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Choosing the right card printer for your company

Navigating the showroom floor

As quantities increase, concerns regarding security are sure to follow. Fortunately, with options like holographic over-laminates, forensic features and holograms, large operations may already have the answers they need. “Enterprise and government organizations are increasingly looking for risk-appropriate card personalization systems that address diverse requirements for anything from basic ID badges to highly secure credentials that use hardware lamination modules for added secure visual personalization,” says Fontanella.

Additionally, larger businesses often have multiple offices where linking disparate databases or linking securely to a central database is vital. In such instances security is a necessary expense and a robust, comprehensive solution is required. “Large businesses with multiple offices or locations should seek a card personalization software solution that seamlessly links internal and external databases to create cards over a network,” explains Fontanella.

The bells and whistles

The features offered by modern card printers are vast and advancements are being made on both the card and card printer fronts. This requires end users to identify which features to demand and which to avoid. “These hardware and software features are traditionally tied to the user profile of the organization,” explains Fontanella.

These user profiles are comprised of a number of wants and needs. The customer must ask questions like will the cards be contact or contactless smart cards? How many cards will be printed? Do multiple types of personalization need to be supported? On what OS will the printer operate?

For contact and contactless smart card printing, retransfer technology will certainly be a desired feature. Using a special film that fuses smoothly to the card’s surface, retransfer printing produces a sharper, higher quality print than direct-to-card surface printing methods.

“Retransfer technology doesn’t print directly to the card’s surface, which eliminates the risk of misprints of expensive cards due to surface or sub-surface irregularities or abnormalities,” says Fontanella.

The card landscape is an ever-changing one and the end user should be ready for any contingency, Cunningham says. “With all of the various encoding, printing and laminating options out there now, you need a system that at any moment could switch out technologies or personalize multiple technologies simultaneously,” he adds.

“Each project manager should evaluate what features are needed for their current issuance programs, keeping in mind where they would like to be in three to five years and then select a solution that can get them there most efficiently,” says Cunningham.

While there are a multitude of features available, never overlook simplicity, says Kurt Bell, sales director at Evolis. “One of the most important factors is basic operation,” he says.

The latest technologies and features in card printing can often overshadow other important aspects of the decision making process. Bell implores the consumer to consider the logistics of the printing operation before making a purchase.

“Consider where the printer will physically reside within your location,” says Bell. “In some work environments rear loading printers–both cards and ribbons–are problematic.”

Bell raises an important point. Regardless of the printer or chosen, the burden ultimately falls to the consumer to operate it. “Some printers have cartridges that are easy to drop in and the ribbon type is automatically detected by the printer,” he says. “Others use rolls which are less obvious to install and the printer will need to be manually configured for each ribbon change.”

General ease of use is of particular concern to smaller businesses where more novice operators will likely do printing.

Keep it clean

Loading is only one of the factors of maintenance. Cleaning is also a regular function of card printer care. “All card printers require regular cleaning,” says Bell. “Some let you know when it’s time to clean, others don’t … and cleaning on some models is more difficult than others.”

Printer cleaning may not be the sexiest part of the card printing process, but it’s a necessary function and one that should be considered during the purchasing decision process. “Most manufactures have videos on their web sites that show basic operation and maintenance–watch them before making your decision,” says Bell.

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