How Does A Plastic Card Printer Work?

Perhaps you are a business owner and have seen how beautiful plastic customer loyalty cards or plastic membership cards can be. You became curious about getting a plastic card printer so you can print plastic cards for your own business and build loyal customers that way yourself.

The purpose of this article is to inform you about the basics of how a plastic card printer works. You will be better able to appreciate the value of plastic card printing for your business and will be better able to understand the way it may be useful for you. You will be able to do a faster and better ID card printer purchasing decision eventually as well.

We will discuss here the principle of operation of a dye-sublimation plastic card printer. But first, let us consider the workings of a regular ink-jet printer.

So how does a regular ink-jet printer work?

Your standard ink-jet color printer works on a principle of, well, color ink jets, which are squirts of liquid splattering on the paper that the print head is passing by. Fair enough. And it works great for paper. So when you think about it, paper begin a porous material, liquid jet will quickly be absorbed, dried and, voila, the print is done.

So how does the dye-sublimation plastic card printer work?

Ink-jet technology does not work so well for plastic because plastic is not porous, rather it is compact and a much harder material. So any jets of ink would perhaps dry out on the plastic, but would be easily erased from it as well. So a different approach is preferred. In this approach, the solid layer of color is first heated up by a microscopic heater. The dot of color evaporates (sublimates), lands on the plastic card, bonds with the plastic substrate (base), and cools down. This is called dye-sublimation process. Because of the heating needed, the process is slower than ink-jet printing yet still sufficiently fast.

Typically, the four color dye ribbons are used in printing, including Yellow, Magenta and Cyan, and Clear. Each of the colors takes up a separate sheet or panel on the printer ribbon, so each color is printed separately, one after the other. This is another reason for a slower printing process. After the first three primary colors are printed on the card, the Clear layer is imprinted on the card, preventing the color from bleeding or evaporating off, and blocking the harmful UV rays to cause discoloration, as well as preventing moisture to affect the colors.

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