Specialist ID Blog

Handling Blank PVC Cards for your ID Printer

Best practices for handling PVC CardsTo keep your print head safe and your ID’s looking great, there are some simple but very important guidelines for handling your PVC Cards.  I  have compiled a list of the tips I always share with our customers during installation and training of any new ID system.   I have also noticed that a lot of people who already have a photo ID system are unaware of these tips, often times because they have “inherited” the ID system with their new job position or they have acquired their system online and are “Self Taught.”  What ever your reason is for not having heard about the best ways to handle your PVC cards may be, after reading the following guide you will be a PVC card expert!

The first thing you will notice when unpacking a new box of PVC cards (besides how heavy they are) is that they are shrink wrapped, usually in packs of 100 cards.  If you have just purchased PVC cards (or acquired them) and they are not shrink wrapped for any reason, I would strongly recommend returning them and never using them in your ID card printer. The reason being that PVC card printers are sensitive to dust and other particles that can damage the small pixels on the print head that come into contact with the PVC Card.  PVC cards are also usually positively static charged and act like a magnet at attracting dust etc.  It is a lot cheaper to use high quality, clean PVC cards than to replace a damaged print head.  

When unpacking the PVC cards from the shrink wrapping, you will want to make sure not to touch the surface of the cards directly with your fingers.  This can be avoided by using gloves (only use cloves designed for electronics or otherwise completely lint and debris free) or simply handling the cards from the edges.  You could also opt for pinching the  top and bottom cards in the stack, loading them into the printer, and then pulling the two cards that were touched out and throwing them away.  If any cards fall and land on the floor or even the desk, it is usually best to just throw those cards away, rather than running them into the printer.  Dirty cards, even if they don’t end up damaging your printer, do not print well and will likely have be reprinted as dust and dirt results in poorly printed graphics and is very risky for your print-head.

It is best to load the entire 100 cards into your printer immediately after opening the shrink wrap.  If this is not possible for any reason, seal the rest of the cards into a zip lock bag and keep them sealed until they are loaded into the printer.  This can also be done if you are pre-printing the back of the cards and then store them until it is time to print the front.  Just remember to keep them sealed in a zip-lock bag and even put them back in the card box if you have it.

Keep a can of compressed air handy, as it will help in multiple areas.  First, spraying compressed air can help ensure that your cards are clean, but secondly, it really helps fan out the cards before you load them into the printer.  Fanning your cards will help keep them from bonding together by static resulting of mis-feeds from the card hopper.  So, before loading your cards, blow some compressed air between them and fan them out a bit.  This will help keep your printer feeding the cards in smoothly.

While loading your blank cards into the printer, you also might want to double check the card thickness selector on your printer to make sure you have the correct size selected.  Also, this might be a good time to run a cleaning card through the printer (especially if you are changing the ribbon since it will have to be taken out to run the cleaning cycle anyways).

In summary, here are the main points to remember when handling your blank PVC cards.

  1. Always keep your cards in the shrink-wrap until they are loaded into the printer.
  2. If you have cards out of the shrink-wrap, store them in a zip-lock bag.
  3. Handle the blank cards by the edge of the cards, do not touch the surface that will be printed.
  4. If a card falls on the ground or is touched directly on the print surfaces, it’s best to just throw it away.
  5. Keep your printer in a clean environment and clean your printer regularly with the recommended cleaning kit for your printer model.
  6. It is a lot cheaper in the long run to follow these tips than have to replace a print-head.

If you have any questions about the best practices when handling PVC cards, or anything else related to your ID program that you may need help with, please contact us online or call, 1-800-380-6726.

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