Breakthrough Inkjet Printers Transform Traditional Secure ID Card Personalization While Opening New Markets


By Jim Meier, Senior Director of Product Marketing, Card Printers, HID Global

Specialized inkjet technology is being adopted by ID and financial card personalization market segments across a wide range of applications in two key areas. The first is a new entry- and mid-level segment that seeks these inkjet printers’ simplicity, affordability, and ease of use. The second is for high-volume industrial applications looking for faster card throughput with higher resolution, flexible deployment modularity and lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). 

Part one in this two-part series examines the first adoption area, where inkjet technology advancements have put secure ID card personalization within reach for small- and medium-sized businesses and organizations that may not previously have been interested in a credential issuance solution. Numerous breakthroughs are enabling these organizations to embrace the benefits of secure ID card personalization. 

A New Kind of Inkjet

Smaller organizations have historically been reluctant to adopt secure card personalization for applications such as corporate and visitor badges, student and faculty IDs, or gift and loyalty cards. Their aversion largely derives from having to choose from either costly and complex ribbon-based direct-to-card (DTC) printers and their dye-sublimation technology, or inkjet printers that use adhesive, paper-based labels. Making the technology work with off-the-shelf polyvinyl chloride (PVC) cards required a new approach including specialized inks that naturally adhere to standard ID card stock.

The benefits of this new thermal inkjet approach are significant. Replacing print ribbons with snap-in ink cartridges not only simplifies use and maintenance but also eliminates wasting an entire set of ribbon panels for each ID card design since drop-on-demand (DOD) technology ejects drops from the printhead only when required. Choosing these inkjet printers and their specially formulated, inherently UV-stable inks also delivers higher-quality and more durable, fade-resistant images, text and barcodes than DTC-printed cards, even without expensive overlay protectants. 

What to Look For

The most important consideration for inkjet-based secure personalization solutions is they should accommodate most standard (PVC) card stock for single-side thermal inkjet card printing, which includes laminated PVC for credit card construction. For optimum utility, the printer should deliver high-quality, high-definition, true-edge-to-edge ID card printing, unlike standard DTC printers that often leave a white border around the edges.

Users will need 600 x 1200 dots per inch (DPI) inkjet resolution to print sharp, brilliant images plus crisply defined text and barcodes.  They should also make sure their unit can print barcode-readable composite black and/or on chip-embedded cards without voids or white areas, support complex characters like Kanji, Arabic and Cyrillic, as well as more elaborate designs. Image durability is also important to evaluate, which is achieved through a combination of ink formulation and heating technology for fast drying. 

When considering the cost of an inkjet card personalization solution, users should note that a single ink cartridge has the potential to produce hundreds more cards than is possible with print ribbons, depending on card design complexity. Final printer attributes to consider include ease of deployment and use, footprint size and convenience features like having input and output on the same side of the unit. Opting for contactless card encoding reader functionality also enables organizations to create cards that can be used for door entry, cashless vending, time and attendance, gift and loyalty program applications, and for financial cards that use QR codes.

Small- and medium-sized organizations have previously had limited options for personalized credential issuance but the advent of highly specialized thermal inkjet printers has created a new benchmark for affordability and ease-of-use. Part 2 in this series will look at how inkjet advancements are also transforming ID and financial card personalization in traditional, high-volume industrial applications.


Part 2 of this series will look at the technology’s adoption in the traditional industrial sector spanning government, financial, enterprise, service bureau, and other high-volume use applications.


Jim Meier is a Senior Director of Product Marketing with HID Global and manages the portfolio of desktop printer products. He has more than 25 years of experience working with printing technologies and has 20 patents related to these technologies.


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