How to Choose the Right ID Card Printer

Call
(877) 868-0012 or visit www.IDCardGroup.com
How to Choose the
Right ID Card Printer
The
Complete
7-Step
GU IDE
With such a wide range of ID card printers on
the market, evaluating the options can become
an overwhelming task. This guide will walk you
through all the important considerations and
help you select the best ID card printer for
your organization.
How to Choose the Right ID Card Printer
T H E
C O M P L E T E
7 - S T E P
G U I D E
Selection Worksheet
This checklist contains an overview of all the features to consider when selecting an ID card printer that are covered
in this guide. Each question on this checklist corresponds to a page in the guide. Once you have completed this
checklist, you will be equipped with the knowledge necessary to compare printers.
1. Determine Your Budget
Low
( $ 878 - $1,400)
2. Single or Dual-Sided
Single-Sided
Mid
4. Volume Requirements
Manual Feed
Single-Sided
( with field upgrade option )
Rewritable Mode
Reverse Transfer
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . pg. 6
Batch Print
6. Determine Connection Type
Min. Hopper Capacity _________________________________
Min. Print Speed ______________________________________
Min. Ribbon Yield _____________________________________
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . pg. 7
Encoding Requirements _______________________________
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . pg. 8
Ethernet
7. Other Considerations
Dual-Sided
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . pg. 5
AlphaGuard
USB
( $ 1,898 - $6,165+)
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . pg. 4
5. Lamination, Visual Security & Encoding
Lamination
High
( $1,198 - $ 2,298)
3. Select Printing Method
Dye Sublimation
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . pg. 3
Wi-Fi
......................................................................
pg. 9
Operating System Compatibility _______________________________________
Preferred Warranty Duration ___________________________________________
Loaner Coverage
Maximum Printer Dimensions _________________________________________
Field Upgrade Availability
Notes/Comments _________________________________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________
www.IDCardGroup.com
(877) 868-0012
sales@idcardgroup.com
Copyright © 2018
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How to Choose the Right ID Card Printer
T H E
C O M P L E T E
7 - S T E P
G U I D E
Step 1. Determine Your Budget
It’s very helpful to have a pre-established budget range in mind when evaluating printers,
since an organization’s budget can be the most limiting factor. Pricing for complete ID card
systems starts at $898 and goes up to $6,165+ based on your organization’s needs.
BASE
Single Sided
A complete ID card system includes a printer, software, supplies, and lifetime AlphaCare support.
These components usually add $200-$1,350 to the base printer price.
PRINTER PRICING
B R E A K D O W N
$1,898 - $6,165+
$6,000
S TA R T I N G AT
$5,500
$998
$5,000
$4,500
$4,000
$3,500
$3,000
$1,198 - $2,298
$2,500
$2,000
$1,500
$878 - $1,400
$1,000
$500
$0
Low Volume
Mid Volume
High Volume
Volume determinations can vary depending on company usage,
needs, and other factors. See page 6 for more information, or contact one
of our ID card experts today for help! www.IDCardGroup.com/free-recommendations.
AlphaCard PRO 100
Starter ID Card System
Additional
Options
Additional Cost per Printer
Additional Supply Cost per Card
Dual-Sided
$200 - $750
$0.05 - $0.31
Magnetic Encoding
$400 - $750
$0.08 - $0.25
Lamination
$1,200 - $3,000
$0.22 - $0.65
AlphaGuard
$ 0.00 ( Free with AlphaCard systems )
$ 0.00 ( No extra supply cost )
P R I C I N G
www.IDCardGroup.com
price ranges depend on printer make & model
(877) 868-0012
sales@idcardgroup.com
cost per card includes: ribbon, film, overlaminate
and blank card costs
Copyright © 2018
3
How to Choose the Right ID Card Printer
T H E
C O M P L E T E
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Step 2. Single or Dual-Sided
Determine what you will need to print on the cards and
whether all of the content will fit on a single side. Dual-sided
printers automatically flip and print on the backside of a
card in a single pass. Most printers are available in a
dual-sided version, which usually adds $200-$750 to the
base printer price (dual-sided printing is not available on
some entry level printers). Also keep in mind that dual-sided
printing increases the supply price per card by $0.05-$.31.
Need Dual-Sided on a Budget?
You can manually print a batch of cards, then feed them back through and print the back sides. This method is only
recommended when one side of the card is exactly the same on all cards, without personalization, or if you plan to
print one card at a time without using batch printing functionality. Since this method is much more time consuming,
it is only recommended for a low volume program, but can be an affordable way to print dual-sided cards.
Field Upgrade Option for Future Growth
If you are unsure about needing dual-sided printing, select a printer with a field upgradable dual-sided printing module.
This option allows you to purchase the dual-sided hardware at a later date and self-install onsite to upgrade a single-sided
printer to a dual-sided printer. It makes your printer more flexible and prevents it from being obsolete as your organization’s
needs change. Upgrade modules usually cost $200-$750, which is slightly more than the cost of choosing the dual-sided
option when you first buy a printer.
AlphaCard PRO 100
Single-Sided ID Card Printer
$1,095
AlphaCard PRO 500
Dual-Sided ID Card Printer
$1,595
Field Upgrade Kit for PRO 500
& PRO 700 Single-Sided Printers
$598
The mid-level AlphaCard PRO 500 printer is one of our most popular ID card printers and is available in both
single-sided and dual-sided versions. The single-sided printer can easily be upgraded on-site with a field upgrade kit.
www.IDCardGroup.com
(877) 868-0012
sales@idcardgroup.com
Copyright © 2018
4
How to Choose the Right ID Card Printer
T H E
C O M P L E T E
7 - S T E P
G U I D E
Step 3. Printing Method
Dye Sublimation
Printers:
• More Economical
• Average Quality
• Faster Print Speeds
• Thin White Border
• Average Durability
Dye Sublimation (Direct-to-Card) Printers
Most ID card printers use dye sublimation printing, also known as direct-to-card (DTC).
These types of printers infuse the color from the printer ribbon into the card using heat from
the printhead. When the cards come out they are never wet and do not smear like they can
from ink jet or laser printers. Dye sublimation printers feature marginless edge-to-edge
printing, but sometimes leave a tiny white border around the card edge.
Dye sublimation printers are the most common type, and are
more affordable than reverse transfer printers, starting at just
$878. If your organization doesn’t need high definition cards,
doesn’t mind a tiny white border, and doesn’t need to print
on specialty format cardstock, then this type of printer is
your best option.
Rewritable Printing Mode
In addition to their standard printing mode, some dye sublimation printers have a monochrome rewritable mode which
can print on special rewritable cards without using any additional supplies. Rewritable cards are thermo-sensitive,
and can be printed, erased, and re-printed up to 500 times. This type of printing is best for text
and simple graphics since it will only print monochrome blue or black without any gradients
or shades. Organizations that print temporary badges can save resources and money by
using this economical printing method.
Not all dye sublimation printers have a rewritable printing mode, so be sure to check the
printer specs if this is a feature your organization needs.
Reverse Transfer Printers
Reverse transfer printing (also known as retransfer printing) is a higher-end printing
technology that produces crisper, high definition resolution, and true over-the-edge printing
without any white borders. Reverse transfer printers use both a printer ribbon as well as
transfer film to print. The card image is first printed onto the film, and then the film is
fused over the entire surface of the card. Because the printhead never touches
the card, it is ideal for specialty format cards that could damage
the printhead on a dye sublimation printer, such as
technology cards. The reverse transfer film also adds
an extra layer of durability and protection that isn’t
present on cards printed with dye sublimation printing.
Reverse transfer printers are more expensive than
dye sublimation printers, starting at about $2,800.
If your organization requires higher quality prints, true
borderless printing, extra durability or printing on specialty cards, this may be your best option.
www.IDCardGroup.com
(877) 868-0012
sales@idcardgroup.com
Copyright © 2018
Reverse Transfer
Printers:
• More Expensive
• Highest Quality
• Slower Print Speeds
Over-the-Edge
• True
Printing
• Higher Durability
5
How to Choose the Right ID Card Printer
T H E
C O M P L E T E
7 - S T E P
G U I D E
Step 4. Volume Requirements
Knowing the estimated daily and annual printing volume is very important in helping you choose the right printer. This
section will help you consider saving upfront with a lower level printer, compared to saving in the long run on
production time and supplies cost. Organizations with medium to high volume printing requirements may prefer to
invest in a more expensive printer upfront in order to save on
labor and supply costs.
Handfed vs. Batch Printing
Some entry-level printers only offer handfed printing since they
don’t have input or output hoppers. Handfed printers require
each card to be manually loaded one at a time, and are ideal for
organizations that only print a few cards per day. Organizations
that need to print a higher volume of cards should select a printer
with input and output hoppers since they allow for batch printing.
The AlphaCard PRO 100 only offers handfed printing.
Input & Output Hopper Capacity
100 Card Input Hopper
Input hoppers hold the blank cards before printing, while output
hoppers hold the printed cards as they come out of the printer.
Hoppers limit the maximum batch size that you can print. Larger
hoppers save time and labor by allowing larger batch sizes and
reducing the number of times the hoppers have to be restocked.
Some printers allow you to upgrade the hopper size to
accommodate larger batches, or to refill the cards less frequently.
Print Speed
25 Card Output Hopper
200 Card Output Hopper
(Dual ) Input Hopper - 200 qty
A full colored print can take 12-35 seconds per card depending on which printer you use. Organizations with high
volume print requirements can save time and production costs by selecting a faster printer. Organizations with low to
medium volume programs will be impacted less dramatically by printer speeds, and should focus on other factors.
Max Ribbon Yield
Instead of ink or toner, ID card printers use ribbons to print. Each ribbon has a
set number of prints that it can produce, which is called the ribbon yield. Larger
ribbons need to be changed less often, saving time and labor, and tend to
have a lower cost per print. Remember that every time you change a
ribbon, you should also use a cleaning kit and run a printer cleaning cycle.
Printer ribbons usually yield between 250-350 prints, but some printers have
high capacity ribbons available that can yield 750-1500 prints. If your
organization has high volume printing needs, make sure to compare max
ribbon yields available for each printer.
www.IDCardGroup.com
(877) 868-0012
sales@idcardgroup.com
Copyright © 2018
6
How to Choose the Right ID Card Printer
T H E
C O M P L E T E
7 - S T E P
G U I D E
Step 5. Lamination, Security & Encoding
Lamination (Clear or Hologram)
Lamination increases ID card durability and extends lifespan. It is especially
useful for cards in high impact environments, cards used outdoors, or
cards that are swiped through a reader. Laminates can be ordered with
embedded holograms, adding an extra layer of security to prevent
fraudulent duplication.
Most printers do not have lamination as an option, so if your organization
needs this feature, be sure to check the available options for the printer. Lamination usually adds
$1,200-$3,000 to a printer’s price, and also increases the supply cost per card by about $0.22-$0.65.
AlphaGuard
AlphaGuard is a technology that adds a hologram-like watermark over an ID card
without requiring a lamination unit or any additional supplies. This extra layer of
visual security helps prevent unauthorized ID card duplication, but unlike
lamination doesn’t add additional durability to the card. AlphaGuard is only available
for AlphaCard printers, and is not available with any other brand of printer.
AlphaGuard comes built-in to all AlphaCard printers and doesn’t add any cost to
the printer or supply cost per card.
`
AlphaGuard Secure Example
Other Security Options
There are several other options for visual security including specialty
cardstock, manually applied holograms, or design elements which
prevent fraudulent duplication. Most of these techniques can be used
with any ID card printer, so they won’t directly impact your printer
selection.
Encoding Options
Barcodes, magnetic stripe, proximity cards, and other smart card
technologies allow cards to be used with existing programs for access
control, time and attendance tracking, membership, or cashless payment.
Almost all printers have similar encoding options, so this requirement
won’t usually impact the decision about which printer is best. We
recommend you select the best printer for your organization separate
from a decision about what encoding need you may have.
www.IDCardGroup.com
(877) 868-0012
sales@idcardgroup.com
Copyright © 2018
7
How to Choose the Right ID Card Printer
T H E
C O M P L E T E
7 - S T E P
G U I D E
Step 6. Connection Type
USB, Ethernet, Wi-Fi
Will you need to connect your printer to a single computer, or to a network so multiple computers can print to it? USB
cables connect printers to a single computer and come standard with all printers. Ethernet connections are required to
connect the printer to a network. Ethernet comes standard with some printers, is an optional upgrade for other printers,
and is not available on some entry level printers. Wi-Fi is also an available option on a few printers, and allows you to
remotely send print commands to your printer.
Since not all printers have Ethernet or Wi-Fi, be sure to check the printer specs if your organization needs these features.
Also take into consideration if you are using multiple computers to print ID cards, you will either need multiple licenses of
ID software or a Secure USB Key that allows you to move a single license between multiple PCs, one at a time.
USB
USB
Computer
ID Card Printer
Ethernet
Ethernet
Ethernet
Router
ID Card Printer
Ethernet
WIFI
www.IDCardGroup.com
Router
ID Card Printer
(877) 868-0012
sales@idcardgroup.com
Copyright © 2018
8
How to Choose the Right ID Card Printer
T H E
C O M P L E T E
7 - S T E P
G U I D E
Step 7. Other Considerations
Printer Size
If you have limited space, you may need to take into consideration
the footprint and overall size of the ID card printer. Adding options
like encoding, lamination, or dual-sided printing may add modules
to your printer that will take up more space. You may also want to
consider the location of the input and output hoppers. Some
printers offer the option of same side input and output hoppers
that work great in small spaces.
The smallest ID card printers measure around
8”W x 9”H x 11”L. The largest printers are those with
encoding, lamination modules and upgraded hoppers,
and are significantly larger.
22.32”
9.1”
Field Upgrades
33.46”
Some printers offer field upgrades so that an
10.6”
11.81”
8.4”
organization can add functionality at a later date. Field
upgrade modules can usually be self installed onsite;
the most common types include dual-sided printing, Ethernet, and magnetic stripe encoding. If you are unsure of the
future needs of your organization, field upgrades make your printer more flexible and prevent it from being obsolete if
your organization’s needs change. Upgrade modules usually cost $200-$750, which is slightly more than the cost of
choosing the option when you first buy a printer.
Operating System Compatibility
Be sure to check the printer for operating system compatibility if you use a retired, newly released, or Mac OSX operating
system. Most, but not all, manufacturers offer Mac OSX compatibility, and all offer a wide range of PC OS compatibility.
The options for Mac compatible ID card software are much more limited, so talk to your sales rep if this is something
your organization needs.
Warranty & Loaner Coverage
All printers come with a manufacturer warranty that generally lasts between one and three years. Some models also
provide a free loaner if your printer needs to be sent in for repairs. In addition to the manufacturer’s warranty, you also get
AlphaCare, the industry’s best FREE support plan. Among other benefits, AlphaCare includes system setup assistance
and training and lifetime technical support. See complete details at www.AlphaCard.com/alphacare.
AlphaCard PRO ID card printers come with the industry’s best warranty and include our unique Pro-Xchange program to
take the hassle out of repairs by sending you a replacement printer instead of making you wait for a repair or loaner. All
PRO series printers also get a free year of AlphaCarePlus service and support, a $298 value! AlphaCarePlus is our VIP
support program and includes advanced configuration assistance, annual printer maintenance, and a priority phone line.
Learn more at www.AlphaCard.com/pro-support.
www.IDCardGroup.com
(877) 868-0012
sales@idcardgroup.com
Copyright © 2018
9
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