In the first two parts of this series, you were able to whittle down the plastic card printer choices based on your expected card volume and desired card appearance.

This installment discusses your potential need for security options from magnetic encoding and smart card technology to overlaminates.basic photo ID card example -

Basic Visual Security – ID Card

For basic visual identification, an entry-level printer and standard pvc card stock will work. These cards – which include loyalty cards, membership cards, basic student IDs and gift cards – often don’t need the highest print quality and are used to identify someone visually or with a simple barcode that can be scanned.

Low Security – Magnetic Stripe Cards

Magnetic stripe ID card - medium securityFrom the more common magnetic stripe to more advanced technologies such as contactless “smart cards”, many printer models have options available to encode information to your card at the time it is printed.

Magnetic stripes (commonly called “swipe cards”) can store a sequence of alphanumeric characters that can be read by any standard card reader.  When integrated with other systems, magnetic stripe technology can increase the versatility of your cards by allowing them to be used in new ways.

Standard magnetic stripe cards are commonly used for time and attendance systems, secure access, loyalty or gift cards, membership cards, hotel room keys and a variety of other applications.

Medium Security – Access (Smart) Cards

Sample access control smart ID card - IDCardGroup.comSmart cards are the next generation of encoded cards, allowing more advanced or detailed information to be stored directly on a card. Smart cards are often used in kiosk payment systems or as part of a biometric access control system.

Adding an encoder to your printer will cost several hundred dollars for each type of encoding technology. Contact one of our ID experts at 877-868-0012 to discuss your Smart Card needs.

ID CARD GROUP TIP:  It is important to decide up front whether you will be using encoded information on your cards, as most printers are not designed to support an encoder upgrade. Also, in order to be able to use these features, you must have card stock designed for your encoding technology. While magnetic stripe cards are not much more expensive than plain cards, “smart cards” can cost considerably more.

High Card Security – Lamination

Card lamination has two primary purposes:sample high-security laminated card -

  1. A laminated card will have a significantly longer life expectancy than a non-laminated card under typical circumstances
  2. Card laminators offer the ability to add security features such as standard or custom holographic images that increase the security of an identification card by making it significantly harder to duplicate, especially if a custom image is used.

Laminated cards can also use advanced techniques such as ultraviolet images to add layers of security to a printed photo ID.  Adding lamination to a printer will typically increase the cost by several thousand dollars. Additionally, the cost per printed card will tend to be higher since laminating printers require the use of composite card stock rather than standard PVC card stock.

ID CARD GROUP TIP:  Unless security is your primary concern, the added price of purchasing a laminating printer is typically not very cost effective. A typical ID badge printed on any standard machine will last a couple of years. You may double that if you have a laminated card on composite material. Even when factoring in the time and effort of reprinting badges every few years it will likely cost you much less in the long run to laminate your cards.

How-to Series: Choosing an ID Card Printer

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Contact our expert sales staff at (877) 868-0012 or for help choosing the best ID printer to fit your needs.  We can also walk you through other technical issues our customers face, including warranty terms, connectivity, operating system compatibility, print speed and reliability.

ID Card Group accepts purchase orders, provides free shipping on orders over $100, and has a price match guarantee.