There are many factors to consider when making a decision on which CD printer to purchase for your business. This article will touch on a few of the basics like choosing the right printer manufacturer, cost of CD printers, inkjet hp printer drivers or thermal, productivity, speed and durability. Part 2 of this article will dig in deeper on the basic criteria listed above as well as on more advanced points like print quality, color matching, unique printing on each disc, total cost of ownership, used DVD / CD printers and buying from a reputable dealer.
For the purposes of this article I’m focusing on just DVD / CD printers, not duplicators with printers that can print and/or copy CDs and DVDs at the same time. I will save that topic for a future article.
The goal of this article is to give you a basis for making the best decision when purchasing a CD printer so you get it right the first time. In this economy, you can’t afford to make the mistake of buying the wrong printer for your CDs and DVDs. Spending money on the wrong CD / DVD printer for your needs and wasting time figuring it out is both frustrating and a misuse of your company’s resources.
The research for this article was acquired over 13 years of selling, using, testing, supporting, and repairing CD and DVD printers. My experience is with mid-level and high-end professional disc printers, so these tips may not be relevant for potential purchasers of entry-level hand feed on-disc printers that sell for $300 or less. Sub $300 disc printers clearly have a niche, but for professional CD printing needs they tend to have high consumable costs, poor technical support, slow print speeds and in many cases poor print quality.
Tip #1 – Start with the Big 3 Manufacturers
Rimage, Microboards and Primera have been in the CD printer and duplicator manufacturing business since it’s infancy. In my estimation they have over an 80% market share of the CD / DVD printers sold in the world. The “Big 3” are the leaders in their respective print technologies and offer the most stability in the disc printer marketplace. These three manufacturers are in a better position to be in business and support you than their less stable competitors in the coming months and years. They also have proven technical support and post-warranty support that is superior to the other manufacturers in the CD / DVD duplication and printing market.
Tip #2 – Cost of the CD / DVD printer – Inkjet or Thermal
Costs vary widely, but the main defining points are the type of print engine technology employed in the printer – inkjet or thermal transfer, and whether or not the CD printing system is manual or automated. Inkjet based CD / DVD printers are less expensive than thermal transfer CD printers. A good automated inkjet printer costs $2500, while a good color thermal transfer CD printer costs $8500 or more. Disc capacity and software features also play a role in cost. Part 2 of this article will dive in deeper on the pros and cons of inkjet and thermal based printers.
Tip #3 – Automated or Manual?
Choosing between a printer that you manually hand feed the CDs or DVDs, or picking a automated CD printer with a robotic arm or mechanism that moves and prints the discs for you is a big decision in regards to upfront costs, labor, and productivity. Good hand-fed manual disc printers start at $699, whereas an entry-level automated CD printer with a 20-disc capacity costs about $999. Larger and faster automated systems that hold as many as 300-discs can cost up to $9500. So how do you decide which is best for you?
First, estimate the number of discs you will need to print per week, per month and per year. Factor in any growth in that number quarter over quarter or year over year. I have found that many organizations under-estimate their usage projections because they fail to take into account that other departments or employees will need the services of the new CD printer as well. Second, determine if you will have intense peak periods of CD or DVD production. Many organizations need to produce discs only 1 once a week or month, but need all 100 or 500 in a few hours or just one day. Third, determine what is the value of your time. Do you have the time to put each disc in the printer by hand, or is your time or that of your employee better spent doing something else?
Tip #4 – Speed
A question I get over and over again is how many discs per hour or day can a CD printer print? The speed at which a CD or DVD is printed depends on a few factors. (1) Print coverage, (2) the resolution chosen in the printer driver, and (3) the actual printer itself. For example, an inkjet printer that prints a CD label with a small color logo, just a few lines of text, with the print driver set at a lower resolution, can print 200 CD’s per hour. That same printer may only have a print throughput of 50 CD’s an hour with a full color edge-to-edge graphic and the print driver set to the highest resolution.
To a lesser degree the same holds true for thermal CD printers. The Rimage Prism thermal CD printer will have greater throughput with less print coverage, but will not suffer as drastic a drop off in throughput while printing a graphic with more print coverage like inkjet printers do. Interestingly, the Rimage Everest thermal printer has the same disc per hour throughput with one line of text in the graphic label as another artwork featuring 100% print coverage. The Rimage Everest III and Everest 600 printers will each print about 65 discs per hour regardless of print coverage.
Tip # 5 – CD Printer Durability
Generally disc printers that are made out of plastic are less durable than those made out of metal. Most inkjet printers that I have used and tested over the years are made mostly of plastic components whereas most of the thermal printers are made from metal parts. That being said we have had good success and our customers have had success with Primera and Microboards inkjet printers with an average useful in-service life of 3-5 years depending on how the users treat them. We have some Rimage Prism thermal printers in our CD / DVD production room that are well into their 10th year of service. As a footnote, these thermal and inkjet CD printers have had scheduled cleanings and parts replacement over the years.
Begin your DVD CD printer research with the three major manufacturers – Rimage, Microboards, and Primera. Forecast your daily, monthly and yearly CD and DVD printing needs and determine whether a manual or automated printer makes more sense. Look at both inkjet and thermal options, while keeping in mind your budget and how long you would like the CD printer to last. If you do not have the budget for the CD printer that best fits your needs, try looking for a good used printer or you may find that outsourcing your CD and DVD duplication and printing to a professional service company makes more business sense.