Card Printing FAQs Product Information

Retransfer ID Card Printer FAQs: 9 Common Queries Answered

retransfer id card printers faqs

If you require a plastic card printer that prints onto access control cards, delivering photo-quality images, with over-the-edge printing, your best bet is to purchase a retransfer machine.

We’ve taken some of the most common questions we get from customers considering upgrading from a direct-to-card machine and have put them all in one place.

Question 1: How does a retransfer printer differ from a direct-to-card printer?

Answer: Compared to a direct-to-card printer, the technology a retransfer printer uses is much more advanced. Rather than printing the ribbon directly onto the card as with dye-sublimation, retransfer printers produce the card design onto an overlay film. This design is transferred onto a transparent film through a printing process called reverse transfer printing. The film is then bonded onto the card’s surface using high temperature and pressure.

This introduces numerous benefits including a more durable ID card product, over-the-edge printing of card designs, adding security to cards and a longer-lasting ID card printing setup.

  • A more professional-looking ID card
  • The ability to print onto access control contactless cards
  • Improved security features
  • Improved card durability
  • Lower card reissuance costs and less waste

You can map out your card printer requirements here and see whether a retransfer or direct-to-card printer is best suited for your card printing requirements.

Question 2: Why are retransfer printers more expensive than direct-to-card printers?

Answer: Retransfer printers use more advanced printing technology and extra components than DTC printers, making them more expensive to purchase.

Retransfer printers are more adept at printing photo-quality images to the card’s surface than standard direct-to-card machines. A retransfer printer is also designed to add security and access features to smart cards more easily and efficiently.

Most retransfer models will cost between £600 and £1,000 more than an equivalent direct-to-card machine from the same manufacturer.

Question 3: Which manufacturers offer retransfer ID card printers?

Answer: A variety of printer manufacturers now offer a retransfer machine within their range including Fargo, Magicard and Zebra. The most popular models we often advise our customers to purchase include the Fargo HDP5000 and Magicard Ultima.

You can see our in-depth head-to-head comparing the HDP5000 and Ultima retransfer printers here.

 Popular Retransfer ID Card Printers

Question 4: Can retransfer printers print onto the same cards as my direct-to-card printer?

Answer: If you are using plain ID cards, yes. You can use the same sort of cards you’d use in any other printer including the most common ID card size – CR80. These include traditional PVC cards as well as eco-friendly cards. Although reverse transfer printing is achieved by applying pressure and heat to the card surface, these machines include special technology that stops the cards from warping and bending.

If you are printing onto RFID access control or smart cards, a retransfer printer is the only printer you should be using. If your business requires access control card printing, make sure your card printing setup is secure by checking out the top card printer security features to consider when investing in on-site access control card production.

Question 5: Why do I need a retransfer printer to print on to access control cards?

Answer: In a retransfer printer, the print head never comes directly into contact with the card, removing the risk of the cards raised edges damaging the printers internal mechanism. Instead, a transfer film is applied directly over the card, resulting in a perfect finish over the raised edges. If you used the same cards in a direct-to-card printer machine, the print head comes into contact with the cards uneven surfaces and internal hardware will quickly be damaged, resulting in expensive repairs.

You can find out more about the benefits of printing onto access control cards with reverse transfer printers by viewing our guide to retransfer printers.

Question 6: Can retransfer printers print on both sides of the card?

Answer: Yes. Retransfer printers are available with dual-sided printing modules which flip the card internally during the ID card printing process. These additional modules usually add between £250 and £500 to the overall cost of the printer.

Retransfer print overlaminate ribbon

Question 7: Which consumables do I need for my retransfer ID card printer?

Answer: You will need to purchase a printer ribbon, retransfer film and printer cleaning kits to operate your retransfer ID card printer. The retransfer film is the overlay that the ribbon prints onto. This is then bonded to the card itself. This gives a retransfer printer the ability to produce more durable cards protected against cleaning agents, scratches, dirt and other wear and tear.

To ensure your retransfer printer continues to operate at optimum performance, you must use the approved printer cleaning kit for your make and model.

Lots of retransfer printers also use cleaning rollers which actively remove dirt and dust from cards before it is bonded to the overlay. These are sometimes included as part of the printer ribbon and overlay kits, although the exact products you’ll need will vary depending on which retransfer printer you are using.

Question 8: How long can I expect my retransfer printer to last?

Answer: Three to five years. Retransfer printers are more reliable and longer-lasting than direct-to-card printers. Even if you look after your direct-to-card printer well and keep the print head clean, over time it will age. This is primarily because their print head is significantly likely to be damaged over time from direct contact with the card itself.

A retransfer printer doesn’t have this issue at all, with many manufacturers offering a lifetime warranty on the print head. As such, the life expectancy of a retransfer printer is significantly higher than a direct-to-card machine.

Question 9: Is upgrading from a direct-to-card printer to a retransfer machine a simple process?

DTC to retransfer upgrade

Answer: Yes. If you are currently using a direct-to-card printer, it’s more than likely you can upgrade to a retransfer machine made by the same manufacturer. Many retransfer machines have been made as easy as possible to use and feature intuitive design. The Magicard Ultima, for example, features a touchscreen unit to carry out key ID card printing functions.

If you’re searching for the best ID card software to work alongside your retransfer printer, EasyBadge is a great option. Various types are available depending on the requirements of your business, and it is compatible with all retransfer ID card printers.

What’s next?

You can browse our full ID card printer range here and find the card printing system to suit your printing needs.

If you’d like to find out more about which retransfer ID card printer will suit your printing requirements best or want more information about the benefits of retransfer printing, call one of our ID professionals today on 0800 988 2095.