Select Materials for Your Next ID Card Project with Confidence


[This article was originally posted at]

Balancing between longevity and cost is at the heart of choosing a card material for your ID, badge or financial card printing solution. While design and technology are also concerns, the life expectancy of the card type you select for your next project plays a critical role in determining the long-term success of the project.

A card is only as effective as the material it is printed on. After all, if the plastic card cracks or its layers separate, it doesn’t matter what is actually printed on the card because it’s unusable. The plastic material must correspond to the intended usage and expected lifetime. Choosing the wrong material for a project can result in having to reissue cards leading to a loss in production time and costs.


The UltraCard is made from PVC, while the Ultracard Premium uses a composite of PVC and polyester to improve the card’s resistance to UV light, chemicals and physical abuse. The UltraCard Premium composite card better resists heat, cold and high humidity with an expected lifetime three to eight times longer than a standard PVC card. Both the UltraCard and the UltraCard Premium contain PVC to facilitate the dye sub printing process used with most card printers. HID Global® offers a variety of durable non-technology card materials to meet different card printing requirements, including its FARGO® UltraCard®, UltraCard Premium and UltraCard PC.

So, which card material is right for you? You’ll want to consider your card life requirements and printing technology. If you will be using direct-to-card (DTC®) printing, Ultracard cards are an excellent choice for short-term applications, such as gift and loyalty cards. For applications requiring longer lifetimes, the Ultracard Premium cards are the best option.

If you will be using retransfer printing technology, such as with HID Global’s FARGO HDP5000HDP5600HDPii or HDP8500 printers, the best card material options are UltraCard Premium or UltraCard PC. The right card materials will also allow retransfer printers to integrate a protective film for added security and allow for the ability for edge-to-edge printing. The PVC-only cards are not recommended for retransfer printers because the heat applied during the retransfer process may cause the card to warp.

The PVC in standard plastic cards is replaced with polycarbonate (PC) in HID’s UltraCard PC. Polycarbonate is a much tougher material for improved durability. UltraCard PC cards also support laser engraving which creates a permanent, unalterable card. If durability, longevity, and enhanced security are your top card requirements, retransfer printing on UltraCard PC cards is the leading option.

In addition to cards, HID Global also offers a PolyGuard® polyester overlaminate to further protect printed cards. It is available either as a 0.6 or 1.0 mil lamination patch or as a wasteless laminate integrated into the new HID FARGO DTC5500LMX ID card printer, encoder and laminator. Polyester laminates greatly improve the abrasion resistance of plastic cards often by a factor of ten or more. This lengthens the card life and ensures the image quality is maintained over the life of the card.

Learn more about printing to plastic cards and card printing in our webinar. 

For more information on HID’s high-quality UltraCard product line see UltraCard Non-technology Card Products and learn more about HID FARGO card printers.


About Mark Mizen

I have over twenty years professional experience in all aspects of photography and digital imaging. I am Chair of the ISO WG5 TG2 committee responsible for physical properties and durability of imaging material and am currently with HID Global working on systems for security printing for IDs, licenses, and credit cards. Previously, I was Director of Digital Development at Creative Memories from 2009 to 2012 and was responsible for the Creative Memories digital products and services. I also established and directed the Creative Memories Technology Center, which evaluated new products prior to product introduction, assisted with production difficulties, and provided technical information to support product sales.
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1 Response to Select Materials for Your Next ID Card Project with Confidence

  1. Very impressive!!! You shared a good information which is related to the id cards material. Thanks and keep up blogging…

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