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How Does A Plastic Card Printer Work?

18 Jul How Does A Plastic Card Printer Work?
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Table of Contents

1. What are the different printer technologies?

2. How can I get the best from my ID card printer?

3. Which printer is best for ID cards

4. You're now prepared to invest in your first ID card printer

An ID card printer works by feeding a blank plastic card under a thermal print head. The design is transferred onto the card's surface through the print head via a printer ribbon and then the completed card is released into the output tray.

What are the different printer technologies?

How do direct-to-card printers work?

Direct-to-card printers print directly from ribbon to card. These printers are typically used for printing employee ID cards, loyalty cards, and other plastic cards.

• Faster Print Speed

• Budget-Friendly (Both Printer and Consumables)

• Ideal for Beginners

• Ideal for Small Print Runs

• Dual-Sided Prints Option

IDEAL FOR: Smaller Businesses, Schools and Colleges

Browse our DTC printers

How do retransfer ID card printers work?

Retransfer ID card printers are a type of dye-sublimation printer that uses a layer of transparent film to transfer dye onto a card. The dye ribbon contains different colour panels, which are pressed onto the thin substrate in layers to create different colours. The transparent film is then bonded onto the card using heat. RTC printers print ‘over edge’ so that there is no 0.5-0.8mm gap around the edge of the card, which is often found with DTC print technology.

• Better HD Colour Quality

• Professional Standard Option

• Over-Edge Printing

• Preferable with Access Control Cards (as the print head doesn’t have contact with the chips on the card)

• Overlay Options – including Holograms / Watermarks (DTC requires a separate laminator)

• Dual-Sided Print Option

• Encoding, Ethernet and USB Options

IDEAL FOR: Large businesses and organisations, hotels, police, governments – businesses with an increased need for security and forgery-resistant ID cards. Businesses that require gift cards, membership cards or any short runs of high-quality cards

Browse our Re-transfer printers

How do Inkjet plastic card printers work?

Inkjet plastic card printers work by spraying tiny droplets of ink onto a blank plastic card. The solvent of the ink is vaporised when it hits the surface of the card, and only a hard, durable layer remains. The speed of the process means that the ink dries almost instantly.

• Easy to Install Ink

• Full Card Coverage

• User Friendly

IDEAL FOR: Smaller businesses that require ease of use, without access control and holographic overlays, but require a higher quality image

CMYK colour range explained


How can I get the best from my ID card printer?

To get the best from your plastic card printer, follow these steps. They will ensure that your design and print process are well matched:

- Produce your artwork in the CMYK colour mode. The colours on your monitor may be slightly inaccurate because screens display in RGB.

- Ensure that all photos and graphics that are printed on your cards are high resolution. Low-resolution graphics will result in a lower quality print.

- Try to use block colours where possible, rather than gradients and faded colours, to ensure the print is bold and vivid.

Because there’s no wet ink involved in the print process, printed ID cards don’t need any drying time and can be used immediately. It is very easy to print and issue staff ID cards, membership cards and access control passes on demand.


Which printer is best for ID cards

Magicard 100

DTC Magicard Pronto100 

The latest in the range of Magicard Pronto ID printers, the Pronto100 is designed to be user-friendly and low maintenance. With a speed of up to 4.7 seconds per card, this small ID card printer is fast whilst retaining high-quality printing. 

A small, high-quality dye-sublimation ID card printer, the Magicard Pronto100 features HoloKote® security features in 3 designs, allowing you to apply an extra layer of physical security to your printed ID. Furthermore, GDPR-compliant digital shredding helps to keep your data safe and secure by making any printed data digitally irrecoverable.

magicard 600

RW Magicard 600

The Magicard 600 is smaller than the Rio Pro and is capable of printing at 600 x 300 dpi which allows you to print fine text and display logos in a higher resolution ensuring your name badges are always looking sharp and professional.

Whether you are producing student ID cards, staff ID cards, guest passes, contractor badges and more, you will be impressed by the fast turnaround in printing and issuing these name badges in high quality

evolis 2 card printer

Evolis Primacy 2 Plastic Card Printer

Introducing the Primacy 2 by Evolis. This revolutionised Primacy offers everything that the original model does, but with many new features and capabilities too! With faster print speeds and an all-new 200 card input hopper, this new device lends itself to organisations doing large print runs with a quick turnaround. What’s more, new physical security features such as the physical lock and Kineclipse® help to prevent ribbon and data theft – ideal for printers that are in public spaces such as events or clubs.

From simple staff ID cards right through to encoded access control and bank cards, the Primacy 2 can handle it. It features all the encoding capabilities of the Primacy, with the addition of double overlays for better card durability, UV overlays for improved card security, and erase/rewrite technology for greater card longevity.

fargo inkjet

Fargo INK1000 ID Card Printer

Another benefit of ink cartridges over ribbon cassettes is that whereas data is transferred onto the used ribbon panels, ink cartridges don’t pick up any printed data and therefore eliminate a potential GDPR breach, however small it may be.

The INK1000 is a compact and stylish printer with a neutral design that enables it to blend into any office environment seamlessly.

The printer has an optional OMNIKEY 5127CK-Mini card encoding module that can be used to produce access control cards, cashless vending cards, gift and loyalty cards and much more.

You're now prepared to invest in your first ID card printer

If you are considering printing ID cards in-house, please browse our full range of ID card printers and accessories or contact us to speak to one of our experts. You can also check out our ID card printer buying guide.

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