Jan 1, 2006 12:00 PM,
By Bennett Liles
Options abound for inhouse disc publishing.
Primera Technology BravoPro
To be assured that inhouse CD and DVD publishing are here to stay, all one need do is take a look at the variety of systems available. There is a system to suit every need and many are scalable to keep pace with increasing demand for volume or simultaneous production of different projects. Printable CDs and DVDs have joined the market now that disc printing is available in standalone printers and as an integral feature in complete disc publishing products.
The key to selecting the right product is to take a serious look at the anticipated volume of disc production, the number of different clients that need to be served, the degree of automation required, and whether the duplication jobs will be done in one office or input directly from various people in different locations. Regardless of the answers to these questions, there is a system for every budget and production scenario.
When a fairly large number of CDs or DVDs may be needed occasionally, a standalone, manually operated tower duplication system typically offers the best service for the cost. The biggest advantage of tower systems is that they may be easily expanded to suit a larger volume. Tower stacks start with one player and one recorder and can go all the way to 14 or more recorders and turn out 300 CD-Rs per hour. The only downside of tower duplicators is that they require manual loading for each batch, but the duplication of CD and DVD drives may be integrated for simultaneous production of both disc types. While they don’t save on manual labor, they do save on duplication time and, of course, the original price. In shops where high volume orders are frequent and there is someone available to shuffle discs in and out of the machines, tower systems are hard to beat.
Octave Systems Copy Master II
When rush orders are not an issue, there is an economical solution to low-volume, automated duplicators. These usually consist of one player-recorder with an internal hard drive and a stacking spindle. The blank CDs or DVDs are stacked on the spindle with the original master disc at the bottom so it loads into the machine first. The disc image is transferred to the hard drive and the original is ejected onto the exit spindle. Then the blank discs are automatically loaded, recorded from the hard drive one at a time, and ejected onto the exit stack in their original order. The process is slower than with a tower drive, but it is simple, economical, and requires only the original manual loading. This works best for shops handling duplication orders for fifty or fewer discs.
DISC AND LABEL PRINTING
The most economical solution to disc printing is to separately print disc labels either by printing label sheets and sticking the individual labels onto the disc copies or by using a separate, computer-connected disc printer, buying printable CDs or DVDs, and applying graphics and text directly onto the printable disc surface.
Printable discs may be purchased from many manufacturers in most CD and DVD re-write and non re-write formats, and they are available in a choice of silver or white finish. The printable disc surface primary determines the print quality, so it pays to get the best discs. Cheap printable discs easily make a good printer look bad.
There are three inhouse printing options among which to choose. Inkjet disc printers work like other inkjet printers, spraying tiny ink droplets directly onto the printable surface. With a high-quality printable disc surface, the results with an inkjet printer are good. These printers can cost anywhere from $200 to more than $7,000.
For low-resolution monochrome disc printing, thermal printers can be used. These use a ribbon so they are limited in printing designs. Changing the ribbon and overprinting can apply multiple colors, but this is somewhat difficult and time consuming, considering an inkjet can economically do this all at once.
Using heat and pressure to directly attach a thin film to the disc surface, thermal re-transfer printers can apply photo-quality images and text onto some disc surfaces. The cost is relatively high, but the results are outstanding. The downside is that you must be careful to choose a compatible disc surface.
Aleratec 1:4 DVD/CD Tower Publisher LS
Integrated printing systems can incorporate more recording drives and printing is already included. These CD/DVD duplication systems can include a thermal or inkjet printer with a stackable load of more than 200 discs. The process may be programmed to duplicate and print or just to duplicate and, among those that include it, the printer may be swapped between inkjet and thermal to suit individual preference. Data and print images may also be individually loaded into the internal hard drive to be used for a later job and accessed and updated from anywhere on the network. For an environment where smaller CD, DVD, and label printing jobs may be needed by a number of different offices and departments, the networked and integrated duplication/ print solution is an attractive option.
While LightScribe pertains more to disc burning than duplication, this new technology should be mentioned because of its revolutionary disc labeling. LightScribe-enabled burners, software, and media make it possible to record any data to the medium, eject the disc, re-insert it into the same burner, and then record the label with the same laser that was used for the data. The discs contain a coating on the topside that responds to the writing laser, producing a laser-etched label. There is no ink or transfer material involved. LightScribe is available in external optical DVD writers, PCs, labeling software, and disc media. All such equipment bears the LightScribe logo.
CD/DVD duplicator/printers contain moving mechanisms and if these become unaligned, various types of errors will occur, from discs jamming to labels printed off-center (software can also cause this one) or a machine billed as automated can refuse to print more than one disc at a time. It is wise to visit a dealer or user with the same equipment and watch it work. Talk to someone who has had the device for a while. Disc speed problems have largely been worked out, and the machine should adjust automatically for the medium, but on occasion it may necessary to manually adjust the reader speed.
There are seismic events occurring in the DVD industry as format wars continue to rage among manufacturers. It is best to anticipate all possibilities to avoid getting boxed into a dying format. The good news is new DVD duplicators are capable of handling the dual-layer format. It has been around for years in commercially available pressed DVDs. However, writers of dual-layer discs may introduce compatibility issues and, on top of that, HD-DVD and Blu-ray competition will keep things hot between the corporate camps and somewhat tricky for buyers. Clearly, the compatibility issues between DVD±R/RW are only a harbinger of possible things to come.
Verity Systems CopyDisc 4 P-55 Platinum
Condre offers the DVD Tracer Pro line of CD/DVD standalone tower duplicators. The C316DL4-DF and C916DL4-DF are three- and nine-drive units that duplicate non-secured DVD±R and CD discs and convert between DVD-R and DVD+R. The duplicators write speeds up to 16X for DVD and 48X for CD. One-button operation and multiple cooling fans emphasize simplicity and reliability, while the internal 40GB hard drive enables multiple-image storage to speed things up even more. Command functions include load to hard drive, disc-to-disc copy, verify, copy, and compare, along with emulate. The units weigh 18lbs. and 38lbs. respectively.
Condre also offers a thermal inkjet disc printing solution featuring 4800dpi resolution in the Disc Imager II. CMYK full-process color printing is combined with a small footprint and non-proprietary consumables (Lexmark ink cartridges). Software enables images to be imported from Quark and Photoshop for sharp, easy, and fast graphics application. The Disc Imager II retails for $895.
Primera Technology’s duplication/printing BravoPro Disc Publisher line features integrated CD-R or DVD±R/CD-R duplication and high-speed 4800dpi inkjet printing in an automated loading format. Up to 100 CDs or DVDs can be duplicated and printed at a time, and Windows network software enables the unit to be shared among users. The software allows novice users to use wizard-driven menus to achieve professional results. Experienced users can access the Advanced User Interface to use higher-level features such as disc streaming and data format conversion. The BravoPro can burn and print up to 50 CD-Rs per hour. The inkjet uses Afterburner print technology from Lexmark to produce ink droplets as small as 3 picoliters and connects to the computer through USB 2. The DVD±/CD-R models list for $3,995.
Microboards Technology has introduced the new DX-1 desktop disc publisher for low- to mid-volume DVD/CD disc production jobs in the entry-level price range. The DX-1 uses a USB 2 connection to burn up to 100 discs at a time in virtually any CD or DVD format, including dual layer. The unit features HP thermal inkjet printing at 4800×1200 dpi color and 600×600 dpi black with 16X DVD and 48X CD burning. This makes the DX-1 a solid solution for organizations with frequent small-volume burn and print jobs. The software runs on Windows XP or 2000 and requires a Pentium 2GHz or higher processor, 512MB RAM, and a separate 7200rpm IDE or SATA hard drive. Microboards’ patented gravity-feeding “singulation” technology ensures reliable discs. The DX-1 can output up to 75 discs per hour with a per-disc ink cost of 5 cents to 15 cents. The MSRP is $2,995.
For larger loads and networked operation, Verity Systems offers the CopyDisc 4 P-55 Platinum CD/DVD publishing system. With dual-layer DVD capability and 220 discs per session, the CopyDisc 4 P-55 Platinum is versatile in format and job size. The machine can also serve in a standalone or networked environment with the optional TrueNet2 software (Windows XP or 2000) for a higher degree of automation. Operational modes include disc burning, printing, or both in the same job. In the standalone arrangement, simply load the master disc and stack the blanks. Available in four- or eight-drive configuration, the unit can burn CD or DVD± discs with Plextor or Pioneer drives. The system also offers versatile printing options, with a choice between the PowerPro or Prism thermal printers or the OptiPrinterPro inkjet printer. A solid-steel chassis makes it a solid and sturdy machine. Prices start at $6,499 for the four-drive CD-R models.
MF Digital markets a huge selection of CD and DVD duplication solutions. Among these is the Scribe SA Standalone series with one-button operation in two- (3102 SA), four- (3104 SA), or six- (3106 SA) CD/DVD models and a choice of inkjet or thermal printer. In relay mode, the Scribe SA can stack up to 600 discs, copy several different jobs from multiple master discs, and even change label printing all on its own. Each drive burns and prints independently of the others. Multiple machines can be controlled across a network with the license-free Command Center Module software. The feature-packed software application allows users to create disc images, including such properties as volume title, bootable disk file, ISO 9660, and Joliet or UDF formats. The Command Center Module also enables quantity, copy, verify, and print commands in addition to selections for browsing label and image files, along with many other features. Intelligent Spindle Select permits the Scribe SA to specify a CD or DVD spindle according to the image that has been programmed into the job. All models can produce playable DVD video discs from VIDEO_TS folders without the need for a master disc. The MSRP for the Scribe SA DP1-3102 with two DVD±R Pioneer 16X drives and 250-disc capacity is $4,395. The 3104 with four drives and up to 600-disc capacity costs $6,695. Add $1,695 for the Pico Jet inkjet printer or $4,995 for the Prism Plus 600dpi thermal printer.
Among its wide range of disc publishing systems, tower duplicators, and disc duplicators and printers, CopyPro offers the MiniMax series of CD and DVD duplicator/printers as a compact desktop disc publishing solution. Products in this line range from the MiniMax 50-1 with a 50-disc capacity and one CD or DVD burner all the way to the MiniMax 150-3 with a 150-disc capacity, three CD or DVD burners, and a choice of thermal or inkjet printer. These units require a host PC for control and, for the MiniMax 150-3, the PC system requirements include a 2.2+ GHz processor, 1+ GB RAM, Windows 2000 or XP, FireWire card for FireWire recorders, COM or USB ports for control commands, and an LPT port for the printer. Any combination of CD and DVD burners can be mixed. Prices range from $1,795 for the MMPC-50-1 with one 52X CD-R burner and no printer to $5,596 for the MMPC-150-3 with three 16X DVD±R burners and a thermal disc printer.
For those who would like to ease into the disc-publishing fray a little more inexpensively, Octave Systems presents the Copy Master II series of CD/DVD tower duplicators, ranging from the one-to-one single-disc copier to the nine-drive Copy Master II 9. Individual partition naming and user accounts can be stored on its 160GB hard drive for rapid recall. It also offers a 128MB buffer and an auto-counter to keep track of the number of discs produced. Operational commands include copy, reset, speed, and source (for changing from master disc to stored files). Single-layered 4.7GB DVD±R/RWs can be copied at 16X, and seven discs can be copied in seven minutes. Runs can also use dual-layered DVDs. CDs copy at 48X and can each be completed in about three minutes. Capabilities include many of the latest business card CD and mini CD/DVD formats and auto-format recognition. DVD+R/RW may be copied to DVD-R/RW discs and vice-versa. The Copy Master II can be secured from unauthorized operation with the account management function. The nine-drive model weighs 90lbs. and retails for $1,429.
Mediatechnics Systems offers a range of products. At the entry end, for those who would like to use a small, inexpensive but automated system, is the Fusion 1 DVD duplicator. With a 25-disc capacity, the unit can duplicate CDs or DVDs one at a time with a PC connection and the DiscWrite II PC software. Capabilities include automatic ripping of MP3/WMA files from multiple CD-DA discs, archiving images to its hard drive, and scheduled PC hard drive and network backups through USB 2 or Ethernet. Compatible operating systems include Windows 2000 and XP. The Fusion 1 DVD duplicator retails for less than $1,000.
Telex Communications offers a versatile solution with the SpinWise series of duplication systems, including tower and rackmount configurations. With copy speeds of up to 40X for CD-Rs and 16X for DVD-Rs, the nine-drive SpinWise 9 DVDH with its internal 80GB hard drive can turn out 216 CDs and 72 DVDs per hour. Copy modes include copy, copy+test, test, load, track extraction, and prescan source. The Telex product line includes the SpinWise DVD rackmount duplicators, which use up to five target drives to duplicate DVD or CD media and include an 80GB hard drive with 36 partitions of 900MB each. The SpinWise rackmount CD/DVD five-target drive duplicators can currently be found for less than $1,500.
Rimage’s Protégé II offers a flexible CD/DVD publishing configuration. This product is scalable up to eight disc recorders and four printers. On the printing operation, buyers can select either the economical PrismPlus! thermal printer or the Everest II photo-realistic thermal transfer printer. The unit offers an input bin capacity of up to 300 discs for walk-away, auto-loading operation. Accompanying software applications include the Software Developer Kit and Producer Software Suite or the OfficeNet Software Suite. Depending on configuration, the Protégé II retails for around $20,000.
Among the tower duplication products, Alera Technologies offers a versatile machine in the 1:4 DVD/CD Tower Publisher LS. With four recording drives, the unit functions as a duplicator, external CD/DVD recorder, and LightScribe labeler. Recording formats include DVD±R/±RW, DVD+R dual layer, and CD-R/RW. For labeling, place a LightScribe disk into one of the recording drives with the label side down, connect the unit to a PC via USB, and run the Alera label maker software to produce silkscreen sharpness and clarity. Data writing speed reaches 16X with DVD+R and 40X for CD-R media. Minimum system requirements include Windows XP, Pentium III 550MHz, and 128MB RAM.
Disc Makers offers several CD/DVD duplicators with multiple-disc capability, including the Elite2 and Elite4 models. The Elite2 features two Plextor drives with a 175-disc input capacity and duplicates and prints approximately 30 CDs per hour. The Elite4 features a 200-disc input capacity and duplicates and prints at least 38 CDs per hour. PC system requirements for both are a 2GHz processor, 60GB hard drive space, 512MB RAM, Windows XP, and a USB 2 interface.
For space-limited plants, ProCon Technology has a solution in the rackmount realm with the PC-C516DL4-DF-RM-H. This product is the five-DVD writer version of ProCon’s rackmount CD/DVD series. The 2RU unit incorporates a 260GB hard drive and USB/IEE1304 connectivity. Disk images can be stored internally for quick duplication in the writing drives. Up to 16X DVD and 48X CD recording is possible in this space-saving arrangement with internal fan cooling and power. This DVD unit lists for $1,799.
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