Printing your CDs/DVDs/Blu-ray Disc Labels – Part Two

This post is a continuation of the last and will detail three additional methods of optical disc labeling:

LightScribe DiscsLightScribe Labeling: LightScribe was explored in detail a few blogs back.  The LightScribe disc has a special, light-sensitive medium on its label side.  When inserted into a LightScribe capable recorder, the labeling text and images can be ‘burned’ onto the media.   The changes made on the label side will remain on the disc for a long, long time with normal use and handling.  Recent improvements in LightScribe technology allow you to write onto areas of the disc that don’t already have content (or to write on top of existing content).  Because of the way LightScribe works, a fixed ‘home’ position exists on each disc.  Because of this, it is possible to rewrite to the disc and have your additions placed into the exact position you want.

This capability makes it possible for an organization to produce standard disc blanks – perhaps containing the organization’s logo and phone number – and use these blanks throughout the organization.  When data is recorded onto the data side of the disc, a label containing information about the contents can be printed onto the label side of the disc and placed exactly where it’s wanted – with the organization’s pre-printed logo intact and unmodified.

Perhaps the main limitations for LightScribe are its lack of color (LightScribe writes in greyscale onto the media).  Although ‘rainbow’ media has recently been introduced, with colored backgrounds, what LightScribe writes is, essentially, just greyscale against a gold or colored background.

Thermal Label Printing: Thermal printing uses a thermal print head and special transfer media, and possibly special discs that work with the thermal process.  In one instance, a film, impregnated with color, makes contact with the thermal head on one side and the label side of a disc on the other.  The thermal head provides heat that melts the material on the film and deposits it onto the disc.

In a dye sublimation method, a specially prepared disc is used.   Special dye sublimation film fits between the thermal head and the disc.  The more heat the medium receives, the more dye is transferred to the disc.

This process is quite expensive, may require special discs to receive the image, and is not readily available.

Direct Inkjet Label Printing: The Direct Inkjet method of printing uses special optical media with a label surface (usually white) that can absorb ink.  While the ink on some surfaces may smear when wet, media with special technology, like Aleratec’s HydroGuard discs, resist most smearing if the surface gets wet.   This surface is usually white, but Silver inkjet printable media is also available.   Although a ‘standard’ disc may be printed with an inkjet label printer, the label will smear and the image may wash off, or possibly even rub off.  Special inkjet printable media should be used.

A range of printers that can print onto inkjet printable labels are available.  Consumer level printers are offered, with optical disc labeling added in as a bonus.  This type of printer usually includes a carrier onto which the target disc is inserted.  This carrier guides the disc through the printer, while the print heads deposit ink onto the disc.   This method requires careful placement of the carrier into the printer and the disc onto the carrier, and discs are printed one at a time.  For an organization looking to print many labels, an automated inkjet printer may be a better choice.

Aleratec Roboracer Automatic DVD CD DuplicatorAutomated disc publishers usually combine one of the methods described above with robotics so that they can print many discs without any supervision.  These units robotically place a blank disc into a specially modified printer or LightScribe drive.  The robotics remove the disc, once printed, and put it onto a spindle that holds the printed discs so that a new disc can be loaded.  Automated robotic printers and publishers can print as many as 100 discs or more after initial setup.

Mark Brownstein is a technology journalist and technology consultant who specializes in explaining and interpreting new technologies, and clarifying how to integrate these new products into current systems. He has been Editor-In-Chief at computer technology and networking publications, has held significant editorial positions at major technology magazines, and is a frequent contributor to various technology magazines. He has written seven books. He is Microsoft Certified, and spends much of his time testing hardware and software products, running his own networks, and learning the best ways to get computer systems running and to keep them running.

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Posted in DVD CD Blu-ray Disc, LightScribe

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