If you’ve been browsing for a new ID card printer, you’ve probably come across phrases like retransfer, or reverse transfer printing. As you want to make the best choice for your business, you are probably wondering what this all means and how these printers differ from regular ones.
More importantly, can they satisfy your exact printing needs?
Retransfer printers are a relatively new technology in the ID card printing industry. However, they are already very popular, and for good reason.
Let’s look at whether a retransfer printer is right for you, by answering questions you should ask when browsing ID card printers.
Typical ID card printers use a method we call direct to card (DTC) printing. In this method, the printhead comes in contact with and prints directly on the card surface. Through a process called dye-sublimation, the printer vaporizes panels on a three-color dye-based ribbon and fuses it directly on the card. These printers can create up to 1.6 million colors at 300 dpi.
Retransfer printers work by printing the image in reverse on a transparent ribbon. The ribbon is then thermally fused to the card print side down. The printhead never makes contact with the card surface. Because the image is first printed in reverse, this is also sometimes called “reverse transfer printing.” Re-transfer printers can print up to 600dpi.
Retransfer printing has a number of practical advantages over DTC printing, such as:
Retransfer printers have some undeniable advantages for some ID card printing needs. However, just like with everything else, you’ll need to compromise in other areas:
Retransfer printing is more versatile than DTC printing because it prints on a flexible film instead of on the card surface. That makes retransfer printers more suitable for printing on the following types of cards:
Because retransfer printers can print in higher resolution and with more saturated colors, they are preferred for instances where image quality is of the utmost importance. If you need to print photo-quality images that may be used for identification, you should consider a retransfer printer.
You can also print other cards, such as magnetic stripe cards, access cards, watermarked cards, or cards with contactless or dual-sided coding. These are available with both DTC and retransfer printers but depends on the features of each printer.
Fargo produces highly modular printers, and you can usually plug in any of these capabilities, whether you buy a DTC or retransfer printer.
Depending on the needs of your organization, printing speed can be of the essence. If you regularly need to print a high number of cards in a short amount of time, you need your printer to be up to the task.
Luckily all printers can print cards in a matter of seconds, so it doesn’t matter that much on an individual scale.
To compare, let’s look at two printers from one of the top card printing companies, Fargo. Both are regarded as some of the fastest ID card printers in their class:
The HDP6600 takes 16 or 29 seconds per card, depending on the color quality. That tallies up to either 230 or 190 cards per hour.
The DTC1250e prints cards at 6, 8, or 16 seconds per card. This depends on whether you print on the K, KO, or YMCKO setting.
As you can see, retransfer printers are still capable of printing a high number of cards per hour. However, the HDP6600 is a high-end retransfer printer, and others are probably slower.
For any individual or organization, the cost of your equipment is an important consideration. It doesn’t help you buy something with features you don’t need if compromises your finances.
Retransfer printers fall in the higher-end price ranges for ID card printers. Prices for them generally start at over $3,000. DTC printers are much more affordable, and prices start at under $2,000.
That being said, Retransfer printers rarely have the expensive printhead problems DTC printers may be prone to. DTC cards are also less durable and only last 4-5 years if well taken care of while retransfer printed cards can last much longer. This means you might have to reprint all your organization’s cards much more frequently with a DTC printer.
You may need to factor in the cost of replacing these consumables if you buy retransfer printer:
If you add it all up, the cost per card should be around $1 without factoring the printer itself. That’s not too bad.
Of course, every organization’s needs are different. And, even among re-transfer printers, there is a huge variety of printers to consider with very different features. It’s safe to say that retransfer printers definitely are a superior budget if you have the means to afford it.
The only drawbacks are lower printing speeds and that you can’t use cheaper PVC cards. However, if security and print quality are crucial for your needs, they are the best choice.