Direct To Card printing is the most widely

used technology for desktop ID card systems.

How do you choose a printing technology that is right for your ID card program? To answer that question, you need an understanding of each technology, and the benefits each brings.

Direct To Card (DTC) printing is the most widely used technology for desktop ID card systems. Using a combination of dye-sublimation and resin thermal transfer technologies, DTC printing transfers images directly onto the surface of a plastic card.

The dye-sublimation process uses a dye-based ribbon partitioned in a number of consecutively colored panels. The panels are grouped in a repeating series of colors – Yellow, Magenta and Cyan (YMC) – along the length of the ribbon. During printing, a printhead containing hundreds of thermal elements heats the dyes on the ribbon which vaporize and diffuse into the surface of the card. A separate pass is made for each of the three color panels. By combining the colors and varying the heat used to transfer them, the printer is able to produce up to 16.7 million colors. This process delivers smooth, continuous-tone images that look truly photographic.

CardJet spray and Inkjet technology create cards and badges using an inkjet approach.

Thermal transfer

Resin thermal transfer uses a single-color ribbon to print sharp black text and crisp bar codes which can be read by both infrared and visible-light scanners. This process uses the same thermal printhead as dye-sublimation; however solid dots of color are transferred rather than a combination of colors.

Direct To Card printing is a reliable, versatile technology that is used in countless markets including corporate, government and education.

Reverse Image Technology also uses both dye-sublimation and resin thermal transfer processes. However, in reverse image technology, the printer first prints images onto a special film which is then fused into the surface of a blank card through heat and pressure. Because the graphics and text are printed on the underside of the film, the image is “sandwiched” between the film and the card. This unique process produces exceptional print quality, natural durability and the ability to print on a wide variety of card technologies and types.

Smart, prox card needs

Reverse image technology is a perfect fit for corporate, government or other high-security applications that use smart cards and proximity cards. These cards tend to have uneven surfaces caused by internal RFID antenna, integrated circuits or smart chips, making them hard to print. Because the printhead in a reverse image printer prints only to the flexible film and not the card surface itself, these cards do not suffer image quality problems due to surface irregularities.

In Thermal Inkjet Technology, ink is heated to generate vapor bubbles, ejecting small drops through nozzles and placing them precisely on specially coated cards to form text or images. The ink instantly dries and bonds to the cards, with no smearing.

Because they work much like the desktop inkjet printers found in most homes and offices, thermal inkjet card printers are a familiar, easy-to-use option for smaller offices and schools. For organizations without an ID card program, or those converting a cut-and-paste ID program to a digital one, thermal inkjet technology offers a simple, reliable solution.

ID in Healthcare Program

While printing technologies were among purchasing elements, company compliance was a photo identification requirement for security at Fiserv Health. They wanted more.

“Initially, our motivation for upgrading was compliance with Fiserv, Inc.,” admitted Todd Hudspeth, Fiserv Health director of security. “But once we decided upon requirements, we looked for a system that would provide options for added security features in the future.” Fiserv Health provides independent health plan management, claims processing and administrative services for self-funded medical, dental, vision and disability plans. Headquartered in Brooklyn Center, Minn., the company supports five other sites, with a total of approximately 400 employees.

Not wanting to add an extra card or reconfigure existing software, Hudspeth sought an easy solution that would be economical, yet durable and sophisticated enough to serve the company’s needs years from now.

Fiserv Health purchased three Fargo (Eden Prairie, Minn..) DTC515 printers, three LexID Pro Card Personalization Software programs and CP 350 digital video cameras from Freedom Graphics and Supplies. Through direct-to-card technology, the printers print an employee’s name and photo onto a 10 mil adhesive-backed card that is affixed to an existing proximity card.

Because it was not economically feasible to purchase printers for all 36 sites, Fiserv purchased three complete systems and 15 additional cameras. Employees in locations without printers simply take photos and e-mail the files to one of three locations with printers, where administrators create the photo ID cards and mail them back.

Shannon Wagner, human resources administrative assistant, produces identification cards for the Fiserv Brooklyn Center location, as well as the company’s subsidiaries in Kansas and Tennessee. She required no training to begin printing ID cards with the Fargo printer. “I guess you could say I was self-taught,” she said, “but there really wasn’t much to learn. I like how quickly the Fargo printer works, and the printing quality is excellent.”

One of the features that influenced Hudspeth’s decision was the printer’s support of smart card technology. “We are testing some technology initiatives now, which we hope to put into use in the next couple of years,” said Hudspeth. “The printer will be able to encode our technology when we are ready.”

Wagner’s advice to companies interested in purchasing an identification badge printer is to “look for printing quality, consider cost and make sure the system is adaptable to your existing software.” Fiserv Health did not have to create a new database in order to print its new ID cards. Hudspeth also stressed the importance of investing in good camera equipment. “Go with at least a two-megapixel camera to get the best results,” he advised.

Fiserv Health now provides security for employees and identification for visitors and vendors.

A specialized printer from Dymo creates temporary and visitor badges.

Sidebar: Visitor Management Solutions

DYMO Corp. LabelWriter 330 Turbo Printers are supported by CI3 Software, EasyLobby, Inc., K&A Industries, SISCO, STOPware, Inc. and the Panasonic Entry Access Recognition & Logistics System (PEARLS). DYMO of Stamford, Conn., offers a Software Development Kit for integration into virtually any visitor management system software. In addition, DYMO offers unique multi-color time expiring badges.

The new iris recognition access control systems are designed for installation at the point of entry/ egress. Once enrolled in the system, individuals simply walk up to the device and look into the target area. On advanced new systems such as Panasonic’s BM-ET500 (Secaucus, N.J.), it’s a process with “one glance” authentication made possible by sophisticated image guidance technology.

The new Avery Photo ID System from Avery Dennison of Pasadena, Calif., allows personnel to register visitors quickly and efficiently, produce attractive color photo identification badges, keep a digital record of facility visitors and maintain a more professional entrance or lobby. Organizations that still use older paper visitor logs can easily upgrade to this color identification and digital record-keeping system.