NFC cards are plastic cards with the same shape and size as credit cards (86 x 54 x 0.85 mm) and they contain a contactless microchip that is compatible with NFC standards.
There are five types of NFC chips, but for mass applications we usually use the three main types, the NFC Types 2, 4, and 5.
NFC Type 2 cards
are inexpensive and have NFC chips compatible with standard ISO/IEC 14443-3A. The most common NFC Type 2 chip is the NTAG213
. It has a 7-byte long Unique ID number (UID), and memory storage that a user can store up to 144 bytes of data – which is equal to a 136 character-long URL address.
If the user needs to encode more data, then there are other NTAG chips available, the NTAG215
with 504 byes of EEPROM memory, and the NTAG216
with 888 bytes of EEPROM memory, which is enough to store the information of electronic business cards.
The NFC Type 2 chips are typically used for:
- Marketing applications (URL records, video links, navigation to destination address, etc.)
- Person or product identification
- Product presentation
- Bluetooth pairing, Wi-Fi configuration, and more.
The NFC Type 4
are NFC chips compatible with standard ISO/IEC 14443-4A/B. The most commonly used NFC Type 4 chips are NXP MIFARE DESFire®
chips with a 7-byte long UID, memory in which a user can store 2–8 kBytes of data, and multiple hardware cryptographic engines for secure transactions.
NFC Type 4 chips are typically used for:
- Micro Payments
- Secure access control
- Public transportation
- Cashless vending
The NFC Type 5
chips are compliant to the standards ISO/IEC 15693 and ISO 18000-3M1. The most commonly used NFC Type 5 chips are NXP ICODE® SLIX
chips with an 8-byte long UID and a memory size around 321 Bytes.
NFC Type 5 chips are typically used for:
- Product Authentication
- Jewellery and luxury goods
- Cards and secure documents
- Asset tagging.
If you want to know more about NFC chips and how to select the best one, check out the blog article:
Printing technology for NFC Cards
For printing NFC cards we usually use three options:
1. We print on the already produced white NFC cards with card printers;
2. We print the NFC cards during a manufacturing process (print on PVC sheets with offset printing technology, laminating process, and die-cut the printed NFC cards);
3. We serialize or personalize the produced NFC cards with monochrome ribbons (QR codes, barcode, numbering, names . . .).
Printed NFC card with Thermal Retransfer Printers
When ordering 1–500 printed NFC cards, we use thermo retransfer printers and print on already produced white NFC cards with a selected NFC chip. These printers are more sophisticated then the cheaper thermo transfer printers, also known as ‘direct card printers,’ and they make a print of better quality.
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 can go from edge-to-edge and it is protected with a thin layer of transparent plastics, which makes the card a bit more wear and scratch resistant. We use retransfer 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 NFC cards, because the chip between layers of plastics can make some imperfections on the card’s surface and it would cause printing problems if using a 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 NFC cards
Offset printing technology for NFC cards requires special card manufacturing equipment. When using the offset printing technology, the plastic sheets are printed during a card manufacturing 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 containing a NFC 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 printing the NFC cards during a manufacturing process 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.
NFC 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 of NFC cards
When there is a need to print variable data on cards (e.g., serial numbers, bar codes, QR codes, names, etc.) we use special thermal printers with monochrome ribbons. The personalization is usually done in black, white, gold, or silver.
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
- NFC chip encoding – writing the URL address, 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.
If you are an integrator or reseller, we offer special discounts.