Printers & Systems

How to Choose an ID Card Printer

Not all digital photo ID card printers are alike. Ensuring the right one for the job involves a careful examination of your needs. We’ve listed some questions below to get you started in choosing an ID card printer that best accommodates your business requirements.


10 Questions to Ask Before Choosing an ID Card PrinterChoosing an ID Card Printer

  1. Do you need to print color ID cards (including photographs)?
    Most printers print a combination of colors (full-color) as well as monochrome (single-color), but certain models print only in monochrome. Consider your future needs before deciding on which printer is right for you today.
  2. Will your ID cards be printed on one or two sides?
    Some card printers only print on one side of a card, usually referred to as ‘single-sided’ printers. Card printers that are capable of printing on both sides of a card in a single print cycle are also referred to as dual-sided, or duplex.If you would like to print color and/or monochrome on both sides of your cards, you will want to select a dual-sided card printer.
  3. Will your ID cards include a magnetic stripe?
    Magnetic stripes are the dark stripe on the back of your credit card or driver’s license. These stripes store data and are often used in Time and Attendance or Access Control applications. All printer manufacturers offer optional magnetic stripe encoding on their printers. Consider adding magnetic encoding up-front or select a printer that’s upgradeable to magnetic encoding in the future. Thinking ahead can save you money down the road.
  4. Will you need to encode smart cards?
    If you need an ID card to hold more information more securely than a magnetic stripe allows, you might choose a smart card with a memory chip embedded in the surface. The decreasing cost of smart cards gives even the smallest organizations an opportunity to add memory storage capacity. Virtually all printer manufacturers offer smart card contact stations as an option.Since most smart card contact stations cannot be added after the printer has been built, we suggest ordering this option up-front.
  5. How many ID cards will you need to print?
    If you plan to print many cards per session or per year, look for a printer that is built to sustain high volume printing. These printers usually include input and output card hoppers that hold more than 100 cards.Plastic ID Cards
  6. How long do you need your cards to last?
    Consider an ID card printer that is capable of lamination if your cards need to last more than a year, will be used outside or will be subject to chemicals or abrasive contact. In the process of lamination,a thin clear or holographic protective layer is adhered to the surface of the card, protecting its images and information. If you select a lamination-capable printer, be sure touse composite PET/PVC cards rather than 100% PVC cards. Composite PET/PVC cards are designed to stand up to the heat generated by the lamination process.
  7. Do you need additional ID card security?
    There are many ways to protect your printed cards from fraudulent duplication. One method is to utilize the optional lamination station that is available with many mid- to high-level ID card printers. If you need to secure your cards now or in the future, consider purchasing a lamination-capable printer.
  8. What type of interface do you need?
    Most ID card printers now come standard with a USB interface. Ethernet connectivity is available on several card printers as well. Many printers are also available with a combination of a parallel interface along with USB and others offer USB with an Ethernet interface. Our ID Experts can help you select a printer that provides the interface you need.
  9. What type of driver do you need?
    With some exceptions, all card printer manufacturers solely support Microsoft Windows drivers. Although 64-bit compatibility is becoming more common, 32-bit support is standard. Please note that Mac-supported ID software is in short supply.
  10. Do you have an ID card printer brand preference?
    If you prefer a certain brand, it’s likely that we can help you select a card printer that meets your needs within that brand.

Consider Your Future ID Card Printing and Encoding Needs

Even if you plan to use badges only for visual identification now, consider possible future applications. You may not have the need or the budget for a card system that includes magnetic stripe or smart card encoding today, but you may in the next couple of years. Several printer manufacturers offer in-field upgrades to magnetic stripe encoding, smart card encoding, and card lamination. Our ID Specialists will help ensure the system you buy today will be able to handle your growing needs.

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