DVD and CD print jobs that once took several days to complete, can now be done in the same day and the client signed off proof is identical to the final printed product. Improvements in the technology have transformed disc packaging, CD and DVD print design and the ability to rapidly change designs.
There is no doubt that Digital Printing, for smaller runs of CD, DVD and paper parts, is the only way to go when full colour images are required. There are several different CD disc printing options available, including thermal retransfer, inkjet, high speed 6 colour UV curable digital inkjet and the traditional silkscreen and offset print methods. Each technology has its strengths and weaknesses.
Thermal retransfer has a far lower capital entry level and can be operated by a relatively unskilled workforce, however the ribbon is expensive per print and a special, expensive, receptive surface has to be applied to the discs.
Inkjet disc printing is inexpensive and easy to operate. While the resolution is reasonable, it is often washed-out due to the use of special highly matt inkjet receptive surfaces on the optical media. There are inkjet receptive glossy based discs and UV-cured lacquer overcoats, however both options significantly increase the cost per disc.
Offset printing has good resolution, but being a 4 colour process it is difficult to match PMS colours, commonly used in corporate logos. The equipment is capitally intensive, the printing plates are expensive, take time to produce, and usually require client signed-off proofs. The cost per print, after initial setup, is very low and stable and no special surfaces are required on the DVD media. CD media can present some challenges, such as 'surface peel', depending on the media and brand of printer. At the commencement of the print job there is significant loss of discs which requires the job to be overrun.
Similarly, silkscreen printing equipment is expensive. While it has lower resolution than offset printing, it does have PMS colour matching. The cost per print is low, the print stable and no special surfaces need to be applied to the DVD media beforehand. Similar to offset printing, there is a significant quantity of rejected prints at print start up while the various colour images are aligned.
Without a doubt, for any larger scale CD or DVD replication or duplication, UV cured digital printers should be considered. Whilst the capital outlay is significant, they offer 6 colour printing, low initial setup cost (no screens or plates), require no over production to balance print colours or align screens and they can print directly onto uncoated, inexpensive, white-coated discs. There is no contact with the media during the print process, which is important for recordable media and Blu-ray discs.
Whilst the inks are inexpensive with a cost per piece similar to offset printing irrespective of the print quantity, skilled labour is required to maintain the equipment.
Digital print technology reduces lead times, eliminates surplus inventory, overruns, plate and screen creation and reduces the need for high res digital proofs.
One of the benefits of digital optical media printing is that it allows you to print variable data easily, such as sequential or incremental serial numbers, barcodes, and personalized discs. As pressure grows to be greener, more cost efficient, and turn things around quickly, digital printing is a great solution for the growing market of short run offerings.