ID card printers are an electronic special type of printer specifically designed to print on plastic cards. . Card dimensions are usually 85.60 × 53.98 mm, standardized under ISO/IEC 7810 as ID-1. This format is also used in EC-cards, telephone cards, credit cards, driver’s licenses and health insurance cards. A desktop card printer has a single card feeders which print and personalize plastic cards. In this respect they differ from label printers which have a continuous supply feed.
Card printers are guided or controlled by corresponding printer drivers or by means of a specific programming language. Generally card printers are designed with different functions like laminating, striping, and punching functions, and use desktop or web-based software. The hardware features of a card printer differentiate a card printer from the more traditional printers, as ID cards are usually and commonly made of PVC plastic and require laminating and punching. Different card printers can accept different card thickness, sizes and dimensions.
The principle is practically the same for all card printers: the plastic card is passed through a thermal print head at the same time as a color ribbon. The color from the ribbon or the consumable is transferred onto the card through the heat given out from the print head. The standard performance for all card printing is 300 dpi or 300 dots per inch that is equivalent to 11.8 dots per mm. There are different printing processes, which vary in their detail, the two printing processes use in ID printing are direct to card printing and retransfer printing.