What are my choices when it comes to plastic cards for my application?
There are several types of manufacturing processes used today to produce plastic cards. Each style of card manufacturing creates a product with properties that are unique to that process. To create the card that is right for your application, a basic knowledge of these manufacturing styles is helpful. The best place to start is the plastic material, the substrate itself.
There are two basic substrates or materials used to construct cards today: PVC substrate commonly called Vinyl, and synthetic paper substrate often referred to by the trade name Teslin®.
By far the most commonly used material for card manufacturing is PVC. It is the same material that is used to produce VISA©, MasterCard©, Amex©, and virtually all other high end bank plastic cards. Considered the standard, this high quality card is printed on flat sheets of PVC, and then hydraulically laminated, which fuses a thin layer of clear PVC over the printed inks. This type of manufacturing yields a very high gloss mirror-like finish on the card surface, and that high value “credit card” look. If you are looking for the highest quality card, this is the one to choose. PVC cards can also be printed in sheet or single card form then UV coated rather than laminated to protect the inks. This finishing process produces a very glossy card, but it cannot replicate the mirror smooth finish of the laminated card standard and thus is considered lower quality.
The Teslin® style card product:
Teslin® style card construction creates cards and card/tag combinations of the kind that are often seen in grocery store loyalty programs. The white synthetic sheet is printed with the card or tag image, and then roll laminated with a thick layer of clear polyester each side. This very thick laminate gives the card body toughness while protecting the printed image. Teslin® style products will have a gloss finish that is pleasing, but not mirror like as with laminated PVC. Since Teslin® style construction yields a product that is relatively soft; it can be easily die-cut into various shapes like tags and card/tag combinations. This makes Teslin® style products ideal for key tags, luggage tags and the like.
If you are seeking the first class look of a VISA© style card, then laminated PVC is the best option for your plastic project. If you are looking for a custom shape, a bag tag or key tag, Teslin® style products should be considered. Knowing the basic plastic cards construction process will allow you to ask the questions of your card manufacturer to be certain that you receive the product that best suits your custom application.
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