SYSTEM FOR FORMING PICTURE, ALPHANUMERIC AND MICROGRAPHIC IMAGES ON THE SURFACE OF A PLASTIC CARD
REFERENCE TO CO-PENDING APPLICATION
This application is a continuation of pending application Ser. No. 06/516,485 filed July 22, 1983, abandoned as of the filing date of the present application.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
This invention relates to a system for forming picture, alphanumeric and micrographic images on the outer surface of a plastic card. 15
2. Description of the Prior Art
There exist, in the prior art, systems for laminating over photographs placed in a cut-out in the inner core stock of a plastic card, and systems for laminating over an electrophotographic or printed image on the inner 20 core stock of a card. Such prior art lamination systems require a separate image forming procedure in which a photograph is physically placed in the card (or an image is printed on the inner core of the card) and laminated. In addition, such systems do not make use of conven- 25 tional plastic cards since they require the core stock to be exposed to receive an image, and subsequently laminated, resulting in a requirement to use expensive cards. Such prior art lamination systems slow down the through-put of the plastic cards when carried out in 30 conjunction with embossing and/or encoding of the plastic cards. Finally, since the cost of each individual photograph is relatively high, these lamination systems are not particularly suitable for high volume applications. 35
One other prior art system for forming images on plastic cards is a system in which a silk screened ink patch is placed on the surface of a plastic card and an image is etched on the silk screened ink patch using an electronically actuated mechanical scribe. As in the 40 case of the prior art lamination systems, such scribing systems do not have the capability of correlating image data and alphanumeric data for placement of corresponding indicia on a single plastic card. In addition, the scribing system is relatively slow, making it unaccept- 45 able in an overall system in which encoding or other steps are also to be performed. Further, since it is ncessary to provide a silk screened ink patch on each card, it is not possible to use conventional plastic cards, thereby resulting in an increased cost per card. Finally, 50 the grooves which are present in scribed images are susceptible to the collection of dirt in a wallet environment, thereby resulting in a relatively non-durable card.
There is therefore a need in the industry for a system which is capable of correlating image data and corre- 55 sponding alphanumeric data, forming an image on a card in accordance with the image data, and encoding the card in accordance with the alphanumeric data. Furthermore, there is a need for such a system in which the image is formed on the outer surface of a conven- 60 tional plastic credit card in sequence with the encoding of the card. There is a further need for such a system which forms a card having an image which is durable in that it is resistant to wear, abrasion, and the chemicals present in a wallet environment. In addition, there is a 65 need for such a card forming system in which the time for forming the image on the plastic card is approximately the same as or less than the times required for
encoding a magnetic stripe or other information directly on the card. There is also a need for a card forming system where the graphic images are applied to the card in less than the time that would be required to utilize state of the art techniques to emboss the card. Finally, there is a need for a system for forming an image on a card wherein the cost per image is sufficiently low, and wherein a high resolution image is obtained.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The system of the present invention has a number of novel features as set forth below. An image is digitized and stored in semi-permanent storage together with corresponding alphanumeric data representing, for example, indicia to be encoded on a card. When the image is to be formed on a conventional plastic card, the digital image data is read from the semi-permanent storage and is input to an acousto-optic modulator. The acousto-optic modulator modulates a coherent light beam in accordance with the digital image data and the modulated coherent light beam is scanned across a charged electrophotographic medium, thereby producing a latent electrostatic image (corresponding to the image to be formed on the card) on the electrophotographic medium. The electrophotographic medium is transported past a toning station and a toner image (corresponding to the latent electrostatic image) is formed on the electrophotographic medium. The toner image is positioned adjacent a card to which the image is to be transferred and the electrophotographic medium is then pressed against the card with a heated platen having a curved contact surface so as to transfer the toner image to the card through heat and pressure. The electrophotographic medium is then released from the toner image so that the fused toner image remains on the card. A plastic overlay may then be applied to provide additional protection for the image, or for the entire surface of the card, if desired.
One of the significant advantages of the system of the present invention over the prior art is that conventional plastic cards may be used, so that cheaper readily available unprocessed plastic cards may be employed. In addition, the system of the present invention does not slow down the throughput of the plastic card manufacturing process since the time for forming the image on the card is comparable to the time required for encoding and other operations. Further, in the system of the present invention, the storage of digital data comprising image data and corresponding alphanumeric data, allows for simple and accurate processing of all of the information which must be provided for each cardholder.
These together with other objects and advantages, which will become subsequently apparent, reside in the details of construction and operation as more fully hereinafter described and claimed, reference being had to the accompanying drawings forming a part hereof, wherein like numerals refer to like parts throughout.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is a block diagram of a data acquisition subsystem, including a circuit for acquiring and storing image data and alphanumeric identification data, in accordance with the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating the details of the data acquisition subsystem of FIG. 1;