The Need For Retransfer ID Card Printing Is Real
A wide range of industries today are realizing the significant benefits that personalized access control, ID cards, financial, retail and smart cards can bring to their enterprises. The rapid expansion of on-demand issuance of ID cards for identification, tracking and monetary applications calls for an innovative ID card printing solution. However, with an ever-increasing emphasis on security, flexibility and efficiency, organizations now face the need to produce ID cards with the highest image quality, using a diverse range of ID card materials, with the broadest array of chip-encoding options.
Retransfer ID card printing technology is the optimal on-demand ID card printing solution for meeting the stringent image quality and encoding standards that advanced ID card applications require. In the past, desktop retransfer ID card printers offered low ID card printing speeds and image quality, thus limiting their applicability in many ID card issuance applications. This lack of performance and quality slowed the adoption of retransfer printing technology industry wide. Today, however, innovative technology for retransfer ID card printing delivers a fast, flexible and affordable solution.
While direct-to-card (DTC) printing will continue to be the technology of choice for many standard ID card printing applications, fast retransfer ID card printing promises to expand a much broader range of possible applications, from high-security ID cards, to retail loyalty cards, financial cards and beyond. In fact, retransfer technology offers a quantum leap beyond DTC ID card printing. Retransfer printing commands 8 to 10 percent of the current market, with the current market expected to grow to 12 to 15 percent within three years (based on a 2008 survey of select markets).
Retransfer Card Printing Delivers Key Advantages
Zebra Retransfer technology uses a process called reverse thermal transfer. Unlike traditional dye sublimation ID card printers, which use a printhead to transfer images through a dye ribbon directly onto the ID card surface, retransfer ID card printers use a two-step process:
1. In the first step, the retransfer process prints a high-resolution image in reverse directly onto a clear receiving layer: a flexible, intermediate film. The dye sublimation process prints the image to the film, just like in DTC printing.
2. Next, the printer uses heat and pressure to thermally transfer the image and the entire image-receiving intermediate film onto the ID card surface. During this process, the layer thermally bonds to the ID card surface, and the printed image resides underneath the clear image-receiving film layer, inside the plastic ID card.
Superior Image Quality
When it comes to demanding government ID card and business applications, photo image quality is essential. Security depends on photos that accurately portray the cardholder, and businesses expect sharp graphics and faithful reproduction of colors to communicate their brands effectively. With retransfer technology, the days of fuzzy photos and dull graphics have become a thing of the past. The challenges of printing directly to a hard plastic ID card surface fundamentally limit the image quality of the DTC printing process. The relatively small number of affordable, durable ID card materials that accept dyes limits the types of ID cards used, and limits the intensity of colors that DTC printing can reproduce. In addition, the DTC process depends on uniform, intimate contact between the printhead, the dye ribbon, and the ID card surface. Because of the unevenness of many ID card surfaces, DTC printing cannot achieve high color density and uniformity when transferring dye directly to an ID card using this process.
Retransfer ID card printing separates the image creation step from the ID card application step, relieving many of the inherent constraints of DTC printing. In retransfer ID card printing the intermediate film is thin and flexible, making it easy to maintain uniform printing pressure. In addition, the retransfer process can optimize the dye for print quality—regardless of the ID card material so unlike DTC printing, retransfer technology reliably prints on uneven card surfaces such as those found with proximity cards. This ability to print first and then transfer the image to the ID card opens up new possibilities for high image quality.
Identification cards and smart cards use a variety of materials in their production. Enterprises in the public and private sector demand flexibility when choosing ID cards that meet specific cost and application requirements. Built with a wide range of materials, smart cards contain circuitry such as a microprocessor and memory pre-loaded with information. In reality, DTC dye sublimation printing requires a porous surface available only with PVC-based ID cards, thus limiting ID card material options.
In many sophisticated plastic ID card applications, such as retail loyalty, smart cards and finance, it is important to cover the ID card surface entirely with background graphics, yielding a more professional look. Traditional DTC ID card printers leave a small white border around the outside perimeter of ID cards due to the difficulty of maintaining contact all the way to the edges during printing. This white border detracts from the look of the ID card and discourages adoption for high-end applications.
Through over-the-edge ID card printing, retransfer technology enables true edge-to-edge images, giving users access to the entire ID card surface. Retransfer printing prints the image onto the intermediate film in a slightly oversize form factor, so that the transfer to the ID card surface occurs with complete edge-to-edge coverage. This full over-the-edge effect produces a sleek, photo-like appearance that is very different from a traditional ID card.
The retransfer process is relatively insensitive to ID card material, permitting the printing of high-quality images on a wide variety of ID card materials including biodegradable ID cards, making retransfer printing eco-friendly, enabling “green” initiatives! These advantages clearly differentiate the retransfer printing process from DTC ID card printing, and provide a significant advantage to many applications.
Improved Security and Tamper Resistance
With all forms of theft on the rise, government agencies and businesses must take every precaution to secure their workforce and assets. The transfer film used in retransfer printing technology inherently provides protection against counterfeit activities that would attempt to make fraudulent fake ID cards since the overlay film easily shows evidence of tampering. Any attempt to tamper with data on the ID card also damages the film, which cannot be easily repaired or re-used. Users gain the edge-to-edge protection of a security credential, with durability exceeding a comparable DTC printed ID card.
In addition, for added security users can use laminates with a multitude of security features such as holographic ID card images, optical variable ink, and morphing for an even greater layer of security.
Lower Printhead Costs
In traditional DTC ID card printing, the printheads must contact directly the rigid ID card substrates, creating excessive wear. When printing to the ID card edge, DTC printheads often suffer premature failure, or outright damage. Because retransfer ID card printers print on soft transfer film panels instead of onto the card surface itself, printhead life span improves dramatically. The result is a reduction in overhead for spare printheads, lowered maintenance workload and significantly improved return on investment (ROI).
Key Considerations When Choosing ID Card Printers
Retransfer ID card printing enables a wide range of applications for the public and private sector. In federal, state, and local government, identification and smart cards find significant use in access control, tracking personnel, smart driver’s licenses, voter registration cards, and national ID cards. In the private sector, manufacturing, retail, and financial enterprises use ID cards for employee ID card access control, gift cards, loyalty cards, and cash cards in markets such as gaming, cruise lines, and entertainment. DTC ID card printing addresses specific applications but may not meet the criteria of all applications.
When choosing an ID card printer, consider the following benefits of retransfer technology:
High print quality and flexible options for ID card materials:
• DTC diffuses dye onto the surface of an ID card substrate to create an image, potentially compromising image quality on non-smooth surfaces.
• Retransfer printing delivers high print quality, the ability to print on uneven ID card surfaces such as smart cards and on non-PVC ID cards. The result is a more durable and abrasion-resistant ID card that lasts longer than traditional materials.
Built-in fraud protection, as Retransfer film is inherently tamper evident:
• In government and financial applications, security is a top priority. Agencies and businesses require provisions to prevent counterfeiting and reduce ID card tampering.
• Retransfer is the only printing technology that offers the encoding flexibility, compliance options and fraud protection that smart card users demand.
True edge-to-edge images via over-the-edge printing
• DTC printing yields low-throughput ID card printing that can waste ID card surface area. The lack of over-the-edge printing capability can lead to excessive printing supply usage and printhead burn rate.
• With retransfer ID card printing, users can immediately benefit by printing so images are placed across the entire surface of the ID card.
The Zebra Retransfer Printing Solution
For ID card applications that require photo-like images, fast print speeds, rich encoding options and intuitive system integration tools, the Zebra ZXP Series 8 ID card printer and ZMotif photo ID software deliver the optimal retransfer ID card printing solution. The ZXP Series 8 achieves the fastest print speed on the market today while maintaining top image quality and the highest cost efficiency.
Sharp Images and Graphics that Stand Out
Zebra’s innovative reverse thermal transfer process delivers superior image quality, allowing users to issue ID cards that match the brand expectations of their customers. Zebra Technology‘s technical expertise in the photo ID card printing business served as the foundation for the ZXP Series 8 ID card printer. The ZXP leverages sophisticated image-processing algorithms to compensate for image errors normally caused by high printing speeds, enabling photo-quality images and print resolution even at increased print speeds.
High Throughput Enables Efficient Printing
The ZXP Series 8 ID card printer solution achieves print speeds that exceed any other retransfer ID card printer in its class. In fact, the ZXP delivers speeds that are comparable to many of the fastest DTC ID card printers currently on the market. Traditional retransfer ID card printers must mechanically flip ID cards in order to print both sides, while the ZXP Series 8 dual-sided uses a simultaneous dual-sided process to transfer the front and back images from the intermediate transfer film to the ID card at the same time. This exclusive, patent-pending architecture significantly increases the transfer speed and simplifies the retransfer system.
The ZXP ID card printer also gains speed by printing the ID card images over the short dimension of the ID card rather than over the long dimension. This “landscape mode” approach is a highly efficient way to reduce print time per color panel and reduce the time required for mechanical retraces between color panels. The combination of simultaneous dual-sided ID card printing and landscape mode printing enables 100 percent use of ID card area, regardless of the ID card materials. The result is improved process efficiency and use of print resources.
Unmatched Integration and Ease of Use
The ZXP Series 8 ID card printer includes ZMotif XML-based software for easy integration with enterprise-based applications. Built around an intuitive user interface, the ZMotif printer management software speeds up implementation of custom projects, while reducing startup and migration costs. The software uses Microsoft® Windows® certified drivers to help ensure application ease of use, compatibility and investment protection within existing infrastructures.
The ZMotif graphical user interface (GUI) presents ID card printer configuration tools and utilities that provide an IT department complete control over all ID card printer functions and features. Graphics designers benefit from an XML-based software development kit (SDK) and ID card printer interface language, enabling flexible project customization and design reuse. In addition, users can access networked ZXP ID card printer resources from within the familiar Windows printer environment, enabling the best ROI value.
Modular Hardware and Software Drives Scalability
The ZXP Series 8 ID card printer offers a full complement of encoding options suitable for a variety of applications. These options include encoding magnetic stripes, contact smart card and a variety of contactless smart card encoding options. When adding a new module selection, IT departments can benefit from easy setup and faster deployment because the ZXP automatically detects and configures the device. Businesses can purchase options with the initial ID card printer or add the options later as departmental demands grow.
Optimize Your ID Card Printing Operations
IT professionals and operations managers deserve the best from their ID card printer infrastructure. Zebra’s ZXP Series 8 ID card printer and ZMotif software can help eliminate traditional barriers to ID card applications that require high photo quality or embedded technology. The ZXP solution delivers the crisp images, highest throughput, and cost-effective retransfer ID card printing value available today. Now, businesses and government agencies can achieve simple, quick rollout of identification cards, driver’s licenses, ATM, debit and non-embossed credit cards.
The security and efficient operation of your organization is important! Email Advantidge today at [email protected] or call 800-965-5932 to learn more about adding Zebra retransfer ID card printing technology to your ID card system. We provide excellent customer service!