What is the best ID Card Printer?

What is the best ID Card Printer?

The decision to purchase an ID card printer for your business can at first seem rather straightforward until you dig deeper and ask yourself some key questions. Like any technology related purchase the application or intended use is paramount. Different applications require different solutions, here are some examples: hospital, banks, ski resorts, government offices, small companies, large companies, schools, customer loyalty, transit passes and more.

What may be right for another may not be the solution for you.

Here are some questions to ask yourself that will enable you to have a clearer idea of what you will need in an ID card printer:

  1. What is your budget?
  2. What are your design, appearance, and security requirements? (ie magnetic stripe and smart card encoding, colour or monochrome, etc)
  3. Is speed of printing cards an issue? (ie for high volume applications)
  4. What is your estimated card volume to be printed?
  5. Do you require single or dual-sided printing?
  6. Is increased durability required? (ie lamination)

 The last thing to consider is the printer technology that will be used to create an image on your ID card.  There are two main printer options to choose from, both of these options can create top quality ID cards.

1) Direct to Card (DTC): DTC technology uses a dye-sublimation process which prints images by heating a print ribbon beneath a thermal print head resulting in the transfer of colour from the ribbon to the card.

2) Retransfer Printing: (also called High Definition Printing or HDP) Retransfer uses a two step process to transfer images onto a clear retransfer film which is then fused to the card.  Lets take a look at the pro’s and con’s of each option

Option 1: Direct to Card (DTC)


- print cost per card is cheaper
- faster print speed than retransfer
- supports rewritable card printing


- a thin white border around the edge of the card is typical
- incapable of printing on uneven surfaces (ie smart cards)

Option 2: Retransfer Printing:


- print quality is more consistent, richer deeper colours
- ability to print on uneven card surfaces (ie smart and proximity cards)
- edge to edge printing (no white borders)
- higher resolutions available if necessary for higher quality imaging
- added visual security and durability using holographic HDP film and over laminates
- better image protection due to HDP film


- print per card is more expensive
- printing throughput is less than DTC printing

 In conclusion, you now have an overview of both main ID card printing technologies. With this information you can asses your printing needs according to your application and budget. Partnering with a trusted supplier will be your next step in helping you make a final decision.

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