these encoding choices as standard features while others offer them as options that can be added to your printer, either at time of purchase or after the fact.
The printer and software you use, needs to be compatible with your current version of operating system. Most printers are compatible with Windows, but only some can be used with a Mac or Linux.
Finally, it’s important to consider a printer’s warranty should something go wrong. Most printers come with a one or two year warranty though some printers, like the Javelin j230i, come with a 30 month warranty.