Basics – Part 3 -How Printing Can Make ID Cards More Secure


Money, Card, Business, Credit Card, Pay

Security comes from a combination of media features, printer capability, database verification, and special security (e.g., unusual, covert and forensic features). Media features include surface quality, durability and built-in security elements.

Card softwares such as PESONA provides the means to design your security cards and add special security features are only shared with customers in order to protect their covert qualities.

Printer capability encompasses high-resolution graphics and reliable barcodes plus covert features printed at the time of issue. Database verification consists of a central archive of cardholder data, including a photo, personal statistics, employee number, date, time and place of issue. Special security features are only shared with customers in order to protect their covert qualities.


First and most important, the card itself has to be tough. In this security-conscious age, governments and other large organizations insist on custom-designed card media of ever-increasing sophistication. This is for two main reasons.

  • First, multiple security features create greater counterfeiting difficulties.
  • Second, guards can quickly and easily validate unique features known only to the organization?s security force. Your card media should offer an array of security features, any or all of which may be incorporated into custom designs.


Today?s cards must be extremely durable. For example, your card stock should be ten times the flex life of regular PVC cards. It should meet or exceed all international standards for resistance to cracking, permanent adhesion of over-laminate, and durability of image. The lanyard slot in a regular PVC card is often fragile. If the slot tears, an unauthorized user needs only to change the photo to go past a careless inspector.

Benefits of laminates?

To increase durability, higher capability printers feature fully integrated hot roll laminating stations that apply 0.6 or 1.0 mil laminate patch materials, with or without holograms. Cards with laminates will provide up to seven years of wear. Such lamination is especially recommended for abrasion-intensive applications such as frequent barcode or magnetic stripe reading. Depending on volume and how quickly one needs to print cards, there are printers that laminate one side or both sides at once.



Holographic imaging?

To prevent counterfeiting, alteration or duplication, there are many techniques that companies can use with digital printers. First of all, they can position multiple security images or holograms. The holographic image lamination process also provides a very rich looking card. Multiple screenings of the same photograph increase integrity.


With micro-printing, text can be added to a user?s specifications, with deliberate random font changes and misspellings if desired. Character height is five thousandths of an inch (0.125 mm). Pre-printed serial numbers can also be incorporated into card stock. Laser etching is another option. Fine-line Guilloche patterns with hidden micro-text are aimed at foiling counterfeiters, and micro-printing of text and miniature graphic elements are also difficult to duplicate.

Over-Laminate Films

An over-laminate film adds security to the printed ID card. The inner surface of the laminate can be preprinted with OVI ink or UV-visible ink in one, two or three colors. In addition, today?s high tech printers can also laminate with , including embossed micro-text. Applications for such security-enhanced cards include driver?s licenses; national health, social security and voter registration programs; law enforcement and government agency personnel.


Source: Zebra Card Printer

Links to previous guides

Basics – Part 1 – Choosing The Right Card Printer

Basics – Part 2 – Types of Printing


Basics – Part 2 – Types of Printing



Like all other computer-based printers in the office, today?s photo ID printers are digital. Resolutions of 300 dots per inch (dpi) or more are common in office printers, so the problem of jagged edges is largely a thing of the past. Most photo IDs are printed by digital thermal transfer, a process by which color is transferred from a single-use ribbon to various kinds of receptor materials.


The variable size and density of each color dot is the secret to the photo-quality printing possible with dye?sublimation?bright colors and no jagged edges. YMC dyes penetrate the receptor. Color migrates from the dye ribbon into the surface. The spread of the dye dot (its amount of diffusion) depends on the amount of heat applied by the printhead element. On reaching a dye panel boundary, the printhead is lifted to allow the card?to back up. The head then lowers to print the next color. Yellow, magenta and cyan are combined in varying proportions to print photo-quality images. When ?fully saturated?, the three colors together print ?process black? text and graphics, which is similar in appearance to ?black resin printing? (discussed in the next section) but is not infrared readable.

The illustration below shows the usual pattern for dye sublimation (?dyesub?) printer ribbons. The K panel is not a dye. It is instead a ?mass transfer? black resin used for infrared readable bar codes and other data. A second K panel (YMCKK) is sometimes provided to allow black resin printing on both sides of the card. An overlay panel?or O panel?is available to protect the image from abrasions and fading. The number quantity number of images per roll varies based on the type of ribbon?or number of panels?and the manufacturer.

Our best selling dye sublimation printers are:

Zebra ZXP Series 3 Card Printer

Polaroid P3500S Card Printer

? ? ?Nisca PR-C101 Card Printer



With a mass transfer panel, the printer cannot control either the ink dot?s size or density which is not good for continuous tone images such as photographs. To create the illusion of continuous tone from discrete dots of ink, printers use a process called dithering, exactly the same behindthe-scenes operation your computer performs any time it sends a picture to the office laser printer.

A mass transfer ribbon is a layer of monochrome resin on a thin backing film. The resin is usually black, so this type of printing is also referred to as ?black resin printing.? When heated, the resin is stripped from the backing and deposited as a physical layer on the receptor. Mass transfer delivers sharp text and graphics plus infrared readable barcodes. Photo reproduction is adequate for many applications calling for high printing speed and low cost.


Using dye sublimination and/or thermal transfer printing methods, heat is used to transfer a digitized image from the ribbon directly to the flat surface of a plastic card. The relatively small number of affordable, durable card materials that accept dyes limits the types of cards used and limits the intensity of colors that DTC can reproduce.

The DTC process depends on uniform, intimate contact between the printhead, the dye ribbon, and the card surface; therefore, uneven card surfaces cannot achieve high color density and uniformity when dye is transferred directly to a card.



Retransfer printing uses a process called reverse thermal transfer. Unlike traditional dye sublimation card printers?which use a printhead to transfer the image through a dye ribbon directly onto the card surface?retransfer printers use a two-step process.

1. In the first step, the retransfer process prints a high-resolution image in reverse directly onto a clear receiving layer carried by a flexible, intermediate film. The dye sublimation process prints the image to the film, just like in DTC printing.

2. Next, the printer uses heat and pressure to thermally transfer the image and the entire image receiving intermediate film onto the card surface. During this process, the layer thermally bonds to the card surface, and the printed image resides underneath the clear image-receiving layer.

The benefits of retransfer printing include:

? Superior image quality

? Prints on more types of card

? Improved security and tamper resistance

? Lower printhead costs

Our best selling re-transfer?printers are:

Zebra ZXP Series 9 Retransfer Card Printer

? ?Polaroid P7500S Retransfer Card Printer

Nisca PR-C201 Retransfer Card Printer


Source: Zebra Card Printer

Links for our guides

Basics – Part 1 – Choosing The Right Card Printer

Basics – Part 3 -How Printing Can Make ID Cards More Secure


Basics – Part 1 – Choosing The Right Card Printer

Compact and easy to use, the affordable ZXP Series 3 direct-to-card printer is the best choice for applications where small space, minimal operator training and print quality are important.


Before investing in a card printer system,?

You should make sure you have identified your specific security and identification needs. Based on these factors, you will be able to choose the right card printer and the right ID card technology for your application:

? The type of card you plan to use

? How many cards you plan to print

? How often you need to print cards

? What printing elements you need to incorporate into your card

? The quality of card images

? Type of encoding required on the card

1. Card size

Most plastic cards found in wallets and purses have the same physical dimensions. This is the standard CR-80 card, measuring about 3.375? x 2.125? (85.5 mm x 54 mm). The standard thickness is 30 mil (0.75 mm), but can range from 10 to 60 mil.

2. Printing speeds

Card printers come with a variety of card printing speeds depending on whether you need to print both sides or just one side of the card. In general, the faster the cards are printed, the more expensive the printer. The needs of the printer speed will be determined by the application (e.g., on-premise/ on-demand printing, mass duplication printing (same card design printed multiple times) or one-offs).

3. The physical properties of the printer

If you are limited on work space, you will want a printer with a small footprint. If other work must be accomplished while the printer is printing, you will also want to make sure you purchase a printer that is relatively quiet. While the size and loudness of a printer may not be a concern in a factory, it might be important in an application such as a small office, retail store or cruise ship.

4. Ease of use

A card printer should be easy to use right out of the box, especially if the user is not familiar with card printers.

5. The type of printing you want

Thermal, dye sublimation, mass transfer printing, or direct-to-card (DTC) or retransfer printing.


Source: Zebra Card Printer

Links to our Guide

Basics – Part 2 – Types of Printing

Basics – Part 3 -How Printing Can Make ID Cards More Secure

Simple Steps To Optimize Desktop Printer’s Performance


Performing stand-alone cleaning cycles on your?card printer on a regular basis helps ensure that your printer?is operating at its highest level. Without regular cleaning, your cards may be printed with visible defects, and you may?experience premature printhead failure, which is an unnecessary and costly expense.

Printers can be contaminated in a number of ways:

  • Static from plastic cards attracting airborne dust and dirt
  • Pigment ink of monochrome ribbons can produce additional debris
  • Dust, dirt and natural oils from user?s hands

We?recommend that you clean your printer on a regular basis. Our specifically-engineered cleaning
products help to reduce contaminants in the system that can be transferred to the card and protects the system from?printhead failure. Regular cleaning is necessary to extend printhead life and ensure high quality cards.


There are several types of cleaning systems that require different cleaning?processes. Here are the basic rules to follow when setting a cleaning interval:

Cleaning Recommendation: Printer
For a color ribbon, the best time to perform a cleaning cycle is when the ribbon is being replaced. Cleaning the printer at?this time eliminates printer downtime. This means that every ribbon replacement will result in one cleaning cycle. All color?ribbons come with a cleaning card and new roller.

For a monochrome ribbon, we recommend that you schedule cleaning between ribbon replacements. Monochrome?ribbons require more frequent cleaning because their high yield means that they tend to remain in the printer longer.?Additionally, their material composition tends to produce more contamination within the printer than color ribbons. All?monochrome ribbons come with a cleaning card and new roller.

Cleaning Recommendation: Printhead
Occasional debris built up on the printhead can lead to card quality issues, such as white lines appearing on finished?cards. If not cleaned, the printhead will eventually fail. We?offer isopropanol cleaning swabs specifically?designed to clean the printhead. Cleaning the printhead is also a good opportunity to perform a cleaning cycle (refer to?cleaning cycle instructions below) and remove all contaminants from the print rollers.


You typically a cleaning kit, swabs or spare parts, depending on the printer. Contact us for more info.


Perform a Cleaning Cycle
One cleaning cycle has three basic steps:
1. Replace the cleaning sleeve or cleaning tape (depending on the Datacard card printer).
2. Run a printer cleaning card.
3. If printing duplex cards or using laminate material, run a duplex cleaning card.
Note: Remember to keep the spindle of the cleaning roller, as it is intended to be reused. If you accidentally?discard the core, a replacement can be ordered. Please see above for the appropriate part number.

Source: Entrust Datacard

Zebra? Announces Advancements To Its Card Printer Software Suite

Easier to Use, Multi-platform, Robust Offerings Make Zebra Card Printers Best-in-class

Zebra Card printers support applications from simple ID card printing to complex, secure encoding. Committed to providing best-in-class solutions, Zebra announces new releases and advancements to its Card software suite.

Zebra Card-printer software advancements include:

  • New Mac OS Driver for ZXP Series 1? and ZXP Series 3? printers
  • Windows? 10 Drivers support all Zebra ZXP Series printers
  • New ZXP Card SDK for ZXP Series 1 and ZXP Series 3 printers
  • Virtual Printware 1.1
Card-printer Software Offerings and Availability
Software Description Availability
New Mac OS Driver This new native driver enables Mac users to directly print to ZXP Series 1 and ZXP Series 3 printers. Download from
Windows 10 Drivers This new release now offers Windows 10 users to directly print to all ZXP Series printers. Download from
New ZXP Card SDK Compatible with Zebra?s SDK for ZXP Series 7 and ZXP Series 8 printers, this new SDK for ZXP Series 1 and ZXP Series 3 printers makes it even easier for the ISV community to support the entire card printer family. With a similar library and coding, this new SDK enables ISVs to develop the best 3rd-party applications in the market with easier integration. Download from
New Virtual Printware 1.1 This new release makes ZXP Series printers simpler to integrate and monitor. Using Template printing functionality Users can now print from mobile devices such as kiosks or point-of-sale systems faster and without the need for a driver or SDK. Download from

Download Assets:

Zebra Card Software Offerings Overview Fact Sheet
Zebra Virtual PrintWare Spec Sheet

Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles Reduces Overhead with the ZXP Series 8? Retransfer Printer

licenseThe Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles, based in Anchorage, serves the state with 31 offices. Statewide, the division issues more than 230,000 drivers licenses and state identification cards each year, as well as state employee ID badges. The division provides cards on-demand to residents and recently began printing mail-in renewals at its main office.

The Challenge
Alaska is known for its stunning natural beauty and remote areas. But that remoteness poses unique challenges for the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles. Getting card printers to isolated communities, and keeping them running smoothly, hasn’t been easy.

“Many of our communities are not accessible by road,” said Jonathan O’Quinn, data processing manager. “Getting printers out there and in one piece is always a challenge. We fly them in or ship them and sometimes something has rattled loose.”

Repairs kept printers out of commission and the information technology (IT) staff tied up. Regular maintenance added up to considerable hassle for the division. When necessary, shipping those printers back to the manufacturer required even more downtime and cost.

Most of the one- and two-person offices were without spare printers. If the printer went down, cards couldn’t be issued from that office for up to a week. “Having a printer down in a small office was a major inconvenience for customers, some of whom travelled from small villages by boat or snow machine,” said Stacy Oates, administrative officer.

Moreover, with extensive testing?and the waste that goes with it?the cost of printing supplies added up quickly. In fact, the division had a high consumable waste of 30% which increased costs considerably.

To reduce maintenance headaches and costs, the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles had to find another card printing solution.

The Solution
Today, the division’s IT team spends more time programming and less time troubleshooting printer problems, and the state has reduced its overall printing costs considerably.

The division replaced its entire fleet of direct-to-card printers with Zebra?’s ZXP Series 8 retransfer card printers and laminators, giving them high-quality, on-demand cards. Alaska has the lamination and security features it requires along with much-needed high reliability and print quality.

Zebra-ZXP8-2Alaska rolled out the ZXP Series 8 to 31 locations statewide, from Barrow to Dutch Harbor, and did so remarkably fast. With the division’s prior printers, deploying statewide units required more than a year. This time, it took just two weeks.

Contributing to the easier deployment, staff at each of the locations could get printers up and running on their own, largely without IT support. Zebra provided training videos and very clear written instructions. The accompanying software further simplifies use.

“The driver is so easy that a non-technical person can use it,” O’Quinn said.

Instantly, the ZXP Series 8 exceeded previous printers at the division for reliability, print quality, speed and consistency. Before, the division could print approximately 5,000 cards on a direct-to- card printer before the unit’s end of life. With the ZXP Series 8, offices run tens of thousands of cards.

Because the models hold up under heavy printing longer, the division no longer taxes its IT team with constant repairs or needs to replace printers on a regular basis.

The ZXP Series 8‘s picture-perfect image quality means that color stays consistent across all printers. Before, color varied between printers.
“We had to adjust color on prior models to attempt to get something consistent,” Oates said. “Cards printed on the ZXP Series 8 look tremendous. Retransfer print technology is very impressive. Now you print from any office and all drivers’ licenses look the same.”

On the busiest days of the year, the main office in Anchorage can print as many as 1,000 cards. As the office takes on mail-in renewals, its volume will increase significantly. With the speed of the ZXP Series 8, the high-volume office is well-positioned to handle that volume with a 24- second turnaround on continuous printing and laminating.

“We used to take three printers at our main office to service customers. Even then, our customers would have a significant wait time if one of the printers went down. Now, our staff can’t take pictures fast enough to outpace the one ZXP printer we now use.,” Oates said.
Additionally, spare printer requirements were reduced by a third due to increased performance.

The majority of ZXP Series 8 printers have been in place for months without requiring attention, which has significantly cut maintenance time. Previously, the equivalent of 1.5 staff members would work on printers continuously. Additionally, shipping required at least a part-time warehouse person. Now, IT staff members focus on programming, and warehouse staff members spend less than an hour a week on shipping.

“The biggest impact is on our customers, particularly those visiting small offices,” said Oates. “The reliability of the new printers is so good, we rarely have an office out of commission due to printer problems.”

The total number of printers required dropped from 58 to 41 and the division cut its use of consumables dramatically. With less testing and fewer errors, the state reduced its consumables waste by more than 90 percent. All that adds up to a lower total cost of ownership.

“We wasted about 100,000 cards annually before and now it’s down to maybe 1,000,” Oates said. “We’re saving tens of thousands of dollars.”

On top of the reliability and cost efficiency, Alaska values its working relationship with Zebra. For any issues, Zebra provides fast phone support or in-depth, onsite testing and analysis as needed.

“Zebra has done everything we asked of them and more,” stated Oates. “As far as I’m concerned, support is second to none. We now have super support and a super product.”


International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) Uses Zebra Card Printers for Competitor IDs

Central to a sport spanning over 6000 years, the International Dragon Boat Federation (IDBF) promotes dragon boat racing worldwide. Over 70 countries are members and 2500 competitors are involved in the World Championships each year from a vast variety of accredited clubs.

A software and printer solution was developed specifically for processing Dragon Boat regatta participants, using Zebra’s ZXP series 3 printers to print personalised race ID cards and streamline the competitor accreditation process.

The Challenge
Prior to implementing the Zebra solution the Federation faced a huge challenge in tracking competitors and their eligibility to race for a country or club in IDBF championships. They also faced difficulty checking that the right people were in the correct racing boats.

Previously ID cards were made by manually filling in competitor details on cardboard forms and attaching printed photographs. There was considerable inconsistency between the different ID card formats across the various clubs, as each club issued their own badges, with different accreditations using different badge types and databases.

Issuing the badges was also costly and time intensive, and crucially, the cards were prone to fading when wet!

The Solution
idbfFollowing a recommendation from the database designer, the IDBF briefed Zebra to develop a solution that could be fed from a central database of all IDBF competitors through software designed specifically for handling dragon boat regatta issues.

From this the Federation can now print common accreditation badges where each competitor gets its own unique PIN number, which stays with them throughout their career. Organisers can now print multiple personalised accreditation cards at each location, using the portable Zebra printer.

Zebra ZXP 3 printers were chosen due to their portability, speed, cost effectiveness and ease of use. Now the IDBF can print badges linked to a central database, allowing them to instantly identify the status of each competitor at any given location.

Badge IDs now show championship logo, year and sponsor logos and contain embedded information including competitors’ name, passport number, photograph, boat competition and competitor class.


  • Cost effective: The Zebra ZXP 3 printer allows the IDBF to keep costs down – A crucial requirement for a voluntary organisation, which also ensures that membership and entry fees can stay low
  • Time savings: As the printer is highly portable, quick and easy to use it saves a significant amount of time in administrating the races
  • The ID badges can now contain an array of useful competitor information which makes it easy for marshalls to check competitors and adds an element of professionalism to the team logistics
  • As the federation adopts an increasing number of competitors, the barcoding system allows them to instantly identify who they have in each race and where they are at any given moment. Competitors moving from event to event now also have the same ID.

ZebraZXP3The IDBF now benefits from the enterprise standard for ID passes across all its 2500 competitors. During 2012 the system is likely to be extended to 30 of its 80 country membership base, by which time a total of 25,000 ID badges will have been issued through Zebra’s ZXP 3 series card printing solution.


Quick Facts About Card Printer

Before you purchase, the type of printer you choose will depend on:

  • The type of card you plan to use
  • How many cards you plan to print
  • How often you need to print cards
  • What printing elements you need to incorporate into your card

The 5 major factors to consider when purchasing a card printer are:

  • The type of card you plan to use
  • Card size
  • Printing speeds
  • The physical properties of the printer
  • Ease of use
  • The type of printing you want

And here are some basic pointers with regards to card printers:
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Glossary ? Cards

Access Control Cards
Plastic cards used to gain access to premises, usually associated with magnetic stripe and proximity cards.

Bar Code
An array of machine-readable rectangular bars and spaces arranged in a specific way defined in international standards to represent letters, numbers, and other human-readable symbols.

Digital Imaging
Scanning or otherwise capturing images which may be subsequently edited, filed, displayed or printed on a plastic card.
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