How to choose a card printer ?Before choosing a card printer, it is useful to evaluate your current and future card printing needs. Use this guide to review the three main factors for card printing at a glance.
1. Estimate your card printing volumeOne of the most important factors to consider when choosing an ID card printer is the number of cards you plan to print in each session and over the course of a year. Most card printers can be divided into three groups: low-volume printers, medium-volume printers, and high-volume printers. We will help you choose the one that best suits your card printing needs.
Low volume/small batch printing: less than 1000 cards per yearIf you plan to print in small batches, creating fewer than 1,000 cards per year, and do not need advanced security or card encoding options, a low-volume card printer can produce the same print quality as high-end models, for a much lower initial cost. Keep in mind that many low-volume card printers are also entry-level models. Entry-level printers are the cheapest, but often do not have a wide range of options and do not offer the best print quality. They are ideal for low-level security needs.
Our choices of low volume card printers are as follows:
- Evolis Badgy
- Zebra ZXP1
Standard volume/average batch printing: 1000 to 5000 cards per yearMid-level printers include standard volume printing and are ideal for organizations that will print up to 5,000 cards per year. Some brands offer two models for standard volume printing - with a slightly more expensive model that includes more options or can print at slightly higher volumes.
Our choices of standard volume printers are as follows:
- Evolis Zenius - (single-sided)
- Evolis Primacy (single or double-sided)
- Zebra ZXP Series 3 (single or double sided)
High-volume/batch printing: more than 5000 cards per yearSome organizations will need to purchase a printer capable of high-volume printing and designed to be used several times a day, often with multiple users. Although the initial cost may be higher on these models, warranties are generally better and there are more security options available.
Our preferred high-volume plastic card printers include the following
- Zebra ZXP7 (single or double sided)
2. Determine your card's appearance requirementsTo determine your card appearance needs, you need to decide whether you want the card to be printed on one or both sides, whether you want it printed in full color or in one color, and the desired image quality.
Single-sided printingCan print on both sides if desired, but must pass through twice. Works best if cards have fixed data on one side.
Some single-sided printers can be upgraded to double-sided printing after the initial purchase, but the upgrade may cost more than the double-sided machine
- Duplex capacity can cost approximately €500 to €100 more at initial purchase.
- Used to collect identification data on both sides of the card
- Less expensive; typically used in specialized situations, such as integration with a central system
- Works equally well with color cards, for example silver printing on a black card
- Other than cost savings and card design, there are no significant advantages to using a monochrome card printer
- Higher cost, but the most versatile and practical choice in the long run
- Any color printer can also use monochrome ribbons to print images in a single color.
Edge-to-edge photo quality - Direct-to-card printers
- The direct sublimation process uses a thermal print head to transfer the color of the ribbon to the card.
- Uses standard tapes
- Prints photo-realistic colors, but images will have slight borders
- Entry-level printers generally have lower print quality than professional-grade printers.
Superior quality without edges - Re-transfer Printers
- Image quality is the first concern
- High-tech printing process
- Requires an additional retransfer ribbon
- Offers greater durability and tamper-proof cards
- Provides high quality printing on irregular surfaces
- Edge Removal
- More expensive and slower to print
3. Determine the level of security required
Basic Visual Security - Membership Cards
- Often includes a simple 1-D barcode that can be scanned in.
- Can be printed on entry-level printers at lower cost
- Printed on standard card stock or on PVC in CR80 format (bank card)
- Perfect for loyalty cards, membership cards, basic student cards, and gift cards.
Low Security - Magnetic Stripe Cards
- Almost all card printers can be purchased with optional magnetic stripe encoding.
- Magnetic stripe - or swipe - cards can be read by any card reader
- Versatile - common uses include: time and attendance systems, secure access, loyalty or gift cards, membership cards, hotel room keys, etc.
- Magnetic stripe cards are not much more expensive than plastic cards.
Medium Security - Access Cards (smart)
- For even greater security needs, optional smart card technology can be added to some card printers to allow more advanced or detailed information to be stored directly on the cards.
- Used for contactless access control using proximity cards or smart cards
- Professional grade printers with smart card encoders should be used.
- Ideal for access control cards and kiosk payment cards