How do Plastic ID Card Printers Work?

Have you always wanted to know how plastic ID card printers work? In this article, we’ve got a summary of everything you need to know and more.

How exactly do they work?

Plastic ID card printers are specially designed to print photos, images and text directly onto blank ID cards or proximity cards. They’re quite similar to an inkjet printer that you may normally find in your home or office.

  • A completely blank plastic card is fed to the plastic ID card printer and passed through a colour or single colour ribbon at the same time as a thermal print head.
  • The colour from the ribbon is transferred onto the card.
  • From there, you’ll be able to see the photo, images and text on the card and it’s ready to be used.

What are the different printer technologies?

There are three different printer technologies:

1. Direct-to-card plastic card printers

This is the most common ID card printer available. It’s quick, and deposits ink directly onto the card through a process called dye sublimation.

This method is exceptionally versatile and is the most used technology when it comes to card printing. It can be used in both single-sided as well as dual printers and it can also be used for the face of magnetic stripe cards.


  • Ideal for printing many cards from Student ID cards to Membership Cards and more
  • High printing speed

2. Retransfer plastic card printers

With this particular card printer, it uses a laminate overlay method to ensure that the card is much more durable and secure. While it does still have a printer ribbon, unlike direct-to-card plastic card printers, retransfer plastic card printers don’t come into direct contact with the card.

With this printer, you’ll get an exceptionally high-quality card that’s durable. You can also print additional security features onto these cards and it’s designed for more advanced users.


  • Can print additional security features
  • Has both single-sided and dual-sided printer option

3. Inkjet plastic card printers

Finally, you’ve got inkjet plastic card printers. These work similarly to an inkjet printer but you won’t have to worry about it compromising on quality. It comes with a snap-in cartridge instead of a ribbon and is great for producing a wide array of cards.

Inkjet plastic card printers are designed for printing single-sided with full colour onto plastic cards and they can print numerous cards very quickly.


  • Eco-friendly since there’s no printer ribbon
  • Great for producing everything from student ID cards to loyalty cards and more
  • Exceptionally quick printing speed

Getting your next plastic ID card printer

Plastic ID card printers are relatively simple to use and you’ll be able to get it up and running in no time at all. If you’re looking to get a plastic ID card printer, your main consideration is deciding which type of printer you require – whether that be an inkjet plastic card printer or a direct-to-card printer.

Whichever printer you choose to go with, just make sure it’s able to accommodate your needs and print the type of cards that you’re looking for.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *