All You Need to Know About Card Printers
No matter whether it may be for employee ID cards or even club membership cards, having your own card printer will only bring your business advantages with its daily operation. With this purchase decision comes a couple of questions—reverse transfer or direct to card (DTC) printers? Dual or single-sided printer? And most importantly, what encoding options to use? In order to facilitate your purchase decision, we will be discussing these card printers features to help you figure out which features in a card printer will suit your business best.

Reverse Transfer or DTC?
As the less common card printer in the market, reverse transfer or retransfer card printers are generally known to be the higher-end technology with its high definition printing capabilities. In contrast to DTC printers that prints directly onto the card, retransfer printers print the design onto a clear film prior to being laminated onto the card itself. With this printing method, retransfer printers allow borderless printing, where it generates cards including the full design that covers the edge of the card, leaving no white borders around the card. Furthermore, supplementary overlays are laminated onto the card, which increases the card’s durability.

Although retransfer printers do have a slower printing speed, this is only due to the fact that it prints with a higher definition that yields detailed and colorful graphics. In addition to slower print speeds, retransfer printers and its cost per card also cost more than for direct to card printing.

Unlike DTC printers, retransfer printers have two consumable components, which are the printer ribbon and the transfer film. However, retransfer printers are generally more durable since its printhead does not have to move and adjust to the varying thickness of cards; therefore, the printhead has a longer life span and does not have to be replaced as frequently.  

These unique features make retransfer printing technology ideal for businesses that require high-quality graphics and durability or printing on uneven card surfaces.

As the name implies, DTC printers operate by printing directly onto the card surface through a dye-sublimation process. Unlike retransfer printers, DTC printers will produce cards with white borders and with average quality graphics. Despite the mediocrity in graphics, these printers do come at an economical price and print at higher speeds than do retransfer cards. Hence, DTC printers are generally more suitable for businesses that do not place great emphasis on graphics and prioritize lower prices over quality.

Single or Dual Sided?
Single-sided card printers are designed to only print on a single side of the card. This is ideal for users with limited card information to be placed on the card. As for dual-sided printers, these card printers will automatically print on two sides of the cards; this may be done simultaneously or in a 2-step process.

Despite being designed to print single-sided, users may also print on the other side of the card on a single-sided card printer; however, the process to do so is time-consuming and less efficient than with a dual-sided printer.

Encoding Options
On top of simply printing cards, certain card printers may be able to encode cards as well. Overall there are 5 encoding options to consider: magnetic stripe, barcode, UHF RFID, contact, and contactless.

The magnetic stripe encoding option encodes data into the magnetic stripe of the card and requires the card to be swiped against a magnetic card reader. Examples of this type of encoding include credit cards and key cards.

Barcode encoding may be either with 1D or 2D barcodes depending on the user’s purpose. Examples include membership cards or even gift cards.

With UHF RFID encoding, data is gathered through radiofrequency waves and allows multiple cards to be read at once. Examples include cash cards or pre-paid membership cards.

Contact smart cards are embedded with a gold plate, which transfers information through contact or by being inserted into a card reader. Examples of this include credit or debit cards with a chip.

Lastly, contactless cards have built-in microchips that may be detected through radio waves within a range of 5 inches. Examples of this include electronic wallets and transportation fare collection cards.