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

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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