When anyone can head over to Staples and pick up a paper printer for $100, it’s no wonder we get this question all the time.
The Short Answer: Printing on PVC cards instead of paper requires a completely different printing technique, and longevity/durability needs to be considered. This required different parts and materials.
The Good News: The awesome news is that ID card printers have actually dropped in price dramatically over the years. What would have cost $2,000 five years ago now costs $850. Still a pretty penny but progress is being made without sacrificing print quality and reliability.
The Long Answer: Let’s start with dye sublimation. This is the printing technique most ID card printers use. This is the process of imprinting a color onto a hard surface (PVC card) by way of tiny pin pricks. Kind of like a tattoo. Required for this is the printhead (needle) and the ribbon (ink). While printing liquid ink on a piece of paper puts little strain on the parts, injecting a color onto a hard PVC hard creates much more wear and tear on the internals. Therefore harder, more durable materials are required and must be manufactured. Printing also requires a very consistent heat temperature along the printhead. This is too much information so if you’re reading this, hats off to you!
That $100 printer may work well for a bit but chances are you will have to replace that within a year of use. Replacement parts are not sold and hey it’s only 100 bucks, just trash it for a new one that’s shinier right?
The average life of an ID card printer is between 5-7 years though we have many customers that have theirs for 10 years and they have never had any problems. These suckers are built to last and you can easily order replacement parts if necessary. With proper maintenance these can last as long as your company needs them to.
Let’s put it this way. If you buy an ID card printer and then buy a replacement for the same company. You deserve tenure.
Sum It Up
Yeah, you’re paying more for an ID card printer than most paper printers but prices have come down significantly and they last much longer than any paper printer. If you’re looking for a budget option, check out our blog pots highlighting the best cheap ID card printers.