Digital ID Dictionary: The A to Z of ID Card Printing & Access Control
We know how jargon-ful the ID card printing and access control sector is. That’s exactly why we set up this page.
Below you’ll find what we consider to be the most comprehensive glossary of ID card printing and access control terminology on the web.
If you’re struggling to understand something, you’ll likely find the answer here. So, what do you want to know?
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Access Control Cards
With security a priority for everyone these days, using access control cards to enter a building and restrict access to certain other parts has become increasingly popular. Granting access via ID card is not just limited to buildings, they can also restrict access to computer systems as well.
Magnetic stripe cards are the most frequently used form of access control card, with RFID and proximity technology also being common. The best thing about access cards is that if they are lost or stolen they can cancelled and replaced quickly and cheaply. This is a much more security conscious approach than using a key entry system as every interaction with the card reader can be accessed and analysed if required.
Access Control Readers
Access control readers and are installed at key positions of a building to limit or grant access. Smart ID cards communicate with the readers to verify access to a building, a specific part of a building or computer network, and if the card does not contain the relative information regarding the proper authorisation the control reader will not allow access. The access control card readers are tamper-proof and work extremely quickly by either swiping an ID card, or by tapping or waving a card in front of the reader.
Access Control System Components
An access point can mean any of the following things; a door, a turnstile, a gate, an elevator or a parking gate. Any of these access points can be controlled electronically and the magnetic seal or electric lock that keeps that entrance point can only be broken by receiving the proper authorisation. This can come from a proximity card, a card with a magnetic stripe that is swiped, a biometric signature such as a fingerprint, palm or retina scan. These methods all have their own way of storing a unique code that will grant or deny access.
A secondary exit system could be installed where exit validation is required. Known as REX, request to exit devices can be anything from a push button to a thermal body scan. These are used in high security areas and are usually ran on an independent computer system to the entry validation in case something goes wrong. They will also set off an alarm if the validation is breached.
Credentials are usually what you acquire to gain access to certain buildings, rooms within a building or computer systems. The higher your credentials, the more you allowed access to. Your credentials are programmed into the ID card and it will automatically know where you can and cannot go. If the card owner tries to access a restricted area the system will not open that particular area to the user. If the user tries to override the restricted access then an alarm will be triggered. Your credentials can range from a swipe card, to a pin code, to a proximity card, to biometric confirmation using your voice, finger, eye, palm or face.
This is where the required information is printed onto a ‘sticky-back’ card and then applied to a thicker ID card. They will vary in thickness and are generally only compatible with products from the same company, so it’s a good idea to only purchase cards that are the same brand as your printer.
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A plain photograph backdrop gives your ID cards a sense of uniformity and makes the image of the subject of the photo much easier to see and improves the clarity.
A badge printer is a specialised printer that will print high quality photo images and important details directly onto a PVC card. The badge printers all have their own unique features and can include incorporating watermarks and holograms onto the cards as additional security features
Bamboo lanyards are environmentally friendly because the material is highly sustainable. Available in a wide variety of styles and colours, the bamboo lanyard is also extremely hard wearing and hypo-allergenic.
Barcodes are a common design element in ID cards. They are multi-functional, allowing for activities as diverse as registering when a person clocks in and out for their shift, to paying for goods and services. A barcode is a series of stripes of differing widths and numbers which contain information. Once the barcode is scanned, a computer is then able to relate back what that information means.
There are two different variants of barcode; 1D and 2d
1D- a single row of horizontal bars that stores information
2D – these have both horizontal and vertical bars and can store much more information.
These are incredibly simple to make using an ID card printer. All you need is the card ID software the generate the type of barcode that you want, 1D or 2D (also known as a QR code). They require no special printer upgrades or particular card material and are found everywhere from library cards to student ID.
A barcode mask is a preventative measure. It stops the barcode from being duplicated by using special inks that allow the bars of information to be read but not replicated.
A device which scans, decodes and translates barcodes to retrieve the information that it contains. A barcode scanner can be hand held, slot readers and even apps on mobile phones.
This involves using ID cards, ID card software and a badge printer. Batch printing allows you to print off a large number of ID cards quickly and in one go. There are lots of different ID card printers available with large hopper capacities to allow you to do this easily.
Batch printing requires the use of ID card software. This organises the workload so that each card can be printed with unique information without the need for it to be supervised.
This is a study of how an individual’s traits and physical behaviour can be identified using purely autonomous methods. This can include fingerprints, voice recognition and facial patterns and even more advanced technology such as retinal scans, hand gestures and tone of voice. These traits can be included in ID cards for added security.
Biodegradable ID cards are a more eco-friendly alternative to the PVC plastic ID card. They are made of 100% biodegradable material and will naturally decompose when left in an environment suitable for decomposition, such as a compost heap.
These are printer ribbons that use heat to transfer the ink to the ID card and contain black monochrome and overlay panel elements.
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Some ID card printers use card cartridges that contain an ID card built in to them. They are available in a variety of finishes, the most popular of which are glossy or matt PVC. The most popular variety of card to use is either proximity cards or magnetic stripe cards
A card dispenser is a great way to keep your ID cards neat, tidy and organised. They will keep your blank cards in perfect condition so that when they eventually come to the printing process they will be untarnished.
Card feeders are a common part of the printing process as they hold a lot of cards at once and distribute them in a timely manner, allowing for the printing process to happen much faster. Card feeders are a great way to use your time more economically.
Card holders are designed to protect the ID card and keep it secure. They provide an easy way for the card to be carried and to be visible at all times to other colleagues and security personnel. It also reduces the chances of the card being lost or damaged.
Card holders are usually made of a tough plastic compound that is impact and shatter-resistant and can be worn in either horizontal or vertical orientations. They can be clipped straight onto clothing or can also be attached to a lanyard chain for maximum flexibility.
A hopper is that part of an ID card printer that catches the finished card after they have been printed. The larger the hopper, the more ID cards can be printed in one session.
Sometimes known as plastic card printers or an ID card printer, they specialise in printing personalised plastic cards. They usually print CR80-sized cards, more commonly referred to as ‘credit card-size’. These can include ID cards, driving licenses and health insurance cards to name just a few.
The blank plastic card passes through the printer and a thermal print head heats up the colours on the ribbon. The colours are then transferred onto the card where they bond with the plastic and dry.
Card printers can print single-sided or double sided, they can have lockable hoppers, they can print in colour of monochrome. Depending on the model that you have, some have facilities to allow you to include watermarks and holograms, some will add a clear coating, and some will laminate the finished card.
Card reels offer a convenient way of accessing ID cards if they are required to be used a lot. They have a retractable ‘bungee wire’ or cord that allows the card to be pulled away from the main clip on a reel, and it will snap back into place once the card has been used.
Cartridgeless ribbons are a more economically-friendly version of a cartridge ribbon. There is less packaging to throw away and every manufacturer of ID card printers produces cartridgeless ribbons. Evolis is a manufacturer that utilises cartridgeless ribbons.
Cleaning cards are an essential part of ID card printer maintenance. They are run through the printer like an ordinary card, but they will help to keep vital parts of the printer clean and free of debris that can damage print heads and affect the printing quality. Cleaning cards are manufactured in different shapes and sizes to be compatible with different machines, so only use the one that is designated for your printer.
Cleaning kits are used to perform essential maintenance on ID card printers. By using a cleaning kit to keep a card printer in good running order, the ID cards will look their best and the printer itself will serve you well. It’s a good idea to use a cleaning kit after every change of the ribbon.
A cleaning pen is a tool used in some cleaning kits. The idea is that they remove build-ups and contaminants from the printer head and other vital parts of the printer. Only use a printer pen that is designed to be used with your ID card printer.
Some printer ribbons have an in-built cleaning roller, others do not. Their purpose is to remove debris from a blank card before it enters the printer.
Cleaning swabs are a component of some printer cleaning kits. They are used much in the same way as a cleaning pen to remove dust and contaminants from the printer head and other vital parts of the printer.
Coloured PVC Cards
Coloured PVC cards add a bit of individuality and are available in multiple colours and both Hi-Co and Low-Co magnetic stripe formats.
Combination cards use two different technologies in them; contact and non-contact. These are like a bank card with chip and pin and contactless options.
A composite card is a tougher, more durable version of the PVC ID card. They have a polyester centre sandwiched between two layers of PVC and are ideal where the ID card will be getting a lot of usage. They are also a good choice to use with laminating printers.
A contact card has a single chip inside it containing the relevant data and pads on the surface. In order for it to work, the card has to be inserted into a reader so the pads on the card can touch the reader and the data can be analysed.
Contactless and Contactless Smart Chip Cards
Contactless cards are most commonly used to gain access. Also known as proximity cards, they use Radio Frequency ID technology and have an inbuilt chip and antenna. The chip stores the relevant information and the antenna ‘talks’ to the reader using radio waves. Contactless smart chip cards have a number of other uses such as cashless payments that incorporate both contactless and chip and pin options to pay. The cards can be coded using an ID card printer with a smart card encoder and the corresponding software.
Slightly smaller than the most popular size of card, the CR80. The CR79 card measures 85.6mm x 54mm.
These are the most popular size of ID card because they are the same size as a credit card. They fit comfortably in both a wallet and a card holder and are durable enough to be used multiple times every day. They are most commonly made of PVC and measure 85.6mm x 53.98mm with a thickness of just 0.76mm. They are most commonly seen as bank cards, ID cards and loyalty cards.
These are slightly larger than the CR80 cards and are most commonly used for printing drivers licenses. They measure 92mm x 60mm.
CR100 cards are more commonly referred to as military-sized cards. They measure 98.5mm x 67mm.
Custom HoloKote Key
This is a feature that is exclusive to Magicard ID card printers. It allows you to design your own watermark that can be applied to the ID card for extra security. This feature is an optional extra and does not come as standard with the printer.
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A database is used to organise and store data such as the details of everyone with an ID card. Virtually every type of ID software now includes a database that allows for easy storage and access of information and it makes organising high volumes of data much easier.
Data Capture Devices
Data capture devices are pieces of equipment that work in tandem with ID cards. These include magnetic stripe readers, barcode scanners, fingerprint and retinal scanners and ID scanners.
Datacard is a manufacturer of ID card printers with more than 30 years of experience in the industry. They incorporate elements such as biometrics, smart chips, proximity antennas, photos, watermarks, holograms, coding systems and much more. You can view all the Datacard ID card printers here.
DESFire is a contactless proximity card produced by MIFARE. Operating at 13.56 MHz frequency, it’s considered to be one of the most secure access control product ranges currently available. DESFire cards can incorporate older MIFARE technologies if required, as well as HID technologies such as Prox. Our MIFARE cards guide has more in-depth information on DESFire and its uses.
Digital ID Camera
This is the bit that you blame if you don’t like your photo on your ID card! Digital ID cameras are the cameras used to capture the photograph that gets printed onto the ID card. They are incredibly easy to set up and use, and they don’t cost much to purchase either.
This is a security feature used by some ID cards. It uses an encrypted key that will only allow the card to be used on your system. This stops the card from being transferred to another system and duplicated.
Often abbreviated to DTC, it is the most widely used method of producing ID cards. Direct-to-card printers transfer the images, graphics and text directly onto the card by heating a special printer ribbon underneath a thermal print head.
This is achieved using a two step printing process; dye sublimation and resin thermal transfer. Dye sublimation uses ribbons divided into lots of different colours that repeat across the length of the ribbon. The ribbon is then heated by the thermal printhead and the colour is transferred onto the ID card. The resin thermal transfer works in a similar way to the dye sublimation but only transfers monochromic elements such as barcodes, names, expiry dates etc.
This is where both sides of the card are required to have printing on them and this could be because that each side needs to contain different information. Dual-sided printers will print both sides of the card at once which saves a lot of time. They can be printed on single-sided printers but the card will have to be turned over manually to print the reverse side.
Dual-sided printing allows for more design elements to be included as as well as security elements to be incorporated such as magnetic stripe encoding, holograms, security seals and more.
Duplex printing is another name for double-sided printing. Duplex printers will print both sides of the ID card at once.
Dye Sublimation is a processed used to transfer crystal clear photos onto the ID cards. It uses a ribbon that is dye-based that is partitioned by yellow, magenta and cyan coloured panels. A thermal printhead will heat the dye contained in the ribbon, turn it into a gas, and then transfer it to the ID card, paper, or poster paper where it solidifies.
This happens for each colour panel and is capable of creating a staggering 16.7 million colours. It is because the temperature of the printhead can be controlled which allows for this virtually limitless combinations of colour. They means they also outperform most inkjet and laser jet printers too. Some ribbons also incorporate an overcoat panel which gives a thin coating to protect the finished product
Although the printer is capable of making monochrome using just the colour ribbon, the black that is created, known as composite black, just isn’t as sharp as a separate dedicated black colour panel.
The finished print also isn’t as neat a finish as a dedicated blackpanel, and composite black is invisible to infrared scanners due to the lack of carbon in the dye rendering IR technology useless. If you are printing barcodes then this is especially important. The great thing is, the monochrome ribbon is much cheaper to buy than the coloured ribbon.
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Easybadge specialise in ID Card Design Software software for ID card printers, providing an easy and convenient way to print ID cards, allowing you to design, create and print cards in under 60 seconds.
They also offer Easybadge consumables and their own branded printer.
This is a feature that most ID card printers have. This allows a CR80 card to be printed right up to the edge resulting in a seamless look.
Embedded Security Cards
Embedded security cards are also known as technology cards. They usually have a combination of different technologies built within to allow a number them to perform a number of functions. These are cards such as contactless payment cards or proximity cards and the are a great solution for handling data of a sensitive nature.
Encoding is where identifying data is stored on magnetic stripes or smart chips and then infused with the card. These types of cards usually work with a reader such as RFID technology to raise a barrier or to make a contactless payment with a debit or credit card.
Many card printers now have an inbuilt ethernet capability. This is where the printer can be connected to a Local Area Network, or LAN, to allow multiple locations to use the one printer. This not only saves time because more than one station can use the printer, but it also saves money because you don’t have to buy a printer for every station.
Evolis is a manufacturer of ID card printers. They specialise in multifunction printers which incorporate data encoding and applications as well as the best quality prints.
Colour sublimation and thermal transfer technology ensures that the images are as crisp and realistic as possible, and their patented Push & Twist print head replacement is the easiest way to change a printhead without the need for tools. All their latest printers come with a two year warranty.
Expiring badges are an ideal solution to a situation where temporary authorisation is required. Over time, the badge colour changes to denote whether the user is authorised or unauthorised. They are cost-effective and highly visible
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Fargo is one of the world’s leading ID card and card printer manufacturers, delivering exceptional value for money with high-quality results. Fargo ID card printers are capable of combining lots of functions into one action; they can print in monochrome and multicolour, one or two-sided, incorporate overlays, watermarks and holograms and they can laminate the cards too. Best of all, it only takes a few seconds to print off a full-colour card with inbuilt smart technology.
Fargo multi-functional cards can be used for so much more than providing ID. They can monitor time and attendance, authorise and restrict access to buildings and computer systems, pay for cashless transactions and operate barriers using proximity technology. This all adds up to make Fargo products the safest in the world.
Fingerprint scanners use biometric data to quickly and accurately identify someone using their fingerprint as their identification. Because everyone has a unique fingerprint pattern fingerprint scanners are highly effective when security is of paramount importance.
Fluorescent ribbons print a fluorescent grayscale text or image onto the card that can only been seen under a UV light. This is an excellent added security measure.
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Graphic-Quality ID Cards
Graphic-quality ID cards are a very high quality PVC or composite material ID card. They are the best material to produce a high-quality image and crisp, sharp text on.
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A half-panel ribbon contains half the normal amount of yellow, magenta and cyan colour block, but full panels of black and clear overlay. This means that you get twice the yield of a regular full panel colour block making for a very economic printing solution. They are most commonly used where a pre-printed card needs additional text, images or a barcode laying over the images that are already there.
HDP stands for High Definition Printing. HDP ID card are used solely with Fargo HDP ID card printers and they have a matt finish to them as opposed to the traditional glossy look you get with a PVC card. This makes them cheap to buy, which could be of great consideration if you need to print a lot of them. They are not as durable as their laminated counterparts but are still sturdy enough to be used every day. HDP uses dye sublimation to transfer the 300-dpi image onto the underside of a piece of clear film and then uses heat to fuse it to the ID card. This makes the card tamper-proof and highly resistant to wear and tear.
HDP is ideal for using on technology cards that contain chips that make the surface of the card uneven. This is because the film can contour around the bump and leave a smooth finish. It can also print right up to the edge of the card giving a seamless look. The Fargo HDP film is available with a variety of stock holographic images already incorporated, or you can order it with a customised image to give your cards that extra level of security.
Ultracard and Ultracard III blanks can be used in the Fargo HDP ID card printer, but the Fargo DTC printers cannot use the HDP cards.
HD Photo ID Camera
This is a higher resolution offering of the standard photo ID camera. They usually come with additional features such as auto zoom, focus and exposure, making for a much easier photo-taking process.
HiCo is the abbreviated form of High Coercivity. They are a magnetic stripe card with a strong magnetic field for situations where they are swiped frequently. HiCo cards are less prone to losing the inbuilt data when exposed to external magnetic fields than the LoCo variant of card. HiCo cards are most frequently used in credit and debit cards, attendance and time cards, library cards and employee ID. They have a 400 Oersted magnetic field strength as opposed to the LoCo reading of just 300 Oersteds. However, it isn’t unusual to find intermediate values of 2750 Oe.
HID Global are one of the world’s largest producers of access control-related equipment. It produces ID card printers (HID Fargo), various ranges of proximity cards and products (iCLASS, Prox and FlexSmart to name a few) and also offers one of the most advanced mobile credential technologies currently on offer (Seos).
Digital ID are official UK distributers of HID products. You can find the HID range of access control cards here, or read more about the different ranges on offer in our HID access control cards guide.
High-Production ID Card Printer
High-production ID card printers are designed to produce large batches of the best quality ID cards. They are most commonly found on places where ID card production is at a high volume such as hospitals, universities and large corporate companies. Depending on the requirements, high-production ID card printers can also incorporate laminating, watermarks and printing on both sides of the ID card.
Hologram ID Cards
Hologram ID cards are an excellent way of improving a card’s security. A holographic sticker is applied to the card and it then almost impossible to remove it or tamper with it. There are lots of laminating ID card printers that are capable of adding a hologram to ID cards, some only require a simple upgrade to have the same capabilities. If your printer does not have the capacity to apply holograms, you could always apply them manually yourself and then laminate over the sticker.
Hologram overlays cover the entire face of the card instead of just a small part. They are a laminated sheet that is applied to the face of the card making reproduction incredibly hard. The overlay also acts as a protective layer against scratches and fading. There are many printers capable of producing holographic overlays, or you can always apply the overlay manually instead.
Hologram ribbons apply a 3D image or pattern onto a flat ID card. This is produced as a laminate and then added at the end of the printing process as an effective deterrent to counterfeiters.
If you do not have an ID card printer capable of producing holograms, then self-adhesive hologram stickers are a cost-effective alternative. The stickers are applied by hand anywhere on the surface of the card and you can then laminate over them if you wish. Hologram stickers make a great additional security measure without costing a lot of money.
HoloKote is a feature that is standard on all Magicard printers. It is a holographic overlay that comes in four different designs; gloves, rings, waves and keys. The overlay is applied to the finished ID card to make it more secure and less prone to forgeries. It also helps to maintain the card against wear and tear. The HoloKote Key, which is an additional piece of software that is available can turn a logo or graphic into your watermark instead if you so wish. There is also a master key that authenticates the HoloKote card which cannot be reproduced, so it’s an incredibly safe system.
HoloKote Flex is an upgrade that is available on some Magicard printers that will allow you to create a completely unique watermark for your ID cards. It can be made to any size and placed on any part of the card that is desired.
These are a Fargo-branded blank card that comes with an inbuilt 3D watermark image. The image is high resolution and is an excellent deterrent to would-be counterfeiters.
These are Fargo-branded stickers that can be applied manually after the ID card has been printed. They serve as an excellent security measure because if they are removed they leave behind a checkerboard pattern. This will instantly tell you if a card has been tampered with.
The HoloPatch card is an exclusive product from Magicard. It uses HoloKote as a basis, which is a holographic laminate that covers the entire face of the card. With either images of gloves, waves, keys or rings. The Holopatch adds a gold patch in the corner making it look truly unique, instantly recognisable and difficult to copy.
Hot Swop is a scheme whereby you pay a set fee per year, and if your printer needs to be taken away to be fixed or have maintenance performed, you will get a temporary replacement until the original is ready again. The package includes full telephone support and free next day delivery.
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They operate at a 13.56MHz radio frequency, making them much more secure than HID’s older Prox and Indala cards that use lower 125kHz frequency. You can read more about the iCLASS range including iCLASS SE and iCLASS Seos in our HID cards guide.
The ID camera is perhaps the most important component of an ID card. Today, the images, the printer and the software used to produce ID cards today are completely digital so the end result is crisp, clear, lifelike image. Digital cameras are incredibly cost-effective; if you don’t like the photo that’s been taken then just reshoot it. You can take and store thousands of photos and they will take up very little space. Once the photos have served their purpose they can then be deleted straight afterwards providing extra security.
Digital cameras are everywhere now, including in our mobile phones, but the ID camera systems that are available are made specifically with photo ID cards in mind. The software that comes with the cameras are designed to be easy to use and fool proof and in most cases will have a ready-made template to use for ID photos. The photos can be taken and then printed directly onto a blank ID card in a matter of seconds.
An ID card is usually a plastic card that has visible photographic identification for a member of staff. From schools to office blocks to nurseries, almost everywhere has some kind of ID card implementation.
There are many different variations of materials and formats available. They can be used for entry purposes, identification, and restriction to physical destinations or computer systems. The cards themselves are durable and infinitely customisable; they can be single-sided, double-sided, full colour, black and white and can have integrated security features such as watermarks, all over holographic overlays and custom designed logos.
The most popular sized identity card is the CR80 or ISO 7810. If you have an ID card printer, you can use blank white plastic cards to create simple, effective ID cards.
ID Card Accessories
ID card accessories covers a wide variety of products such as lanyards, badge reels, and badge holders. They can help to protect the card from wear and tear, fading and damage and can ensure that the card is prominently displayed if it needs to be.
ID Card Printing Service
You don’t need to possess an ID card printer to create professional, secure ID; lots of smaller businesses and organisations, especially those with relatively low volume needs, choose to have their ID cards professionally printed.
Whether you need simple photographic identification or need to implement an access control-based card system, Digital ID’s photo ID card printing service can take away the stress and hassle of creating your own. In fact, our plastic card printing service goes beyond ID: our in-house bureau creates gift cards, loyalty cards and membership cards too.
ID Card Program
If you have invested in an ID card printer then you might want to produce a document for people so that they know just what their ID cards can and can’t be used for. It might relay where the card is valid and the responsibilities that the cardholder has to the card. A good example is a loyalty card for a supermarket; the pamphlet explains how the card works and the terms and conditions of it. Having a card program that clearly lays out the terms and conditions of both the card issuer and the card holder will help to settle any disputes that may occur as to the limits of its use.
ID Card Software
The ID card software is a vital component in the making of any ID card. It lets you design how the badge will look and also manages the data that the card needs to be fully functional and authorised.
There are countless different ID card software programs to choose from; from the most basic to fully customisable double-sided cards. Do your cards need to just have a photo and name on them or do they need to have smart technology like magnetic stripes and smart chips as well? Your card software will help you to plan all of this out.
You also need to take into account how many cards you plan on producing per year, how many people need access to the system at any one time and what elements need to be incorporated into the cards? This will help you to determine which software system you should invest in.
ID Card System
ID card systems are now used virtually everywhere for a variety of different purposes. From office buildings to determine access to different rooms and to log on to the company computer system, to schools to identify the staff and to keep the building in lockdown unless a card is used to open a door for the safety of all involved. In both cases they offer clear identification and security clearance for those using the badges.
If you are thinking of acquiring an ID card system then you might also want to consider an ID card printer, ID card software, an ID card camera and blank ID cards to print on. There are also accessories to look after the cards such as card holders and lanyards.
An ID printer is going to be an essential tool for anywhere that needs to produce a number of ID cards regularly. There are a range of ID printers that can produce anything from a simple black and white card with a photo and a name on to a double-sided, all-colour card with customisable watermarks and inbuilt security measures. Prices vary depending on how much you want your printer to do but all of them will transfer the required images and text by a thermal print head heating up a specialist printer ribbon. It then applies the image onto the card for an incredibly crisp image.
IDP makes ID card printers, with its current range including the Smart 31, Smart 51 and Smart 70. Its industry-leading five-year warranty, security features and tempting pricing mean its products are extremely popular in the UK, despite only being on the market for a number of years.
Digital ID is an official IDP distributor, and you can find the full range of its ID card printers here.
This is a fancy way of saying that you can upgrade your printer’s capabilities without sending it away to be installed. If your ID card printing needs change, you don’t need to start all over again, you can just upgrade your current printer saving you a lot of money.
An input hopper is the part of the printer that holds the cards that are ready to be printed. The larger the hopper, the more cards can be printed in one go as it allows you to produce batches instead of feeding the cards in one at a time manually
Installation and Training
This is provided by the developers of the ID card printer software and covers the following bases; installation, configuration, card design, database, user training and Q&A sessions.
ISO Magnetic Stripe Encoding
The ISO, or International Standards Organisation, and it defines the specs need to produce a magnetic stripe. Printers that have magnetic stripe encoders will usually support LoCo and HiCo encoding, as well as tracks one through three.
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JIS II Magnetic Stripe Encoding
The JIS II magnetic stripe encoding is the Japanese Industrial Standard for magnetic stripe encoding.
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A key fob is part of an access control system. It is a small device that fits on a key chain that contains a RFID chip and antenna and is used to gain access to buildings, computer systems and individual rooms.
A key tag is a small card with a hole in one corner so it can fit onto a key chain loop. These are popular for supermarket petrol pumps, gym memberships and library systems. They are usually made from durable PVC and are handy to have about your person instead of yet another CR80-sized card in your wallet.
This is a black monochrome printer ribbon. The black is denoted by a letter K, and the clear overlay panel is denoted by an O.
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A label printer is a great solution to temporary name badges for visitors to a company or building that need some form of ID about their person. Label printers usually use direct thermal printing as opposed to ink or toner. These types of self-adhesive labels can also be used on textbooks, envelopes and much more.
Laminating uses a process of heating up plastic laminate and adhering it to the card. This not only protects the card from everyday usage but it also stops the image and texts from fading and colour seeping. Some printers have the capacity to print and laminate at the same time, and the laminate can even be a holographic overwrap to maximise the cards’ security potential. The laminate can even be customised to a specific logo or pattern if required.
A lanyard attaches to a card holder and allows the card to be highly visible by being hung around your neck on a soft braided fabric cord. They come in a wide range of colours and sizes and can even be customised to include company logos and slogans. Our lanyard buying guide contains all the info you need to know.
They usually attach to a clear plastic pouch or card holder but can also be used with things like USB drives or MP3 players. These devices usually have a small hole to allow the lanyard to be fed through and secure it. Breakaway lanyards have an additional safety feature of a clasp that pops open if the lanyard is tugged.
LCD, or liquid crystal display, is the display screen employed by most ID card printers. The screen will show the current status of the printer.
A light-emitting diode is used to show the status of a printer, usually by blinking off and on. They may be colour coded; red for a problem and green for in progress/start.
Sometimes known as Offset Printing, lithography is where the ink and an alkaline fountain solution mix to make the ink adhere to the plastic card. In this method, the ink sticks to the correct part of the image printing plate while the alkaline solution stops the ink from invading any area of the card that does not need ink.
Low coercivity cards are a form of magnetic stripe card. They’re also known as Lo Co or loco, and have a lower frequency that makes them well-suited to short-term applications.
The stripe itself is not as dark as HiCo magnetic stripes. They usually resemble a muddy brown colour and they are commonly seen on things like gift cards, supermarket savings points cards and membership cards. They are easily demagnetised however, so this is why they tend to be used on products that do not need to be used repeatedly. A LoCo stripe measures 300 Oersteds and a HiCo stripe measures 400 Oersteds.
A hopper is a feature of an ID card printer where the blank cards ready to be printed are stored. The idea of a lockable hopper is that it stops the blank cards from being stolen. Smart cards are expensive to purchase too, and a lockable hopper ensures that you can leave them in the printer and know that they are secure.
Sometimes known as points cards, rewards cards, or club cards, these are usually a plastic or paper card that identifies the card holder as a member of a loyalty scheme.
They usually have a magnetic stripe that can be scanned easily or sometimes they will have an inbuilt RFID antenna or smart chip that allows them to be read by just hovering the card in front of a receiver. They are most commonly seen in supermarkets and coffee shops.
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Magicard is a British manufacturer of ID card printers and related products. They are known for their high-security protocols and stand-out features such as HoloKote anti-counterfeiting technology, which is a standard feature across the Magicard printer range. A unique holographic mark makes cards almost impossible to copy, because any attempt to remove the watermark layer will effectively destroy it.
Magnetic Badge Holder
Magnetic holders have a slot for the card display so that it can be clipped to clothing without leaving marks or holes like other metal attachments and pin badges do. If the card has a magnetic stripe then the badge holder must be shielded so that the card does not demagnetised.
Magnetic Stripe Cards
Magnetic stripe cards are sometimes known as mag stripes or mag strips. The magnetic stripe on the back of a card contains over 200 million bar magnets. A magnetic card reader forces the magnetic poles of these bar magnets apart and reads the movement as an electrical charge. The reader then converts the signal into binary so the computer can read it. They are most commonly used in credit and debit cards, transport tickets and ID cards.
There are two kinds of magnetic stripe; LoCo and HiCo. LoCo are not as durable and are best used for situations where the card does not require heavy usage. HiCo are more robust and stand up to more repeated use.
They are most commonly seen as bank cards and hotel key cards. To print on to magstripe cards you will need a printer with a magnetic encoder module, software that is capable of encoding the data, and blank magnetic stripe cards. All of these items are freely available and inexpensive to purchase.
Magnetic Stripe Encoding
A magnetic stripe encoder will enable you to encode information onto a plastic card in a format that can be read by machines, i.e, when the card is swiped through a reader. Encoded information can be added to access control cards, membership cards and loyalty cards to name just a few.
Magnetic Stripe Readers
Magnetic stripe readers are used in conjunction with magnetic stripe cards. The readers decipher the code by reading the magnetic stripe on the card once it has been swiped.
This will allow system users to upgrade their magnetic stripe to a more robust version; from Loco to HiCo.
Matica is a well known manufacturer of ID card printers and specialises in producing affordable reverse transfer machines. Reverse transfer printers (also known as retransfer printers) print on to a film overlay that is then adhered to the card. This helps them last longer and less prone to fading and damage.
MIFARE cards are a form of technology cards with a range of uses, but are primarily used by our customers to provide quick, easy and reliable access control cards.
Being a proximity cards means that don’t need to be swiped. There are various ranges of MIFARE cards available including Classic, DESFire and They were originally created for use across public transport systems in Europe, although access control is their predominant use today.
Our MIFARE cards guide examines how the technology works, what they can be used for and the different MIFARE card families currently on offer.
Monochrome ribbons are a single colour print ribbon. They are available in a wide variety of colours and are most commonly used for text and barcodes on an ID card.
Multifunctional ID Cards
ID cards are capable of so much more than just having a photo and a name printed on them, and they are now being used as such. A card can control entry to a building, and can restrict access to various areas of that same building. The same can be said for access to computer systems. The card can contain both a proximity technology to allow the card to be read, and have a smart chip to keep encrypted data safe. The cards can also have watermarks and holograms added to them to increase security and reduce the threat of tampering or cloning.
Mylar cards are usually used on adhesive-backed cards and are made from a thin polyester. They are usually attached to the back of the card to increase thickness and heat resistance for when they go through the printer.
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A neck chain is one of a number of accessories that can be used with an ID card. They are perfect for use in an environment where the ID must be prominently on display at all times and are cheap to purchase. They are usually made of plastic or metal, they come in a variety of colours and lengths. They are usually constructed out of balls that are 2mm or 4mm wide.
A network printer is a printer that can be accessed over a local area network (LAN) using an ethernet connection. This allows the printer to be used by multiple locations at once and saves on having to buy a printer for each workstation.
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This is the unit used to measure magnetic field strength in the GCS electromagnetic system.
An output stacker collates and organises the finished cards after the printer has ejected them. An output stacker makes batch printing so simple, freeing you up to do other things.
This is a clear layer that is added on the top of the card to help keep it from getting damaged. Although it is very thin it’s incredibly tough and also helps against forgeries. The overlaminate can also be used as a visual security deterrent to possible counterfeiters as a watermark can be incorporated into it.
An overlay is a clear barrier designed to protect against scratching and everyday damage and to increase the card’s longevity. Overlays can also have a holographic watermark element to them too which decreases the chances of it being stolen and counterfeited. Overlays can either be applied by hand or by using a ID card printer.
Oversized ID Cards
A standard ID card is known as a CR80 and is the same size as a debit or credit card. ts dimensions are 85.6mm x 54mm. Oversized ID cards are anything larger than this, so the next size up is known as a CR90 and is 92mm x 60mm. The size up from this is known as a CR100 and is 98.5mm x 67mm and are also known as ‘military cards.’ The next stage after this is known as ‘luggage tag size.’
This is a card that has no borders. The printing does not finish at the edge like a traditional card, but goes over the edges providing a seamless look. It can be created by using a retransfer ID card printer.
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Photo ID Badge
Photo ID badges are a necessity for many buildings and businesses. They vary from a simple one-sided black and white card with a photo and name, to full colour photos with watermarks and important data stored on them too. The blank ID cards come in a myriad of different colours and come in a few different sizes too. There are lots of designs to choose from and you can choose to incorporate the company logo as a security measure if you want to.
Photo ID Camera
The photo ID camera captures the digital photograph that will be transferred onto the card. Most of them come with a program that gives you a default setting for taking ID card photos, which saves lots of time in editing. They are usually plug and play and can be up and running in just a few minutes.
Photo ID Printer
A photo ID printer is a one-stop-shop for all your ID card printing needs. There are loads of different options available and there’s one to suit every purpose. Photo ID card printers are capable of printing in black and white, full colour, with personalised watermarks and have the option to batch print or just run off single cards as and when they are needed.
Most ID card printers can be bought featuring wifi or ethernet connectivity, which means that more than one workstation can send information to be printed off, making them more economical than ever.
Photo ID Software
Photo ID software is a vital part of creating an ID card as it allows you to create templates, design the card, and gather and store the information that is linked to the card. There are lots of software options to choose from, from basic designs all the way up to complex designs with security features.
Photo ID System
The complete photo ID system consists of a few different components, namely a camera, ID card software, an ID card printer, blank ID cards and a computer to run it all. It may sound like a lot but it’s very simple to set up and run. The card software runs on the computer and it stores and catalogues the information. It also provides photo templates and allows you to design how the finished card will look. Then, you take a photo on the camera which will be uploaded to the card software. Once you are happy with the layout, pop a blank card into the printer and it should take just a few seconds to make a finished ID card. It’s a very simple and quick process and highly cost-effective because everything is digital.
Poly-composite cards have a polyester centre covered in two layers of PVC. These types of cards are used in situations where high-usage is a factor because they are stronger and easier to laminate.
Very simply, a case used to protect a printer if it is used in portable card printing.
A printer driver is a piece of software that you install that allows the printer to ‘talk’ to the computer. The driver will convert the data that you want transferring onto a card into a language that the printer can understand.
A printer module is an upgrade that you can install on your printer to make it perform more functions. These include dual-sided printing, lamination capabilities and smart card encoding amongst others.
The print head is the part of the printer that transfers the image onto the blank ID card. It is essential that the print head is kept clear of dust and debris or it will affect the print quality, so regular cleaning is a must. How often you carry out a thorough print head clean will depend on the make and model of your printer. Refer to the manual for details.
Pro Capture Kit
A Pro Capture kit gives you the very best photograph results. When it is used in conjunction with Imagebase it gives the operator the chance to see what they are photographing and to control the elements that will make it clearer, sharper and more defined. Once the photo is taken it is automatically formatted to the configuration that will be used on the card. The camera can also be disconnected from the system and used as a standalone camera and the tripod that comes with the kit for added stability is also fully portable.
A proximity card is also known as an access control card or a contactless card, because they do not require the card to be swiped for it to work. They contain a small embedded antenna coil which communicates with an external antenna. These are commonly used for barrier entry or access to a building or room, or for making contactless payments.
Older systems are also known as 125kHz, and newer devices are known as 13.56kHz. Proximity cards come pre-programmed from the manufacturers as it is not possible to code them yourself. This does not stop you from printing whatever you wish on the card surfaces using a retransfer printer, however. Our proximity card guide has much more info on this topic and runs through the different brands and types of card.
Proximity Card Encoder
A proximity card encoder is used to install the data that the card needs to have in order to make it work with a proximity card reader. Proximity cards cannot be programmed with new data at a later date, so the encoding is done by the card manufacturer first.
Proximity Card System
Proximity cards contain a tiny antenna that transmits a signal to the transmitter in the card reader. When the card is held near the receiver, the two antennae ‘talk’ to each other and the card works without the need to be swiped. This system works remarkably well for access use in places as diverse as office blocks, school buildings, government halls and even car parks.
Polyvinyl chloride is the most common material used in the manufacturing of blank ID cards. They are hard-wearing, fully customisable and inexpensive. They are the ideal material to use for ID cards, loyalty cards and membership cards, although more sustainably made ID cards featuring recycled material and plastic alternatives are becoming increasingly common.
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Recycled cards use elements that reuse single-use plastics as an alternative to PET plastic. As a result, they are made up of 50% recycled material. They offer the same quality as regular PVC cards for around the same price and are an increasingly popular choice for those wanting to cut down on the single-use plastics in their ID issuance systems.
Recycled plastic from sources such as bottles and food containers are used to make personalised lanyards. They come in lots of different colours and patterns, are environmentally friendly and are resistant to wear and tear.
Resin Thermal Transfer Printing
Resin thermal transfer printing is a similar method of printing to dye sublimation. Both use a thermal print head to transfer colour onto the ID card, but whereas dye sublimation turns the colour into a gas before application, resin colour is applied in liquid drops. Once the drops make contact with the ID card they fuse together.
Resin transfer makes for an extremely durable image but the image will only be made up of two colours. This is great if you only want a single-coloured card or are printing bar codes and text; it’s fast and simple and cost-effective too.
Retransfer is also known as reverse transfer, and is when an image is applied onto a thin film, which in turn is adhered to the card. This form of ID card printing is possible using retransfer printers. Benefits include longer lasting ID cards, high-definition imagery and the ability to print onto proximity cards and smart technology cards.
Rewritable ID Cards
Rewritable cards are cards that can be reused multiple times. They are perfect for those looking for short-term identity such as visitor and contractor passes. The data that is stored on them can be wiped and reused innumerable times.
Used in conjunction with rewritable ID cards, they specialise in reprinting, erasing and encoding the cards so that they can be used time and time again. They are an eco-friendly product as they can make a rewritable card useful for hundreds of uses. A popular rewritable ID card printer is the Evolis Tattoo RW.
Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID for short, is a technology that has been used in access control cards for decades.
Also known as proximity cards, they contain a small transmitter than ‘talks’ to the reader using radio waves which also has a transmitter built in to it.
They are more hard-wearing than a magnetic stripe card because they do not require the card to be swiped for it to work. You simply just hover the card near the reader instead. They require no internal power source which makes them incredibly cost-efficient and convenient.
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ID card scanners capture and store images from a card. They can read barcodes and magnetic stripes as well as information from cards such as bus passes, drivers’ licenses and photo IDs.
Scratch-off ribbons are a special type of printer ribbon that provide a scratch-off panel on printed cards. The information underneath the scratch-off panel is first printed using a standard YMCKO or monochrome ribbon.
The scratch-off ribbon element is then added to the appropriate place on the card by sending the card through the printer again. Scratch-off ribbon kits are available for Datacard, Evolis, IDP Smart and Magicard printers.
Security cards can ensure the safety of everyone within a building and it also regulates control of access effectively. They are easy to produce with an ID card printer and can be as simple as a photo and a name, or as complex as having inbuilt security technology including smart chips, proximity capabilities and holographic watermarks.
Signature Capture Pad
This is used to capture a digital signature. The signature can then be uploaded to a database for safe-keeping and added to an ID card as an extra preventative measure against forgeries.
Signature Panel Ribbon
This is a panel on the card where you would sign your name. This is an added security measure and is most often seen on the back of credit and debit cards. To apply a signature strip, the card must first be printed using a standard YMCKO or monochrome ribbon method. Those ribbons are then replaced by a signature panel ribbon and the card is fed through the printer a second time so that the signature strip can be printed onto the appropriate point.
A single-sided printer is a machine that can only print on one side of a card per print run. They can actually print both sides of an ID card but they have to be manually turned over and run through the machine again once the first side has been printed. Single-sided printers still perform a wide variety of functions though, and depending on the type of printer you can produce black and white printing, full colour printing, laminating, coding and watermarking.
This is a tool used to cut a out a small hole in the top of the ID card. This is so it can be attached to a keyring, lanyard, badge holders and badge reels.
Smart cards have inbuilt smart chips ready to be loaded with ID data. The cards are used in conjunction with a reader, allowing the card to regulate access to things like building access and computer program access. They may be proximity based (contactless), or have a magnetic stripe (swiped).
Digital ID offers a range of printer and software technical support, ranging from our comprehensive online technical support section to our dedicated range of packages available for those that have purchased items with us. Even if you aren’t a previous customer, we can help. Find out more in our technical support hub.
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Thermal Transfer Monochrome Printing
This is a resin-based form of applying monochrome colours to an ID card. The thermal printhead heats up the resin on the print ribbon, which then disperses the colour in droplet form onto the ID card. This makes for an incredibly durable colour that does not fade or scratch easily. They are also very economical, often producing thousands of cards from a single monochrome ribbon. They are particularly effective at printing barcodes and text as the image is extremely sharp and contains the carbon that some scanners need to read a barcode.
Scratch-off resin magnetic stripes are often seen on products such as gift cards and on letters from banks and mobile phone providers containing pin codes.
Time and Attendance Systems
These provide an accurate way of showing where an employee or visitor is and what they have been doing. They can show what time they clocked in and out, and also what they have been accessing on the computer system. It can also keep a record of accrued hours and sick days so that any issue with pay can be resolved quickly.
A tripod is a stand for your digital ID card camera. It offers stability to take a good picture and ensures that all the photos are uniform throughout the building.
This is a high quality ribbon used in Zebra-branded printers. True Colours ribbons provide the most realistic colours imaginable, delivering true flesh tones and sharp monochrome elements. They also provide an overlay to the printed card which helps to fight scratches and scuffs and it also helps the ink from spreading too. The True Colours ribbons use a silicon-based coating which is inder to the printhead and gives your printer a longer life.
True Colours Monochrome resin ribbons take care of the monochrome aspects such as text overlay and barcodes and are available in black, red, green, blue, gold, silver, white and scratch-off grey.
Zebra True Colours Multi-Panel ribbons use dye sublimation and the most up-to-date dyes to produce stunning quality prints and can even be purchased with an inbuilt code system to ensure that the printer cannot be used unless they have the proper authorisation
TWAIN is a non-profit organisation set up in the early 1990’s by the imaging industry to hold image-taking and manipulating software and equipment to an agreed standard. The TWAIN guidelines are followed by all the major manufacturers of scanners, cameras and image software.
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Fargo are one of the biggest manufacturers of ID card equipment and use two different types of blank card in their printers; the Ultracard T and the Ultracard III.
The Ultracard T have a clear, glossy PVC laminate finish on both sides. They are moderately robust and are checked for faults before they leave the factory. Ultracard III cards offer the best durability and overall finish. They incorporate a polyester core into the card to make it extremely robust. It also stops the card from warping when it is being laminated. Both cards are regarded as ‘graphic-quality.’
Universal serial bus – used to transfer data from one source, such as an ID camera, to the ID card printer. They transfer the data easily and quickly with no loss of quality.
These are replaceable ink ribbons that contain three panels; Ultra Violet (UV), Black (K) and Overlay (O). The UV element prints text and images that is only viewable with a UV light source, while the black the monochrome elements. The overlay provides a clear layer to protect the images and text.
Ultraviolet printing offers a hidden security element to the card. Some ID card printers have the ability to be fitted with a UV ribbon, which prints images in text in seemingly invisible ink. This can only be seen on the card if a UV light such as a black light is shone onto it.
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There are two ways to represent an image on screen; raster graphics and vector graphics. Raster graphics formulate images as a collection of dots or pixels. Vector graphics will deconstruct the image into a series of simple geometric shapes instead, such as lines and curves. You will see a combination of both when printing out an ID card; raster graphics will be used on the screen that you use to view a mock-up of the finished product, and vector graphics are used on the printhead of the printer itself.
This is a security feature from Fargo and it uses a hot stamp to brand the company logo onto your card in silver foil. This helps to eliminate counterfeiting.
Visitor ID Badge
These can take the form of sticky-back labels and rewritable cards for a temporary solution, or details printed on adhesive-backed cards with barcodes for a more permanent solution. They are an excellent security measure as they can help to quickly identify visitors to the building.
Visitor Management Software
This is a great way of keeping track of all the visitors that attend your building. It can store details about a person, what purpose they are visiting for, when they entered the building, where they go and when they leave. The database is also easy to access if any information needs to be recalled at a later date.
VSE stands for Visual Secure Elements and is a copyright linked to laminate overlays produced by the Fargo company. The High Secure ID cards that Fargo produce can have up to 8 different security features embedded into the laminate;
- Hidden text – can only be read by a laser
- Nano text – can only be read under high magnification
- Micro text – needs to be read under magnification
- Morphing images – different images that appear one after the other
- Flip images – the image changes to its mirror image as the card as the card flips
- Fine Lines – move when the card is moved
- Ribbon – the ribbons seem to flow when the card is tilted
- Pseudo colour – a hologram that changes colours depending on which way you tilt the card
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Watermarks and holograms are security devices that can be added to an ID card to make them less prone to being cloned. Watermarks are usually holographic, which means that the colour or the image changes when the card is tilted. This can be done during the printing process or they can be added on later by hand.
Wax ribbons print better on cards that are not made of a standard PVC material. They can print onto ABS, paper and cards with a special varnish on them which a standard ribbon cannot do well.
A well-known acronym for What You See Is What You Get. In respect to card printers, WYSIWYG refers to a mock up of what the finished product will look like once it has been through the printing process.
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YMC stands for Yellow, Magenta, and Cyan – three of the main colours that go into making a printer ribbon. Our dedicated printer ribbon guide has more information on the abbreviations and variations you see below.
Combining YMC will create a black colour but it will be more to the grey side. This is why black has its own separate panel and is referred to as K.
This acronym stands for Yellow, Magenta, Cyan, Fluorescent, Black, Overlay, Black. The fluorescent panel will print seemingly invisible images and texts onto the card and will only be revealed when exposed to a UV source such as a blacklight.
This is the acronym for Yellow, Magenta, Cyan, and dual-black ink panels. These are produced to make cards that are colour on one side and black monochrome on the reverse. The YCM component handles all the colour while the KK prints all the text and barcodes.
In addition to the Yellow, Magenta, Cyan and Black panels, some printers also have an Inhibitor. This stops the card being printed on where a signature panel needs to go.
This stands for the colours in this particular printer ribbon; Yellow, Magenta, Cyan, Black and Overlay. The overlay panel forms a clear protective layer over the card. It can make any colour other than metallic silver and gold.
In addition to the Yellow, Magenta, Cyan and Black colour blocks, this ribbon also has a Topcoat block. The topcoat is an additional layer designed to help in the fight against wear and tear but it is very thin and does not last very long if the card is used a lot.
This acronym stands for Yellow, Magenta, Cyan, two Black Panels and an Overlay panel too. These ribbons are designed for cards that are monochrome on one side and full colour on the other.
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Zebra is a printer manufacturer that produces pretty much any type that your office may need: thermal barcode labellers, card printers, label printers and encoders. The vast majority of fortune 500 companies use Zebra products, which shows just how valuable they are to a workplace. Zebra card printers were formerly known as Eltron card printers.