The highest quality printing available is offset printing, however this technology can only be used where the PVC plastic cards are being manufactured. It is only appropriate for large runs of cards, where all data is available in advance, and not for on-demand card printing.
On-demand card printing involves printing and personalizing individual cards one-by-one. There are two main printing technologies available for this:
- DTC (Direct-to-Card): panels of color ink are applied directly to the card surface
- Thermal Retransfer: panels of color ink are heat-sealed to a clear film, which is then bonded to the surface of the card
DTC is significantly less expensive, but has several disadvantages. The color rendering is not as sharp, and DTC does not offer true edge-to-edge printing – there is always a thin white band at the edge of the card.
Thermal retransfer provides a higher quality of print definition, with more sharp, brilliant colors. It is also more appropriate for cards whose surface is not smooth (like Prox or RFID cards). And true over-the-edge printing is obtained for full ID card backgrounds.
InstantCard uses exclusively thermal re-transfer printing for all its card production.