Printers & Systems

What is a Dye-Sublimation ID Card Printer?

What is Dye-Sublimation Printing?

Those looking for high quality, durable results will appreciate the quality that a dye-sublimation printer produces. Simply put, dye-sublimation printing is a process that uses heat to transfer dye onto plastic, paper, fabric, or another material. A dye sublimation ID card printer uses this process to print onto the surface of a PVC card. The printhead of the card printer prints directly onto the plastic card material through the printer ribbon.

How It Works Dye sublimation ID card printers, also referred to as "direct-to-card" (DTC) printers, use ribbon that contain yellow (Y), magenta (M), cyan (C), black (K), and clear (O) panels. The YMC panels contain thermally sensitive dyes that combine in varying amounts to create a wide range of colors. The K and O panels operate a little differently than the YMC panels in color ribbons:

  • The whole layer of the K panel is applied directly to the card or on top of the YMC color image. Because the K panel is so dense, it creates crisp barcodes and text.
  • The O panel is an overlay that protects the image and the card (this also referred to as an "overcoat" layer). The overlay panel is automatically applied to cards during the printing process. Although overlays do not increase the durability of an ID card, they can help prevent the premature wear or UV fading on images.

The printhead in a dye-sublimation ID card printer has hundreds of heater elements that allow the printer to transfer varying amounts of dyes from the ribbon. This results in photographic-quality images with continuous tones. The heat also allows the dye to permeate the PVC card to create a long-lasting, durable image.

Dye-sublimation printing offers a number of benefits. For one, during the sublimation process, the dye pigments go from solid to gas and back to solid. With this, there is little mess compared to a traditional inkjet printer that uses liquid during the printing process. The prints are dry and ready to handle as soon as they exit the printer.

In addition, because the dyes are infused with the card, the print is less prone to fading and distortion.

For more information about dye-sublimation printing, call a knowledgeable ID Professional today at (800) 321-4405 x2 or chat now.
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