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A complete guide to buying an ID card printer

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A complete guide to buying an ID card printer

Whatever industry you work in, the chances are you need to issue certain types of ID on your premises. This is most commonly in the form of employee ID cards, but also to contractors, visitors and so forth. If ID cards need to be printed on a regular basis most businesses consider buying an ID card printer, as this allows instant issuance and can reduce card printing costs. However, the market for ID printers is complex and always evolving, so it helps to have a clear understanding of what you are looking for. In this guide, we will help you to understand some of the main features of ID card printers so you can make an informed decision on which printer is right for your business needs.

What is an ID card printer?

An ID card printer, sometimes called a badge printer, is a desktop printer that allows you to print and personalise plastic ID cards. Some are made to handle high-volume daily prints and others are smaller and designed for more occasional use.

How much do they cost?

This depends on the printer you require to meet your organisations needs. Basic models are highly affordable, but usually offer fewer features. For example they might offer only single-sided print and no encoding or security options. For businesses who want a higher degree of visual security, who print higher volumes of cards or want to encode cards for an access control system, a high-end printer with more features will be more suited. These models will come with a higher price tag.

What is the right kind of ID Printer?

There is no 'right kind' because each model on the market is designed to meet particular needs. The trick to finding the right model for your business is to know what you need it for and to consider various factors before assessing what's out there. Here are some things to consider:

1. The type of card you need to print on

What will your cards be used for? Are they basic photo ID cards or do they also need to link with an access control or other system? This is important to know - smart cards contain tiny chips that produce a slightly raised edge on the card, and these need to be printed with re-transfer printers, rather than direct-to-card or inkjet printers. Direct-to-card printers are ideal if you don’t need to print cards that contain a chip (such as access control cards), you have a simple design (such as a photo, logo and name) and you don’t mind a small white border around the edge of the card. Re-transfer printers are better for smart cards, complex designs, and cards without a white border.

2. Your usage volume

Knowing your print volume for ID cards helps you to pick a printer that can match your needs reliably. Pick a model which is designed for your level of printing so that you an asset that meets your printing needs in the long term.

3. Encoding Smart Cards?

If you need secure access passes, or any type of card with integrated smart chips, then you will need to look for a printer with an embedded encoding module that can encode either contact, contactless or magnetic stripe cards. These printers use a two-step approach, first printing the cards then encoding the required data to the cards chip, with the internal encoding module. These produce high-quality, secure cards with integrated chips, ideal for more secure environments that use access control systems.

4. Single or double-sided

Single-sided printers will only print on the front face of an ID card and are popular for photo ID cards in workplaces. Double-sided printers double the available printing space by allowing businesses to place other essential information on the back of the card. These dual-sided printers are generally more expensive but they are becoming far more affordable, with the option to upgrade some single-sided models to dual with a modular add-on.

5. Speed

If you're printing a lot of cards each week, you'll probably want a fast printer that can handle high volumes at speed. As a guide, a full-colour ID card can usually be printed in less than 30 seconds depending on its design and print specification. However this varies by printer, high-end, more expensive printers will usually print cards faster than base models that are suited to printing lower volumes. When considering speed, you’ll also want to think about staffing. Some low-volume printers only have a small hopper or require hand feeding, but faster and higher-volume card printers will have larger hoppers that feed the machine automatically. A big hopper means that you don't need to regularly load cards, or remove them after printing.

6. Visual Security Features

Many businesses use ID card printers to keep their businesses secure and their staff identifiable, but some require much higher security than others. Some printers have the capability to print special features such as UV inks, watermarks and tactile impressions. Some brands also offer lockable outbound hoppers so that printed cards cannot be taken by anyone unauthorised.

7. After-sales support

All new printers will come with some kind of warranty, but some will have full after-sales service helplines with advice and guidance if you experience any issues. Depending on your existing in-house tech expertise, you may decide to invest in a model and brand with a higher degree of service. Want to find out more about ID card printer options? Please contact us today for advice and guidance on buying an ID card printer, tailored to your unique business needs.

Want to find out more about ID card printer options? Please contact us today for advice and guidance on buying an ID card printer, tailored to your unique business needs.