Overlay varnishes provide card protection, but have a much shorter life span than laminate material - and offer very little security (with the exception of some hologram varnishes). Varnishes are not a solid covering and have multiple tiny holes in the surface, which allows the dyes to be drawn away from the card. This will cause the image on the card to blur and fade due to UV light, shift in colour, or just wear away. The life expectancy of a plain plastic card is up to 2 years.
Laminate material offer better protection than plain varnish, for both security and life expectancy. Laminate material is a polyester protective material that is applied to the surface of the card after printing. Laminates are available either 0.6 or 1.0 mil thick and are applied via a hot roll laminating station. The life expectancy of a plastic card with a laminate material is up to seven years.
Digital Card Printing Advantages
The image quality of digitally printed plastic cards produced with is far superior to those produced through the traditional method described above. Not only are digitized photo images sharper, but also they can be edited for color quality. Moreover, positioning of graphical elements on the card is more consistent, and text is both clearer and more readable.
Plastic card printers can print text, line art, and photographic images. They can also encode magnetic stripes and provide smart card chip programming contact stations, all in a single step process. Card design software provides users the flexibility to change designs, store and access multiple designs, create variable text fields, and implement database programs to store images and track information.
Plastic card printers can also apply various protective materials, such as hologram overlays and laminates, to make cards resistant to tampering and alteration. This helps make cards more secure because they cannot be easily reproduced or counterfeited. These protective materials also help to increase card life.
Card protection materials such as overlay varnishes and laminates provide various levels of card durability by making the cards resistant to abrasion, UV light exposure, water damage, and exposure to liquid chemicals.
In-house printing of plastic cards using a Zebra card printer is far more cost and time-efficient than the traditional photographic cut/paste/laminate method. A plastic card printer is also more economical than using a lithographic printer or service bureau. Outside suppliers must mark up card production costs significantly in order to cover overhead and servicing costs, making them cost-effective only for large volume applications.
Printing your own plastic cards gives you the convenience of being able to produce cards on demand, when and where you need them. Having your own card printer capability also makes it easy to make changes to card content or design quickly.