plastic printing

Design, Durability, and Diversity: A Comparison of Plastics for Business Cards

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Plastic cards have become ubiquitous in modern society, serving various purposes like payment cards, ID cards, loyalty cards, and access control cards. Behind these seemingly simple cards lies a critical decision that card manufacturers and businesses must make – selecting the appropriate material. PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and PET (polyethylene terephthalate) are two very common materials that are used in plastic printing. They offer unique characteristics and advantages.

Pitting PVC & PET Cards Against Each Other

PET is a plastic resin and they are highly resistant to heat. Its PVC counterparts are the most widely accepted material for printing cards. These cards can also be personalized and are very cost-effective. Let us have a look into both in detail. Plastic card manufacturing comes down to being aware of what both materials bring to the table. They are:

PVC: A Time-Tested Classic

PVC has long been the traditional material choice for plastic cards. Its popularity stems from its durability, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness. PVC cards have proven their resilience, enduring frequent use without easily bending or breaking. Moreover, PVC cards offer excellent printability, allowing for vibrant and high-quality graphics, making them ideal for applications where branding and aesthetics are crucial. The ease of manufacturing PVC cards in large quantities contributes to their wide adoption across industries. Its advantages are:

  • They have excellent durability and longevity.
  • Possess high printability and visual appeal.
  • Cost-effective for bulk production.
  • They find wide industry acceptance and compatibility.

PET: The Eco-Friendly Alternative

In recent years, environmental concerns have driven the exploration of more sustainable alternatives to traditional PVC. PET has emerged as a viable eco-friendly option for plastic card manufacturing. As a recyclable material, PET supports businesses aiming to reduce their ecological footprint. In addition to that, these cards are thinner and lighter which makes them the go-to choice for applications where portability and convenience are of the essence. Its merits are:

  • Eco-friendly and recyclable material.
  • Thinner and lighter than PVC cards.
  • Growing popularity in eco-conscious markets.
  • Suitable for various portable applications.

Environmental Impact

PVC, while highly durable and cost-effective, has raised environmental concerns due to its production and recycling process. The presence of chlorine in PVC poses challenges during recycling and can lead to the release of harmful byproducts when incinerated. PET cards, however, are mentioned in the same breath thanks to their recyclability and higher efficiency. Its production also consumes less energy and generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to PVC.

Application Considerations

The choice between PVC and PET should align with the specific requirements of the plastic card application. For applications where robustness and frequent handling are paramount, such as credit cards and access control cards, PVC’s durability and printability make it an optimal choice. PET, with its eco-friendly profile and lighter weight, may be preferable for loyalty cards, gift cards, and event passes where environmental considerations and portability are valued.

Choosing the Right PVC and PET Plastic for Card Printing: Key Considerations

PVC and PET have several applications ranging from identification cards and access cards to loyalty cards and gift cards. When it comes to plastic card manufacturing, selecting the appropriate type of plastic is crucial to ensure the cards meet specific requirements in terms of durability, functionality, and aesthetics.

  • Application and Use: Selecting the right plastic involves identification of the use it would be put to. Make a list of the purpose it would serve such as the environment it would be used in, access control, and others. PVC cards rank high for being robust and durable. Access cards and ID cards would be the first examples that would come to mind. On the other hand, PET cards are preferred when a more environmentally-friendly option is desired, making them suitable for short-term applications like event passes and gift cards.
  • Material Properties: Understanding the unique properties of PVC and PET plastics is essential to make an informed decision. PVC cards offer excellent chemical resistance and are less prone to warping and bending, making them ideal for outdoor use or applications where exposure to harsh conditions is a concern. PET cards, although slightly less rigid than PVC, boast exceptional clarity and transparency, providing a sleek and professional appearance, making them an excellent choice for promotional cards and product packaging.
  • Thickness and Flexibility: The thickness of the plastic material is a critical factor to consider, as it impacts the card’s overall durability and feel. PVC cards typically come in various thicknesses, ranging from 0.3mm to 0.76mm, offering options for both standard and more robust cards. For instance, access control cards may require thicker PVC to withstand frequent usage. PET cards, while generally thinner than PVC cards, provide enough flexibility for certain applications such as loyalty cards or promotional cards.
  • Printing Techniques: The printing method used plays a significant role in determining the compatibility of PVC and PET plastics. Both materials can be put through a range of printing techniques, such as offset printing, digital printing, and thermal transfer. However, the printing technique chosen may vary on factors such as how complex the design is, the number of colours, and the required print resolution. Consult with a professional card printing service to determine the best printing technique for your specific card design and requirements.
  • Environmental Impact: In recent years, environmental consciousness has driven many businesses and individuals to seek eco-friendly solutions. While PVC has been a popular choice for card printing, it is worth noting that PET plastic offers a more sustainable alternative. PET is recyclable, reducing the environmental impact of card production and disposal. For organizations aiming to align their practices with sustainable initiatives, PET cards are an eco-conscious choice that still offers satisfactory performance.


Choosing the right plastic for printing is a crucial decision that directly impacts the card’s durability, functionality, and environmental footprint. By carefully considering the card’s intended application, material properties, thickness, flexibility, printing techniques, and environmental impact, businesses, organizations, and individuals can make an informed choice between PVC and PET plastics. With the right plastic selected, the resulting cards will not only fulfil their purpose but also reflect positively on the values and commitment of the card issuer towards quality and sustainability.

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