How to Fix Common ID Card Printer Problems

Written By John Fieldsend
ID card printer problems

Troubleshooting issues is a fact of life with any kind of machine, whether it's a printer, a blender or a £100,000 sports car. And while we all do the best we can to keep our machines running like new, even well-maintained machines are going to run into trouble at some point.

Just like with a car, if you leave a sophisticated piece of equipment laying idle, you may have some trouble when you want to use it again. One of the tips which can be applied to any badging operation: test your ID card printer frequently.

When you test your ID card printer, the ideal result is that you don’t encounter anything out of the ordinary: you design a test card, send it to the printer and it comes out great. Perfect! You can get on with your day without the worry of ID card printer problems.

However, chances are that somewhere along the line, your card isn’t going to come out looking perfect. The print will be off, you’ll see a smudge or there will be some other issue.

Don’t worry: there are quick ways to identify and solve the problem and here we look at some of the most common issues you may run into as well as how to fix common ID card printer problems.

Why are there imperfections or spots appearing on my printed ID cards?

ID card printer problems - print issues
There are a number of different terms printer service technicians use to describe these tiny issues:

  • Bumps
  • Bullseyes
  • Ripples
  • Spots
  • Halos

The easiest way to bucket all of these issues is to call them surface imperfections: small areas on your printed card where the texture is uneven. These issues are often extremely small, but are still quite noticeable and there are a couple of key reasons behind them:

Reason #1: dirt

Imperfections can be caused by having dust, lint, dirt or other debris on the surface of your card when it goes through the printhead.

Basically, this debris gets in the way of the printed imagery being applied to your ID card’s surface. Think of the dust as being like a tiny umbrella, keeping anything above from coming into contact with anything below. The printer tries to apply the imagery as normal, but the dust gets in the way.

Some surface imperfections are tiny enough to be overlooked; however, even the smallest imperfections make a printed card look a bit unprofessional (at best) or completely amateur (at worst).

What’s the answer?

The fix depends on where the debris is coming from: your printer or your cards themselves.

How are you storing your blank cards? If cards are just lying around on a desk or in a drawer, chances are the dust is coming from the cards. Always store your cards in some kind of container such as a resealable plastic bag or a box with a lid. Try cleaning off your blank card stock and storing the cards properly, then see if the issue presents itself again.

If you’re storing your cards properly and still having issues, your debris must be inside the printer. You can try blowing out the debris with compressed air dusters, but that may just spread the problem. You’re better off using a cleaning card specifically designed for your printer. These sticky cards pass through your printer and pick up all of the dust and debris they encounter, including debris in places that compressed air won’t find.

Cleaning your printer regularly is one of the most important maintenance tasks you can perform and should be done regularly. You can see videos of How to Clean Your Printer on our YouTube channel for a step by step guide. Here’s the recommended cleaning frequency for the Magicard printer models:

Cleaning frequency table

Reason #2: smart cards

Special consideration applies to smart (chip) cards

Inherent to these kind of cards is that the surface cannot be perfectly flat so you cannot expect the same quality as you would if using a standard card. Regrettably, that’s the limitation with any direct to card printer and smart cards.

There are a couple of solutions:

  • Use self-adhesive cards: you can print and then apply them over the technology card.
  • Swap out the Direct to Card printer for a Retransfer Style printer (e.g. Ultima or Prima 8). Using the Retransfer method of printing, unlike the standard dye sublimation process, your card design is first printed on a clear film and that film is then adhered to the card surface. This process gives you a higher definition print quality and allows you to print successfully even on smart cards with uneven surfaces. It also gives you additional card durability and tamper-resistance so the cards will last longer.

Why are there white lines appearing on my printed ID cards?

Printhead Magicard 300/600Your test card just came out of the printer, and it looks pretty good. No smudges, the colours look sharp…wait, what’s that white line?

Yes, the dreaded white line is a common occurrence with ID card printers, something most people who preside over busy badging operations will encounter at one time or another.

The white line issue usually appears as a vertical line running up the entire width of the card.

It may look like a printed white line, but it’s actually an area without any print at all: the white line is basically a bare spot on the card.

An ID card with a white line means that you have a broken pixel in your printhead. Because the pixel is broken, it’s unable to print on its specific area of the card, leading to the print-free “white line” area.

How do you fix a white line card printer issue?

Unfortunately, a broken pixel on a printhead means the printhead will need to be replaced, so you’ll have to order a new printhead in order to solve these types of ID card printer problems.

Please note that printheads are model specific and are rarely a “one size fits most” solution. It’s best to check with the #TeamMagicard partner you originally bought your printer from to see what kind of printhead you need and they can help you with a replacement.

Why does my ID card printer keep jamming at the start of a job?

Whether you’re using a laser printer to print your latest download or a photo printer to bring those holiday pictures to life, print materials are going to get stuck from time to time. It happens, and ID card printers are no exception.

Sticky rollers

Damaged rollersOne of the common card jams encountered by users of ID card printers has a somewhat uncommon cause.

If you’re using your ID card printer and find that you are getting card jams right near the input hopper or very early in the print job, you’ll probably be surprised to learn that your problem is caused by a part of your printer working too well.

ID card printers have rollers inside them that guide the card along through the print process, pulling it from the input hopper, passing it through the printhead, etc.

These rollers are sticky by necessity: they need traction to be able to pull and push the cards along.

However, the rollers being too sticky is what leads to many card jams. The rollers are so sticky that they’re unable to pass the card on through the rest of the process. Instead, the card gets stuck to the rollers, causing a jam.

How do you fix it?

You basically want to make your sticky rollers…well, less sticky. Remove your rollers from the printer and briefly roll them on a clean surface, like a desk or table top. The goal isn’t to remove all of the stickiness from the rollers, but to make them slightly less sticky. This allows the rollers to pull the cards through without the cards getting stuck.

Other things to check:

  • Check your blue sticky roller has been put into position correctly
  • Check the middle roller (print roller): it should be perfectly clean and matte rather than shiny. This is a hard-working roller and needs to be spotless to avoid causing either a card or flipper jam. In the image, you can see an example of what a print roller “should” look like next to a worn example on the right.

Don’t let printer issues slow you down

Serious printer repairs should be done by a trained professional, as messing around with the inner workings of a printer without the proper training is a great way to create even more problems.

If you encounter ID card printer problems and issues described in this post and aren’t comfortable tackling them on your own, contact our talented Tech Support team and they’ll help you get back to printing.