Card printers are used to print various types of plastic cards such as ID Cards, Gift Cards or Loyalty Cards. Historically, cards have been printed on a large scale with industrial printers.
However, as technology has progressed and the demand for cards has grown, card printers have become much more accessible with cost-effective desktop machines widely available.
Choosing the correct printer for your needs can be daunting. Card printers are extremely versatile and have many different applications. With such a wide variety spanning a multitude of manufacturers, it can be difficult to pick the machine that’s suitable for your needs, now and as you grow.
Most printer manufactures produce a variety of models segregated into different tiers: Entry-level, Mid-range and professional. Each variation has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages and it’s good practice to equip yourself with some knowledge on how the printers work and the different features they have.
Entry-level Card Printers
Entry-level printers offer basic functionality at a low price-point. These machines are ideal for businesses or organisations which have a small volume requirement of up to approximately 500 cards per-year. These printers are usually small in form, very easy to use and offer the most basic functionality.
Though entry-level, these printers can be used to print most types of plastic cards such as ID Cards, access control cards and loyalty cards. The caveat with these machines usually lies in their inability to print dual-sided or encode smart cards.
However, while these models do offer the same basic functionality, they often lack many of the advanced features offered by their more expensive counterparts.
Before purchasing, you need to determine the features essential for your needs, first ask yourself: What type of card will I be printing?
For example, will you be simple Staff ID cards? Will you be printing single or dual-sided? Will you be encoding your cards?
Once you have a made a list of the features you will require, it will make your choice much easier. If you plan on printing high-definition, smart cards, then you will need to skip the entry-level options and go for something more advanced. But if print speed or quality is of lesser importance to you, then very often an entry-level machine will be more than enough for your requirements.
Most modern printers have the same abilities across the board with the entry-levels having the caveat of being slower and less robust. However, these smaller models are just not suitable for printing large volumes of cards as the print engine is simply not powerful enough and will wear prematurely.
Mid-range Card Printers
Mid-range machines are typically faster, more robust and offer better print quality. These machines offer the perfect solution for businesses that need to print up to 2000 cards per-year.
These printers offer more functionality and typically print cards much faster. Mid-level printers are fast, reliable and much more robust, capable of printing much larger volumes of cards.
Two stand out mid-level printers that offer great functionality with a fair price tag are the Evolis Primacy and the Magicard Enduro 3E. Both are available from https://cardlogic.ie
Professional Grade Printers
For larger organisations, where card turnover is very high, a professional grade printer is advisable. These printers come equipped with features such as dual-sided printing, high-volume hoppers, advanced security and more.
High-volume machines can easily print up to 10000 cards per-year and often much more. They have extremely reliable print-engines which are specifically engineered for heavy load.
Which card printer has the best quality?
Desktop card printing machines employ two different methods for personalising cards: Direct to card (DTC) and Reverse Transfer (ReTransfer).
DTC (Direct To Card) card printing
DTC printers are the most commonly used card printer. These machines offer fast, reliable printing typically in the 300 dpi range.
Although this method is very popular and cost-effective, it does have a caveat. Due to the nature of the print method, cards printed with a direct to card printer have a thin white border surrounding the card While this border has shrunk significantly over the years with advancements in technology, it may still be a deterrent for some users.
For many card designs, this is a non-issue, particulary on those design with a lot of white. But, nevertheless its something to keep on mind.
Reverse Transfer ID Card Printer
ReTransfer is a premium quality, over-the-edge print method that uses a unique process to transfer the ink to the card surface. This method results in a much better print quality without the white border which plagues DTC machines.
As with all things, quality comes at a price. ReTransfer printers on average, cost €1000 to €1500 more than DTC and have a much slower print speed.