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ID Card Printing Technology

The market for highly secure ID card printing and smart cards is growing. For agencies, two primary components are critical to the card: the electronic data encoded on the chip for identification, and the security of the physical card itself that helps protect this data. Furthermore, as the amount of data added to cards continues to grow along with their use, so too does the need for an elevated level of security.

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Toppan CP500 Card Printer

Pigment Ink Technology

ID Card PrintingBeyond card material, longevity and quality of imagery on the card significantly influence its security. Longevity is drastically affected by environment, especially light, and if not printed with inks that can deliver despite exposure to UV cards will need frequent replacement and increase overall costs. Ink selection is extremely important to protecting quality.

Two ink technologies are used in retransfer card printing: pigment ink and dye sublimation ink. Pigment inks are UV fade resistant and therefore will not diminish over the life of the card. This is not true for dye sublimation inks, which deteriorate when deployed for real-world applications. Pigment inks were once available only on high end large format systems, but this is no longer true.

Printers such as the GET CP500 use pigment inks. As a result of limited distribution, the supply chain is more secure than with other inks and therefore adds another layer of security in the process. As the inks are only purchased through a defined channel, so the supply chain is secured and helps protect against counterfeit production.

The chart below is a comparison of the longevity of pigment inks vs. dye sublimation. As is evident, there is little or no fading after 100 hours of direct sunlight, where the UV protection with dye sublimation inks in minimal, and the card becomes unreadable after a mere 100 hours.

Plasticiser is the material included in many card cases. These tend promote ink transfer from the card to the case with dye sublimation inks. This is not the case with pigment inks. The chart below shows an example of pigment ink and dye sublimation and their resistance to plasticizer.

ID Card Printing

High Security through Customizable Security Features

The basis of counterfeit-resistant printing depends on retransfer technology. Because retransfer is the only method that enables edge-to-edge printing, it enables cards with printing that cover the entire area of the card. Images over the whole card are more difficult to recreate with less secure printing methods such as direct to card. In addition to those security features enabled by retransfer printing, issuers of high-value cards need to implement more covert features comparable to those used by governmental agencies in order to deter counterfeiters and enable the prompt detection of counterfeit cards.

In this case, the design also can incorporate microtext readable only under magnification, two-dimensional barcodes invisible to the naked eye but machine-readable that can be read instantaneously using specialized devices that immediately detect counterfeits.