SmartCard America Blog

How to Manufacturer a Smart Card?

Manufacturing a Smart Card: PVC, PET, PC, PETG…. Contact & Contactless Smart Cards.

The card construction identified as a 5 layer product, so no product or process development included. The customer supplies the artwork, whether it is a bank (credit or debit cards), governmental institute (driving license, national identity card, etc….), or a private company (building access card or employee identification badge).

  • 5 Layer Card Structure
    • Top Overlay
    • Face Print
    • Inlay / Chip
    • Rear Print
    • Rear Overlay (Contains the Magnetic Tape if required)
  • Pre-press:
    • This is where the customer artwork translated into the required printing processes. This is unique to each manufacturing facility, and the equipment used in the printing process. However, this step will be required, whether using digital or lithographic printing(“Offset”). It is just a unique method of output.
    • As per the card structure, there will be separate print processes for the face and reverse of the finished card.
    • Digital print will require the artwork to be transferred to a CMYK format and loaded directly to the printer.
    • Lithographic will require the image to be transferred to metal printing plates in the desired color setup. This can be CMYK as per digital or additional UV stations included.
  • Printing:
    • As touched on above, this can be Lithographic or Digital for most of the process. It can include specific elements that are required by silk screen printing.
    • Traditionally, lithography is the dominant printing method in secure cards. Secure cards would be considered to be financial and identity documents.
    • Digital print is making significant progress though, so this may change in time, but I do not see it happening within the immediate future.
    • Silkscreen printing can also be required for additional adhesives or surface effects such as ultraviolet.


  • Once the printed sheets are complete, the card structure will start to take shape via collation of the 5 individual elements.
    • The sheets are collated to form a booklet, this is either done manually or via an automated process. – this is a volume decision for each manufacturing location.
    • Once the 5 sheets are collated, checks take place to ensure alignment and orientation of the face, contactless inlay, and reverse of the card.
    • Ultrasonic or thermal welding is usually suited to this process to ensure the collated booklet remains together ahead of the next process.
  • Lamination:
    • Thermal lamination is the most commonly used process. Using heating followed by cooling to create a blend of the 5 layers into a single sheet.
    • Thermal lamination can be achieved by either an electrical laminator or oil laminator.
    • Cold lamination is required for more complex cards with sensitive electronics, such as fingerprint readers that are growing in popularity.
  • Card Punch:
    • Required to get the individual card from the sheet. Sheets can be in many form factors, 21-up (7 x 3 rows), 24-up (8 x 3 rows), or 48-up (6 x 8 rows) depending on the equipment, process, volume requirements, etc… This is very individual to each production facility.
    • The punch is a mechanical process using a punch tool formed of male and female parts that are in the shape of the card (shock horror……)!
  • Milling & Embedding:
    • This is technically two separate processes, however the vast majority of equipment performs these in a single pass on a machine.
    • Milling is the creation of a pocket or cavity to house the chip module.
    • Embedding is the insertion of the chip module into its pocket or cavity with some form of adhesive. This will also include the electrical connection between the contactless inlay and the chip via contact plates or wire bonding.
  • Card Inspection:
    • Final quality assurance steps to visually inspect the physical card body for any imperfections or defects. This stage can be done before Milling & Embedding also, it is an operational process decision for each manufacturing location.
  • 14-28 working days per 10K-100K.
  • SmartCard America’s extensive experience in the operations and manufacturing of Smart Cards and RFID Components. If you have further queries, please contact us or visit our website:
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