ID Card Printer Buying Guide

ID Card Printer Buying Guide

5 steps to shop, compare and buy the right badge printer

An ID card printer is a key component to an organization's ID security program. Whether your needs are covered by basic printer capabilities or will require sophisticated identity fraud - the process can seem complicated. There are numerous card printer features to consider and many models available. Today’s ID card printers are capable of creating cards with physical security features, data-driven encoding technologies, and access control - all while sporting designer-quality branding.

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This Buying Guide will help you navigate through core badge printer capabilities in five steps.

  • STEP 1 Determine your card printing volume
  • STEP 2 Consider the amount of data that will be displayed / stored on the card
  • STEP 3 Review available printing methods
  • STEP 4 Determine security and durability concerns
  • STEP 5 Consider additional printer-related amenities

As you review each step, you'll reach buyer's check points that will help you narrow down your badge card printer search. Check points compare multiple card printer capabilities.

Single-sided versus double-sided card printers
Single-sided ID card printers print on one side of an ID card. Ideal when limited cardholder credentials will be displayed, single-sided badge printers tend to work best for low-volume production. Dual-sided ID card printers print on both sides of a PVC card simultaneously. Duplex capability is preferred when detailed cardholder information needs to be produced with speed and efficiency.

Direct-to-card versus retransfer card printers
Direct-to-card technology prints directly onto the card surface within edge-to-edge range - a popular choice adequate for most card-issuance programs. You'll get photographic-quality card graphics, but with a white border. Uneven card surfaces (think technology cards and smart chips) are not accepted. Retransfer (or reverse transfer) technology prints onto a clear film that is subsequently fused to the card surface. Over-the-edge coverage results in vivid, saturated colors across every bit of a card.

Lamination capability
Laminate strengthens ID cards and protects against scratches, cracking, dye migration, and fading - common results from daily use and UV exposure. Overlaminates are a proven security measure against card tampering.

Secure data encoding
Advanced encoding configurations store sensitive cardholder credentials not visible on a card. Several encoding options exist that permit access control, time and attendance tracking, cashless payment, reward point tracking, public transportation ticketing, and more. Data encoding options typically include magnetic stripe encoders, contact smart card encoders and contactless smart card encoders. Don't forget that encoded cards require special reader devices to access the secure data.

Additional Printer-related features
Besides standard printer technologies and configurations, you may require additional features to satisfy your ID card issuance needs. Configuration options will enhance printer capabilities, while service options enhance convenience and maintain productivity. Additional configurations include field upgrades for dual-sided printing, lamination printing and connectivity options (USB, Ethernet, WiFi). Service options include extended warranty plans, loaner printers and support plans.

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Ready to shop for an ID card printer? Use our ID Card Printer Buying Guide Checklist to track your requirements. Share the checklist results with an Identification Specialist - they will point you in the right direction!

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We're here to help! At Southeast ID, our Identification Specialists are experts in identification solutions for small businesses, enterprise-level companies, education institutions and healthcare organizations. Call: (877) 588-4738 or email us at

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