FAQ – Buying a Card Printer

FAQ | What To Know Before Buying A Card Printer

Plastic ID Card Printers have been used as the main production technology for ID cards since the late 1990’s and today most medium to large enterprise will have a plastic card printer in use within their organisation. They enable individuals to produce high-quality ID cards, access passes and membership cards quickly and easily. But before investing in a card printer, there are several factors to consider. 

For those looking for a reliable and cost-effective card printing solution, it is essential to be aware of the various technologies available on the market. There are a range of printing technologies available, including Direct to Card, Re-Transfer and Inkjet card printers. Each technology has its own advantages and disadvantages which should be weighed up carefully according to the task at hand.

It is also important to take into account the quality and functionality that can be achieved with each technology as well as any ongoing maintenance costs associated with it. In addition, buyers should consider whether they need single or double sided printing capability as well as whether they require additional features such as encoding capabilities or magnetic stripe readers. All these elements must be taken into account before making a purchase decision in order to ensure that the right product is chosen for their individual needs.

Types Of Card Printers - Direct to Card, Re-Transfer and Inkjet card printers

There are several types of card printers available on the market, and they all serve different purposes. Three of the most common types are direct-to-card printers, re-transfer printers, and inkjet printers.

Direct-to-card printers (DTC) are the most common type of card printer. They work by printing the image directly onto the surface of the card using a thermal print head. These printers are fast and produce high-quality images, but they are limited to printing on PVC or similar materials. Direct-to-card printers are ideal for printing simple designs, text, and barcodes on ID cards, membership cards, and loyalty cards.

Re-transfer printers, on the other hand, are more advanced and versatile than direct-to-card printers. These printers use a two-step process to produce high-quality, full-colour images on cards. First, the image is printed onto a clear film, which is then fused onto the surface of the card using heat and pressure. This process allows for printing on a wide range of card materials, including uneven or non-flat surfaces. Re-transfer printers are often used for printing photo ID cards, access control cards, and smart cards.

Inkjet printers have been available for some time, but are not very popular, which sometimes makes people think they are a new technology. These printers work similarly to traditional inkjet printers, but are modified to print onto card surfaces. Inkjet printers are known for their high resolution and the ability to print onto a wide range of card materials, including PVC, ABS, and PET. However, they typically require a specialised custom coating on the card (done at the time of production) so they may not be able to print to off-the-shelf plain cards, smartcards, or pre-printed card stock. In addition Inkjet printers may be prone to clogging and cleaning cycles that waste a lot of ink or can lead to blocked nozzles if not used daily.

When you are choosing which printer technology is right for your needs, a few considerations need to be taken into account. For example, if you’re looking to print secure access badges or membership cards with barcodes or magnetic stripes, then a direct to card printer might be the right choice for you. On the other hand, if you want to create customisable design elements such as high quality logos or photos on a imperfect smartcard surface then a re-transfer card printer is the better option.

What Card Printer Features Should I Considder?

Do you need pre-printed cards where you will just print the variable information such as name, ID number, and a photo?  Do you need to print in full colour, or do you just need to print in a single colour?

When selecting a card printer, there are several features to consider. These include card type to be printed on, production speed, any smartcard, barcode or magnetic stripe technology needs, the availability of security features and the cost of consumables. It is important to be aware of the various features so that you can make an informed decision about which ID card printer is best for your needs.

The card type is one of the major factors to consider when choosing an ID card printer. 

The most common type of card used in card production today is the laminated PVC card. These cards are specifically suitable for thermal dye sublimation in direct to card printers and are relatively inexpensive and readily available off-the-shelf.  Their price and availability make them commonly used in re-transfer card printing.

If you are utilising any card encoding technologies such as barcode, mag stripe or smartcard, these will play an important part of the printer choice, ensuring the model you choose will do what you want it to do.  It might be important to talk to a sales engineer to ensure compatibility with your particular encoding needs, as it is a complex area for discussion.

Printing speed is a significant factor when deciding on a plastic card printer. Different models vary in how quickly they can print a single card. If you need to issue large amounts of cards, faster models are the perfect fit. It’s important not to neglect encoding time – also known as dwell time – when working out your card printing needs. Printing both sides of the card has a big influence on the time it takes to issue a card. This is especially crucial if people are waiting in line for a card, like student ID cards or membership cards.

So, if you need to print a lot of cards in a short space of time, make sure you consider the print speed of the card printer you’re looking at. It’s the key to efficiently printing cards and keeping queues moving.

Technology is also an important factor; some models offer additional features such as watermarking and magnetic encoding capabilities that may be beneficial depending on your purpose for using the id card printer.

The type of connectivity available is also important when selecting a card printer. Some models offer both wired and wireless options, giving users more flexibility in how they use their printer. However, it is important to note that some printers only support certain types of connections such as USB or Ethernet cable.

Card Security is a key aspect that many people forget to consider. Specific ranges of card printers and add on systems can increase the security of a plastic card.  This is particularly important when dealing with photo ID cards for secure applications such as driver’s licences, facility ID cards for Ports, Airports and transport hubs, and other corporate Identification needs. 

Finally, it’s important to factor in the expense of consumables such as inks, ribbons and films when selecting a card printer – these can quickly add up, so it’s prudent to research and understand the long-term costs before making a purchase. To make the right decision, you must understand the various features available in a card printer. Consulting a card printer specialist is also a good idea, since they have the expertise and experience to anticipate your needs.

When weighing your options, all these factors should be taken into account so you can find the perfect id card printer for your requirements without breaking the bank. As such, researching and consulting with a dedicated expert is key for making an informed purchase.

Overall, keeping the various components in mind when looking for a card printer is essential for making an informed decision. By carefully considering the cost of consumables, the available features, and consulting a specialist, you should be able to find a card printer that meets all your needs and fits your budget.

What does a Card Printer Cost?

When it comes to purchasing a card printer, the cost and budget of the device is an unavoidable consideration. Generally speaking, card printers come in three categories—low-cost, mid-range and high-end—all of which are available for purchase in Australia. While a low-cost card printer might be suitable for basic needs, it is important to weigh up the features offered in comparison to other models before making a decision.

It is advisable to research what type of device best meets one’s specific requirements. For instance, some cheap card printers may not offer features such as dual-sided printing or lamination that could be beneficial down the line. Furthermore, higher end models generally have greater longevity due to their enhanced durability and longer warranty periods. Therefore, taking into account both current and future needs is essential when selecting a card printer.

Given that there are various options available on the market today, it can be difficult to determine which is best suited for one’s budget and needs. It is important to conduct thorough research about different models in order to make an informed decision before purchasing a new card printer. To this end, online reviews from customers can provide valuable insight into whether certain models are worth investing in or not.

Which Card Security Feature Should I Use?

In many environments preventing fraudulent cards is of utmost priority.  The costs of unauthorised persons accessing secure business areas can cost from a few hundred, to millions of dollars.  This leads many people to think that increasing card security will also pose a significant cost on the card production. This is incorrect as a significant increase in security can be realised through low cost, or no additional costs such as Holokote®, used on Magicard and PPC direct to card printers.

Card Security can be composed of either Digital or Physical features. Digital features include formatting of data and encoding of smartcard chips against duplication or cracking, while 

Physical Card Security includes features like;

  • Static and Variable UV Images or text
  • Microtext
  • Holokote® Custom watermark
  • Guilloche Patterns
  • Foil Stamps
  • Overlaminate Holograms


This is one of the important areas you need to discuss with an experienced professional as the options vary drastically in both cost and the security delivered. Adding security can also be an opportunity to increase card durability depending on the features required.

Card Print Speed vs Throughput

Print speed is one of the most highly sought features of a card printer. Faster the better, right? Wrong, it’s not all about print speed and most card printers that have 200+colour card per hour print speeds also have a “quality” mode which is noticeably slower.  Print speed can often be a compromise but doesnt start to address the needs of many businesses.

When faced with a line of customers, staff or students waiting for their new membership, or ID card, the print speed of the card printer is typically the least important factor.  Processing the customer, taking a photo and in particular smartcard encoding dwell time can all be much more important. 

Card printer manufacturers promote their printers top speed when producing the same card in a large quantity print run, and this is rarely a real-life scenario.  Mass produced duplicate cards are usually much better managed (and considerably cheaper) through pre-printed cards.  Pre-printed cards are often a much better print quality and a great way to manage your business brand in a consistent and professional manner.

How Long Will A Card Printer Last?

A card printer is an important investment for many businesses and organisations and the lifespan of a card printer is usually relative to its cost.   Card Printing technology has been fairly stable for a number of years, and one of the only things that you can do to reduce the price is to reduce the quality of the materials, grades of components or quality controls.

We live in a disposal economy and many people will buy cheap and replace as needed believing they may have a “win” if the product lasts half the time of a more expensive option.  However card printers once in place become an important tool in the issuance of cards, and it’s hard to measure the cost of being without a printer for anywhere up to 4 weeks for some suppliers if it needs warranty support.

The fact that card printers often need support makes who you buy the printer from as important as what card printer you buy.  A general office supplier cannot provide the level of support required by the entry level card printers they sell.

Once you have determined you have a suitable machine for the job, how long a card printer will last largely depends on the frequency of use and maintenance. With proper care and usage, a good quality card printer can have a life expectancy of five to seven years. Though many organisations replace their electronic systems on a more regular cycle of 3-5 years.

Card Printer Manufacturer Support

When buying a card printer, it is important to consider manufacturer support. This involves the warranty offered, access to customer service and technical support for the printer, and other services such as replacement parts, consumables and maintenance.

However, not many card printer manufacturers have support offices in Australia, therefore you will be typically reliant on the importer for warranty, spare parts and repair services.  This also makes the decision of who you buy your card printer from as important as the printer itself.

In most businesses who sell card printers the person who sells you the printer also supports it, but this becomes a problem when they are busy or are on leave. Similar are organisation who only have 1 or 2 support technicians. This can be the case even with larger organisations for whom card printers are not their major focus.  A card printer specialist such as PPC have 10 full time dedicated support technicians, enable them to turn around card printer repairs in as little as 24 hours, and we can get most customers running over the phone.

Overall, understanding what manufacturer support is available before making a purchase decision will ensure that any difficulties associated with using the card printer can be addressed in a timely manner. TIP: Research customer reviews before purchasing a card printer to get an idea of what type of after-sales care you can expect from the manufacturer. This can help you make an informed decision about which model best meets your needs in terms of both quality and after-sales care.

In conclusion, the purchase of a card printer should be thoroughly researched to ensure it meets the needs of the buyer. It is essential to consider what type of cards need to be printed and whether there is a need for two-sided printing. The longevity of the card printer and its ease of use must also be taken into account before any purchase is made. Lastly, it is important to ascertain if the card printer comes with pre-designed templates or software that can be used to design custom cards. By taking all these factors into consideration, potential buyers can make an informed decision on which card printer best suits their requirements.

When looking at card printers, one should look into how long they are expected to last. Quality materials and craftsmanship are key aspects when selecting a model, as this will ensure that it operates smoothly for many years. Furthermore, consideration should be given to the user interface and how easy it is to learn how to use a card printer. This ensures that those who operate the device have an intuitive understanding of its functions quickly and efficiently.

Finally, one should ascertain if double-sided printing is possible with their chosen card printer as well as what kind of templates or software come with it for designing custom cards. Knowing these details ahead of time can help potential buyers get the most out of their purchase by ensuring they select a card printer that meets their specific needs and requirements. When researching these features in advance, customers can confidently make an informed decision on which card printer best suits them prior to purchase.