Direct-to-Card or Retransfer: Which Card Printer Is Right for Your Application?

Take a top-level look at the card printer technologies that are widely available today: direct-to-card printers and retransfer printers.
By: Aptika inc.
MONTREAL - May 5, 2021 - PRLog -- When you're choosing a card printer for your business, three factors will always be top-of-mind: print quality, speed, and cost.

First, the Basics

Direct-to-card printer prints directly onto cards, most use a dye sublimation process that uses heat to transfer color from a ribbon onto the card stock, without using the transfer film that is used in retransfer printers.

Direct-to-card printers are a lower cost option and offers faster print speeds than retransfer printers. That is a combination that makes direct-to-card printers the first choice for many high-volume applications and situations where rapid output is a necessity.

Retransfer printers are slightly more complex; instead of printing directly onto the card stock, the image is first transferred to a clear retransfer film, which is then bonded to the card stock. Printing to a retransfer film provides several print-quality advantages, including sharper images, better color intensity and accuracy, and true "full bleed" coverage that lets you create cards that have true edge-to-edge images with no border.

Additional Considerations

Retransfer printers are well suited to printing on specialty card stocks, including more durable, non-PVC-based cards and those with uneven card surfaces, such as key tags or smart cards. While these surfaces can prove challenging or impossible for direct-to-card printers, they're no problem for retransfer printers.

The built-in quality, durability, and security advantage offered by retransfer printers may make you wonder why anyone would consider a direct-to-card printer, but the reality is that direct-to-card printing is often the best choice for many applications.

First, direct-to-card printers can deliver significantly faster output. Zebra's market-leading ZXP7 direct-to-card printer can produce as many as 225 double-sided full-color cards per hour. That's about 25 percent faster than you can produce the same cards with Zebra's ZXP9 retransfer printer.

Second, the image quality advantages of retransfer printers are undeniable, high-quality direct-to-card printers like those made by Zebra employ advanced printing technology that can achieve near-photo quality and border-free printing, which may be all that you require for your application.

Finally, a wide range of ribbon and thermal transfer options, plus a full lineup of overlays and laminates that can be used to enhance the durability and security of cards produced on direct-to-card printers.

Aptika ( offers Zebra's full lineup of innovative card printers, with options for every application and budget. Whether you need student ID cards, high-security key cards, membership cards, or any other application.

Martin Bourdages
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