PVC cards are plastic cards with the usual shape and size as credit cards. The dimensions are defined by standard ISO/IEC 7810:2003 ID-1 and are 85.60 mm x 53.98 mm x 0.76 mm. Standard-sized ID Cards are also known as ‘CR80 cards.’
There are three options for printing PVC cards:
1. We can print on the already produced white CR80 cards with card printers;
2. We can print on PVC sheets with offset printing technology, do the laminating process, and afterward cut out the printed cards;
3. We can serialize (QR codes, barcode, numbering) or personalize them with names on preprinted cards using offset technology or on white cards.
Print with Thermal Retransfer Printers
When ordering 1–500 printed cards, we use thermo retransfer printers and print on already produced white cards. These printers are more sophisticated then the cheaper thermo transfer printers, also known as ‘direct card printers.’ When printing with thermo retransfer technology, the card artwork is printed on a thin transparent foil and the foil with artwork is laminated to a card surface. The printed artwork is therefore protected with a thin plastic layer, and is wear and scratch resistant. We use printers which print CMYK colors in the stunning resolution of 600 dpi. The printing speed for a dual side printed card with thermo retransfer is about 1 card per minute.
The advantage of thermo retransfer printers is that they print one card at a time, which allows us to print even a single card when needed. This printing technology is perfect for RFID cards as well, where the chip can make some imperfections on the card’s surface and would cause printing problems when using direct-to-card printers.
The disadvantages of a thermal retransfer print are the high costs of ribbons and slow speed, so it makes it less cost effective for higher quantities.
Offset printing technology for cards
Offset printing technology for cards requires special card manufacturing equipment. When using the offset printing technology, the plastic sheets are printed during a card production process, the sheets are later laminated together, and lastly the cards are cut out to a standard shape. For the printing, we usually use digital printing with CMYK colors that we combine with silk screen printing when there is a need for Pantone colors or metallic effects (golden colors, silver, glitter, etc.).
The complete production process is the following:
1. The artworks of the front and back side are printed on a thin plastic layer, which has to be perfectly white and the highest quality as possible.
2. After the printing is done, we combine the printed layers with additional transparent protective layers and we add a card core layer. When producing PVC cards with contactless chips, the card core layer has a bult in chip and antenna.
3. The sheet with all layers is then heat-treated (laminated) so that the layers stick together and act as a whole. In the next step, we cut out the cards to their final size and shape according to the ISO standard ISO/IEC 7810 ID-1.
4. Later, we print variable data like QR codes, barcodes, serial numbers, names, etc.
5. And finally, we do a thorough quality check.
When producing printed cards we can add the following features:
- Signature panels which allow users to write on the card surface data with pen
- Magnetic stripe for magnetic card readers (HiCo or LoCo)
- Card punching – holes on the side of the card for lanyards or clips
- Chip encoding – writing custom data, change keys
- Security holograms and other security elements
- Custom cutting to produce cards in different shapes.
Cards printed with offset printing technology are very high quality and durable, but the process is quite complicated, and so the usual production time is 2–3 weeks.
Serialization or personalization
When a larger quantity of cards (500+) contains common artwork and variable data, we do a preprint with offset printing technology, and a serialization or personalization with special thermal printers (usually in black color, white, gold, or silver).
When carrying out a serialization, we usually print the whole quantity. However, when personalizing an order, a mass personalization is usually required at the beginning to make a successive supply of personalized cards for new members.
Our services include:
- Numeration or personalization from an Excel table
- Printing different kind of barcodes and QR codes
- Reading and printing the chip ID numbers in various formats
- Chip encoding – writing custom data, change keys.
When reading and printing the chip ID numbers on cards, we take extra care that the reading format is correct for the desired application.
Looking forward to the new cards? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call +38641 884 124 and we will be happy to help you.