Card Dispenser | Technology Guide
What is a card dispenser?
An automated card dispenser, typically used for plastic cards that comply with ISO 7810 ID-1, is a card dispensing mechanism for vending machines that dispense magnetic stripe cards, chip cards or contactless cards. Usually, cards are separated from a hopper and processed in the card dispenser before issuance. Card processing may require a defective card retention function.
How does a card dispenser work?
Generally, a card dispenser consists of several modules for different functions. It has a card hopper of variable size for the supply of cards. A mechanism for separating the cards moves a card into the processing area on request. In the processing area, the card is written and checked according to the card technology. Defective cards are usually retained in the vending machine with the aid of a corresponding solution, also known as a capture function. The cards are either dispensed via a card bezel or dropped into a collection tray integrated in the vending machine. In many cases, the card dispenser can draw in cards, process them and then dispense them again or capture them in the vending machine. Likewise, if a card bezel is used, cards that have not been removed can be retracted and captured in the vending machine. This is not possible if the cards are discarded into a collection tray.
What are the card dispenser variants?
There are card dispensers for magnetic stripe cards, chip cards and contactless (RFID) cards or for issuing and processing a combination of the above-mentioned card types. Chip card dispensers also include card dispensers for issuing SIM cards. The different card types result in the following processing variants.
Magnetic Stripe Card Dispenser
A card dispenser for magnetic stripe cards has a magnetic head for writing and reading the magnetic stripe. The writing and reading of the magnetic stripe requires a smooth movement and speed in order to comply with the ISO write / read standard. This can be ensured in two ways. Either the card is stationary and the magnetic head moves over the magnetic stripe or the card with magnetic stripe moves and the magnetic head is stationary. The former variant with the card at rest and the magnetic head moving reduces the construction length of the card dispenser. This can be an advantage especially for slim vending machines.
Chip Card Dispenser
A card dispenser for chip cards has a chip contact unit according to ISO 7816 for reading and writing the chip on a chip card. For the reading or writing process, the card must be in exactly the right position for the eight pins of the contacting unit to rest on the corresponding chip contact surfaces. In many cases, new chip cards are issued by a vending machine. These cards should not show any signs of use or even scratches after being issued. For this reason, the card issuing mechanism and the chip contact unit should function without wear. In the best case, the chip contact unit is a so-called landing chip contact unit.
Dispenser for Contactless Cards
A card dispenser for contactless cards processes RFID cards according to ISO 14443 and then dispenses them. For this purpose, the dispenser has an RFID reading and writing unit as well as an associated antenna. RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) is a technology in which digital data encoded in contactless cards is read by a RFID reader via radio waves. The contactless card must be in the antenna field of the RFID reader for the read or write process.
Typically, SIM cards are too small to be dispensed via a card dispenser for cards according to ISO Standard 7810 ID-1. For this reason, the SIM cards are placed in die-cut form on an ISO card. The SIM card can then be processed using a chip contact and dispensed by a card dispenser for smart cards. The buyer can then break the SIM card out of the ISO card, for example after signing a new contract at a vending machine.
The right choice of a card dispenser
There are three main criteria for selecting a card dispenser.
- What type of card is to be dispensed?
- How much space is available in the vending machine for the physical integration of the card dispensing mechanism?
- Which interface should be used to connect the card dispenser to the overall system of the vending machine, taking into account the respective operating system?
The card dispenser must always be fully integrated into the vending machine mechanically, electrically and on the software side with all the desired functions.
In addition, the card dispenser must have a reliable technology for separating the cards. This technology must also be able to separate the cards under difficult conditions, for example if the cards are stuck together or dirty. Basically, two technologies can be distinguished. The use of rolls or the use of metallic fingers, so-called claws, to separate the cards from the stack. In the case of jammed cards, the card dispenser should allow easy access to the relevant areas of the card dispensing mechanism in order to be able to rectify the fault quickly.
Card Dispenser Applications
Automated card dispensers are used in a wide range of vending machines. Card dispensers are used wherever customers are required to independently obtain a card from a vending machine. Usually, the customer can then identify himself with the card, obtain access to an area or means of transport, or the customer can use the card for payment in a closed payment system. Typical vending machines are ticket vending machines, hotel self-check-in machines or guest card machines in canteens, swimming pools or other event areas.