All Plastic Cards and Smart Cards can be printed with 4 color, 1 color printing on 1 side or 2 sides.
This process refers to cards printed at their time of manufacture. All cards of a manufacturing batch will be printed with the same artwork/design etc.
Cards are generally manufactured using four large sheets of PVC plastic that are bonded together under a lamination (heat and pressure) process. In the first step of manufacturing the design for the face of the card is printed on one sheet and the reverse on another making up the core.
The printing of these sheets is done in volume using either a two or five colour press printing up to 35 cards per sheet. The print may be applied by silkscreen print, offset print or a combination of these depending on the requirements of your design.
Once the core has been printed, the final two layers of transparent plastic are attached and laminated in order to protect the printed surface. The cards are punched from each sheet and additional features such as signature panels, magnetic stripes, foils and holograms are added.
Generally Offset printing is very good at printing detail (such as small fonts and fine objects).
It is advised to use Offset Printing where you use screened layouts or four colours (CMYK). With Offset printing colours are less brilliant than Silkscreen printing.
This process should be used for extensive layout elements, because more ink is applied to the printing sheet. This gives a more vibrant feel to the artwork. The disadvantage of more ink is that with bleeding, fine layout elements may disappear, and the printing looks less precise.
Bleeding layouts should generally be printed silkscreen, at least those colours touching the card's border. Of course, this is only possible if the colours are not screened or CMYK printed. On occasions it might be better to separate one colour, that is, to use Offset printing for the fine or screened elements and Silkscreen printing for the more extensive elements which have to be printed with this colour.
The reason for this lies in the different consistency of the inks : Silkscreen inks can easily be laminated due to their high share of resins and varnishes, where as the Offset inks cannot be laminated with the PVC material. Should we wish to print cards with bleeding Offset colours a special overlay foil has to be used. This overlay has a coating of glue to allow the overlay to adhere to the card. However this layer of glue may impact the colours, especially colours based on blue, purple, green or grey. With these colours we advise using silkscreen printing to improve results.
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