Card Printer: Basic Guide

The Plastic card printer is becoming increasingly popular in many modern industries. Of course, the sheer amount of brands/models available can be confusing for the first time buyer. So, we have created this mini-guide to help you better understand the printing methods; the printers themselves and their ideal use cases.

The two principal methods for card printing are Dye Sublimation and Retransfer (Reverse Transfer) printing:

Dye Sublimation

Dye sublimation is the most common method used for printing – offering very fast print speeds at a low price point.

How does it work?
Also known as Direct-to-card printing – during this method, the card is passed underneath a thermal print head alongside a ribbon. The heat from the print head transfers the ink from the ribbon to the card. The card goes through several passes under the print head, with each pass under a different colour ribbon panel. Finally, a clear overlay or “topcoat” is placed over the card for protection.

  • Advantages

    • Very Fast
    • Cost Effective
  • Disadvantages

    • Lesser Quality
    • Does not support edge-to-edge printing

card printer solutions

Smart 51D Printer
Advanced, Affordable, Smart

The Smart 51 card printer is an advanced dye-sublimation printer. Offering excellent quality and speed, augmented by its extreme reliability,The latest offering from IDP takes all the strengths of the previous model and builds upon them. This plastic card printer is a fantastic buy for entry-level card printing.

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Reverse Transfer – more commonly know as retransfer- printing offers more advanced printing technologies which produces high definition cards with true edge-to edge cover.

How does it work?

Similar to dye-sublimation, retransfer printing involves a heated printhead and a ribbon but with a crucial difference. The card design is first printed onto a clear film which is subsequently fused to the card. This method is much slower but offers greater quality with full coverage of the card.

  • Advantages

    • Slow Print Speeds
    • More Expensive
  • Disadvantages

    • Higher print quality
    • Edge-to-edge prints

Matica XID8100
High Performance Meets Affordability.

Typically retransfer printers have a much higher price tag than a direct-to-card printer, and as such have placed them out of reach for the everyday consumer. Matica aims to bridge the gap with the XID8100. Offering superior quality prints at a reasonable cost, this is a must have for high-quality print runs.

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Things to keep in mind when buying your first card printer

A card printer is an essential part of life for many organisations these days. The need for ID cards on demand is forever growing as is the demand for the machines to print them. There are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing your new printer.

Print Volume

Choosing the right printer will depend a lot on the volume of printing you will be doing. At the risk of sounding obvious: think about the number of cards you will need. If it is a small number, an entry level machine will do fine. Conversely, if you will be printing a large number of cards, you may want to consider a more professional machine.


As with volume, print quality is something that needs serious consideration before purchase. Not all card printers are created equal in terms of quality. A retransfer printer (such as the Matica XID8100 ) will have a significant advantage over a thermal transfer a.k.a direct-to-card printer. However, Retransfer printing is more expensive.


The vast majority of printers come with USB as standard. The disadvantage of this is of course, the printer needs to next to your computer at all times, which isn’t always ideal. Some machines do offer wireless connectiivty which is ideal should you need to print from a network or if you do not have your printer in close proximity to your computer.

Though there are others, these are the main aspects to keep in mind when considering a new printer. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch: 01-5065661