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Technology Comparisons

Technology Comparisons

Technology Comparisons

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Technology Comparisons

Plastic ID Cards

Technology Comparisons

With such a wide variety of encoding and visual security options available, it can be difficult to determine which card printer features are right for your needs. Common ID card printer features for security include:


  • BAR CODES - Traditionally used for Time & Attendance functionality where high security is not a key issue. Generally quite easy to copy and therefore not secure. Low cost option.
    Options: Printed onto PVC
    Active or Passive Security: Passive
    Security: Low

  • MAGNETIC STRIPES - Widespread use throughout the access control industry. The coded information is stored onto a magnetic stripe, similar to the material used in audio tape manufacture. Consequently the data can be unobtrusively read and copied to another card in the same way as "tape to tape" copies. Cards are therefore not fully secure against persons equipped with appropriate copying equipment. Nonetheless, a good access control technology for medium scale security applications. Cheaper cost technology than those below.
    Options: PVC, Polyester, with Photo ID, barcode
    Security: Medium

  • WEIGAND - Strands of specially treated wire are embedded into the card and are not visible on the surface. The cards are not easy to copy; however, with access to the appropriate special wire copy cards can be made. Usually this requires the destruction of the original and is therefore not common. Special card manufacture is involved due to the embedding process and therefore Wiegand is a more expensive technology.
    Options: PVC or Polyester with Photo ID, magstripe and barcode
    Security: Medium/High

  • WATERMARK MAGNETICS - Similar to the standard magnetic stripe, Watermark cards have two additional features a) mag tape is encoded twice, once with ID number and once with a watermark polarisation and b) manufactured / issued by Thorn Secure Science only and every tape is unique. Watermark cards are therefore one of, if not the most secure card technology currently available – and are less expensive than Wiegand cards. Heavily used by military and government departments.
    Security: High

  • PROXIMITY - A magnetic signal is induced into a coil embedded into the card and this transmits the encoded card number back to the reader to be read and authorised, as appropriate. Primarily used for hands free operation where user is not required to present a token to a specific reader. Read range is a significant issue when considering this technology as it is subject to installed surroundings and varies from position to position. Guaranteed reads are an issue when more than one person is passing a reader at the same time. Range limitations exist when using passive cards - this is important when considering cards of ISO thickness which are suitable for dye sublimation printing of photo ID images. Longer range cards are generally too thick to pass through the card printer. Again, manufacturing processes make this a more expensive card type.
    Security: High

Not sure how to choose
an ID card printer?

  1. Approximately how many cards
    will you print per year?
  1. Do you need to automatically
    print on both sides of the card?
  1. Do you need a magnetic stripe?
Buyer's Guide to ID Card Printers

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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