An ID card printer can elevate security at your facility and save time in the process. An ID card printer, coordinating identification software and digital camera, can streamline access control, update security and create a professional, unified look among employees. However, choosing the appropriate ID card printer can be intimidating.

Selecting the right ID card printer depends largely on your intended frequency and use. To find the right printer for your needs, follow our seven-question guide and complete the recommended action items. By completing this guide, you will easily get the best value for an ID card printer.

1. How will the ID cards be used?
Before you can begin searching for the perfect ID card printer, you must know how the ID cards will be used. The purpose of the card will determine what information and features you require in your card design and can influence the printer you need. For instance, ID cards used only for building access and visual identification require far less information and design time than cards that are displayed to customers and include encoded data.

ID card printers are often used for purposes other than creating ID cards, too. You may use your printer for an event, creating labels or any of a number of uses. Write down those possibilities. They may influence the kind of printer you will need.

• Create a list of your top five ID card features.
• Determine how cards will be displayed.
• Identify any additional printer uses.

2. Will you be printing on one side or two?
Not all ID printers print on both sides of an ID card. Dual-sided printers have a mechanism that prints on the front side of the card, flips the card over and prints the back. Single-sided printers lack this function. The primary difference between these two types of printers is the amount of printing space per card. A one sided ID card has very limited space whereas a dual-sided card provides more room for more information.

With dual-sided capabilities, information you don't want displayed can be added to the back of the card. Some organizations print individual's personal information, barcode or magnetic stripe on the back. The back side of an ID card can also be used to display valuable information such as emergency contact information, mission statements or an address where a lost card can be returned. If your ID cards will be displayed on a lanyard or a badge reel where they can easily be turned around, you may want to duplicate the card design on each side so the proper information is always displayed.

If you're not certain you will need dual-sided cards, choose a printer that is field-upgradable and can be converted from a one-sided to a two-sided printer without major expense. Otherwise, you may have to purchase a new printer at a later date.

• Determine if you need a single-sided or dual-sided printer.

3. How many cards do you plan to print in a year?
The best ID card printer for you will depend on the quantity and frequency of cards you will create. Selecting a printer that can withstand your printing frequency will help your printer last longer. Will you need to make new cards annually or only when new hires join the team?

ID card printers are made to handle varying printing frequency. Printer components vary depending on the expected output. Some printers are made of plastic parts whereas others are made up of metal. The printers with plastic components still function well, but are more likely to have issues arise in the long run if you print more than the recommended card frequency.

Depending on how many cards you are creating in a year, you can estimate your annual supply costs. ID card printers require new printer ribbons, which are the equivalent to ink cartridges for your paper printer. Ribbon costs vary by printer model, and each ribbon has the capacity to print a certain number of cards. Once you know how many cards you will print in a year, you can also calculate the number of ribbons you will need. Consider the supply costs for different printer models. You may be surprised at the variance.

• Make an estimate of the number of cards you will print in a year. Although you will initially have to reprint cards for everyone, consider your regular card creation after that.
• Estimate your annual supply costs based on the different printer models you are considering or have a sales associate do it for you.

4. Do you need to encode data in the card?
ID card printers vary in their data capabilities. Since you've outlined your top five card priorities already, you can easily determine what type of data encoding to use on your ID cards.

Barcodes and magnetic stripes can both be added to ID cards to coordinate with any system that involves swiping a card, such as time and attendance, access control or cafeteria accounts. However, the two methods have obvious advantages and disadvantages.

A barcode is an entry-level method of data encoding and can be added to the design of an ID card using identification software; it is not dependent on a printer. However, barcodes are also easily copied. Magnetic stripes, on the other hand, are a more secure data feature that requires a special addition to the printer. Printers must be purchased with the magnetic encoding module installed and cannot be added at a later date.

• If you will be encoding data on employee ID cards, determine if a barcode will suffice or if you need the added security of a magnetic stripe.

5. What security features are important?
What security measures are required in your organization, or what do you hope to achieve with a new ID card printer? Enhanced security features can make your ID cards fraud-proof. Standard security features can be added within an ID card software program, such as signatures, logos, and employee pictures, to make ID cards unique. Some more enhanced security features require changes to your ID card printer.

A holographic feature can be added to ID cards by inserting a special memory card to your printer. The memory card is created by the ID printer vendor. When the card is inserted in to the printer, it will print a holograph of your logo onto every card. The card can be easily removed at your discretion, so you can still create visitor cards without the holograph.

• Determine if your organization's security needs require a holograph on ID cards.

6. Do you have a detailed logo or card design?
Most ID card printers boast great color accuracy, but lower models may not have crisp colors and colors could possibly bleed. If you have a detailed card design or logo or your organization is known for its attention to design, you will not want to settle for less than the best in print quality and color. A color-accurate printer will ensure that the printed ID will be exactly like the preview of your design you see on your monitor.

• Send your logo to an ID card printer vendor. Request ID card samples using your logo from various printer models and compare print quality.

7. Do you need to be able to transport your printer?
ID card printers also vary in their ease of transportation. Different printers are designed specifically to be moved between locations while others are designed to be stationary. If you want to use your ID card printer at multiple locations or for conferences and events, a portable printer will be the most convenient. These ID card printers have coordinating cases to protect your printer in transit, too. If not, save yourself the expense and decline the on-the-go upgrade.

• Identify any possibility you may need to transport your ID card printer.

If you would like further information about ID card printer systems and software, please request our FREE ID System Information Packet.