How To Choose A System
Congratulations, you’ve decided to bring your disc duplication/publishing needs in-house. You’ve probably mulled these over anyway, but think about these questions:

- What’s my budget?

- How many discs will I typically burn AND how long do I have to burn them?

- Will they all be from one master – all the same – or will they all be unique – individualized?

- How should I label them (repeat-“I must label”) – paper stick-on, inkjet, thermal?

- Should I get one machine to burn and one to print or should I get a disc publisher that does both?

- Do I want to stand in front of these machines and feed them all day? Do I want to pay someone to do this? Do I want/need an automated system?

- Will my needs increase once I have a system in place?

- Do/will I need network capability?

- What about service?

The answer to this first one is your call. Remember, you’ll need space, clean power (think about a UPS power unit), stock of discs and printing consumables, a place to keep your stock and someone to be in charge of the system and stock. Leasing may also be an option for you.

How many discs will I typically burn AND how long do I have to burn them?
There is no more cost effective method or quicker way for mass producing discs than with a CD/DVD Duplicator Tower. Tower copiers are low cost and very simple to use. They do not require a PC to operate and are unbeatable in terms of output per hour. They provide a great way to mass-produce a large quantity or small quantity of discs in a rather short period of time. HOWEVER...this is only true if you’re mass producing the same thing over and over AND you or someone else can stand in front of them and keep them fed. If you need overnight (“lights out”) or 24/7 production than consider an automated system. Automated systems are a wee bit slower than you are at keeping the beasts fed, but one phone call or other interruption can put you way behind. As far as how many burners to get in a tower or automated system, consider that, once you get a system your needs will probably increase quickly.

Will they all be from one master – all the same – or will they all be unique – individualized?
If the program or data is the same on every disc, than a tower or automated tower may be your answer. If you are creating unique discs where each disc is customized for a given customer, a tower would be a waste. Consider an automated publisher (burns and prints) that is networkable. A “queue” of jobs is constantly created to keep the system fed. In addition to unique data, a unique label can also be created for each customer or end user. This can include name, address, thumbnail pictures, barcodes, etc. Authorized clients anywhere on the network can add to the queue.

How should I label them – paper stick-on, inkjet, thermal?
Let’s stop right here...NEVER USE PAPER STICK-ON LABELS! Ok, moving right along, your choices are inkjet and thermal. Thermal can be further broken down to direct transfer and re-transfer. Right out of the shoot, remember that any printer, whether it’s printing to paper or a plastic CD/DVD, has issues with color match. The most common issue is matching paper parts to a CD/DVD. What you are trying to achieve is matching a matt porous surface with a glossy non-porous surface using completely different ink technologies. That said, amazing results can be achieved with patience and education.

Inkjet printers print full-color, photo-quality images directly onto the surface of “inkjet printable surface” discs. These discs have a white or cream face that absorbs ink from the ink-cartridge. Inkjet printers are not waterproof or scratchproof, but they produce high-quality results.

With thermal printing, ribbons are used to print primarily monochrome directly onto the surface of a silver disc. Thermal printers are much faster than inkjet. They can print a full one-color disc in about 4 seconds. Inkjet printers print a full-color disc in about 90 seconds. For thermal, the disc itself may or may not be treated with a special top-coating that is optimized for thermal printing. Although both treated and non-treated discs are acceptable, you will, of course achieve superior durability results with a coated disc. In either case, the printed disc can withstand modest handling and can endure a moderate amount of water and sunlight. However, if the printed disc is going to be handled a lot, you will eventually see the effects of abrasion over time. Direct thermal printing is fairly inexpensive. In the United Sates, the cost of thermal disc printing is under 10 cents per print, compared to up to over 30 cents for inkjet. Black text only, on a white or silver disc is the most common way to use direct thermal print. Fast and cheap!

Thermal retransfer is certainly the most awesome looking. The print image is copied via a 3 paneled Cyan, Magenta, Yellow ribbon to a clear retransfer ribbon. With a little heat and pressure, the image on the retransfer ribbon is fused to the surface of the top coated disc. The whole process takes about 60 seconds. This is not a laminate; it won’t peel apart in time. It’s permanent, just like your credit cards! The colors absolutely pop, gradations look great and text is very well defined. It’s also...shiny! Another plus is you won’t unexpectedly run out of ink, as there are a set number of prints on a roll of C,M,Y and retransfer ribbons. You can pop in a new set of ribbons for overnight and not worry that you’ll have 499 discs with pea green sky in the morning. The cost is about 30 cents per print. These prints are absolutely waterproof and scratch proof as well as fade resistant and UV protected. In regard to the cost of the printer – least to most – inkjet, direct transfer, retransfer. A good thermal printer of either variety, however, will give you years of 24/7 service!

Should I get one machine to burn and one to print or should I get a disc publisher that does both?
For down and dirty, gotta get it done right away, the event just ended, let’s go, same thing on every disc, get a tower and a printer, either manual print or an autoprinter. Print ahead of time, or at least get a jump on the printing, because that will be your bottleneck, then load up the towers as soon as the master is ready. If you’re a service bureau, you’ll need at least one tower and one printer (manual or auto), along with an automated disc publishing system for overnight. If time is NOT of the essence and you need a system for periodic runs, a small desktop disc publisher (dups and prints) would be the way to go. If it’s an integral part of your business, you need on-demand performance, network capability, 24/7 operation, 24/7 service, small and large runs of many different discs, foolproof printing and burning of a mixture of CDs, DVDs and maybe Blu-rays, oh and don’t forget the CSS encryption, Video Protect, Data Protect and watermarking, go with the big boys and get an automated disc publisher with 4 burners and Everest color thermal retransfer printing. Confused? You probably don’t fit neatly into any of the categories, so give me a call...we’ll figure it out together! I’ve been in your position...I’ve tried ‘em all.

Do I want to stand in front of these machines and feed them? Do I want to pay someone to do this? Do I want/need an automated system?
It’s all about budget...Return On Investment. It’s also about what your forecast is for usage. If you answer the phone, have to look something up or otherwise get interrupted, you could be left with your drawers open and no one to fill them.

Will my needs increase once I have a system in place?!

Do/will I need network capability?
If you have more than one person, or a non-local person that needs to access the system, than yes. If you foresee the possibility, than consider a system that at least has that feature as an add-on. Either way, this will be in the disc publisher category.

What about service?
Service should be a key component in your decision making process. I don’t care what you buy or who you buy from, you’re going to have an issue at the least opportune moment. What are ya gonna do? Who ya gonna call? Both Rimage and Microboards are in this to make you happy and sell you another machine when the need arises. They both have excellent reputations for service and they’ve been in this long enough to know what can happen and how to handle it. They both offer additional maintenance options for mission critical operations to ease your mind and keep you up and running. I’ve left myself ‘til last on purpose. The manufacturer tech support line should always be your first call. If, for some reason, you don’t get the response you’re looking for (hard to imagine, considering these companies tech support departments...I’ve been there, I’ve seen them in action), call me! My name is Bob, you have my cell number and I’ve been in business over 25 years...I’m not going anywhere...Period. It’s that simple. IMAGITRAX, Rimage and Microboards want you to be a happy customer. That’s what makes the world go ‘round. Just like you and your customers. There’s not a problem that can’t be solved.

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