How to choose the right plastic card printer

Thinking of investing in a plastic card printer? Need to print your own ID cards when new staff or students join your organisation, or want to be able to print your own membership cards during the year?

Whatever you need it for, ask yourself these key questions before you choose a system:

1. How many plastic cards will you need to print in a year?
2. How long do you need the plastic cards to last?
3. Do you need to be able to print on both sides or just one?
4. Will you be printing photo ID cards, and if so, how will they be used?
5. Will your cards need to work with your access control system?
6. Will you need to assign users different levels of security clearance?
7. How much personal information do you need to fit onto the cards?
8. Will you need to badge employees at several locations?
9. What level of security do you need the cards to have – if any?
10. Do you need the cards to act as loyalty cards?
When you have a clear idea of what you need your plastic card printer to do,
you can

Plastic card printer for medium volumes
A good plastic card printer is capable of printing various security features on your cards

weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of the different systems. Broadly speaking, you can split plastic card printers into those suitable for low, medium and high volume users. Some can only print single sided, others are capable of printing high volumes of double sided cards at speed. The capability is reflected in the prices, as you would expect.

Choose the system that can do the job you need it to do

If you’re looking for a photo ID system, your cards can do much more than just help with the identification of your employees. For example, ID cards can be encoded to restrict access to rooms, buildings or car parks. They can be used for controlling access to equipment such as computers or copiers. You can even use ID cards as employee loyalty cards or library cards for schools. They can be used for phone cards, for tracking time and attendance, or for regulating admission to sporting events, theme parks, resorts, clubs, and much more.

In order to exploit these capabilities, you’ll need a plastic card printer with built-in encoding capabilities, like the Evolis Zenius Expert Card printer that comes complete with the necessary software. This is a scalable solution that can develop as you need it to.

Security features explained

You can print your plastic cards utilising the following features:

Magnetic Stripes

Magnetic stripes can be encoded with information about access privileges, membership status and employment history. You can even load cash for vending machine use. Magnetic stripe data is updatable over time. Plastic card with magentic stripe

Bar Codes and Signature strips 

Bar codes and bar code readers can automate many processes. Bar code technology adds convenience and speed to point-of-sale and inventory management transactions. For even greater security, select a system that adds a digital signature to your card.

Custom Transparent Images

With certain plastic card printers, you can print a custom transparent image (logo, symbol or text) directly onto cards using the clear overlay panel of your print ribbon. Once printed, this image appears only when viewed at an angle or under ultraviolet lighting.

Oversized Cards

Some printers can print on cards that are larger than standard credit card size. Oversized cards can hold an oversized photograph and large graphics, making verification even easier.


Over-laminates bond to the surface of a card, protecting data from being altered. They also significantly extend the life of the card.

Holographic Over-laminates

An over-laminate containing a “generic” or stock holographic image protects a card from wear & tear, and discourages card tampering or forgery. Creating your organisation’s own custom holographic design ensures that your card is truly unique. Custom holograms are extremely difficult and cost-prohibitive for counterfeiters to recreate.

The answers to the original questions at the start of this article will help you determine how many of these features you need to incorporate onto your cards, if any.

Think ahead

Even if you only plan to use your ID cards for visual identification, think about the future. You may not have the need for a plastic card printer with encoding abilities right now, but you might next year, and you won’t want to invest in a new printer so soon.

If you’re looking to replace your current plastic card printer, there may be deals available to trade it in for a new one.

Browse our card printers