Access Control Card Printers Guide

By Brian Rhodes, Published May 03, 2018, 11:37am EDT

Card printers are a core component of professional access control systems, often used as photos IDs and prominently displayed.

Modern badges put company branding and logos on public display by using specialty printers to permanently mark badges, often with high-security features, that may last for years of use. 

In this guide, we help you pick the right types of cards and printers, explaining the key drivers involved:

  • When to pick stickers vs printers
  • How to create badges
  • Choosing between Reverse Transfer and DTC printers
  • Whether you should use automatic flipping
  • How much one should pay
  • Whether integrators should provide this as a service / RMR
  • What products / manufacturers to choose from

Turning ****** **** ***

**** ** ***** ** Photo ** *****, *** two **** ****** ******* are:

  • ********:******** ** ***** ***** that ** *********** ***** onto ***** *****, **
  • ********: ******** **** ***** ink ******** **** *** surface ** ***** *****

***** ****** ** *** best ****** ********* ******* on * ******* ** factors *********:

  • ******: **** *** **** cards **** ** ******* in * ******** *********? Since ******** *** **** expensive, *** ******* ********* forego ********* ********* *** use ***** ***** *** volumes ** **** **** 10-20 ***** *** *****.
  • **********: ** *******, ***** that *** *** ******* a ******* **** **** durable ******* *** ***** be *********. ** ********, stickers *** ****** *** may **** **** **** if **** ** ********** environments.
  • ****** *********: ***** ****** *** good **** ** ************ dress-up * ***** ****, printers *** ****** ******** strips, ***** ****-************** *****, or **** ******* ******** chips. ** ***** ******** are ******, * ******* may ** ****** **** for ***** ****** *******.

********

*** ********* ** ***** label ***** *** ** badges ** **** ********* can ** *** ******* standard ***** ********, *** cost ******* ~$*.** -$*.** each ** *******.

*** ******** ** ****** is **** *** *** very *******, *** *** prone ** ******, ********, or **** ******** ** normal *** *** **** to **** *********** **** frequently. ****** ***** ***** can ** *** ** a ******** *******, *** uses ****** **** ********* templates *** *** ***** layout:

********

*******, **** * **** permanent *** ******-********* ***** ** needed, ********* ***** ******** offer *** **** ********.

***** **** ******, ******** run ******* ~$*** - $3500 ****, *** * full ***** ** ******* speeds *** ******** ******* are ********* ****** **** range. **** ****** ******** are ******** ** *** connected ** * ***********, and **** ******* **** badge ******** ********, *** are ******* ***** ****** to ***** ** * desk: 

Badge ********

*** ***** **** ** generating ****** ** ********* how **** **** *** what *********** *** *******. Most ********** **** ** have *** **** *******, user ****, *** *****, and ******* ****/**** ** plain **** ** *** face ** *** ****. Common ******* ******* ********* credentials **** ********, ** Codes, ** ********** **** by ******* ***** **** physical ****** *******.

**** ***** ******** ******** is ******** ** ** easy ** **** ** in **** * *** minutes, *** *** **** include ******** *********** ******** or ********** **-********* ******** for ***** ***** **********.

*** ******* **** ***** is *** ***** ******** packaged **** *******'* ******** Center ****** ******:

Printer *****

**** ** ***** ** printer ******, *** ******* are ****** *** ****** different ***** ****** *** performance *****:

*** ********: *** **** *********, but ****** *** **** durable ***** ** ******* is *** "***" ** "Direct ** ****" ****. This **** ** **** prints *** ******** **** the **** ** *** card **** * ***** of *****, *** ***** more ******* **** ******** the ****** *** ***** vulnerable ** ********** *** may *** ** **** to ********* ******* ****** or *******, ****-********** ******.

******* ********:****** ****** ****, **** ****** has * ******* ********** (** to *** ***** *** hour) *** *** **** to ***** ****** ********** images. **** ****** ******* from *** ** **** it ****** *** ***** onto * ***** ******** ribbon, ***** ** **** heated *** '*****' **** the ******* ** *** blank ****.  **** ******** method ******* ** * hard, *******, *** ******** resistant ****** **** ****** the ******* **********.

Automatic ********

* *** **** ****** in ******** ** *** type ** ******* ** not ** *** ***** on **** ***** ** the **** ** **** a ****** ****.

******* ******* **** *** able ** ***** *** side ** * ****, and ** **** ***** have ******* ***********, *** cards **** ** ** flipped ******* ****.

**** *********, **** ********** ****** do **** *************, ****** flipping *** ***** ** a ******** ** ** having **** ******* ***** for **** *****.

** *******, *** ****** facilities **** ***** ** - ** ***** *** month ****** *** ********* dual-sided *******, *** ***** with ***** ******* *** speed ******** ************* ** eliminating ******** ****** ** manually **** *****. 

***********

*** ***** ** ******* includes *****-**** *** ******** that ***** *** **** every *** ******* (~** cards *** ****), ** high ****** ******* ******** models **** ***** **** cards ***** ****** (~*** cards *** ****). ***** print ****** ****** ****, throughput ** **** * big ****** ** *****, with ****** ***** ***** slightly **** **** * paper ******* ******* (~$***) to **********-***** **** ***** card ******** ******* $*,*** or ****.

Special ********

******** *** **** ** impart ******** ******** ** cards ** ****. ** some *****, ********* ** watermarks *** ** ***** to *** ******* ******** and ******* **** *** printed **** ** ******** inks, *** ****** **** visible ***** ***********. ***** 'special ********' *** ******** used ** ****-*********** ******** that *** ********* ** copy **** ********* ****-********** scans ** ******:

Buying **********

*** **** ***** *******, stickers *** *** **** option, ***** ** ******* equipment ** ****** *** several ******* ***** *** be ******* **** *** course ** * *** for **** **** $***.

*******, *** ****** *******, aggressive ************, ** **** quicker ********** ** ******, printers *** *** **** option. ******* ** ******* are *********** *** ** most ** ** ** per ****, *** ******** costing ******* $*** - $1500 *** * **** choice. 

*** **** ****** ************ that **** ******* ** several ******* ***** *** hour, *** **** ******* hundred ***** *** ****, high-speed *******-******** ****** *** the **** ******, *** can **** $**** ** more - *** ********* ink *** ******** *** costs.

An *** ***********?

***** ******** ** *** a ***** ******* *** many ********** **** ******* a ***** ****** ******* system, *** ******** ********** might **** ********** **** to ******* * ***** service ** ********* ** a ***** *******. ***** a ****** ******** *** not ** ********** ** buying ***** *** *******, they ***** ** ******* to *** *** ***** creation ******** **** ***** access ******.

** ** '***-**' *******, many ******** ******* ****** $15-$25 *** **** *** new ******, ********* **** into * ******, *** configuring **** *** ****** use. *** ***** *********, not ****** ** **** with **** *** **** receiving * ****** ******* with ***** ******* ****** ready ** *** ** valuable.

Printer *************

***** ***** ******** *** a ***** ********, **** label ****** *** **** 'traditional' ***** ******* ********* offer **** ********. *** example, **,*****, *** **** *** ***** * ***** of ****** ******** *** low ** ***-****** **** mostly *** *** ********. However, ********* '******** *******' brands, **** ***** * full ***** ** ***** points *** ******** ******* (like **** ******** *** laser *********) *******:

*** ***** ** ***** brands **** ****** **** use *** *** *******-******** type ********, **** **** midrange ********* ******* ***** ~$1,000 *** *** ********* through ************.

[****: **** ***** *** originally ******* ** ****, but ************* ******* ** 2018.]

Comments (15)

The speed of throughput you have for DTC and Re Transfer printers may be backwards. a XID9300 which we use in house to produce cards does 60 cards double sided a hour while a Rio Pro does up to 100 per hour.

Hello Ross:

I don't doubt your statement one bit. However, throughput/speed is also a function of hardware design and ultimately price. Throughput is not purely a function of print type. In General DTC printers are less expensive, and they have more modest throughputs compared to 'higher end' Reverse Transfer models.

That XID9300 is a beast!

There is not much else out there for re transfer. Zebra ZXP 8 XID/Matica and Fargo. All with low throughput.

There should also be some thought given to printers that print “edge-to-edge” (Fargo DTC4500) versus printers that print “over-the-edge” (Fargo HDP5600). Printers that only print “edge-to-edge” may leave thin white stripes along the edge of a badge with solid color backgrounds.  Badge designs templates should be set up to be slightly larger on all sides than the badge itself, especially when using a template with color right up to the edge of the badge.  This paired with an “over-the-edge” printer should produce badges free from those annoying white stripes! 

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Brain this Guide is indeed fruitful as it explains clearly the concepts behind  Access Control Card Printers. There is no doubt the Guide is right Tool to refer to when one whats to recommend a make a perfect choice on Access Control Card Printer.

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It's interesting when I think about our situation. I'm an end user. We  have a Fargo 4500, which is a pretty nice printer. We're relatively low volume, but when I consider all of the political and logistical ramifications of outsourcing our printing to our local vendor, I cringe.

For you RMR vendors out there, before you offer cards as a service, get to know your end users operations. It might be more of a headache than its worth. 

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Can't wait to receive my Safepass Visitor Management evaluation kit?  Great possibility this will be the new standard in complete visitor management. No more printing cards, stickers or IDs

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A member wrote in this comment, critical of HID/ Fargo and NISCA printers:

We have had a mixed experience with Fargo. Before HID purchased them, they were the standard bearer. However, their image quality is not consistent (in terms of card production). To make matters worse, they are not reliable, breaking often. 

Nisca’s older printer (151) was great. They discontinued it and their new one is not good (quality, reliability). When you call their technical support, it takes forever.
 
We are exploring and testing other options including Zebra and Magicard.  I’ve heard that Mattica is god, but it is also expensive.
Has anyone else experienced trouble with Fargo and Nisca printer lately?  Is there a particular brand you avoid or prefer? Why?
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Yes other people have Fargo printer issues.

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We have had nothing but problems with our two HDP5000 we have to send them in every 6 months or so for HID to do a repair they have extended our warranty but we will most likely not buy Fargo again.

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Another consideration is encoding.  For some folks an access badge is meant to be nontrivial to clone in which case you want encoding somewhere, possibly in your printer.  This of course also requires your PACS (or some system) being capable of encoding a badge.

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I am an end user system admin and we are going thru a total rip and replace of the access control system and by doing this it is allowing for us to choose a new smart card option and re-badge 30k plus individuals. We have tested the higher end HID/Fargo(5600/8500), Matica(XID8600), Evolis(Avansia ) retransfer printers and ultimately went with Entrust Data Card (CR805). This model for us was spot on every time after a few tweaks! We are printing dual sided full color with lamination on a multi technology badge with a surface chip. All of the others just seemed as if they could not handle dual sided full color consistent quality images.

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Great article that really give's a good overview of card printers. A couple things to keep in mind and probably a little off subject but relates.

1. Card Stock - This affects the quality of the finished image in big ways. A good card printer will not always work well if you have bad card stock, always be aware and don't go with the cheap stuff.

2. Card Security - Never print the card number on the ID, it compromises security. Do not use SS# for card numbers in the system that compromises user security. Be aware of card numbering schemes, when it comes to enterprise systems or multiple buildings card numbers can begin to be duplicated causing issues while going to other facilities. 

3. Card authentication - depending on the level of security, you will use single, double or even triple authentication methods. These methods are what you have(card ID), what you know (Pins) or who you are(biometrics). What you have can be mag stripe, PROX, Smart cards, etc. Try not to use mag stripe or PROX, they are not secure but yes they are inexpensive. Go with something that is a smart card or encrypted form of card to reader communication if you are using single form authentication with a ID. You can pair less secure methods with PINS to create a more secure environment while using less secure card authentication.

4. Multiple card printers in a environment - Card designs typically hold settings for the printer so try to stick with one type of card printer if you have a need for multiple printers due to high capacity or because you want different options. You may ended up having to do redundant designs for the same design, administrative nightmare for your operators.

5. Stickers - In my opinion, the least secure option and should be avoided.

6. Speed - DTC requires less steps then retransfer. the process is quicker. Printers may be faster or slower in each category but DTC is clearly less steps to product a image. Matca's less expensive Expresso does 260 CPH. Their XID9300 does 120 CPH. These are both desktop models in the same class. 

7. Always a good idea to use an overlay or laminate to ensure card durability and life.

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Has anyone heard of DTC printer's not being recommended because of the "technology" inside the cards? I'm being told the cards touches the print head and will damage it in the process. 

 

I didn't see any of these concerns on this guide or in the comments and wanted to get some insight before I pulled the trigger. 

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Never Heard of that Michael. Used DTC printers for years without issues. Once retransfers came around, started using those except in scenarios where the end user was going for something more economical.

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