Premium printing quality in card printing October 18th, 2018

Premium printing quality in card printing
What are the hallmarks? 

What are the crucial quality features today when it comes to ID card printing for ID and access control, employee badges or personalized membership or loyalty cards? What requirements must be met when printing smart cards for the tourism, gambling, and entertainment industries? In professional printing, today’s customers expect brilliant pictures, crisp text and lines, and barcodes that can be scanned readily and reliably. Printing must be possible on a continuously professional level, including both high printing speed and low maintenance efforts. 

Together, these factors determine overall print quality: proper alignment of several color channels, color accuracy, intensive, high-luminance colors that are both light- and weather-resistant, and high color resolution (dpi). 

Retransfer Card Printing

Zebra‘s retransfer printing technology offers high-quality card printing that almost matches the quality of offset printing, even for RFID transponders or smart cards. 

In conventional direct-to-card (DTC) printers, a printing head prints directly onto the surface of a card via a color ribbon. The DTC technology uses a thermal printing head applying heat to a color ribbon carrier to transfer ink from the ribbon to an empty card. In retransfer printing, by contrast, the image to be printed is first transferred to a transparent transfer film. The film is then heated to detach the print image from the transfer film and fuse it to the card surface using a heated soft laminating roll. The transfer film adapts perfectly to minimal card surface irregularities. This process enables the production of durable, scratch-resistant ID cards. Retransfer technology produces images of optimal quality and with more vivid and saturated colors – even on irregularly shaped surfaces.

Due to the dual-sided printing design, the printer no longer needs to flip the cards mechanically during production. This makes printing even faster (180 cards per hour) and at the same time reduces the risk of mechanically induced errors and card jams. The ZXP series 9 printers integrate easily into existing IT networks, by default featuring USB and Ethernet connectivity along with optional Wi-Fi®. Color Predictive Technology (CPT) delivers superior photo-like print quality. CPT constantly monitors printing and continuously adapts the printer settings. Printer downtime is reduced thanks to Near Field Communication (NFC) technology and QR codes that give instant access to printer and support information. Special magnet stripes, secure smart card encoding, as well as software and SDK options can be added to easily integrate applications. 

More security thanks to custom laminates 

Zebra‘s patented retransfer and lamination technology ensures card security and reduces counterfeiting, as the film cannot be removed without being damaged. To make cards even more secure, additionally Zebra laminates can be applied, with a wide variety of customizable security elements such as visual holograms, micro-text, UV-fluorescent images, guilloche patterns, and metallic inks. The laminates can be customized to include your company logo and name or unique images or text for prevention of tampering or counterfeiting.  

To sum it up, retransfer card printing offers improved image quality with vivid, rich colors, as well as true edge-to-edge printing. Printing is possible also on uneven card surfaces (as on smart cards). In contrast to other printing techniques, more durable and abrasion-resistant cards can be used and protected against manipulation by applying an anti-tamper film.


Samantha is BlueStar's Digital Media Specialist, and the primary contributing writer for VartechNation. Previously, she has worked as a Public Relations Associate and a Social Media Manager.