PVC card printers serve, as the name suggests, to print on plastic cards. They are an indispensable element in offices or establishments where they normally need to work with cards, whether they are identification, promotional or gift, for example. There are many configurations and, although they are very easy to use, choosing the right model can be a challenge if we do not know the various types and accessories that exist, as well as their main advantages.
The first step in determining the most appropriate card printer is to know our specific needs, such as the number of cards to be printed, the user profile, the specific technology used by the cards (RFID, chip, magnetic stripe, barcode, etc.) or even the space available to locate it.
The main reason for any business that wants to use a card printer is to be able to streamline their processes, reduce errors and offer a complete service. In short, these types of printers are very useful in any sector that needs to identify its employees and manage access controls, as well as in the retail sector, for customer or loyalty cards.
What are PVC card printers?
This type of printer transfers or prints an image from a digital file to a card. They are machines that, in addition to printing on plastic cards, can also encode them. They carry out both tasks in the same process. The cards are usually encrypted and store information on a chip, magnetic stripe, RFID or a printed barcode that allows them to be identified and linked to a specific user. There are multiple identification technologies applicable on a plastic card, so the printer must have the appropriate encoding device.
Its use is widespread in any sector that needs to identify people, since the cards allow encoding information that serves to quickly identify the bearer and thus validate the permits or any other information collected. This helps streamline the flow of inputs and outputs, as well as minimizing potential errors. For example, in multitudinous events such as congresses or festivals, in public or government departments, in large office buildings, etc.
Another area where we can usually find the printing of PVC cards is in retail stores. These printers are very useful to offer loyalty programs, partners or gift vouchers, among others. An example of this are gyms, which have personalized cards to access their facilities; supermarkets with loyalty programs to obtain discounts and advantages in the brand, or clothing stores that offer gift cards, among others.
Although the use of PVC cards is widespread, these printers can print on other types of materials. PVC is, according to the RAE, a "thermoplastic resin obtained by polymerization of vinyl chloride derivatives, frequently used for insulation and pipes." There are cards made from other types of plastics, such as PET, PC, PP or ABS. It is also possible to find paper, wood or bioplastic cards. Depending on the preferred material, it is necessary to check that the printer model can print on the card type.
Types of PVC card printers
At Logiscenter we differentiate between two types of plastic card printers when taking into account the type of printing: dye sublimation or retransfer. It is also possible to differentiate them according to the printing capacity, either mid-range or high capacity.
Let's look at the characteristics of each type of PVC card printer:
Depending on the type of printing
As we have already mentioned, PVC card printers can print through two printing mechanisms. Let's know how each one works:
- By dye sublimation: most of the plastic card printers we offer at Logiscenter are dye sublimation printers. These use a ribbon containing the colors CMYK (cyan, magento, yellow and black) distributed along the ribbon in stripes. The colors are printed one by one in the desired area by applying heat. However, they usually replace the black color with a protective varnish that attenuates the colors of the photograph. As a result, they produce high-quality images as they do not use any kind of frame. There are printers that print both monochrome and color.
- Retransfer: these models, instead of printing directly on the card, do it on a film that later ends up sticking on it.
It is worth mentioning that there is also the possibility of printing only on one side or two. There are printers ready to flip the card automatically and print double-sided. But in the case of those that print on two sides, they do it automatically. Typically, the front of the card is printed in color and the back of the card in monochrome.
Based on print capacity
On the other hand, plastic card printers can be classified according to their printability. Let's know what are the differences of each:
- Mid-range card printers: fulfill basic functionalities, such as single-sided printing, encoding options, among others. This, added to their easy handling, make them ideal for accreditation and identification applications now.
- High-capacity card printers: Also known as professional card printers. They comply with more advanced functionalities, such as double-sided printing, automatic feeding or the application of overlay varnishes (clear and holograms), among others. In addition, they have greater capacity and printing speed.
All the options exposed can be fully customized to meet the needs of your business.
Types of PVC cards according to their coding
Every plastic card printer needs a main consumable to function properly: the PVC cards themselves. Here are the most common types of plastic cards you may encounter:
RFID or proximity cards
In RFID or proximity cards, the data is recorded on the chip and does not require physical contact with the reader. They are ideal for access and presence controls.
Smart cards, chip cards or smart cards
In smart cards, data is recorded on the chip (memory or microprocessed). Some memory chips feature a means of encoding and write protection. They are ideal for digital signature and access control.
Magnetic stripe cards
In this type of cards, the data is recorded on the magnetic stripe and allows personalization. They are ideal for loyalty cards, because of their low price. There are two types of magnetic stripe card:
- Low coercivity band (Lo-Co): they are recommended for those situations in which the cards expire or have little use, because the durability of their band is lower. Some examples are loyalty applications, promotional cards or gifts, as well as to issue large amounts due to the reduction of the production cost of each card. Its magnetic stripe is usually brown.
- High coercivity band (Hi-Co): require a stronger magnetic force to encode and erase them. It is indicated for continuous use, in applications with a long period of validity (two years) without the need to renew it. It is also useful in environments subjected to high radiation, magnetic fields or aggressive agents. It is usually applied in access and presence control. Its magnetic stripe is black.
The barcode (one-dimensional or two-dimensional) is the encoding element of the information in this type of cards. They can encode a varied amount of information on PVC cards.
In addition to conventional sublimation and thermal transfer card printers, there is also another technology that allows you to print and erase the same card. These types of printers are ideal for printing cards whose printed data is not permanent, such as business management cards.
Some cards can be printed and erased up to 500 times. They are presented as an economical and environmentally friendly solution, because they contain a thermosensitive material that appears or disappears according to temperature.
Top PVC Card Printer Manufacturers
At Logiscenter we work with the best brands of plastic card printers on the market. Some of the best known are Evolis, Zebra, Fargo, Datacard, HID or ID Tech, although you can find many more in our extensive catalog.
Although, as already explained, the main consumable is plastic cards to be able to print on them, there are also other consumables to consider for this type of printers. Ribbons are essential in sublimation printing. There are several accessories that help complete the use of PVC card printers, such as card holders or magnetic stripe and card chip readers. Nor should we forget the need to acquire software to customize the design of the cards. The programs allow you to use the data automatically by accessing an existing database, which contains all the necessary information.
Every plastic card printer can have several accessories to improve or facilitate its operation. You can also add adapter or connection cables, for example.
If you still have difficulty choosing the right PVC card printer or have additional questions, call our experts, we will be happy to help you.