Smart Card Technology

The production process for a secure smart card comprises numerous steps. The choice of which materials, technologies and methods to use at each step is determined by the required levels of durability, security and irreproducibility.

  • Graphic Design
    Smart cards may be designed by the issuer of the card, by the card producer or by a third party. However, because many security features are integral to the design, the number of features to incorporate at each level is specified during the design process. The producer of the smart card must be involved in the final design process to ensure that the design is compatible with the security features and that the resulting card achieves the required level of security and irreproducibility. See Security Features for additional information.

    Smart card designs generally integrate symbols, logos, fonts and other branding elements associated with the issuer. These features must be used in a way that ensures personal data fields will be legible and clear.
  • Raw Material Selection and Processing
    High-end smart cards made of polycarbonate are composed of several layered sheets to enable integration of a variety of security features, each of which is created utilizing a different process. For instance, a single card may include a translucent sheet that undergoes a hot-stamp process to host a holographic image; one or more sheets printed using inks with various security characteristics; a layer in which an image is etched using laser engraving; and clear polycarbonate sheets to cover the entire card.
  • Lamination
    After security elements are added to each layer of polycarbonate, all layers are fused using a high-heat process to create exceptionally durable high-end cards that cannot be delaminated into their original component layers. In contrast, the layers of low-end cards made of PVC are not fused but glued together and can be separated with a minimum of effort.
  • Die-cutting
    The laminated polycarbonate sheets are die cut into separate ID cards that conform precisely to the size specified for smart cards by the ISO/IEC 7810 standard. Cards are randomly tested to ensure full compliance.
  • Chip Embedding (contact technology)
    Each smart card is milled to create a shallow cavity for the module surface, and a smaller, deeper cavity for the module capsule. The module (surface and capsule) is laminated with double-sided glue and embedded in the cavities.

    Testing procedures ensure that the chip is “operational” before personalization.

  • Personalization
    The personalization process involves putting card holder-specific or card-specific data in the microchip and on the card body. This data can include text, cryptographic keys, PIN-codes, biometric images or templates and others.
    The card body is personalized using a technique called laser engraving. Typically, the information on the card body includes a photo, name, ID number, and other non-confidential information. Both sides of the card can be laser-engraved independently. Completed cards are tested and released to the issuing organization, which distributes them to the appropriate individuals.