Direct to card printing vs Retransfer technology

‘Can you propose to us what is the absolute best card printer?’.

This is a common request that we receive almost every day with regards to card printer machines. There are various types and designs for card printers in the market, all in which have different specifications and purposes. This is why it is better for you to reach out and consult our team first before deciding on the perfect card printer for your organization.

So, what is the difference between various card printers?

When it comes to card printer technology, there are two very distinct types in the market. These two technologies are namely direct to card printing (also known as dye sublimation) and retransfer technology.

Direct to card printing

Direct to card printing or ‘dye sublimation card printers’ are one of the most common and widely used card printer in the world. This type of card printer uses encoders to transfer images on PVC or adhesive cards. The operation process of direct to card printing is relatively simple, the printhead which contains little glass pixels will heat up and press the ink of the ribbons and print directly on the plastic cards.

However, with direct to card printing, you will not have full card coverage as there will be a small white border around the edges of your cards. This happens because the printhead is unable to go over the edge of the cards.

What are the advantages of direct-to-card printers?:

  • Cheaper price. The price of direct to card printers are cheaper than most retransfer printers in the market. This printer might be a good choice for smaller companies that have smaller security budget.
  • Faster print speed. The print speed of direct-to-card printer is also much faster than retransfer printer.
  • Lower cost of supplies. For direct-to-card printer, you only required to have two consumables which are ribbons and blank cards. The ongoing cost of supplies will be much cheaper because you don’t have purchase supplies of retransfer films.

Retransfer technology

Also known as ‘reverse transfer’, ‘over-the-edge’ and ‘high definition’ printer, retransfer card printers are still considered as a new form of technology in the card printing scene. Retransfer printers are especially designed to print on technology cards, regular non-technology cards and cards that have uneven surfaces. Retransfer technology is a process which will improve the quality of the cards, the longevity of the printer and the consistency of the cards production.

Unlike direct-to-card printer which will print directly on the cards, the printhead of retransfer printer will never touch the cards. But instead, the printhead will print the ink colors on the reverse side of the clear film. The film will then be laid onto and heated on the cards.  This will greatly improve and increase the lifespan of both the printer and the cards. In addition to that, the ink will be printed on the whole surface of the cards without any small white borders around it like what usually happen with direct-card-printing.

However, the printing process of retransfer printers will be much slower in comparison to direct-to-card printers. The ongoing supplies cost will also be slightly higher due to the use of three separate consumables which are namely the blank cards, card ribbons and retransfer films. Retransfer card printer will produce a far more superior card printing with more vibrant and sharper images. This is because the image will be under the protective layer of the laminate film, which deeply contributes to the photographic quality of the images.

What are the advantages of retransfer technology card printers?:

  • Lower possibility of Print Head Damage. Did you know that direct-to-card printers usually have very limited print head warranty? This is mainly because there is a high frequency of print head damages in direct-to-card printers. The case is unlike most retransfer printers which have lifetime print head warranty. The print head of retransfer printer will never make any direct contact with the cards, which highly contribute to the longer lifespan of the printhead. It is important to note here that any small mistakes or imperfections on the card’s surface will directly cause significant damage on the print head.
  • Over the edge printing. In direct-to-card printers, it is highly impossible to have a fully over the edge card printing. This is mainly because the designs will disallow the print head of going all to the edge of the cards to decrease the likelihood of damages. However, this will not be the case with retransfer card printers as the printers will allow full coverage on the entire surface of the cards.
  • Higher durability of cards. The image and color of retransfer printers will be printed out on the retransfer films instead of directly onto the cards. This will form an extra protective layer on the cards which will act as a thin laminate to protect the cards from ID card holders, wallets, magnetic stripes, rubbing and also scratching. The cards will have higher durability and will be able to maintain its original color longer than most direct-to-card printers.
  • Better image quality. It is undeniable that both types of printers will be able to produce beautiful designs and images. However, retransfer printers can produce a more vivid, crisp, vibrant and sharper images than most direct-to-card printers. This is mainly because it is much easier to produce and create a more detailed images on the surface of retransfer films.

Still confused? Need further information? Contact our team at [email protected] or call us directly at 03-80751888. We would be happy to assist you!