Smart card embossing

If you’re not familiar with embossed Smart cards, basically what happens is a die (and counter die) are used to push up the paper from the back. In other words, one side of the die has the image raised, the other side of the die has the image indented… so when the paper goes between it, it molds into the shape.

One of the benefits of an embossed business card is it’s ability to stand out. It looks different. It feels different. And it elicits that “hey cool!” reaction that every business owner hopes for. After all, the more of an impression your business card makes (and the bigger the conversation it creates) the more likely it is to achieve its desired result. That is, generating more business.

What to emboss?

Well, you can emboss your logo or any other shape you can think of. Like a dentist for example, who might emboss teeth marks to suggest someone bit down on the card. You’re limited only by your creativity.

Embossed business cards even have some customization options. For example, you can blind emboss, whereby the image is simply raised. There is embossing with ink which coats the raised area with color. And there is foil embossing as well, which coats the image with a shiny metallic coat.

There are a couple of drawbacks to embossed business cards however.

First is the additional expense. Due to the custom design, die creation, and effort required there is often considerable additional expense compared to some other stand out options. Naturally, they can’t be produced as quickly either. For many, this may not be a big deal as the expense can be outweighed by the added benefit and response your card generates.

Second, printing on the back of embossed business cards is not advisable (or more difficult) for obvious reasons. Proponents of double sided cards may be deterred by this.

Finally, (and similarly) an embossed business card generally has less flexibility and less room for content, limiting the amount information on your card to just the basic contact information. For some this ok, but those who want to add additional content, selling points, bullets, offers, images etc. in addition to basic contact information, will find that an embossed business card may not be the best option.

PET plastic cards VS PVC Plastic cards

PET plastic cards VS PVC Plastic cards

A Comparison of the two eco profiles, based on Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) from cradle to grave, the complete life cycle (LC) can be divided into three main segments:

1. Production Phase
The important criterion to characterize this phase is primary energy demand. According to BUWAL SRU 250 «Life Cycle Inventories for Packagings» and SRU 300 «Evaluation of Life Cycle inventories for Packagings», worldwide recognized as the most comprehensive and up-to-date LCA data collections and assessment methodologies, the primary energy demand is as follows:

PET 83.8 MJ/kg (margins: 66 ~ 98 MJ/kg)
PVC 66.8 MJ/kg (margins: 48 ~ 89 MJ/kg)

Compared to PET plastic card, production of PVC plastic card demands 20% less primary energy. Furthermore, PVC is only partially made from fossil resources, the rest being inorganic. However, this latter is chlorine, which is very controversially discussed; not only by Greenpeace, WWF and similar ecology-oriented Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), but also by clearly industry-oriented groups and think tanks.

Conclusion regarding an intermediate ranking in the production phase:
1st PVC plastic card
2nd PET plastic card

2. Use Phase
The important criterion to characterize this phase is convenience. And in this respect, both materials are equally well suited to fulfill all the convenience demands.

However, A short use phase covering only a small time span favours materials with a short ecological payback period like PET plastic card. This is, among others, a reason why such materials are to be preferred to consumer product applications; whereas PVC plastic card, requiring a longer ecological payback period, is better suited for long-term applications typically found in investment goods.
Conclusion regarding an intermediate ranking in the use phase :
1st PET plastic card
2nd PVC plastic card

3. Disposal Phase
The important criterion to characterize this phase is environmentally sound disposal processing. In most OECD countries – already common in the Western European countries – thermal processing through incineration is primordial disposal process.

The three main purpose are : first to convert the reactive municipal waste into harmless inert materials; second, to achieve volume reduction; third, to safe primary.

Energy carries (e.g. fuels) used for heat production through replacing them by burning waste and using the produced heat, thus protecting fossil resources.

Therefore, the ecological behavior of PET plastic card and PVC plastic card during incineration is the question to be regarded. Burning PET in Municipal Solid Waste Incineration (MSWI) plants does not cause any ecological problems.

Not so with PVC plastic card : In most cases, burning PVC in MSWI plants may produce and release dioxins. And these substances are very toxic, thus requiring a very sophisticated handling. For good reasons, in Western European countries as well as in most civil societies, dioxins are politically not accepted and socially completely refused. Thus, contributing to production and release of dioxins is a very significant and disadvantage of PVC.

Furthermore, burning PVC plastic card produces hydrochloric acid (HCl), of course. HCl is loss toxic than dioxins. Depending on the MSWI plants pollution abatement equipment, HCI may afterwards yet be released, thus contribute to the generation of acid rain which is a serious ecological concern.

The material-based recycling is an alternative, and here both polymers enable technically equally good recycling options. However, the market capacity to absorb the mass of goods made of so-called secondary raw materials(e.g. recycled material) is rather limited for products made of recycled PVC plastic card, and is broader for products made of recycled PET plastic card.

This reason is the difference in market capacity for investment and for consumer good:
PVC is more suitable for long-life products (because only here PVC can reasonably carry its environmental burden over time).

PET plastic card is more suitable for short-life products.

Conclusion regarding an intermediate ranking in the disposal phase :
1st PET with many pros
2nd PVC with many cons

Overall Assessment
Combining the three intermediate rankings to a final ranking by assessing their pros and cons gives the following result :
1st PET plastic card
2nd PVC plastic card

Final conclusion
Taking LCA as a powerful tool, PVC plastic card shows more dark than sunny sides as a material for plastic cards which is a typical consumer application used in large and rapidly increasing quantities. For such a short-life mass product it is PET plastic card which is the material to be chosen and to be widely used.

NFC Applications

NFC offers the ultimate in security and convenience, and makes new interactions possible. It transforms the already dynamic mobile user experience in a way that enables the Internet of Things. From the simple exchange of NFC business cards to sophisticated personalized transactions, loyalty programs, and even devices that can commission and configure themselves, NFC opens up a whole new world of possibilities.

NFC for Payment
Mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) terminals are light and small enough to be carried by salespeople or connected to a mobile device. With NFC on board, you just tap your card or smartphone to complete the transaction. No more PIN codes, or having to re-slide a magstripe card. NFC payments can also be used for direct marketing campaigns, loyalty programs, paperless receipts, and in general enhance security.

NFC-enabled Applications:
Traditional Point of Sale

NFC for Identification
Adding NFC reader functionality to a door lock, homeowners can configure locks to grant access to specific persons, hotel guests can easily unlock the door to their room with a smartcard and NFC-enabled badges can provide employees with secure access to the office or their computer. Furthermore, passports or ID cards with embedded NFC chips can speed you through customs or provide secure access to personal information such as your medical history.

NFC-enabled Applications:
Physical access management / NFC-enabled door lock
Logical access management

NFC for Connected Homes
NFC plays a critical role in the transition to connected living, providing new levels of convenience and interaction throughout the home. Appliances and connected devices can be added to the home network with a single tap and, with the right app, our smartphones and tablets can be used to control or configure just about anything.

NFC-enabled Applications:
Board games, video games, smart toys
Set-top box
Home appliances

NFC for Businesses
NFC tags give products a smart memory, and can contain all the relevant information needed as the product passes through the factory, warehouse, and beyond. Once a product reaches the store, NFC tags can improve logistics in retail outlets by enabling automatic inventory control, smart advertising and theft protection.

NFC-enabled Applications:
Brand protection
Smart Media & Products
Smart manufacturing
NXP relentlessly seeks out and defines new applications that bring unique customer experiences. We strongly encourage our customers, no matter what size their business is, to realize their ideas on NFC. We regularly feature new NFC uses cases in our “Meet an NFC innovator” blog series, among them NFC rings, smart door locks, and smart tags that make everyday life easier.

Printing cards

All Plastic Cards and Smart Cards can be printed with 4 color, 1 color printing on 1 side or 2 sides.

This process refers to cards printed at their time of manufacture. All cards of a manufacturing batch will be printed with the same artwork/design etc.

printing cards
printing cards

Cards are generally manufactured using four large sheets of PVC plastic that are bonded together under a lamination (heat and pressure) process. In the first step of manufacturing the design for the face of the card is printed on one sheet and the reverse on another making up the core.

The printing of these sheets is done in volume using either a two or five colour press printing up to 35 cards per sheet. The print may be applied by silkscreen print, offset print or a combination of these depending on the requirements of your design.

Once the core has been printed, the final two layers of transparent plastic are attached and laminated in order to protect the printed surface. The cards are punched from each sheet and additional features such as signature panels, magnetic stripes, foils and holograms are added.

Offset printing
Generally Offset printing is very good at printing detail (such as small fonts and fine objects).
It is advised to use Offset Printing where you use screened layouts or four colours (CMYK). With Offset printing colours are less brilliant than Silkscreen printing.

Silkscreen printing
This process should be used for extensive layout elements, because more ink is applied to the printing sheet. This gives a more vibrant feel to the artwork. The disadvantage of more ink is that with bleeding, fine layout elements may disappear, and the printing looks less precise.

Bleeding layouts
Bleeding layouts should generally be printed silkscreen, at least those colours touching the card’s border. Of course, this is only possible if the colours are not screened or CMYK printed. On occasions it might be better to separate one colour, that is, to use Offset printing for the fine or screened elements and Silkscreen printing for the more extensive elements which have to be printed with this colour.

The reason for this lies in the different consistency of the inks : Silkscreen inks can easily be laminated due to their high share of resins and varnishes, where as the Offset inks cannot be laminated with the PVC material. Should we wish to print cards with bleeding Offset colours a special overlay foil has to be used. This overlay has a coating of glue to allow the overlay to adhere to the card. However this layer of glue may impact the colours, especially colours based on blue, purple, green or grey. With these colours we advise using silkscreen printing to improve results.

Advantages of RFID smart cards

With a greater understanding of smart cards benefits, consumers are more likely to entertain the idea of using them and transition away from magnetic stripe cards.

smart card
smart card

Smart cards may look like any other plastic card with a magnetic stripe on the back, but they’re a radically different technology. While consumer advertising has tried to downplay the differences between smart cards and normal credit cards — other than to tout them as “safer” – the differences are what make smart cards worth considering.

1. Persistent, protected storage. Persistent storage is an obvious piece of the smart card, and one that makes it similar to an ordinary mag-stripe card. Smart cards have memory; how much memory depends on the application, but 4K to 32K is typical. While this is dramatically more than what can be stored on a mag-stripe card, the key to the storage is protection: You can’t just wipe the card against a reader and expect to pull everything off it. While experts have determined that a scanning electron microscope can circumvent the protection built into a smart card, this is not the kind of tool you can pick up at Radio Shack.

2. Processing power. Most smart cards have a small CPU, which means that they can do things other than parrot data stored in the card. The CPU can protect the information, for example, by requiring the user to enter a PIN code. Here’s where smart cards have a huge advantage over mag-stripe cards: the CPU can count. Get the PIN code wrong seven times, and the CPU may refuse to let you try again for an hour or a day. Or, with some applications, the CPU may simply wipe the information if you get it wrong too many times, or force you to call a customer support number to retrieve a special unlock code.

In fact, the smart card may never have to actually give up the data at all. For example, when smart cards are used with X.509 digital certificates for applications such as VPN or Windows 2000 authentication, the private key part of the public/private key pair linked to the certificate never leaves the card. The private key is generated by a random number generator on the card, and when data needs to be signed with the private key, the card does the signing.

3. Packaging. While they’re not as cheap as credit cards to manufacture, in moderate quantities of 100 or so, smart cards will cost less than $10 each, making them dramatically less expensive than other authentication technologies, such as digital tokens.

The smart card can come in different form factors to work with a wide range of devices. Smart cards were originally modeled on credit cards and were built the same size. American Express’ Blue is an example of a combination smart/credit card. But smart cards are used around the world in GSM cellphones (ubiquitous in Europe and available in the U.S.). Those smart cards are cut down to a size little larger than the familiar multipad connector to fit the small handsets. Some wireless LAN adapters, such as Nokia’s C110,have small smart card readers to carry configuration data or authentication information.

Inexpensive (less than $50) smart card readers are now available for PCMCIA, serial and USB connectors on personal computers. The packaging doesn’t even have to be in the shape of a card. For example, Oprfid Technologies has combined a smart card with its own USB reader in its iKey product, a single token smaller than your thumb.

NFC Business cards

Business cards are the cornerstone of industry, with many of us carrying around cards for networking purposes which can come at considerable expense. But now there is a modern solution. Business cards that incorporate near field communication (NFC), that is business cards inserted with a microchip.

NFC business Card
NFC business Card

This chip enables you to extract information from a business card quickly and efficiently. Much in the same way that employee badges in some companies work this is how NFC business cards also operate; the NFC tag in your card can hold all your business information. This tag allows information to be exchanged on to a smart phone or tablet, simply by tapping your NFC card to the device.

NFC cards can place details into an address book automatically; NFC tags also have the capability to send the contact to a personalized web page with more information about their work such as Linkedin. It can also link directly to your own website; you can make the most of NFC cards by ensuring that you have a landing page on your website which is specifically designed for new clients and that can lisn’t your accomplishments to date.

The NFC card also gives you the option to link to your social media footprint on the web, you can specify if you want your NFC card to link up to Twitter or Facebook.

Another clever feature of the NFC business card is that it will guide people to the location of your business with the aid of Google maps including directions on how to get there.

All these features hold clear technological benefits over the traditional business card, but there are more. Once you’ve chosen what you want printed on a standard business card it can’t be edited once printed. Not so with NFC cards which can be edited in your online area, even after you have transferred your information onto a smart-phone or tablet.

It isn’t only the contact information you can edit either, the chip has the ability for you to integrate new multimedia content daily whether that be a new blog post or video effectively acting as an area for your work which you can share with clients and business partners.

NFC cards have the added benefit of being environmentally friendly, in a time when more and more businesses are looking for eco-friendly ways to push their companies forward; NFC cards have the obvious advantage of reducing a company’s carbon footprint.

There is no need to download any apps to make use of NFC technology, one of its best features is how simple and straightforward it is to use. It needs only an NFC equipped smart-phone or tablet and a working Internet connection. Then it works by simply tapping an NFC business card to the device. For those with older smart-phones or tablets, you can avail of the same benefits by scanning the QR code on the back of NFC cards with your camera.

Plastic key tags

Plastic key tags printing
Plastic Key Tags, your consumer could comfortably take with them anywhere they go.

plastic keycards
plastic keycards

Several entrepreneur like you are awarding their devoted clients by supplying smaller sized plastic key tags as a hassle-free choice to bigger plastic discount rate as well as loyalty cards. Your consumers could appreciate all your special deals as well as discount rates making use of an easy-to-carry plastic key fob, while you gain from the very same safety, sales monitoring and also POS compatibility as the bigger plastic cards. With a basic scan, you could award consumers and also incentivize their purchasing encounter. In return for routine financial savings and also promos, you get their commitment as well as their payments towards your advertising initiatives, both with word of mouth and also by aesthetically showing your plastic key tags.

Deal your consumers or club participants the benefit of easy-to-carry plastic key cards and also key fobs.

Plastic key tags
Plastic key cards

Plastic key cards open a prize of possibilities for merchants to associate with brand-new and also existing consumers. From price cuts, sales, promos, as well as bonus offers to news and also updates, key tags guarantee that your brand name is not just constantly near to your clients, however in fact communicating with them. Membership clubs are additionally looking to plastic key cards as a safe technique of enabling accessibility to fitness centers and also gym, tracking participant engagement and also services club specials. Plastic key cards could be continued a key chain, in a purse or bag, or in the side pocket of a health club bag or knapsack, making them convenient as well as much less most likely to be lost.

Plastic luggage tags

Plastic Luggage tag printing
Plastic Luggage tags printing can help you identify your bag from the rest and also help promote your business. If your business involves travel, or has customers who travel frequently, promoting your business through custom luggage tags may be a savvy move that boosts your sales. You can capitalize on the attention-getting power of Plastic luggage tag printing that stands out from all the rest and provides value to the user that goes far beyond a simple place to write a name and address.

luggage tags
luggage tags

Print Plastic luggage tags
Print Plastic luggage tags can be a permanent fixture on a customer’s bag, so consider that as it is seen over and over again whatever message is on it will impress itself more deeply in the customer’s mind as time goes on. Take the time to craft a simple, brief message that describes why your customer should do business with you again and again. For example, if you are a hotel chain, print luggage tags with message could be “Best Rates Worldwide” positioned right next to your logo. As your customer spends time waiting in the airport or packing his bags, that message becomes psychologically associated with your company. Just because the plastic card your customer attaches to their bags are custom luggage tags doesn’t mean it can’t also be a fantastic call to action. Consider making the luggage tag printing double as a “preferred customer card” by including a website address and a special promotional code that will allow the customer to get a special deal.

Custom luggage tags
Custom luggage tags

Custom Plastic luggage tags
Custom luggage tags are a powerful way to market to people who are learning about your company for the first time. By designing the front side of your luggage tag with a striking logo and a compelling reason to visit your website or call your company phone number, you could create a stream of valuable leads as you hand them out at trade shows, seminars or other public events. The vast majority of companies who use plastic cards to print luggage tags design “throwaway” items that are little more than printed versions of their company logo. But by using these three marketing strategies when designing and ordering from a plastic card supplier, you can create a long-lasting promotional tool that converts prospects into first-time customers and existing customers into life-long streams of revenue. Bag tags are especially useful for luggage, computer bags, and golf bags. Traditional luggage tags are also commonly used to identify equipment cases such as medical supply bags and band & orchestra instrument cases. The practicality and functionality of these products make for an in ideal promotion.

Clear plastic cards & Clear frosted cards

Clear plastic cards and clear frosted cards are the most popular cards.

transparent card
Clear plastic cards or transparent plastic cards are popular especially for business card purposes because their uniqueness makes them stand out. Businesses feel that consumers are more likely to hold onto these cards because they are different and can become conversation pieces. Clear plastic cards can be completely translucent with just text and images that can be seen through, or partially clear or completely opaque in desired areas.

What’s better? Clear glossy or Clear frosted cards?
Transparent cards are available in a clear glossy or clear frosted finish, however, there are two major advantages in choosing a clear frosted finish:
1. Higher Scratch Resistance than the clear glossy finish.
2. Greater Contrast for Design (the frosted finish provides a milky white base which increases the visibility and brightness of printed colors.

Smart Card Technology Frequently Asked Questions

What is a smart card?
A smart card is a device that includes an embedded integrated circuit that can be either a secure microcontroller or equivalent intelligence with internal memory or a memory chip alone. The card connects to a reader with direct physical contact or with a remote contactless radio frequency interface. With an embedded microcontroller, smart cards have the unique ability to store large amounts of data, carry out their own on-card functions (e.g., encryption and mutual authentication) and interact intelligently with a smart card reader. Smart card technology conforms to international standards (ISO/IEC 7816 and ISO/IEC 14443) and is available in a variety of form factors, including plastic cards, key fobs, watches, subscriber identification modules used in GSM mobile phones, and USB-based tokens.

What are the ISO/IEC 14443 and ISO/IEC 7816 standards?

ISO/IEC 14443 is the international standard for contactless smart chips and cards that operate (i.e., can be read from or written to) at a distance of less than 10 centimeters (4 inches). This standard operates at 13.56 MHz and includes specifications for the physical characteristics, radio frequency power and signal interface, initialization and anticollision protocols and transmission protocol.

ISO/IEC 7816 is the international standard for contact smart cards. ISO/IEC 7816 Parts 4 and above are used by both contact and contactless smart card applications for security operations and commands for interchange.

What is a contactless smart card?
A contactless smart card includes an embedded smart card secure microcontroller or equivalent intelligence, internal memory and a small antenna and communicates with a reader through a contactless radio frequency (RF) interface. Contactless smart card technology is used in applications that need to protect personal information and/or deliver fast, secure transactions, such as transit fare payment cards, government and corporate identification cards, documents such as electronic passports and visas, and financial payment cards. Example applications using contactless smart card technology include:

The U.S. FIPS 201 Personal Identity Verification (PIV) card being issued by all Federal agencies for employees and contractors;
The Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) being issued by the Transportation Security Administration;
The First Responder Authentication Card (FRAC) being issued in Department of Homeland Security pilots;
The new U.S. ePassport being issued by the Department of State;
Contactless payment cards and devices being issued by American Express, Discover, MasterCard and Visa
Contactless transit fare payment systems currently operating or being installed in such cities as Washington, DC, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Contactless smart cards have the ability to securely manage, store and provide access to data on the card, perform on-card functions (e.g., encryption and mutual authentication) and interact intelligently with a contactless smart card reader. Contactless smart card technology and applications conform to international standards (ISO/IEC 14443 and ISO/IEC 7816). Contactless smart card technology is available in a variety of forms – in plastic cards, watches, key fobs, documents and other handheld devices (e.g., built into mobile phones).

How do contactless smart cards work?
Contactless smart card systems are closely related to contact smart card systems. Like contact smart card systems, information is stored on a chip embedded within the contactless smart card. However, unlike the contact smart card, the power supplied to the card as well as the data exchanged between the card and the reader are achieved without the use of contacts, using magnetic or electromagnetic fields to both power the card as well as to exchange data with the reader.

The contactless smart card contains an antenna embedded within the plastic body of the card (or within a key fob, watch or other document). When the card is brought into the electromagnetic field of the reader, the chip in the card is powered on. Once the chip is powered on, a wireless communication protocol is initiated and established between the card and the reader for data transfer.

The following four functions describe at a high level the sequence of events that happen when a contactless smart card is brought near a card reader:

Energy transfer to the card for powering the integrated circuit (chip)
Clock signal transfer
Data transfer to the contactless smart card
Data transfer from the contactless smart card
Hence, once the card is brought within range of an electromagnetic field of the required frequency, the card will be powered up, ready to communicate with the reader. Since the contactless smart cards described in this FAQ are based on the ISO/IEC 14443 standard, this frequency is 13.56 MHz and a reader that complies with the standard would have an activation field (range) of about 4 inches (approximately 10 centimeters). In other words, the card needs to be within 10 centimeters of a reader for it to be effectively powered; however, the effective range for communications for the card to be read will depend on a number of factors like the power of the reader, the antenna of the reader and the antenna of the card.