Door access cards (also referred to as “proximity cards” or “prox cards”) are cards that have a pre-programmed RFID chip embedded internally within the card. Working in conjunction with a proximity card reader, door access cards can be used to open locked doors and clock-in employees. They are contactless which means that the card does not have to be swiped, ensuring long-lasting card durability and print quality.
It’s important to consider your printing method when printing on door access cards. There are essentially two types of door access card packaging styles: directly printable and what’s commonly referred to as "clamshell."
Only directly printable cards can be directly printed on. I understand this seems obvious; however, it’s not uncommon for customers to also need printing on their clamshell cards as well. In this case, an adhesive plastic ID card is recommended for printing, which is then manually applied to the surface of the clamshell door access card. There are a few different versions of adhesive cards available. Always make sure to reach out to your dedicated ID Wholesaler Account Manager to determine which adhesive card will work with your ID card printer.
Printing on cards with embedded electronics can be more complicated than printing on non-technology cards. When printing on door access cards with a standard direct-to-card ID card printer, you run the risk of damaging the internal components of the card.
While some printer manufacturers may advertise that their inexpensive direct-to-card printer will do the job, it is not the best solution. Because these printers print directly to the card surface, any imperfections (such as a chip/antenna indentation or a burr) will affect the print quality.
The easiest, most risk-free solution to print on proximity cards is to use a retransfer card printer, such as the Fargo HDP6600XE. This printer prints onto a film, which is then heat rolled onto the card surface giving you a nice, even print quality. Since the printhead does not make direct contact with the card, there is no risk of damage to the printhead or any embedded electronics.
Please note the one caveat to this: if you will be printing on adhesive cards and applying them manually to your clamshell after printing, you should use a direct-to-card printer. This is because the heat from the reverse transfer process of a reverse transfer printer will melt the adhesive material of the card. The Datacard Sigma printer is a direct-to-card machine that's recommended when printing on adhesive cards.