Who Says That Desktop Card Printing is not Affordable?
ID cards produced on a desktop ID card printer are generally agreed to have far superior quality, durability and security than other more manual methods of production. The big change in recent years is the affordability of ID card printers.
• Taking a picture with an instant camera
• Taking another picture because the first one was not to the liking of the employee!
• Sticking the picture on a piece of card that had a company logo and the person’s name pre-printed on it.
• Laminating the card with a manual laminator, without burning your hands!
The resultant cards were of course easy to tamper with, peeled around the edges, and faded. But it’s all we had. The digital camera has come along to make this process a bit easier, but the lamination process is much the same.
You would think that this strange process had died out in the 21st century. But no, it’s still a very common method for making ID cards! Why is this? It’s because people think that they cannot afford to buy and run a desktop ID card printer.
But in most cases they are wrong – if you look at the real costs, including the initial purchase, consumables, and especially the useage, desktop ID card printers are very affordable. In many cases, they have very similar costs to cut-and-paste solutions. When you consider that the quality, durability and security of a plastic card are far superior, the desktop printer route is by far the better.
PRINTERS ARE NOW MUCH MORE AFFORDABLE
Desktop ID card printers are now available at around the US$1,000 mark, end-user price. This buys you a proper dye-sublimation printer, suitable for printing less than 200 cards per month, which is a very reasonable volume for many organisations. Dye-sublimation is the preferred method for printing plastic ID cards, as it ‘sublimates’ the color image into the plastic of the card, and then protects the card with an overlay layer, which means that card images are resistant to fading and scratching.
Desktop ID card printers of course need to work with a PC, and a digital camera if you are going to use photo ID. You also may need some simple ID badging software. So, the entry cost for an ID card printer package is around the $1000 to $1500 mark.
High-volume printers with fast print speeds, hoppers and stackers, and sometimes the ability to print double-sided cards in one go are of course more costly, and start around the $2000 mark, going up to $4000-$5000 or more for double-sided versions, but the important change in the last few years has been the introduction of $1000-$1500 entry-level printers that still use high quality dye-sublimation print engines.
It is true that basic cut-and-paste solutions can be bought for around $500, but if you look at a specialist laminator, software to produce the card, a camera etc, you can easily exceed $1000.
COST OF CONSUMABLES
There are two types of consumables required to make ID cards with a desktop printer; cards and dye-sublimation ribbons.
Card costs of course vary enormously, depending on the technology involved. Plain blank cards can be bought for as little as $0.10 or even less in large quantities; sophisticated contactless cards can cost a few dollars each in low volumes. An important point is that a desktop ID card printer will print on most card types; from plain cards, through magnetic stripe cards, and including contact chip and contactless cards. This means that the initial investment in the printer is not wasted as the user moves up to more sophisticated card technologies.
Ribbons used for dye-sublimation printing vary in cost depending on the number of prints per ribbon. Typical costs are around $0.35 to $0.60 per single-sided color print. A monochrome print is much less – a single-sided black print is typically only around $0.02 to $0.05. Other monochrome ribbons in colors like silver and gold are also available. For a double-sided card it is typical to print one side in color and the other in black.
LOWER COST OF USE
Where desktop ID card printers really score over other methods is in the cost of use.
• It’s quick to produce a card. Once you have setup your card design, it’s a case of taking a picture, checking it, entering personal details into the card software database, and printing the card.
• There is less wastage due to card lamination not sticking, or making a mistake in the card production process.
• The life of a digital ID card is much longer than cut-and-paste cards, due to the robustness of the card, the fact that the cards don’t peel or come apart, and the image being sublimated into the card surface. This means that a typical card lifetime of 5 years can easily be twice as long as for a cut-and-paste card.
• There is always a need for replacement cards due to people losing cards or cards being damaged. With a desktop printer, it takes less than a minute to print a replacement card.
For many applications, card types like contactless (proximity), contact chip or mag stripe cards are required, which cut-and-paste methods often cannot produce.
Also, ID card printers can produce accurate bar codes and other machine-readable features on the card.
The security of the card issuance system is much higher with a desktop printer. Some printers can be locked to prevent unauthorised use, and password control of a PC is of course easy to set up.
The higher image quality of cards produced by ID card printers is usually seen as an important benefit in portraying a professional corporate image, and in encouraging employees to look after their cards because they are pleased with their photo and the overall look of the card.
ID cards produced on a desktop ID card printer are generally agreed to have far superior quality, durability and security than other more manual methods of production. The big change in recent years is the affordability of ID card printers. With complete printer/software packages now around the $1000-$1500 mark, and consumables being very competitive, organisations that only want to print a few cards per month can still afford a professional solution.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I work as a global marketing and communications manager for Ultra Electronics Manufacturing card systems. I'm French and have now been living in the UK for 10 years. I graduated in business communications from the University of Rennes in France and post-graduated in International Public Relations at the University of Hertforshire, UK. I very much enjoy the creative side of my job, and most of all, the writing bit.