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ID Card Security

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ID Card Security


There are many ways your ID card printer can help ensure plastic or technology card authenticity and to reduce the chances of successful fraudulent reproduction of your plastic cards. Although no single type of technology offers 100% security, you can now use a variety of security measures together to help enhance their effectiveness: Holography, Etching, MicroText, Photographic Perforation, UV Ink, Ghost Images, Watermarking, etc.

This page will briefly explain some of the current technology available to ensure that ID cards and documents are valid.


Clear Overlamination

FargoEltronMagicardDatacard and Nisca manufacture printers/laminators that are capable of applying clear card overlamination. Although clear lamination was really developed to help enhance card durability - both physical and UV protection - it does slightly enhance card security by placing a barrier against card alteration. As you will read below, there are a number of derivatives that include holography for additional security. Lamination in this industry is typically made of clear polyester film and is generally applied as a patch (near edge) over the top of the plastic card using heat and pressure. Several emerging technologies are becoming available that will extend the laminate material to the edge of the card. Lamination material is a secure, tamper-resistant overlaminate available in thicknesses that generally range from .6 mil to 1.0 mil thicknesses. Clear overlaminates provide vastly superior card durability than to.

Holographic Overlaminate

All printer manufacturers that provide overlamination capability also provide holographic versions of their overlaminate material. These vary slightly, but in general employ a holographic image which is imbedded on the surface of the overlaminate to help reduce the possibility of successful card reproduction. On higher level standard and custom holographic overlaminates, one may have the option of implementing micro text printing within the holographic image to enhance fraud protection. If a generic hologram does not offer the type of unique security you are looking to implement, please call us to discuss the development of a custom holographic solution.

Thermal Transfer Overlaminate

Fargo, Eltron and Magicard offer a somewhat less robust method of protecting the card called Thermal Transfer Overlaminate - or thin film. This is available in both clear and holographic. Thin film is a medium security, medium durability overlaminate that measures approximately .25 mil thickness. This lamination material is ideal for applications requiring tamper-resistant cards with a moderate life span.

SmartShield - By Fargo Electronics

SmartShield allows you to automatically print a custom transparent security image -- a logo, symbol or text -- directly onto your cards. Once printed, this image appears only when the card is viewed under ultraviolet (black) lighting or when viewed at an angle under normal lighting. This image enhances the uniqueness of every card you produce and may help you detect counterfeited cards.

With SmartShield, you can use existing logos or create new one-of-a-kind images using any standard graphics program. Then you simply save it to your proprietary SmartGuard access card. Once saved, the image will be automatically printed onto every card you produce. SmartShield images can be changed and resaved onto your access card as often as necessary, but only by those who know your password. SmartShield is available on several Fargo card printer models including DTC515, DTC525 and ProLX.

ID Security Badges

Holokote - By Ultra Magicard

Similar to the Fargo SmartShield solution, Magicard uses the clear overlay panel on a YMCKO or YMCKOK ribbon to produce a type of security watermark on printed plastic cards. This feature is called Holokote. Printers equipped with the unique HoloKote, key-controlled anti counterfeiting card protection feature come with a built-in UltraSecure logo, or can use other optional customer logos stored on a Holokote Custom key.

The technology that Magicard employs produces a type of overlay 'frost' that is visible under normal light conditions, but cannot be enhanced using UV lighting. The Holokote solution enhances the uniqueness of every card you produce and may help you to detect counterfeited cards. This feature is available on several Magicard card printer models including the Rio, Rio Grande, Tango and Alto.

UV Inking

UV Inking is one method of adding something unique to a plastic card. UV inking has been widely used and accepted by the Federal Government, State Drivers License programs and many in the financial world. In fact, if you look at your Visa or American Express cards under a UV lamp, you will likely see some type of security lettering on the card in UV Ink. Several card printer manufacturers can special order cards with unique UV Inking.

Micro Text

As the name suggests, this security process involves printing very small text in a specific location on a card surface. Due to physical limitations in the resolution of thermally printed images, it is difficult to print true micro text using thermal printers. Micro text is therefore generally pre-printed, prior to dye-sublimation printing, using a type of offset press. Micro text can also be found on higher end holographic security overlaminates. Due to the difficulty of reproducing micro text in its original form, the United States government considers the printing of micro text a valuable security precaution: examples of micro text printing appear on both U.S. passports and newer, higher denomination U.S. currency.

Ghost Images

Ghost Images are a basic level of card security. Essentially, a ghost image is a smaller version of the original photo image on an ID Card and is generally printed semi-translucent. These ghost images are made possible by using a software that will allow for the ghost image to be added to the plastic card during the printing process. The benefit of this type of card security is that it does not generally add to the cost of your printed card.

Etching or Photographic Perforation

Two other techniques for creating duplicate or "ghost" images on ID cards are etching and perforation. Scratching lines ("etching") into the surface of a card can create reproductions of images, logos, and designs that are nomally made during the thermal transfer printing process. Punching tiny holes into ("perforating") the cards' surface does the same thing. Both techniques are performed on a very fine scale and require specially made, precision-crafted equipment for their effects to be realized.

Not sure how to choose
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  1. Approximately how many cards will you
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  1. Do you need to automatically print on
    both sides of the card?
  1. Do you need a magnetic stripe?

The Complete Card
Printer Buyer's Guide

With such a wide range of ID printers, evaluating the options can be overwhelming. This FREE 7-step guide will walk you through choosing the perfect card printer.


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