Category Archives: Magicard Printer

Retransfer vs. Direct-to-Card Printers

Retransfer vs. direct-to-card printers: when considering how you want to produce your highest-grade, professional ID-cards, you must decide between the two. The announcement of Evolis’s Avansia retransfer printer in 2015 raised a key question among many clients: What is the difference between a retransfer printer and a direct-to-card printer?

The short answer? It’s all about how the printer applies your card design to the ID-card. One method first applies the card image to a thin film, and then transfers the complete image onto the card in one pass; the other prints directly onto the surface of the card (I know! I was surprised too! 🙂 ).

Below, we’ve broken this down into 4 sub-questions to compare the two. And we briefly discuss the inner workings of retransfer vs. direct-to-card printers. If you’re more interested in the differences than the inner-workings, feel free to skip the next section.

Retransfer vs. Direct-to-Card Printers: the Methods

Process Retransfer vs. Direct-to-Card Printers

Retransfer print process image courtesy of Magicard.

With retransfer printers, your card design (images and text) are first printed onto a clear “transfer film”. This is accomplished through a series of passes, one for each color being applied or created. The full, finished card-image is then thermally fused to the card’s surface. The transfer film helps protect the printed card details from abrasion and color fading, due to UV-light sources.

On the other hand, direct-to-card printers place the images and text directly onto the card. With this method, the card and print-ribbon pass over the stationary print-head, sequentially applying yellow, magenta, cyan and black ink (YMCK) to create virtually any color. After applying the color inks, the printer then applies a clear varnish across the full surface of the card, so as to protect the printed image.

What are the differences in results?

By laying the film over the card, a retransfer printer is capable of “over-the-edge” printing that maximizes the card’s surface area. Because the transfer film and applied image can be slightly longer and wider than the card itself, there is no visible margin. If you want a background image that covers the entire card, this is how best to achieve that result. The transfer film also acts as a protective barrier that renders the image slightly more durable.

A direct-to-card printer leaves a very thin border around the edges (only 1mm or so). This “near-to-edge” printing suffices if the card color itself serves as the background color for your ID design, or if full-card coverage is otherwise not required.

HID Global, maker of the Fargo HDP5000, HDPii, HDP5600 & HDP8500 retansfer printers states that retransfer printers create sharper, glossier images (a result of the gloss finish of retransfer films) while the clear varnish overlay applied by direct-to-card printers results in a matte finish. Importantly, the retransfer printing process is more forgiving of slight imperfections in a card’s surface. This is particularly beneficial if you print proximity access cards or smart-cards, as there is often a slight “dimple” on the card surface in-line with the internal electronic components. The retransfer method can also mask minor surface scratches, and even fingerprints.

Direct-to-card printers might not correctly render images over such surface items, resulting in imperfect color(s), or leaving small areas unprinted. Note that you can prevent some causes of these card-surface and print-quality issues by taking measures to protect your unused cards:

  • Handle cards only by their edges to prevent fingerprints from affecting printable surfaces.
  • Store unused cards in a closed container, and in a clean and dry location to avoid dust and surface damage.

What are the similarities?

Both print processes involve application of a full-card image, via thermal print-ribbons to the card surface – the retransfer printer just includes an additional step due to the use of retransfer film.

Both are designed to create durable cards. But all cards are subject to wear. To get the maximum life out of your cards, employ composite cards, add a lamination module to the printer (optional on certain printers), or wear finished cards within protective badge holders.

What materials do they require?

Both printer types require the use of color or monochrome print-ribbons. Retransfer printers additionally require clear retransfer film, on which the card design is first printed and then fused to the card. Typical ribbon designations for retransfer printers include YMCK & YMCKK.

Rather than using a retransfer film, direct-to-card printers use ribbons with an integrated varnish-overlay. This clear vanish overlay is applied as the last step in the print process, to protect the image from wear and fading in sunlight. Typical DTC ribbon designations are: KO, YMCKO, & YMCKOK.

The Bottom Line

Deciding between retransfer and direct-to-card printers really comes down to your use case. The retransfer printer helps you maximize your card’s surface, is more forgiving of imperfections, and is generally regarded as producing a better, glossier image. The direct-to-card printer removes the need for retransfer film and applies your design directly to the card, eliminating a step. Finally, retransfer printers and their supplies generally cost more than direct-to-card printers and their related supplies, so your budget will play a role in deciding which is right for your organization.

At the end of the day, which printer you need is always going to come down to your specific requirements. Hopefully this blog entry will help you think through that process.

Need more info?

Questions? Concerns? Not sure what printer is best for you? Call our ID-card experts toll-free at +1-888-485-4696 (US & Canada), or +1-704-535-5200 (elsewhere) for a free consulation. We are always glad to help!

The Value of High-Quality Printer Consumables

It is always important to buy high-quality consumables for your ID Card Printers from authorized dealers in order to get the best life and results from your machine. At Safe-Card ID Services, we are one such dealer, but there are lots out there; find a dealer you trust!

Less reputable dealers may offer cards and ribbons that are “compatible” with your printer, but are not certified. While you may find that they can offer these at a discount, it’s a cost-cutting measure you may pay for down the road. In the last couple of months we have seen a local company ruin multiple print-heads by using sub-standard cards. Not only was this an inconvenience that interrupted their card production, it was costly, as printer manufacturers’ printer warranties do not cover the print-head if it is damaged due to the use of poor-quality or non-genuine consumable items.

Flaws common to poor-quality cards include the presence of foreign objects (dirt, dust, hair, and plastic particles) irregular sizing and thickness, and jagged cut edges. In the best-case scenario, use of such cards will require more frequent printer cleaning–to remove those foreign objects from your printer. The worst-case scenario results in physical damage to the printer, and specifically the expensive print-head.

Problems you may see with poor-quality ribbons: they may not be compatible with RFID sensors, or printer firmware updates, leading to “no ribbon” or “unknown ribbon” errors, and preventing its use. Also, non-genuine ribbons often are made with sub-standard materials, leading to low-quality images, rendering of colors inconsistently, ribbons tearing and sticking to card surfaces, all of which can also cause damage to the print-head.

All printer manufacturers stipulate that the use of non-branded or low-quality materials can void printer and print-head warranties. While great online deals can be tempting, it is important to make sure that the materials are of high quality – both to preserve your device warranty, and to ensure the best possible output.

The bottom line: be sure to inspect materials before using them. A broken printer costs more to replace or repair than you could ever save with aftermarket or “gray-market” supplies. So find a trustworthy, authorized dealer for your printer consumables, and rest assured that your printer investment will be protected.

Updated Drivers Available from UltraMagicard

Magicard Rio ProUltraMagicard has updated their printer drivers. They are the first we’ve heard from to include updates for Windows 10. If you have a Magicard printer, we strongly recommend that you update your drivers and firmware to get peak performance out of your machine. As a reminder, we always encourage you to update your firmware at the same time that you update your driver–that way all of your printer’s support systems are up-to-date. If you have upgraded to Windows 10 or are considering doing so, this update is absolutely essential to ensure that your printer remains compatible with your computer’s operating system.

To update visit the UltraID printer support page here. Simply choose your printer, then choose “Drivers and Downloads” and download the most recent driver and firmware updates.

If you have any concerns, questions, or need assistance, please contact one of our experts at +1 704-535-5200–we would love help!

TrustID Software, New from UltraID

UltraID (parent company of Magicard) has released new badging software, TrustID.

The software features drag-and-drop design, is compatible with any plastic card printer, and allows you to capture images from any camera right in the program. It comes in 3 tiers, each of which is available for a 30-day trial. If you’re in the market for a new badging software, give it a whirl. And let us know what you think!

TrustID Classic TrustID Professional TrustID Pro Smart
Drag-and-Drop card builder Conditional elements & layers Smart card encoding
Pre-defined template Multi-card layout + Everything in the Professional Edition
Single card design Integrated reporting
1D and 2D barcodes with 60+ integrated barcode formats User account management
Integrated database editor Password protection
Add custom & composite database fields Unlimited Record Internal Database
Integrated image capture + Everything in the Classic Edition
Import CSV and text database files
Print to any plastic card printer
Label templates and printer support
Live preview
Double-sided printing
Batch printing
Maximum 200 Record Internal Database
Magnetic stripe encoding

As always, call our experts at +1-704-535-5200 with any questions about pricing information (or anything else!) or concerns!

Magicard Printer – How to Fit the Holokote Watermark on a Magicard Rio or Tango

Magicard ID card printers provide additional card printing security levels with the HoloKote watermark. This Magicard video illustrates how to fit the HoloKote watermark on Magicard ID card printers.

1. Ensure the printer is switched off.
2. Insert the HoloKote key.
3. Switch the printer back on. A steady green light indicates you can start printing.

For more information about Magicard printer models, contact our ID card experts at 888-485-4696.

Magicard Printer – Replacing the Printhead

Magicard printers can often be serviced by the user. Magicard has developed a number of videos to illustrate how to keep your printer in top running condition. The following video illustrates how to replace a printhead in a Magicard ID card printer.

1. Switch off the printer and unplug the power lead.
2. Open the printer and gently disconnect the cable connector from the printhead.
3. Using a screwdriver, unscrew the printhead fasterner.
4. Be carefuly not to touch the printing edge.
5. Unhook the printhead.
6. Hook the new printhead into position and secure it.
7. Gently push the connector into position.
8. Make sure a ribbon is in place. Clost the lid and switch the printer on.
9. A steady green light indicated you can start printing.

For more information about Magicard printer models, contact our ID card experts at 888-485-4696.

Magicard Printer – Replacing the Cleaning Roller

The following video from Magicard demonstrates begins at the process of replacing the cleaning roller in your Magicard ID card printer.

1. The printer comes with a cleaning roller which should be replaced when you change the print ribbon.
2. Remove the cleaning cassette.
3. Remove the used roller from the cassette.
4. Detach the protective cover from the new roller.
5. Place the new roller into the cassette.
6. Fit the cleaning cassette back into the printer.

For more information about Magicard printer models, contact our ID card experts at 888-485-4696.

Magicard Printer – How to Clean the Printhead

Magicard printers provide printed identification cards for both small organization and large card printing needs, such as a government issued ID card or financial cards from banks. The embedded video provided by Magicard begins at the point of the cleaning process that shows how to clean the printer’s printhead.

This process is important to keep the internal printing mechanisms free from dirt, dust and oils that may reduce the quality of the card output.

Steps for Printhead Cleaning

1. The printhead needs cleaning when traces of ribbon or lines are seen on the printed cards.
2. Take the cleaning pen.
3. Open the printer and pass the cleaning pen across the length of the printhead.

For additional information about Magicard printer models or id badge printers, contact our ID card experts at 888-485-4696.

Magicard HoloKote Video

This video from Magicard demonstrates the Magicard HoloKote tool available on Magicard ID card printers. The HoloKote tool provides a custom key for your HoloKote enabled card printer model.

The custom key is a memory card device. The key holds your custom HoloKote watermark logo and is also able to lock some models of the id card printers. The logos are in black and white. To create the HoloKote, you can upload your logo in any format and it will be converted into the correct image.