Card printer

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A card printer is an electronic desktop printer with single card feeders which print and personalize plastic cards. In this respect they differ from, for example, label printers which have a continuous supply feed. Card dimensions are usually 85.60 × 53.98 mm, standardized under ISO/IEC 7810 as ID-1. This format is also used in EC-cards, telephone cards, European Union drivers’ licenses and health insurance cards. This is commonly known as the bank card format. Card printers are controlled by corresponding printer drivers or by means of a specific programming language.


The principle is the same for practically all card printers: the plastic card is passed through a thermal print head at the same time as a color ribbon. The color from the ribbon is transferred onto the card through the heat given out from the print head. The standard performance for card printing is 300 dpi (300 dots per inch, equivalent to 11.8 dots per mm). There are different printing processes, which vary in their detail:

Thermal transfer
Mainly used to personalize pre-printed plastic cards in monochrome. The color is "transferred" from the (monochrome) color ribbon onto the card.
Dye sublimation
This process uses four panels of color according to the CMYK color ribbon. The card to be printed passes under the print head several times each time with the corresponding ribbon panel. Each color in turn is diffused (sublimated) directly onto the card. Thus it is possible to produce a high depth of color (up to 16 million shades) on the card. Afterwards a transparent overlay (O) also known as a topcoat (T) is placed over the card to protect it from mechanical wear and tear and to render the printed image UV resistant.
Reverse image technology
The standard for high-security card applications that use contact and contactless smart chip cards. The technology prints images onto the underside of a special film that fuses to the surface of a card through heat and pressure. Since this process transfers dyes and resins directly onto a smooth, flexible film, the print-head never comes in contact with the card surface itself. As such, card surface interruptions such as smart chips, ridges caused by internal RFID antennae and debris do not affect print quality. Even printing over the edge is possible.
Thermal rewrite print process
In contrast to the majority of other card printers, in the thermal rewrite process the card is not personalized through the use of a color ribbon, but by activating a thermal sensitive foil within the card itself. These cards can be repeatedly personalized, erased and rewritten. The most frequent use of these are in chip-based student identity cards, whose validity changes every semester.


Alongside the basic function of printing cards, card printers can also read and encode magnetic stripes as well as contact and contact free RFID chip cards (smart cards). Thus card printers enable the encoding of plastic cards both visually and logically.

Plastic cards can also be laminated after printing. Plastic cards are laminated after printing to achieve a considerable increase in durability and a greater degree of counterfeit prevention.

Some Id card printer comes with an option to print both the side at the same. Which cuts down the time taken to print and less margin of error. In such printers one side of id card is printed and then the card is flipped in the flip station and other side is printed."Dual Side ID Card Printer". Retrieved 2014-04-24. 


Alongside the traditional uses in time attendance and access control (in particular with photo personalization), countless other applications have been found for plastic cards, e.g. for personalized customer and members’ cards, for sports ticketing and in local public transport systems for the production of season tickets, for the production of school and college identity cards as well as for the production of national ID cards.

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