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Buyers Guide

Double Sided or Single Sided?Double Sided or Single Sided?

A double sided (or ‘duplex’) printer simply has the option to physically turn the card over to print the reverse side. 

The most common myth when choosing a printer is that you need a double-sided printer to print on both sides of the card. In fact, you can print on both sides of the cards with single sided printers too. If your custom cards are designed so that one side is unique and the other side is standardised across your whole print run, you can save money by purchasing a single sided printer. 

Double sided printers are required when both sides of the card contain variable data. Some newer single sided printers have a flipper built in already, it just needs activating to be able to produce double sided cards.

How Long Does It Take to Print?How Long Does It Take to Print?

Each printer has different print speeds which are noted in the printer specifications. However, the two common variables that will affect the speed of the printing are:

Hopper Fed printers - Manual feed printers are time consuming as you need to change the cards by hand. These budget printers are great for printing periodically, for example printing membership cards or store cards for customers in person. However, in most instances, you will be looking for a quick method to print many cards, in which case a hopper fed printer will be most efficient.

Typically, a hopper fed printer will print a card in less than 30 seconds. If you need to print faster than this, then please ask for advice on suitable models. Due to the thermal printing technology used in card printers, faster printing can result in a lower quality output.

Batch printing - as mentioned above, your cards may be designed so that one side is standardised across the whole set. If this is the case, save yourself time by batch printing this side.

Which Cards Do You Need?Which Cards Do You Need?

The most common cards for printing are CR80 760 micron (30 mil) blank PVC cards: these are standard credit card size and thickness and allow for double sided printing. We recommend either our own Premium blank white cards or Fotodek PVC Premium Gloss Blank Cards: these are the best quality for photo and detail reproduction.

Most cards we sell allow for double-sided printing, except for self-adhesive and ultrathin cards. However, PVC cards are the most common.

Some re-transfer printers work better with composite cards. If you have an access control system you may need ‘Smart’ cards. Ask for more details.

How Long Does It Take to Print?Running costs

These vary hugely. If you are looking to print a couple of hundred staff ID cards a year or less, it isn't so important, as typically the ID printers are cheaper to buy in the first place.

Costs vary typically from 12p per card to 34p per card for a single sided full colour print, plus the cost of the blank card (premium white cards cost 6p each or less). Monochrome (single colour) printing is as cheap as 1p per print.

You can work out the print cost for each printer yourself, simply by dividing the cost of the ribbon by the number of prints it provides


Unless specified otherwise, all printers can be connected via a USB cable to your computer. All printers run on Windows but check each unit for compatibility in the product description. If you wish to use a card printer with Mac OSX, please be aware that even if the machine is listed as compatible, not all functionality is available from the driver due to Apple software restrictions.

If you require network connectivity, look out for machines advertised with an Ethernet (LAN) port. 

Direct to Card (DTC) or Re-transfer Printer?Direct to Card (DTC) or Re-transfer Printer?

Direct to card printers are the most common as they are cheaper to buy and use. They do leave a very slight border around at least one of the edges of the card, but they are suitable for 9 out of 10 buyers.

It should be noted that a re-transfer printer handles block colour much better, especially darker colour. Print quality appears much higher with re-transfer printers, though it is the deeper colours and glossy finish which gives this illusion.

Cleaning KitsCleaning Kits

It is recommended that you use a cleaning kit after each ribbon has run out. Using cleaning kits can avoid common issues such as broken ribbons, or imperfections such as streaks, smears and smudges appearing on the cards. If you buy a new printer and don’t clean it, you risk invalidating the manufacturer’s warranty.


We supply easy to use card design software (for MS Windows) with every starter pack. If you are looking for Mac compatibility, custom software or integration with your own software, please contact our technical support team for advice.

Printers for Technology CardsPrinters for Technology Cards

Some printers have encoding capabilities, for example magnetic strips, smart access cards, chip cards (including contactless) and more. These cards are primarily used for storing information, such as access control for buildings, fingerprints and biometrics for security or for payment cards and cashless vending. The applications for this card technology are limitless. We have an experienced technical support team that can help answer your encoding questions.

Can I Add Encoding Capabilities to My Printer later?Can I Add Encoding Capabilities to My Printer later?

Some printers, such as the Evolis Primacy, are designed to be field upgradeable, so these can have Mifare, mag encoding, or dual sided modules added later. However, most printers can only be upgraded by an authorised service centre (like us).

We recommend planning and purchasing for any future requirements you may have, as this will be more time and cost-effective. In any case, we will take into consideration your needs and advise on what type of printer will be most suitable.

New or Refurbished?New or Refurbished?

Simply put, our refurbished printers are ones that have been used, and then reconditioned, serviced and cleaned by our specialist technicians. The biggest advantage of buying refurbished rather than new is the price. Our refurbished goods offer substantial discounts on buying new and we always include a warranty.

Refurbished printers are perfect if your usage requirements don't justify the cost of a new printer, or you simply want a more superior model for the same price as an entry level machine.

Our stock often looks brand new, having printed less than 100 cards. Some even have 1 or more years manufacturer's warranty remaining. If you intend to print thousands of cards a year, this might be a good option. Alternatively, we offer an annual maintenance contract which takes the worry out of buying a pre-owned printer.

Buying one of our refurbished printers is very eco-friendly. As the printers are recycled products, they don’t get dumped into landfill sites so help reduce environmental damage.

QualityYou have a 180-Day Return to Base Warranty period, so if you have any faults within this time, we can repair or replace your item, for free.

You also have the option to upgrade your device with an extended warranty, should you feel the need to add this to your item, which gives you peace of mind, in case there was a fault to occur after the first 180 days.

While buying such an expensive and technical machine second hand may seem daunting, we take the risk out of buying a used ID card printer.

Our refurbished printers are in great condition and have been professionally cleaned, serviced and calibrated to ensure performance as good as the day the machine left the factory. Any worn or damaged parts are always replaced.

Choosing the Right Printer

We asked our industry certified printer engineers, to recommend some models which they know to be the most reliable, easy to use and maintain, with best-in-class print quality. If you have specific requirements or intend to print high quantities of cards, please get in touch with our team so we can help you.

When you buy a plastic card printer from Infocus ID, peace of mind comes as standard. View our Card Printer Support options.

What Next?

Now you’ve had a read through our guide, it’s decision time! Here are your options:

  1. If you’d like to start comparing specific models, head to our comprehensive online ID

    card printer comparison tool here: ID Card Printers
  2. Speak to one of our friendly printer experts, who are happy to take your call and discuss

    your needs. With no pressure to buy, they’ll run through the checklist with you and help

    you pick out the best machine for you and even try to help you save some money along the way.

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