Most purchasers of card printing equipment make a decision based on their current needs, which makes sense at that time but can translate into costly investments in the future. Indeed, some ID card printers are built to be upgraded on-site or at an authorized retailer to adapt to evolving needs. For instance, some single-sided card printers can easily become dual-sided systems without even having to purchase additional hardware. That is why a company that might need dual-sided functionality at some point should consider an upgradable machine at the time of purchase. Other upgrades such as lamination or encoding modules should also be evaluated by the purchaser.
Most card printer users purchase a standard YMCKO color ribbon to print their ID cards and badges but this might not be cost-effective. Most ID card printer manufacturers offer a wide range of monochrome and color ribbons, including ribbons for dual-sided printers. For instance, a company looking into printing an employee badge with a photo ID, text, logo and background on the front and the company’s contact information in black on the back should consider buying a YMCKO-K ribbon. This type of ribbons is designed to print in full color on one side and black on the other.
Another great option to save money on consumables is a half-panel color ribbon. In this type of ribbon, the Yellow, Magenta and Cyan panels are half the size of the regular panels of a YMCKO ribbon. Up to half of the card can be printed in full color while black text or images can be printed anywhere on the card. This ribbon is ideal for student IDs or employee badges that include a color photo ID and the cardholder’s information. It also works great on pre-printed cards when only a picture, name or barcode needs to be added.
A good care of plastic cards is critical to get the best quality at every print. Dust and debris on cards can easily damage the printhead and result in poorly printed cards. Users must handle plastic cards very carefully as dust, debris, and oils from skin contact can stick to the cards and damage the printhead. It is therefore recommended to hold cards at the edge without touching the surface. Cards need to be stored in a clean, dust-free environment. Before use, fanning cards will reduce static and help prevent them from sticking together.
Cleaning an ID card printer regularly is crucial to maintain the printer and print high-quality cards. All card printer manufacturers offer cleaning kits for easy care of the printer, rollers and printhead.
In all cases, users must follow the recommendations of the card printer manufacturer. Failure to comply may void the printer’s warranty, which may result in substantial expenses if a printer component such as the printhead has to be replaced. Most manufacturers encourage a printer cleaning at every ribbon change.
A major mistake when buying an ID card system is to focus on the card printer and overlook other key components such as ID card software. Often referred as the brain of an ID card program, ID card software goes beyond the design of ID cards. It also helps manage and store cardholder records, communicate with databases, or store data in cards. Purchasers must define their needs very carefully to avoid bad surprises. It is also highly recommended to check the compatibility of the software with the user’s operating system. Most software providers offer a free trial of their solution to do so and test the interface.