Printing Profits With ID Card Printers
Think the revenue potential for ID card printers is limited? Think again.
Although digital card printers using dye sublimation technology are commonplace today, their competing technology - cut-and-paste systems - still has the largest market share. The reason why is simple: If the current system isn't broke, why replace it? "Until digital imaging and printing systems were available, cut-and-paste was essentially the only way to create photo ID badges," explained Holly Sacks, VP of marketing for Zebra Technologies (Vernon Hills, IL) Eltron Card Printer Business Unit (Camarillo, CA). "That means there are millions of users out there who have already invested in cut-and-paste systems."
Cut-and-paste systems use a Polaroid-type of camera and film for creating ID cards. No computer is required. It's a simple, low-cost method of creating ID cards. Those factors make it challenging for a VAR who wants to convince a customer to switch to a digital card printer. "Some cut-and-paste customers are intimidated by plastic card printers because of their price and [the integration needed to use them]," said William Shevchuk, manager of sales and distribution for card printer systems at CIM-USA (Miami).
However, there is hope for VARs wanting to sell digital card printers to the cut-and-paste install base. After all, 90% of the revenue in the cut-and-paste market is due to consumables. Thus, customers with those types of card systems are paying more than they would for a digital printing solution. For instance, according to Gary Holland, CEO at card printer vendor FARGO Electronics (Eden Prairie, MN), producing a four-color ID card with a card printer costs approximately 50 cents vs. $1 or more with a cut-and-paste system. "Total cost of ownership for dye sublimation is less after a certain number of cards is produced," Holland explained. In addition, he listed the following as key points to stress when VARs try to sell a card printer to companies with cut-and-paste systems:
- The time to produce a card is less with a digital card printing system.
- Storing images in a database allows cards to be replaced or reproduced without taking employees out of the field or having patrons return to a place of business.
- With a digital printing solution, supplies cost can be less than with cut-and-paste systems because a card is only printed after validation of a good image (e.g. subject's eyes are not shut).
- Dye sublimation technology offers higher image quality.
- Cut-and-paste cards are easily forged. The number of security features available for dye sublimation cards is much higher than cut-and-paste.
- Dye sublimation printers support multiple technologies such as bar code, mag-stripe, proximity, contact chip, and contactless chip. Cut-and-paste technology supports only bar code and mag-stripe technologies.
"Investment costs [e.g. digital camera, badging software, card printer] are lower than ever for digital card printing solutions," added Sacks. "Once the initial investment is made, ongoing supplies costs are lower. The incremental benefits of digital photo ID in terms of quality, durability, flexibility, and convenience are substantial."
Offer Long-Lasting Access Control Cards
It's no surprise that more companies are investigating card printer technology these days as part of security and access control solutions. As such, vendors have seen an increase in demand for low-priced, entry-level card printers. Usually these types of printers only print on one side of a card, have a low-card capacity, and have few advanced security features (i.e. biometrics). Margins are slim on these types of printers, and VARs in the ID card printer business are always looking for ways to take customers to the next level of printers where margins are higher. For example, if a customer wants to use its ID cards with an access control or time and attendance reader, VARs should note the importance of a card's lamination. "Many direct contact systems used to scan bar codes or mag-stripes are extremely harsh on PVC [polyvinyl chloride] cards," Holland said. "Adding lamination reduces, and sometimes eliminates, the need to replace worn out cards. If a corporation replaces x number of cards per year, the extra cost for a personalization system with lamination capabilities and the extra cost of the laminate is paid for."
Shevchuk agrees, and added: "When it comes to wear and tear on highly used access cards, lamination is a must or else you will be replacing cards every few days. VARs should also promote the higher speeds more advanced printers offer, especially for customers printing cards in large quantities."
Where The Growth Is
VARs looking to increase revenue from ID card printer sales should focus on those markets requiring more than one card printer. Some of those markets include: schools/universities, businesses with multiple offices, casinos, entertainment parks, ski resorts, airports, healthcare, government, insurance companies, prisons, and video stores.
"I see growth for ID card printers coming from markets requiring oversized cards that provide easy identification of participants from a distance," Holland stated. "Concerts, sporting events, airports, and Homeland Security are all examples of these types of markets. Furthermore, markets using high-value cards will eventually migrate to more advanced card technologies such as smart cards."
Few Adopters For Biometrics And Smart Cards
Top of the line ID card printers are usually those capable of creating smart cards, or those capable of adding biometric information to a card. While both smart cards and biometrics have received increased interest in recent years, few companies have actually adopted these technologies. According to both Sacks and Shevchuk, usually only large, sophisticated end users such as government agencies have made the investment in smart cards or cards containing biometric information. "Because smart card-based solutions can be complex and expensive, VARs often end up providing mag-stripe or even bar-code-based solutions to customers who initially inquire about smart cards," stated Sacks.
Digital card printer systems are in use in every market today. That's why, whether from customers using cut-and-paste systems or from companies looking to upgrade to a higher level of security, the opportunities are out there for VARs selling this technology.