Sometimes the best way to select a card printer model is to talk to the people who designed it. This article is the first in our series of Q&As with the manufacturers who think up and build our amazing lineup of card printers and accessories.
CardPrinter.com recently at down with David Murphy, Zebra's Strategic Accounts Manager, and picked his brain about new technologies, choosing the right card printer and how Zebra dreams up helpful features for its users.
1. What type of changes are you seeing in your industry? Are there any new technologies coming out soon? What do you think will happen in the future of card printing?
Zebra is continually scanning the globe for new and emerging printing technologies in both thermal and dye-sublimation applications. We see the continuance of dye-sub as the prevalent printing technology for cards for many years to come.
Some government entities are looking at laser engraving as a means to add security to cards. While a good solution, today laser engraving modules are in the tens of thousands of dollars.
2. How do you determine when it's time to create a new model or product? How often do you update your printer models and what is your newest printer?
Zebra is constantly looking for ways and means to improve the customer experience with all of our printing products. We keep the customer first in mind when designing new printers.
Our refresh cycle varies based on model; in general they can run anywhere from three to five years. Our newest printer is the ZXP Series 3 direct-to-card printer. The ZXP Series 3 has a small footprint with high throughput and fantastic image quality. The printer comes in single or dual-sided versions with all the encoding options you’ve come to expect.
We also released a wireless option for our ZXP Series 8 Retransfer printer this summer which plays great into any wireless printing environment.
3. Does Zebra have any new products coming to market soon? If so, are they focused on a particular industry? What are their key features or improvements?
We don’t comment on unreleased printers. Rest assured, however, that our product development team is very busy and won’t disappoint in 2012!
4. What is the most important factor when choosing an ID card printer?
Understanding how the card is being used is the most important, decision-making factor – Is it a technology card? How long do you want it to last? Is it being swiped daily/weekly/monthly? Is it being worn everyday or kept in a wallet or purse only to be presented occasionally? Do you need to encode the card?
All these questions help determine the best solution that meets and exceeds your customer needs and expectations.
5. What are the biggest or most common mistakes that are made when selecting a card printer/ID card software?
Some of the more challenging are lack of understanding of customer environment; i.e. the operating system being used, network requirements, database requirements, access and security of network data. Another mistake we see is customers bypassing lamination to save a few dollars only to see cards fail within a year or two, if not sooner. The expense and inconvenience of reissuing cards typically exceeds the cost of the lamination option to begin with.
6. How important is ID card software? Do customers need to purchase a separate product or do any of the Zebra printers come with software?
Software to drive all card printers is a critical component. All Zebra card printers ship with Windows drivers. We include CardStudio card design and production software with our QuikCard bundles for the ZXP Series 3, P110i and P120i. We also sell CardStudio separately in three versions: Classic, Standard, and Professional.
7. What additional products are needed to run the Zebra printers?
All Zebra card printers come with the necessary cables and driver software to set up you printer. Cards, ribbons, and laminates must be ordered separately. (Guess what - beginning December 7, 2011, Zebra is offering free ribbons or a free iPod with the purchase of select Zebra printers).
8. What are the common signs a customer needs to purchase a new card printer or upgrade it? How long does a card printer typically last?
Card printers properly cleaned and maintained can last many years. We see Zebra card printers produced over 10 years ago still in use. Typically what drives replacement are technology upgrades such as new operating system releases and network requirements.
9. How easy is it to set-up your products? Will customers need support?
Zebra card printers are very easy to set up and maintain. If you need support, Cardprinter.com is there to help you, as is Zebra. Our policy is to accept all phone calls if a customer needs help. Cardprinter.com also offers a variety of support options depending on customer needs.
10. How easy are your products to use? Will customers need training?
Zebra card printers are very easy to set up and use. Most often training is not required but help is available if needed.
11. What differentiates your brand from your competitor’s brands?
Zebra has been in business since 1969 and has sold millions of printers around the world. We are a publicly held company with a market value of $2 billion. We are committed to the card business and will be here for many years to come to serve and support you.
12. Do your competitors influence your product features and selection?
Zebra pays most attention in new product development to enhancing and improving the end-user experience. What our customers want is what drives our feature set.
13. There are a lot of encoding options on the market. What is the most versatile option or what would you recommend? What is the most cost effective encoding/security option?
There are many, but surprisingly the most common continue to be magnetic stripe. Of course barcodes are a machine-readable technology that Zebra printers can easily print. For versatility, we offer a combination contact and contactless encoder that is fully PCSC compliant.
14. There seem to be a multitude of different ribbons for any given printer. What ribbon features will customers most commonly need?
Most common are five-panel YMCKO for single-sided full-color printing, and six-panel YMCKOK for dual-sided printing. The latter uses full-color on the front of the card and black resin printing on the back. This is the most common form of two-sided printing.
15. What options do you offer for card security?
Zebra’s laminating and security options are the best, most economical, and most reliable in the industry today.
We have an unmatched, wasteless, linerless, environmentally friendly lamination technology that is the most common over-the-counter driver license solution in the U.S. today. Our laminating technology is by far the lowest cost per card solution available, and the greenest! It’s the perfect fit for all laminating applications. We have many options for cards, ribbons and laminates to meet card security needs.