Printing In-house Vs Outsource Printing

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When purchasing your new or used ID card printer you need to keep in mind the consumables. There are a variety of ribbon and card options available for a variety of applications. The major cost of your ID card printer is the cost of the ribbons and card consumption.

Price brake down:

  • Average price for a singe-sided ID card printer is New $1,600.00, used $1,000

  • Average price for a 500 blank ID cards is standard $70.00, specialty $200.00

  • Average price for ID card printer ribbon 250 Card Prints is Mono or single color  $50.00, to **YMCKO or multi color $200.00

  • Average price for Cleaning Kit: includes 25 swabs, 50 cleaning cards $80.00

That is an average price per card is $0.94

For then average business they print around 1,500 cards on an YMCKO single sided printer per year. This cost for an average business is:

Owned ID card Printer

Singe-Sided ID card printer


Blank ID cards (standard)


ID card printer ribbon 250 (** YMCKO)


Cleaning Kit


Average Yearly total with ID card


Average Yearly total without ID card


Outsource of print jobs

Fist initial setup fee


Per Color ID card $3.00 per card


Variable data fee


Shipping for 1,500 cards


Average Yearly total


Note: The cost of what ID card printer ribbon and supplies depend on what type on what printer model you are using, and then the specific job. Cost may very depending on the amount of cards need to be printed.

With cost in everyone¿s mind now a day, buying a printer is a great way to affect your bottom line. The average saving per year is $3,200.00.
After you make the diction to buying an ID card printer you need to know what type of print job you need to do.  IF you need a printer just for a single-sided monochrome (one color) you are looking at spending about $0.16 per card. But with monochrome cards you are stuck with just one color. Monochrome card are usually used by Simple organizations like libraries and club memberships.

**YMCKO or multi color card ribbons are much more expensive than monochrome. With colored card ribbon you could print brilliant colored ID card with full colored photos. This allows you to show off our business logo and be more secured with colored photos. With color card ribbon being more expensive it will cost you around $0.95 per card. This is usually used by business who want to print there own ID card, business cards, gift cards or membership cards.
To reduce the cost of per card you could print one-color logo on monochrome (single) colored card ribbon to reduce your cost per unit. Example Reduce your logo to a single color like blue, buy the blue ribbon print all your cards with the single blue ribbon and just print your blue logo. Then take out your blue ribbon and place in your black ribbon and print the text in just the black ribbon. This may take longer will save you around $0.63 per card. With 1,500 cards to print the cost will add up.  Also if you have to print on both sided you don¿t need to buy a dual-sided printer. Just buy a single sided printer and print one side at a time. All though, this will take twice the time it will save you money on the price of the printer.

Methods used for printing on card

Full color printing

  • Color ID card is usually done using dye sublimation ribbon. Dye is released by exposure to tiny, heated metal pins on the print head and bonds chemically with the plastic surface being printed. Since the amount of dye used can be minutely controlled and each color blends easily into the next, this method of printing renders very high quality images.

Thermal transfer printing

  • Single color uses resin that is melted onto the plastic in small dots of color. Resin ink is usually the fourth panel on a color cartridge (the K in the YMCK designation stands for black). Resin is the perfect medium for printing crisp lines and is used for bar coding and most monochrome applications. Single color doesn't necessarily mean black - the full range of primary colors is available. There is also metallic cartridge as the printing option.

Full color and Thermal transfer printing can both be carried out in one of two ways. In "direct to card" applications the print head releases dye or ink directly onto the surface of each card. "Retransfer" involves printing the image on the reverse side of a strip of plastic film and then fusing that film to the card. The dye/ink is layered between the card surface and the protective topcoat making it impervious to wear. The direct to card option is often standard in less expensive printer models while retransfer printing is available on many high-end units.

Special Applications and Finishing Options

Dye sublimation printing works best with a UV resistant topcoat to keep the image from fading. Look for an O (overlay) or T (topcoat) in the printer ribbon description to find this finishing option. To save money and reduce waste on reprints, buying a ribbon with an overlay to protect the ID card printer from the elements or user damage. For added security, choose a special custom holographic overcoat for each card. Custom holographic overcoat make it easily visible for identification and protects against id tampering or forgery. A second K in the description is a resin panel for printing black text on the reverse side of a card and is only for use in dual-sided printers. Scratch off ribbon is a popular add-on for covering pin numbers. Signature printer ribbon is used for a card that requires a signature on the card (like credit cards).

Regular Maintenance

Buying an ID card printer is a big investment. Maintaining them is important in extending the life of the printer and keeps the quality of each printed card. Especial if you use your card printer on a regular basis, consider buying ID card cleaning kit. After excessive uses then printhead and rollers becomes dirty. Regular cleaning will save repair cost on your ID card printer. Remember to order any printer ribbons and cleaning supplies.

Name Brand vs. Off Brand

All ID card printers are designed to work best with there consumables provided by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) since consumable supplies are there number 1 important revenue stream. This doesn't mean you can't use a generic brand*, just be cautious. Non-OEM printer ribbons may not give you the quality you get with OEM.

*Note: Don't let a printer manufacturer void your warranty because you used off brand consumables - this is a violation of federal law per the Magnuson - Moss Warranty Act of 1975.


Printer Ribbon definition











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