When an end user is choosing a card printer to create access control cards, there are a handful of factors that are essential to the purchase. These include the quality of the output, the cost of the process, the reliability of the printer and the versatility of the process.

Mark DeMarco has been with athletic shoe giant New Balance, Boston, Mass., for five years in its Loss Prevention Department. The security operation is responsible for investigations, video surveillance and access controls. The operation works closely with the IT department, although IT handles computer and information security.

New Balance chose an Eltron card printer (Eltron Card Printer Products, Camarillo, Calif.) after reviewing four other printers.

Among the specifications: the need to print on both sides. On one side is a picture of the employee with his/her name and department. On the back is a magnetic stripe with a return address if the card is lost.

The card used is a dual technology card: proximity and magnetic stripe.

Here is a question and answer session with DeMarco.

Q: What is your training strategy for card access control production?

A: Staff members are trained by three methods: by another associate, an interactive Eltron CD and the Operator Help Guide, which is attached to all printers. Topics covered include: basic operation (main features of printer), indicators (status indicators of printer operations and how to resolve them), media (how to load & unload cards), cleaning (how to efficiently clean the printer), print quality (shows solutions for poor printing quality), and more help (additional information about the “test” card application and how it may assist with problems).

Q: What about database needs from the system?

A: Using the printer we are able to print call lists and vendor lists on a more durable and longer lasting plastic card. Past laminated cards would wear out and fray apart. These call list cards are just an easier way to keep important numbers readily available for our staff and other departments.

Q: What are the essential factors in a card printer?

A: Ease of operation is vital for our staff as we want all members to be able to use the printers at any time. The less complicated things are, the easier it is to respond to our internal customers. The capability for our staff to pull out the help guide from the printer or pop in an interactive CD allows them to quickly respond to the everyday possible use of changing a ribbon, cleaning the machine or trouble shooting print quality.

The reliability of the printer we picked is apparent by the number of service calls needed—zero. Because we have had no problems with the printer, it allows us to count on it at any time to perform.

Q: What about card technologies?

A: Our dual technology cards—proximity/magnetic stripe—are used with the future in mind. The proximity portion of the card is used to gain access to certain sites at certain times around the country. Using a proximity card as opposed to traditional “swipe” cards allows for longer use of the card and provides an extra customer value as they are capable of placing the card within four inches of the reader to gain access. The magnetic stripe portion of the card is used in the event we want to add our payroll time and attendance application, cafeteria point system, or our retail outlet POS application. We feel at some point we may need to rely on this instead of going through the extra expense of purchasing new cards which is costly and requires the internal customer to keep track of an additional card.