How do I Encode a Smart Card Using a Zebra Card Printer?

Article ID: 79194166




Procedures on how to test/encode using the smart card option in the printer


Applies To

    • All card printers equipped with a smart card encoder
    • UHF contactless, HF contactless, and contact smart card encoding
    • Encoding Mifare 1k, Mifare 4k, SLE4442, SLE4428, and other smart cards



  • A USB or Network printer driver needs to be installed
  • Internet-active PC to download the Smart Card testing tools from Zebra's website
  • User may need admin rights to download and install drivers or programs


Zebra Card printers offer a convenient framework in which smart card encoding can take place. The card printers can be equipped with a combination of different encoding modules to perform different types of smart card encoding. Generally, the encoding modules and contact stations are considered separate pieces of equipment that are responsible for the encoding process. The printers themselves merely position the card in the appropriate spot before the encoders take over. Smart card Encoding kits are available when shipped from factory, or as add-ons in the field, and are usually placed in three distinct categories: contact encoding, high frequency (13.56 MHz) RFID contactless encoding, and ultra high frequency (~900 MHz) RFID contactless encoding.

The methodology and tools available for encoding vary depending on which printer model you are using; however, Zebra does provide tools to test and develop smart card encoding solutions on all of its card printer lines.



Smart Card Verification Tool Read more>>

- For Performance or Value Class Printers (P330i/P430i and P100i/P110i/P120i)

The SC Verification Tool will allow you to determine what smart card options you currently have installed. It will only detect Zebra supported encoders, which include the following:

  • ThingMagic Mercury reader - For Contactless ultra high frequency (UHF) encoding
  • GemCore R1 - For contact encoding and high frequency contactless (HF) encoding


In addition to allowing you to determine what Zebra-supported encoder you have installed, the SC Verification Tool allows you to perform basic smart card reading and writing operations as a means of testing your equipment.

Testing Smart Card Using SC Tool for testing instructions. Read More>>


ZGT/PGT Utility Read more>>

-For ZXP Series 3

The ZGT/PGT (Zebra General Tool) is a printer utility / application used to verify and exercise various ZXP Series 3 SDK printer functions and features available in the SDK. This tool can also detect what smart card option is currently installed. Use this tool to perform basic encoder testing.

Testing Smart Card Using PGT for testing instructions. Read More>>


ZXP ToolBox

- For ZXP Series 7 and ZXP Series 8

The ZXP Toolbox integrated with the printer's driver allows a user to test the smart card encoding module. The ZXP Series Toolbox provides advanced configuration capabilities and tools to manage the operation of your printer. 

  • From Windows XP: Go to Start> Settings> Printers and Faxes. Right click on the ZXP Series 7 driver and select Properties> Device Information> ZXP Toolbox
  • From Windows 7: Go to the Windows Icon> Devices and Printers. Right click on the ZXP Series 7 driver and select Printer Properties> Device Information> ZXP Toolbox

Testing Smart Card Using Toolbox for testing instructions Read More>>

SDKs Read More>>

For application developers, Zebra's line of card printer SDKs supports contact, HF contactless, and UHF contactless smart card encoding. This allows developers to create programs utilizing their printers' encoding modules. 

It is worth noting that while the SDK provides a set of functions closely integrated with the given smart card encoder, the actual commands (data) sent to the encoder will vary since each smart card has a different selection of commands that it understands. Read More>>

It is up to the customer to get a detailed listing of commands from their smart card provider. Each SDK comes with a full sample application that demonstrates several successful implementations of encoding multiple types of smart cards.


Zebra CardStudio Read more>>

Another great tool made available is CardStudio. This piece of software allows you to design the complete printout of a card, giving you control over smart card encoding functionality as well.

Please see our article titled "How to Encode Mifare 4k Cards from CardStudio" for a smart card encoding example. Read More>>

Non-Supported Card Encoders

Users may choose to simply have a contact station installed within the printer, and then use an external third party encoder to direct the encoding process. The option is viable but is not supported by Zebra. If electing this option, connections to the smart card encoder are brought out to a DB9 connector on the rear of the printer, and this is where the external encoder attaches. The pin-outs of the DB9 connector are:

DB9 Pin Smart Card Contact
Pin 1 C1 (Vcc)
Pin 2 C2 (Reset)
Pin 3 C3 (Clock)
Pin 4 C4 (RFU)
Pin 5 C5 (Gnd)
Pin 6 C6 (Vpp)
Pin 7 C7 (I/O)
Pin 8 C8 (RFU)
Pin 9 Gnd When card is at the smart card contact station


If you have additional questions regarding Smart Card encoding, please contact Zebra Technical Support or your Zebra reseller.



+ Product Codes

  • P330i Card Printer
  • P430i Card Printer
  • Performance Class Card Printers
  • ZXP Series 3 Card Printers
  • ZXP Series 3 Professional Card Printers
  • ZXP Series 3 with Security Enclosures
  • ZXP Series 3C Card Printers (China Only)
  • ZXP Series 7 Card Printer
  • ZXP Series 7 High Performance Card Printers
  • ZXP Series 7 with Laminator
  • ZXP Series 8 Card Printer
  • ZXP Series 8 High Security Retransfer Card Printer