Pursuit of Profits Producing Printed Plastic Cards

Published Friday, 4 February, 2011
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Pursuit of Profits Producing Printed Plastic Cards
Printing Impressions - January 2010

PARIS—Printers encountering razor-thin profit margins found with traditional, paper-based ‚Ä®commercial work may want to consider plastic card printing as one avenue to avoid the commodity trap. Such a pursuit would undoubtedly lead to investigating the offerings from MGI USA, a Melbourne, FL-based color digital printing and finishing equipment supplier whose French-based parent company exhibited at the Cartes 2010 exhibition held here last month.

MGI premiered its JETcard drop-on-demand inkjet plastic card printing and encoding system at what is considered the world's leading trade show for the card manufacturing/secure technologies industry. Encompassing an overall floor space roughly three times the size of a Graph Expo, digital vendors the likes of HP, Kodak and Xerox did not exhibit at Cartes, but there was a KBA Genius 52UV on display printing static work.

Designed primarily for producing gift, loyalty, security and identification cards, MGI's JETcard prints up to six colors in a single pass, including CMYK, with options for a spot or flood UV protective coating, a black light-readable security ink, or a print head devoted to reproducing Pantone or special corporate colors. White ink printing capabilities are also currently being developed.

The system is not intended for low-margin credit card production, according to MGI USA Executive Vice President and Managing Director Michael Abergel, but is an ideal solution for the rapidly growing, and much more profitable, gift and loyalty card market. "The margins in plastic cards are what they used to be in [printing on] paper 15 to 20 year ago," he notes.

Like other MGI equipment, there are also no click charges tied in with the JETcard's pricing model.

Driven by an integrated EFI Fiery RIP, it can output cards on-the-fly with fully variable text, barcodes and images at speeds up to 8,000 single-sided cards/hr., and at resolutions up to 720x2,160 dpi.

The all-inclusive system can use precut cards incorporating smart chip, read/write magnetic stripe or RFID features. The application of a special coating prior to inkjet printing also lowers manufacturing costs by allowing usage of low-cost blank, untreated PVC cards.

The JETcard is suited for both short-run and high-volume card production—all coming off the manufacturing line fully printed, personalized, coated, encoded and verified. A small optical camera built into the system automatically ejects defective cards during the production process, and five trays at the delivery enable the storage of up to 2,500 completed cards.


A true card factory, MGI's JETcard requires a single operator and reportedly can replace up to five pieces of equipment typically used in the plastic card production chain: a lithographic press, collator, laminator, diecutter and printer for encoding/personalization.

Along with its significant floor space savings, the eco-friendly system also eliminates waste (ink, plates, screens) and harmful emissions (solvents and chemicals), while reducing the overall electrical consumption compared to traditional card production methods.