Support Blog
January 15th, 2018 / ID Card Printers

Direct to Card versus Retransfer Printers

One of the most common questions asked when an organization is looking to implement a new ID system is, “What ID card printer is best for our needs?

Since there are many different options for ID card printers, the answer to this question depends on each organization’s needs for their cards. That’s why it is always a good idea to speak with one of our Account Managers to help ensure that you choose the machine that ultimately fits your card printing needs.

With that being said, it’s easy to break ID card printers into two main categories: Direct to Card and Retransfer Printers.

Direct-to-Card Printers

Also referred to as “dye sublimation printers”, these are most common and use ink ribbons & cards to print. The print head inside direct-to-card printers prints directly onto the cards themselves.

Quick Facts about Direct-To-Card:

  • Faster Print Speeds
  • Lower cost per card (Consumables are less expensive)
  • Card designs will typically have a small white border around the edge of the card because the print head cannot go over the edge of the cards
  • Designed for printing on regular PVC cards, or adhesive back cards

Retransfer Printers

Also called a “reverse transfer,” “over-the-edge,” or “high-definition” printer, retransfer ID card printers are a relatively new technology on the card printing scene.

This style of printer uses ink ribbon and film to print onto cards. When the cards go into the printer, the printhead does not come into direct contact with the cards. Instead, the ink gets printed onto the reverse side of a clear film, and that film is then laid and heated onto the cards. This allows the ink to be printed on the entire surface of the cards and eliminating the small white border seen on designs printed with Direct to Card Printers.

Quick Facts about Retransfer ID Printer:

  • Slower Printing Speeds than Direct-to-Card
  • Slightly more expensive, as a result of the extra consumables
  • Superior Image quality with full “over the edge” printing
  • Recommended cards for this printer are “composite cards” due to higher heat used in print process
  • Designed for printing on technology cards, cards with uneven surfaces, and regular non-technology cards.

There are many other benefits to both types of ID card printers, depending on your organization’s requirements.  Contact us today to learn more!

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