Choosing from the many plastic card printers can be difficult if you don't understand the options. I remember a television commercial showing a guy with a bewildered look on his face staring at a whole wall of different kinds of bread. That's the way many feel when trying to choose something like ID badge printers that have lots of options that they know nothing about. That's when they should start looking for help.
I want this site to be that help for you
If you don't have the time for research and just want recommendations then click on the following link to go to the card printer recommendations area.
Card Printer Recommendations
If you do have the time and want to understand the options you will find a lot of information here. This page will show the various options available for ID card printers. Each option has a link that will take you to a dedicated page. That page will offer a complete explanation of the option. These detail pages are all on this web site with an easy return link to get you back to this page.
No need to read things you already understand
Each option will have its own detail page. There is no need to read everything. Click only on the ones you need to read. If you already know you need a magnetic stripe encoder then it is a waste of your time to read through an explanation of that.
Your First Decision is the Type of Plastic Card Printer
The two badge printer types currently being sold are "direct to card" printers and "reverse transfer" (re-transfer) printers. Fargo Electronics (now part of HID Global) used to make an inkjet card printer but it has been discontinued. Both current types create high quality cards but the reverse transfer printers are generally considered to produce the nicest looking badges and IDs. Click on the following link to learn about printer types.
Single or Dual Sided (Duplex)
You can print two sided badges and IDs with a single sided badge printer, it's just harder. You must manually re-feed the card into the printer. If you print just a few badges a day this may be an option to save money. Having said that, most people feel it is worth the extra expense to purchase a to print two sided cards. Click on the following link to read about double sided printers.
Double sided badge printer
Will you need to encode magnetic stripes on your cards?
Most plastic card printers have an option to include a magnetic stripe encoder. Most must be purchased with the printer but some printers allow you to purchase and add them yourself later. Click on this link to learn about magnetic stripe encoders.
Magnetic stripe encoder
What about smart card encoding or Proximity card reader?
Some plastic card printers can be purchased with a smart card encoder. However this is way more complicated than encoding a magnetic stripe. You should have an engineer on staff that can write software programs before you attempt this. You can also buy them with a proximity card reader. The number from the card can then be printed on your card. I will have more to say on both of these options later.
Re-writable cards? What is that all about?
Yes, some re-writable printers can print multiple times on a card. They use a thermal process to print on specially designed rewritable badges. The printers can then erase the card and print again. The current line of Fargo ID Card Printers can do this in addition to standard printing.
Will you need to laminate your cards after printing?
Some printers can be purchased with a laminator section. This usually adds quite a bit of expense. Most companies use a laminating printer to add either durability to their cards or an anti-counterfeiting holographic layer for security or both.
Laminating badge printer
Internal Ethernet/Print servers
Internal ethernet/print servers allow multiple computers to print to one printer.
Is there really a difference in warranties?
Yes, warranties will vary from one year to three years. Some will include a loaner printer if yours needs to be shipped in for repair and others do not. Some warranties will cover the printhead and some do not. Look at the warranty detail page to find out more.