What is retransfer technology?

Written By John Fieldsend

Retransfer printing technology uses a two-step process by first printing the colour images onto a thin clear substrate, then heat transferring this substrate, complete with the printed CMYK image, onto the surface of a PVC, polycarbonate or composite card.

What are the benefits?

Increased durability

As the colour is printed onto the underside of the retransfer film, the image is protected from direct contact with ID card holders, wallets, magnetic stripe or contact chip machines. The card keeps its original colour and quality much longer than most direct-to-card prints.

Print consistency

Because the retransfer film that is being printed onto is a known and controlled substrate, print quality is more consistent than direct-to-card technology where the variable surface of the PVC card or slightly raised areas such as an embedded contact chip can all impact on print performance.

Designed for volume and long-life

The printhead used in a retransfer printer never touches the surface of the card, making it less likely to be damaged or to malfunction. It isn’t exposed to dust and dirt on the card surface or uneven/poorly constructed PVC cards.

When the film is transferred on to the surface of a smart card with an embedded chip,  the film only adheres to the plastic areas of the card surface ensuring that the chip area is always neatly cut out from the overall print.

Print over the edge of the card

Retransfer technology uses a slightly larger film to use as a bleed margin extending beyond the edge of the card, so when it is transferred to the card’s surface it leaves no white margin whatsoever.

More security options

You can apply a secure watermark to each card during the retransfer process. This feature also exploits the wavelengths and lens effect of the retransfer film to fluoresce under UV lighting conditions. See HoloKote

Many retransfer printers are combined with an inline laminator to enable the addition of an overlay to the card surface. This further protects the card from wear and fading of the image, mainly for cards which are used frequently or in outdoor environments. Laminates can be overlays or patch. Patch provides a thick protection layer on the card but is not quite edge-to-edge. Overlay provides a thinner protection layer but is fully edge-to-edge.

Both types of laminates can also be supplied with a customisable holographic security design. This is particularly suited to very high volume secure card printing.