Choosing the Right Hardware for Self-Service Kiosks
Before you start using self-service kiosks for attendee check-in, you will need to answer a few questions, which will then drive your check-in process, and the type of hardware that you purchase.
- Will all of your badges share the same design? In some cases, you will want badges for exhibitors, speakers, VIP attendees, and attendees with additionally booked options to look different, and to be easily recognizable by their color. This is especially important when different badges mean different access levels - maybe not all event attendees can access all parts of the event, or even attend every session.
- Do you want to enable all attendees to use all self-registration kiosks, regardless of their badge type or design? Or, do you want to have different registration kiosks or even registration areas for different types of attendees? If you have many different attendee types with potentially different badge designs, using different registration areas for different badge types can easily get very complicated, difficult to explain, and very messy to overview and maintain. You should try to avoid this scenario with different self-service kiosks for different badge types as soon as you have more than two or three attendee groups.
- What is your budget for the printers? Regardless if you rent or buy, there are four price and quality classes that you can choose from:
- Budget-friendly thermal label printers, such as Dymo, Brother, or cheaper Zebra models. Those printers and their labels are very affordable, but they include pre-printing empty badges in a professional print shop, and requiring attendees to affix labels on those badges themselves as a part of the self-service process. This will work in most cases, but there are attendees who will be overwhelmed with that. Even if those printers can only print black text on white labels, the overall badge appearance remains appealing with colorful pre-printed designs. The price of those printers is usually around 100-200€ a piece, and the price of labels is negligible.
- Thermal printers which can print fan-folded badges, such as more expensive Zebra models, more precisely Zebra ZD621 and similar printers. Those printers will print the whole badge at once, and attendees don't have to stick any labels onto those badges; they will merely have to fold them together. Since those printers also use thermal printing technology, printed text can only be in black color. However, there are specialized print shops which will pre-print fan-fold paper in your design, so you will print only the attendee data during the check-in process. This is a better-looking and more professional option than budget label printers, but obviously, the costs are also increased. The cost per 1000 badges is usually between 500€ and 1000€ (depends on where you buy the paper, and if it has been pre-printed in your design). Those printers themselves cost between 500€ and 700€ each.
- Ink-jet badge printers which can print fan-folded badges. The Epson ColorWorks C3500 is obviously the most prominent example from that category of printers, but by far not the only one. Similarly to Zebra ZD621, Epson will print the whole badge at once on fan-fold badge paper, but since Epson CW C3500 uses ink-jet technology, there are a few important differences: it can print color badges, which means that you don't need to pre-print anything. This decreases the paper cost per badge (between 350€ and 500€ per 1000 badges), but you need to add the ink costs on top (which heavily depend on your badge design), and of course, Epson CW C3500 costs around 1500€ a piece. There are two more things that you need to pay attention to: Epson CW C3500 printers, even if relatively small, are still larger than thermal Zebra ZD621 printers, which makes them more difficult to fit inside self-service kiosks or to place beside registration tablets. Also, they are ink-jet printers, which means that you need to take care of the ink, and possibly to replace the ink cartridges during the registration, which might cause issues and delays. However, those badges definitely give a more professional look and feel to your event.
- Premium ink-jet badge printers which can print badges on plastic or high-density paper. Swiftcolor SCC-4000D, Canon CX-G6400 Card Printer, and Zebra ZC10L are the most prominent representatives of this category, which you can often see at premium-priced events. This is the most premium option, however, there are a few caveats that come with it. Those printers are larger than Epson CW C3500, which makes them almost impossible to fit into regular-size self-service kiosks, and you will probably go for some desk-style setups. I have seen kiosks that fit Swiftcolor SCC-4000D, but it has been a large kiosk. And, I mean large. You will need to count on the printing costs of 7€ - 20€ per badge (depending on which material you opt for, plastic being the most expensive option), and the printer costs itself are in the price category between 7000€ and 12000€ a piece. Similarly to the Epson CW C3500, those are ink-jet printers, which means that you will have to keep a close look at the ink levels during the event.
run.events works flawlessly with all the above-mentioned printers, and it can support you for whichever flow you decide.