Small or large badges? Or wristbands, maybe? Printing on an ordinary desktop printer or using a state-of-the-art card printer? Because choosing the right name badge and printer can be nothing less than a pain, we have compiled the ultimate step by step method to choosing the right kind of name badge and printer for your event.
Choosing the right kind of name badge
Before we start looking at the right printer, let’s narrow down options by selecting the right type of badge for your event.
STEP 1: Determine the level of security required at your event
Accreditation (or credentialing, as Americans call it) is first of all about who you let in at your event and once they are in, where they can go and where they cannot. Accreditation is the cornerstone of security at your event and security must be your top priority as organiser.
Once you require dedicated security staff at your event, you have apparently identified risks that demand for security staff being present (if you don’t, it is always worth to seek expert advise to determine whether you in fact should have security staff at your event). Once you have identified risks that demand for security staff (including strict access control) being present, it is highly likely you need an accreditation solution that allows for personalised credentials. This means an accreditation badge:
- can be used to identify a person on the spot, and;
- is only being issued to a person upon identification with a valid government-issued ID, and;
- has security features that make it difficult or impossible to counterfeit.
Once you compromise upon any of the above, you are likely jeopardising security at your event. Visitors may access restricted crew areas or could fake or transfer properties such as wristbands.
The following accreditation properties are suitable in this case, as long as they feature either a photo ID and/or a security feature, such as a QR code or RFID chip that provides a method to check whether the person appears in your accreditation database:
- Paper cards;
- Plastic cards;
- Wristbands (but only if personalised);
If you have colour-coded wristbands, regular name tags or staff clothing may be sufficient.
STEP 2: Determine the duration of your event
Regardless of volume of properties to be produced, the duration of your event is the next denominator.
Unless it is a particularly rough event, you can use any type of property if the accredited individual has to carry his/her badge; small or large badge, (laminated) paper, plastic or wristband — even for multiple days.
As soon as your event is lasting beyond three days, wristbands are more or less off the table. The chance of wristbands being damaged or to break is significant, and from a hygienic point of view it is also undesirable. When choosing wristbands and wanting to personalise, Tyvek wristbands are anyhow off the table because they can’t be printed one by one.
As soon as you are going beyond a week, laminated badges may not work either. Especially those doing the physically hard work (riggers, stage hands, photographers) may find their badges folding, which makes them hard to read or even break, resulting in humidity building up inside of them. Once your event (read: the period people wear their badge) is lasting beyond a week, plastic cards are really the only option.
STEP 3: Determine the size of your badge
Start writing down everything that could possibly be on your badge; first and last name, job title, company, photo, a number of zones/entrances/privileges, a QR-code, a number, a category abbreviation… A badge can quickly become a Christmas tree of epic proportions. Rather than trying to stuff all of that on a wristband, try it the other way around: If I put all of this on a large A6-size badge, do I have enough space left to shrink the badge to credit card size? If the answer is no, you know A6 is the way to go. If you can fit all of that information on a credit card size badge, do so, but avoid cluttering and keep things readable.
But what does readable mean?
A badge should first of all be readable for a security guard, who should be able to visually inspect a badge of a person passing by at reasonable pace. To do so, as a rule of thumb, make sure the category can be read from at least 4 meters, the zones can be read from at least 3 meters and the person’s photo can be used to identify him or her from at least 2 meters.
In case you are using wristbands, all of that is not possible, unless a person is being stopped and his or her wrist being physically inspected to check the info and make sure it hasn’t been transferred. This may congest, so do consider that wristbands may be cheap and easy to wear, but they are not ideal in a high-security environment.
What about cost?
Yes, one type of badge is more expensive than others. But considering this is first and foremost a security consideration, this should not be taken into consideration. Each method is relatively cheap—don’t cut corners to save a few cents on a badge.
All of the above considered, you most likely have a good idea of your options. Next, we have to determine the method of producing your badges.
Choosing the right printer
Now that you have (almost?) made up your mind about the right badge for your event, it is time to decide how you are going to produce your badges.
Before looking at the various printers, we recommend you make a calculation of the amount of registration desks you will have to equip at your accreditation centre. To avoid long lines, frustrating your guests from the moment they arrive at your event, make sure you can handle peak traffic without ending up with long queues.
While you can print multiple wristbands at a time on a regular inkjet or laser printer, printing individual wristbands requires a bit more specific hardware.
The Zebra ZD500 thermal printer can print small labels and wristbands using thermal heat. This will save you the hassle and cost of replacing ink cartridges. Price-wise the Zebra ZD500 is not for the faint-hearted; it comes at a price of approximately €700. Wristbands, called Zebra Z-Band, come on a roll of 1,200 and cost around €210.
The Zebra HC100 is a more advanced wristband-only printer, which is mostly used in medical environments due to its anti-bacterial features. Wristbands, called Z-bands, are available in eight different colors and come in packs of six cartridges with 200 wristbands in each. A sixpack (1,200 wristbands) costs around €120. The Zebra HC100 is available at around €600.
While both Zebra printers are suitable for professional environments, their price is a disadvantage if you have to equip a large number of welcome desks at your event. Another major disadvantage is their inability to print PDF files. Data has to be converted to Zebra’s own mark-up language, limiting your possibilities in terms of what you print on the wristband.
While it is a bit of a hack, the Dymo LabelWriter 450 is an excellent alternative. A roll of Q-systems wristbands, available in seven colors, just about fits and with the right print settings it is fairly easy to print wristbands as you like. Dymo LabelWriters are often for sale at discounted prices going as low as under €100. A box of ten rolls with 275 wristbands per roll (2750 wristbands) costs around €125.
Printed badges in plastic pockets
Printed badges in pockets are common at large events; FIFA (World Cup), UEFA (Euro, Champions League) and the IOC (Olympics) all use badges printed on pre-printed sheets, folded into plastic pockets.The pre-printed sheets often contain one or more security features to avoid forgery.
Printing badges can be done on any decent inkjet or laser printer. As always, ink cartridges or toners are a disadvantage due to their price and the need to replace them, but a decent office printer can do thousands of badge prints on a single set of cartridges or toners.
To save on plastic pockets while remaining classy you can choose to print badges on photo paper. An affordable and easily transported printer is the Canon SELPHY range of products. At around €100 the printers are affordable. Slight disadvantage: Printing a full-color badge may last up to 40 seconds and 108 sheets of 10 x 15cm photo paper including ink ribbon costs around €32. This solution is very acceptable for smaller-scale events with up to a few hundred accredited people.
Security features can be added to the paper in the form of a watermark or a hologram sticker — both affordable solutions.
The only difference between a printed badge in a pocket and a laminated badge is the plastic lamination of the printed badge. While laminates are slightly cheaper than pockets, laminating a badge can take more time than you like, depending on the laminating device you choose. Laminating devices can also spread an unpleasant smell for the welcome desk staffer as well as your guests who are coming by to pick up their badge.
Bottom line; carefully choose your laminating device. While you can buy hundreds of different devices online, we recommend you visit a store to check them out and seek advise from a trained sales person.
Plastic cards are available in credit card size (CR80), an extended version (longer) and an XXL-version (2–3 times the height of a credit card, approx. 88 x 140 mm). They are durable and can be ‘equipped’ with an RFID or NFC chip and antenna inside at reasonable cost, making it possible to digitally validate the badge upon entrance and exit.
The Evolis Primacy Card Printer is printing good-quality credit card size PVC badges at high pace, up to 225 multi-color badges and up to 1,000 monochrome cards per hour, depending on whether you choose to print single or double-sided. Its storage can hold 200 cards, which reduces the need to feed the printer with cards. However, at a price of around €1,200 it is quite an investment.
The Zebra ZC500 can do more or less the same, except that it doesn’t print double-sided. This reflects in the price, which is around €800.
How about these XXL cards?
When diving into the world of plastic card printers, you will be surprised to find out that the market of XXL card printers is very small. Printers like the Idesco XCR100 2.0 can handle XXL cards, but they can’t actually print the entire surface. Its printable area is the centre area the size of a credit card.
SwiftColor’s SCC4000D can nearly print one side of the entire surface of XXL cards. Its first disadvantage: It prints using water-based ink, which makes it less suitable to transport. Its second disadvantage: It costs just over €8,000.
The Zebra ZC10L can also print XXL cards and can do so edge-to-edge. It has a large storage unit for 400 cards and it is probably no coincidence that its ribbon can do around 400 prints before it needs to be replaced. At around €7,000 this printer is slightly cheaper than SwiftColor’s SCC4000D.
When choosing to print plastic cards, also consider the price of the ribbons or ink!
Choosing the media to print on and the device to print with can be a time-consuming process, which we hope to have shortened a bit with this guide. Nevertheless, each event is different and you may want to weigh in other factors when making your mind up.
Need a secure, reliable and flexible online platform to manage your event’s accreditation? Discover how Accredion can make a big difference for you, your guests and the people who work at your event. Good luck with your event!