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Choosing the right card printer for your company

Navigating the showroom floor

Fontanella also sees the value in proper cleaning and maintenance as a tool to reduce total cost of ownership. “Even though the maintenance of card printers is generally inexpensive, it is still a valuable habit to routinely maintain the hardware,” he adds. “Regularly cleaning print heads and the card feeding mechanism can limit the risk of more expensive service and replacement.”

Under the hood

Software is another crucial element to the card printer and can be the make-or-break for many consumers. Thus it needs to be examined closely prior to purchase. “Integrated software is key to maximizing the capabilities of the printer,” says Phillips.

The first thing to consider when looking at the software of a card printer is which operating system the printer will run on and whether or not the printer will support the consumer’s preference.

While this seems a rather straightforward concept, there are some details that muddy the picture. Some printer manufacturers restrict access to certain advanced features to inhibit the functionality of third-party software, says Bell. “This is done to protect their own software sales for which the customers are forced to pay a premium–be wary,” he cautions.

That being said, it is the software that will enable the printer to meet all the requirements the consumer is seeking. Consulting the web site of the printer manufacturer or calling directly are ways that the consumer can verify that the software capabilities of the printer will meet the necessary benchmarks.

The price tag

Wants, needs, features and software aside, a primary concern for any consumer will forever be the price.

Valuing a card printer, however, goes deeper than a simple price tag as maintenance, consumables and cost of initial deployment must all be considered. “The cost for initial deployment varies based on a number of factors,” says Fontanella. “The number of employees in an organization, the type of card to be used, 
the level of personalization and the risk-appropriate level of security or durability desired.”

This is where the consumer’s research becomes vital. The total cost of ownership will always be dependent upon the context in which the printer will be used and the technologies it will need to personalize.

Maintenance costs vary but are typically low. More crucial to the overall cost of the printer operation, however, is the cost associated with consumables.

Cunningham agrees with this concept. “Cost of systems and supplies depends on the solutions put in place, whether its monochrome data or bar code printing, full-color direct-to-card or higher end color retransfer and UV printing.”

Lamination is a common part of card printing and the prices associated with the various laminates available can vary significantly depending on customization and features, explains Cunningham.

So what’s the bottom line?

By taking into consideration the ongoing requirements of a printing operation, the actual cost of ownership comes into view. “For total cost of ownership, the key is to calculate the initial cost of the unit, the cost for supplies and an honest estimate of service or repair costs over the lifetime of the card project,” says Cunningham.

As with any purchase, the process of selecting a card printer entails a series of trade-offs and considerations ultimately leading the consumer to an informed decision. “A reliable and versatile system may cost more up front, but can reduce your downtime, maintenance and replacement costs later,” says Cunningham, “saving you more money in the long run and providing better cards in the meantime.”

Being informed is the key. Realistically balancing wants and needs, formulating a workable budget and preparing for operation and maintenance needs is essential. When done properly, any organization can drive away happy.

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