FAQ

Card printing is a bit more complex than it seems at first sight. With this overview of FAQs we provide broad knowledge on many aspects of card printing, like different technologies, different kinds of cards or the many options for card finishings.

1. How does printing on plastic cards work?

The principle is the same for all card printers: basically heat is needed to apply colour onto a card. Therefor the plastic card is guided parallel with a colour ribbon to a thermal print head. Depending on the way of paint application you can differentiate between direct print and retransfer print. The standard resolution for card printing is 300 dpi.

 

1.1. How does direct printing work?

With direct printing the colour from the ribbon, which can be either monochrome or consisting of several consecutive colour fields, becomes directly applied onto the card. Depending on monochrome or full colour printing the colour becomes transferred onto the card either nonstop or field after field with the heat of the print head by vaporising it into the topmost layer.

With a so called YMCK-colour ribbon for example the colour from the yellow field (Y) becomes vaporised onto the card first, then the colour from the magenta field (M), then cyan (C) and finally black (K – karbon), so that the layering colours create a realistic looking color fidelity and depth.

All About Cards offers direct printers of different classes and gladly advises you to the right printer.

 

1.2. How does retransfer printing work?

In retransfer printing the print is also thermically generated. In contrast to direct printing the print image here becomes printed mirror-inverted first onto a so called transfer film. This film afterwards becomes transferred onto the card with a gum roller, that means without heat. This procedure is also called laminating. This provides two major benefits: the print is more reliable and rimless.

Especially for printing on chip cards (contact chip and RFID) as well as generally on cards with uneven surfaces the retransfer printing is recommended, as the chip has no contact with heat and the paint application near to the chip or the antenna therefor is not interfered.

Furthermore thanks to the retransfer film rimless printing is possible.

All About Cards offers high-performance retransfer card printers by Zebra and EDIsecure.

 

2. Are there different printers for beginners and professionals?

Printers can be classified under different aspects and as such there are models, which are particularly suitable for beginners and others, which are better fitting for professionals. Normally the value class printers come along with a lower range of functions and card volume, but also with lower prices and easy handling. The higher the demands, the more you can choose from specialized devices, resp. build your own printer with several modules meeting your needs. Especially for clients who want to purchase their first printer, we conceived our printer guide. Delve into your search with our advising-tool or let our competent colleagues advise you.

 

3. Do I need prior knowledge or a briefing to handle a printer?

For the entry-level models you normally don’t need any prior knowledge. On the display as well as via control lights all necessary information and required actions are displayed. Furthermore all elements, which can be taken out or changed, are color-coded and finally also the communication between the printer and your PC is that easy and comprehensible, that you will soon be familiar with your printer.

Of course you will also always receive a handbook with your printer and can normally also find this online on allaboutcards.biz.

In any case one of our technicians will guide you through the first steps with your new printer via telephone or remote servicing and will answer all your questions.

Also those printers with a higher and more complex range of features you will easily operate after the introduction from one of our technicians.

 

4. Which card material can be printed with a card printer?

Regarding the material there is a difference between colour dye sublimation and monochrome thermal transfer printing: for colour dye sublimation only double-sided glossy laminated PVC plastic cards and few composite materials can be used for high quality prints.

For retransfer print various card materials can be used, e.g.:

  • Laminated and unlaminated PVC plastic cards and composite material
  • ABS cards
  • PE cards
  • Various coated and uncoated paper cards

 

5. Which card thicknesses can be processed with printers from All About Cards?

The applicable card thickness depends on the card printing system. Generally cards with a thickness ranging from 0,30 - 1,50 mm can be printed. Furthermore extralong cards and cards in special sizes can be printed. All About Cards offers printers from Magicard and cards-x.

 

6. Which card encodings are possible?

Many printers are equipped with encoding modules at delivery or can become equipped with one or more modules by request. Even the upgrade with modules is possible for some printers.

These encodings are available:

  • All current barcodes and 2D codes
  • Magnetic stripes LoCo and HiCo
  • Contact chips
  • Contactless chips

Printing and encoding are done in one pass. The encoding comes first and becomes checked, so that a deficiently encoded card becomes sorted out.

 

7. Which color ribbons are available?

Generally each producer stocks its own color ribbons and recommends – for quality and warranty reasons – only to use the correct ribbons. For sheer monochrome printers normally besides black current colours like blue, green and red, sometimes also white, silver and gold are available. For full colour printers there are several versions of the most commonly used YMCKO (Yellow, Magenta, Cyan, Karbon, Overlay) colour ribbon available.

You can buy the following ribbons at All About Cards:

  • YMCKOK ribbons – for colour printing on front side and black printed text on backside,
  • YMC half/ KO full ribbons – for coloured print of photo or logo plus personalization next to it in black
  • YMCK-Uv ribbons – for printing of an authentication on uv foil, e.g. text, which can only be seen under UV light
  • YMCK-Scratch-Off ribbons – for application of a scratch-off panel, e.g. for covering a pin code or winning code
  • YMCK-Peel-Off ribbons – for separating a foil snippet, e.g. above a chip or signature panel
  • Signature panel ribbons – for application of a white signature panel
  • holographic overlays – as security foil to impede faking/ replicating of cards

 

8. Are safety features applicable on cards?

There are several options to make cards forgery-proof. Safety features can thus be part of the card production or be created during the printing. A hologram for example can become implemented in the process of card production and impedes its replication.

But it is more often during the printing, that the card receives its safety features. According to safety demands watermarks, UV text, microtext, guilloche patterns and several security laminates can be applied on the card and make it safe against replications.

 

9. Which finishings are possible for cards?

Through a finishing or a fancy coating a card gets a totally new look and becomes more attractive.

You can create elegant and noble effects particularly with hot stamping. According to your design an individual embossing punch is made, which embosses your motif on the card with a silver, golden or rainbow foil.

But also UV spot varnish makes your card fascinating and creates a haptic effect – either with fine lines or larger areas. Via silk screening also glitter powder can partially or extensively be processed and give a high-class appearance especially in gold and silver.

Furthermore 3D varnishs or fluorescent varnishs as well as metallic or prismatic foils are suitable to adapt certain surfaces or to create effects.

 

10. How can card printers be controlled?

The ideal operating of the printer comes along with specially aligned card design software, which is provided by printer companies as well as by specialized software companies. There you find features for text and image editing, database connection, design, barcode generation, encoding, photo processing, biometric data capturing and much more.

Furthermore you will find specific software for visitor management and ID-management.

According to your printer you connect it via USB or Ethernet with your PC resp. the entire network.

Part of the features you can of course also run with Microsoft Word or other Windows executable programs. Some producers do also provide drivers for MAC OS.

 

11. What are the costs for a card printing system?

A complete system comprises besides the printer software as well as consumables, i.e. cards, color ribbons, if applicable retransfer films, laminates and cleaning material. Additionally a maintenance contract is recommended. Thus the prices can range from ca. 1.000 € for entry-level models to 10.000 € for professional systems with high security requirements.

Please contact us to get a concrete offer from us.

 

12. What are the average costs for the print of one card with a performance level printer?

Depending on the printer and according to whether you print monochrome or full colour and single or dual-sided and if you laminate, the printing costs per card (without amortization of the printer) range between ca. 1 Cent (monochrome, single-sided) and ca. 60 Cent (full colour, dual-sided, dual-sided lamination).

 

13. Which options for subsequent upgrades for printers are there?

Many card printers from All About Cards can be upgraded subsequently, for example with encoding modules, a flip station to change from single to dual-sided printing or with a larger card feeder. Thanks to the technical support and the extensive stock at All About Cards we can upgrade printers quickly and reliably.

 

14. How can I maintain my printer myself, resp. how can I prolong its lifetime?

In your printer manual you find all information, which kind of service works you can do on your own and which works have to be done by a specialist. Generally you prolong the lifetime of your printer by cleaning it regularly and paying attention to the information displayed. In any case you should not try to repare your printer on your own. The technical hotline at All About Cards is available during office times, resp. 24/7 if you have a service contract.

 

15. Which cleaning cycles are recommended for card printing systems?

The following cleaning processes should be regularly completed after 200 to latest 1.000 cards:

1. cleaning card: put the cleaning card into the card feed, take out the colour ribbon and start the cleaning process in the printer driver.

2. cleaning stick: push the cleaning fluid with a bit pressure out of the stick onto the cleaning pad. Clean the print head by sweeping the cleaning pad over it several times with few pressure.

3. cleaning roll (only Zebra): replace the old cleaning roll in the blue cleaning cartridge with a new sticky cleaning roll.

4. cleaning roll (VDS): replace the old roll, which lies behind the card feed with a new cleaning roll.

 

16. Which plastic cards does All About Cards stock?

You will always find the ideal plastic cards solution at All About Cards. All card printer types are based on the in the ISO standard defined plastic card. The ISO card size is exactly 85,72 x 54,04 mm and has a thickness of 0,76 mm. The material is dual-sided laminated PVC. Besides special solutions All About Cards provides the following cards:

 

17. Which card printing systems does All About Cards stock?

All About Cards provides a broad range of products from the leading card printer manufacturers Zebra, EDIsecure, Magicard, Evolis, NBS and Datacrad. Thus as certified traders we are able to offer not only printers but all consumables as well as additional modules and also services at best price.

Beginning with low cost, small monochrome-printers to a multitude of colour printers for single-sided and dual-sided printing up to complex printing systems with an additional lamination system for security applications. We offer printing systems with the three different techniques thermal transfer, dye sublimation and retransfer. We ensure high-class and long lasting durability for your cards.

 

18. Which software solutions does All About Cards stock?

At All About Cards you can find comprehensive software for card design in general as well as specialized software for security applications, visitor identification and for student IDs. For the majority of your card design tasks we recommend the cardPresso software. It has a multitude of professional features, ranging from extensive database connections to diverse features for image and text editing, templates, multi-layout-designs, variable objects and signature capturing to batch printing and professional encoding. However cardPresso is easy to handle and provides a clear overview.

If you rather focus on professional ID management and access control, we can also provide comprehensive software solutions according to your demands. The third big field, we cover, is visitor identification. We provide years of experience and the latest software.

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