With single-sheet offset printing, we print large quantities of cards with extreme flexibility and very short production times. This technique allows up to 8 colours to be printed in a single pass. We produce four-colour cards (magenta, cyan, yellow, black) and Pantone cards with a glossy/matt effect.
How are personalised cards offset printed? Once the print layout of the card has been approved, a colour film, the negative of the card, is prepared using a photographic process. The zinc plate, which is also called the plate cylinder, is engraved using a UV lamp in a device called a bromograph. The image is developed using a developing machine, that is, a machine containing liquids that wash the plate cylinder and bring out the images to be used to print the cards. Once the plate cylinder is inserted in the machine, printing can proceed. The ink is transferred through a blanket cylinder, thereby printing the card.
Digital card printing covers several techniques. Inkjet printing is used to print barcode numbers very quickly with very high production quality. It works by means of solvent-based tanks of ink and a system of tubes that carry the ink to a printhead, which sprays tiny drops of ink (drop-on-demand) onto the cards.
Thermographic printing, or dye-sublimation printing, works by means of a heated printhead. When the image is sent to the printer, the printhead draws the figure on the surface of the card using heat.
Indirect digital printing or retransfer printing is a sublimation printing technique like thermographic printing, but it differs from the latter in that the image is printed on a film, which is subsequently laminated onto the card. This process succeeds in ‘covering’ any imperfections or dust on the surface of the cards, with better colour results than thermographic printing. We recommend indirect printing for all transponder and contact cards.
Embossing is a special technique in which letters are printed on the surface of the card using punches that imprint the characters. The characters printed thus can be coloured by means of a ribbon in a process called tipping. As far as infill is concerned, all cards can be customised using punching machines, from a thickness of 40/100.
Laser printing or laser marking during the production process allows variable data such as serial numbers or barcodes to be applied to the surface with extremely durable results. Our robotic customisation line allows cards to be laser printed.
Etching the surface, lasers enable all solid materials to be engraved. The material removed evaporates due to the strength of the laser beam. Laser marking is a monochrome printing technology that guarantees very high resolution.
The time required to print a card using a laser depends on the type of surface and the desired quality. Printing a company logo, name and surname, and a person’s registration number on a photo can take up to 50 seconds.
To embellish the printing of customised cards with bright, solid, metallic, gold or silver, glitter, fluorescent or phosphorescent colours, the silkscreen printing technique is used. The scale of reference for silkscreen printing colours is the Pantone scale, or in some cases the RAL scale.
Silkscreen printing is completely different from the offset technique. In fact, silkscreen printing is done by ‘squeezing’ the colour through special frames — which were once made of silk, hence the original name of this technique — directly onto the printing medium of the customised cards. Each silkscreen printing colour must be dried individually, a process that is performed automatically by machines equipped with drying ovens or UV lamps.
UV VARNISH AND HOT STAMPING
After the customised cards have been printed, UV varnish and hot stamping techniques enable the product to be enriched and enhanced. With UV spot varnishing, a transparent glossy varnish layer is applied (glossy) or matt (matt) over the graphics already printed on the card.
This technique is usually used to emphasise the company logo or to embellish gift cards, highlighting, for example, the ribbon symbolising a stylised gift pack. The contrast between glossy and matt is very attractive, offering a visual and tactile effect.
In hot stamping, metal leaf is transferred using a hot stamping die, usually made of brass. This technique allows all types of cards to be customised with text, logos or graphics. At present, metallic leaf coloured with iridescent, holographic and transparent effects can be obtained, which become iridescent when exposed to light sources. Hot stamping is also used to emboss anti-counterfeiting elements on cards.
To temporarily hide numbers or letters on the card, scratch-offs can be used. These panels are placed over the characters to prevent them from being read. Send us your layouts and we will help you choose the best position to apply the scratch-off.
Scratch-off panels can be rolled on (like an adhesive label), printed or applied using a thermographic printer or other dedicated machine. The most commonly method is roll-on. Once applied, this type of panel maintains an adhesive film over the number that protects it from scratches. The size varies depending on the area to be covered. As well, if a criminal tries to remove the scratch-off labels, they break, signalling the mishandling attempt.
SIGNATURE PANEL APPLICATION
A signature panel can be inserted on the surface of smart cards to allow for writing or signatures. Send us your layout. We will evaluate your request to create the signature panel best suited to your smart card printing needs.
According to the ISO standard, there are two types of signature panel: roll-on and silkscreened.
The roll-on panel is a standard panel (10 mm x 74 mm or 7.5 mm x 74 mm), applied using heat after the cards are cut, with a minimum card thickness of 40/100.
The silkscreened panel, on the other hand, is applied to the sheet before cutting. It is identical to the roll-on panel and can be a standard or non-standard size. The non-standard signature panel is made to measure and can also be applied to the whole card, making the surface opaque and writable. Available colours are white, transparent or silkscreen printed. White and transparent can be used for overprinting using laser printers, dot-matrix printers, etc., especially for thin varnished cards and/or when applied on a continuous module. Whatever the number of panels on the same side of the card, the price is the same. We prepare a single system to print the panels in a single pass. In the event the signature panel is to receive a stamp, a special security panel must be requested so that the ink will be absorbed and dry quickly.
PRINTING WITH PANTONE COLOURS AND SPECIAL COLOURS
To recreate the exact printed colours without errors, request the use of ‘Pantone colours’ by selecting them from the palette. Each Pantone colour is individual, unique and internationally recognised. Each colour is identified by a name and code.
When printing customised cards, we also use special colours for embellishment:
- silkscreen printed colours such as gold and silver (for which there are different shades, chosen with reference to the RAL or Pantone scale);
- metallic colours, obtained by adding metallic powder;
- glitter colours, i.e. metallic colours containing gold and silver metal particles;
- phosphorescent colours, which absorb light during the day and release a characteristic luminous effect at night;
- fluorescent colours, which are silkscreen printed (yellow, green, fuchsia, orange, red) and enriched with fluorine particles;
- ‘Wood lamp’ colours, which are transparent and not visible to the naked eye, but when illuminated by the ‘Wood lamp’ — which emits ultraviolet light — makes the printing visible. They are used to make the cards original and guarantee the origin of products, or to validate paper money or identity documents.
Special colours also include ‘infrared’ masking, used to ‘cover’ barcodes, and thermochromic colours, which become transparent when subjected to the right temperature.